The Proof
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Jonah Fay-Hurvitz, Strategy Director at Red Antler

 
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Phin Barnes is a Partner at First Round Capital, where he's responsible for notable investments in Ubiquity6, Clearbit, Modern Fertility, and Notion. As a seed investor, Phin brings a decade of experience building companies to help founders go from zero to one, going deep on product creation and brand building. He learned the business of startups at AND1, helping to grow the business from $15M to $225M in revenue as Creative Director for Footwear and co-creating the AND1 MixTape.

Following AND1, he started a video-game company, producing Yourself!Fitness, the first fitness game for Xbox and PlayStation 2. Phin received his MBA from Wharton and played basketball during his undergrad years at Haverford. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter, who support his addiction to sneakers and love of hip-hop.

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On his morning routine. I'm diligent about reserving my mornings for my family and myself. The perfect morning for me starts with waking up early to make breakfast for my daughter. We usually eat breakfast together before I drop her off at school. Then, I scan messaging apps for urgent needs from my partners and founders. I always make sure to do something athletic before I head to the office. Mentally, I’m far more positive and productive if I get at least an hour of exercise to start the day.

On rebounding from failure. When I started Yourself!Fitness, my fitness video game company, I experienced the highs and lows of being a founder — from team formation to fundraising, and ultimately to failing to achieve our aspirations. It hurt a ton and I spent a lot of time searching for lessons learned by thinking through what I could have done differently.

As I continued to focus on the past and look for answers, I passed up a bunch of opportunities to join other companies or engage in meaningful work with people I respected. As some of these teams became successful, I had more regrets and realized that I had stayed still for too long. I was collecting parking tickets instead of speeding tickets. I had taken a ton of risk to build my company and I got a ticket — but I was moving fast and I needed to get back to that.

Moving on from Yourself!Fitness got me to MTV and then back to school for my MBA at Wharton, and that led me to First Round. Having a tough go at my company felt like a failure at the time, but it gave me empathy and bias toward action that I draw on daily to help talented entrepreneurs achieve their full potential.

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On his life’s motto. "Be honest and treat everyone with respect."

This is especially relevant to my role as an investor at First Round, where I feel that I owe a founder two things: my unvarnished opinions and my unwavering support. To me, a good founder-investor relationship is built on honest feedback, with the shared understanding that at the end of the day, it’s the founder’s company, and they know best. As an investor, I have an obligation to tell a founder what I think and why; even when it’s a tough topic or not what they were hoping to hear.

But, I do this knowing I am bound by the decisions that the CEO makes. Once they commit to a direction, even if I disagree, I’ll work as hard as I can to bring out their best along the strategic path the management team has chosen. I’ll do everything I can to help them win, leveraging the resources of my partners and the First Round platform, my network, and the entire First Round Community.

On the future of consumer wellness. Each of these companies (Alma, Bowery, Keeps, Modern Fertility) is driving new conversations and creating totally new category-defining brands around health and wellness. Making office space more accessible to therapists, scaling healthy farming in a sustainable way, opening up about male health issues and allowing people to be proactive about fertility — these aren't topics that were top of mind even five years ago.

In my view, the next frontier of consumer wellness will be a more mindful, evolved form of social media and content. Just as consumer behavior shifted away from junk food towards nutrition, I think we're already seeing a similar shift towards healthier forms of online engagement in different approaches to community building and digital minimalism.

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On his keystone habits. I have a rule to sleep 70 to 80 hours over any 10-day period; similarly, I aim to exercise at least five hours over any seven day period. But, most importantly, I do my best to be present. When I come home, I leave my phone downstairs. Always. There are a lot of studies that show when you have a phone on you, the quality of your attention drops since your attention is called elsewhere when your phone buzzes or an alert goes off.

Being physically separated from my phone helps me to be fully present during the time I spend with my family. I also think it’s ideal for ideation — when I’m not distracted by my phone, I can devote my focus to seeing problems with a clearer perspective, and thinking of solutions.

On his nightly routine. I have a strict rule to sleep 70 to 80 hours over any 10-day period. There are times that life does not allow for more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, but I’ve found the 10-day rolling average tactic to be useful in smoothing out variance. This means on weekdays, I usually get up around 6 am and will start winding down around 9:30 or 10 pm.

Before bed, I like to read about things I’m curious about, that aren’t necessarily related to work. I also prefer to read slowly to internalize and reflect on the words I’ve read, instead of plowing through the book. I set a timer for 30 to 45 minutes so I can get lost in the book and my thoughts, rather than checking the clock until it’s time for sleep.

Phin Barnes, Partner at First Round Capital