Jeff Clavier is the Founder & Managing Partner at Uncork Capital, a seed-stage VC with investments in Fitbit, Eventbrite, Fatherly, Poshmark, and Postmates. Jeff founded Uncork Capital in 2004 to serve an unmet need of startup founders: active support & capital for companies in their first 18 months of life.
Prior to starting Uncork, Jeff was an early employee & CTO at a French fintech company called Effix. He then immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 when he joined Reuter’s VC fund as a General Partner. Jeff is a veteran of Forbes’ Midas List and is featured frequently in the annual Top 100 Dealmakers in Tech.
On his morning rituals. I wake up at 6:30 and check my weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, sleep quality (thanks to Fitbit) and once a week ketone levels. I save this data in the cloud or in a Google Sheet. Then I move on to checking my email, texts, and the news for 10 or 20 minutes. After this, I let my dog out in the backyard & meditate with Calm for about 16 minutes. I quickly shower, and though I would usually have breakfast, I started doing a 16-8 intermittent fasting diet where I only drink water until noon.
On the early days of micro VC. Back in 2004, it was actually a real challenge for entrepreneurs to raise their first round. Capital efficiency and the explosion of the first Internet bubble created a funding gap in the market. Startups that only needed to raise a few hundred thousand dollars did not really have a place to go. That became the sweet spot of the early “super angels”, who then raised the initial cohort of micro VC funds (we raised Fund II in 2007).
We'll soon celebrate Uncork’s 15th anniversary. Over the years, we’ve invested in over 200 startups with a lot of successes, while building a strong reputation among founders and co-investors. We’re not afraid to lead, take a board seat & do the hard work required to support an early-stage buildup. Critically, we don’t run away when “shit hits the fan". That’s what allows us to be selected by founders to lead or participate in their seed syndicate.
On high potential founders. Successful founders don’t always have the same traits. Some will be stronger on product, others on business or sector expertise. All founders we back have this mix of vision, confidence, persistence & hustle that’s required to cope with the challenges they’ll face throughout their startup journey. The best founders will also be excellent at hiring incredible talent and communicating efficiently.
On struggling to find balance. I'm the worst at work-life balance. I pretty much work all the time. I’m lucky that my beloved wife is also a very hard worker, and we manage to do things together for a few hours a week - whether it’s walking the Stanford Dish, playing tennis or skiing in Kirkwood. We always start our day with a short walk with our dog Kylie before heading out to our respective offices.
The one thing we haven’t managed to preserve recently is visiting foreign countries. We travel to France every summer to visit our aging parents, but we haven’t had time to travel the world as we did when we were younger. I hope we get back to it at some point.
On disconnecting from work. I don’t really disconnect. My job is to support my founders. I have to be there when they need me, though I only take calls between 10 pm and 7 am for true emergencies. But when I’m spending time with someone, I really try to focus on the moment and stay away from my phone. I also just started meditating, so we’ll see if that helps me disconnect before going to sleep.
On his nightly routine. I typically go back to work after our family dinner and do a few hours of emails, reading, and writing. My typical nightly routine consists of sitting on the couch in the family room & catching up on TV series while working with our dog laying next to me. I’ll go to bed around midnight, and by then I’m tired enough to fall asleep instantly.
— Jeff Clavier, Founder & Managing Partner at Uncork Capital