Jordan Nof is a Managing Partner at Tusk Venture Partners, an NYC-based venture capital fund focused on investing in early-stage startups operating in highly regulated industries. Jordan has led many of the firm’s investments including Care/of, Lemonade, Coinbase, and Lyric. Tusk Venture Partners’ portfolio also includes notable investments in Ro, Bird, and FanDuel. Prior to Tusk Venture Partners, Jordan spent six years as a Director at Blackstone, where he focused on the development of the firm’s corporate venture portfolio.
On the first hour of his day. Three months ago, I would’ve given you a completely different answer. My wife recently gave birth to our daughter, so I don’t really have a morning routine right now but I’m trying to get back to my typical routine. As far as my typical routine, I wake up and quickly check my emails, look at my calendar, check on my daughter, and feed my dog.
Depending on when and where my first meeting is, I usually go for a run or hit the gym in the morning. If I’m constrained on time, I’ll meditate for ten minutes. Then I drop my dog off at daycare and head to the office or my first meeting. I’m fortunate enough to live 10 minutes away from my office, so I always walk to work, regardless of the weather. On my walk, I’m usually listening to music or a podcast.
On information consumption. I read several newsletters that hit my inbox every morning, including Fred Wilson’s daily blog, Fortune’s Term Sheet, and Strictly VC - but at a certain point it starts to get repetitive.
For me, the most valuable source of information comes from talking to founders, and other venture investors that I have built a strong relationship with over the years. Those are typically the most valuable conversations because we are talking about companies or trends that aren’t yet being written about.
There was a time when you’d come across a thought-provoking thread on Twitter or in a blog post, but now those mediums feel much more like tools for self-promotion.
On prioritizing high-value activities. Some people look at a VC’s schedule and say it’s unmanageable, but that’s actually what is so energizing about this job. That’s why I love it. There’s never been a day that I’ve perfectly planned out and has gone as expected. My daily priorities vary, depending on a lot of factors, and change throughout the course of almost every day. It’s a balancing act, but there are ways to refocus your efforts on high-value activities and ensure you don’t lose sight of the big picture.
First, I have a standing time blocked on my calendar every week for calls with founders of portfolio companies where I hold a board seat, often with no set agenda. It’s part of my job to be a sounding board for them, and it’s amazing how often founders get to conclusions just by audibly talking through problems. These meetings are commitments that I’ve made to the founders we’ve backed.
Second, to make sure I’m present when meeting with founders, I avoid scheduling back to back meetings. By taking 15 to 30 minutes between meetings, I have time to gather my thoughts about the previous meeting and hit the reset button. Sometimes I’ll literally just lay down on a couch and avoid checking email. That way I’m coming into the next meeting with a fresh, rejuvenated mindset, and can give the founder the attention they deserve.
Every time I’m talking to a founder, I try to be both engaged and empathetic. People often forget that VCs fundraise as well. It’s important to remind yourself what it’s like to be on the other side of the table.
On signaling risk. As a general partner, I know that it’s impossible to truly understand why any specific fund is making a specific investment at a given point in time without being part of that partnership. There are just too many factors that can impact why a fund is making an investment to let it impact the way you are thinking about a deal. It could be that the fund is running low on capital reserved for follow-ons, maybe they haven’t deployed capital at the pace they expected, or they are about to enter a new fundraising cycle.
You'll never know the answer to exactly why a fund is doing what they’re doing. It’s important to keep in mind that every Fund has a mandate that they raised capital from investors to execute on. My mandate is to create a concentrated portfolio of companies, that in aggregate, produces a certain financial return for our investors. Portfolio construction is one of the most important parts of the job.
On mental health trends. Like many venture capital investors, I am always looking for companies that could benefit greatly from a change in consumer behavior. One of the areas that I’m most excited about is mental health. Mental health as an industry has been plagued by a terrible stigma that there’s something wrong with a person who goes to see a therapist. I’m an only child, and the product of a contentious divorce, so I had my first interaction with a therapist at a very young age. Today, they continue to help me ensure that I am not only taking care of my physical health, but my mental health as well.
Unfortunately, in the US, this issue is not just a function of stigma, but one of affordability and accessibility as well. There are some really interesting companies out there making significant headway in solving for both problems using technology while opening up the conversation around the benefits of taking care of your mental health just like you would with your body. Over the next five years, I think the stigma will fade, and people will begin talking about mental health just as openly as they’d say, “I’m going to the gym.” It’s going be part of any healthy person’s wellness schedule.
On his nightly routine. An hour before bed I feed my daughter, which is one of the things I enjoy most. Then I take my dog for a walk, shower, brush my teeth, crawl into bed, and fall asleep about 12 seconds later. I used to need a long wind-down ritual, but that’s not the case anymore. If I do need to clear my mind, I’ll go for an evening run. If it’s in the winter, I’ll hit the gym and hop on a treadmill. Sometimes this is the only time I truly have to myself to decompress, and it’s when I do some of my best thinking.
— Jordan Nof, Managing Partner at Tusk Venture Partners