There’s nothing I value more about what we’ve created at Foundry than the relationship I have with my partners. Brad, Jason, Ryan and I are not just business partners, but best friends. This relationship affects everything that we do at Foundry and shows in both ways how we run our firm and how we work with the entrepreneurs in the Foundry portfolio.

It has been an interesting transition over the years to get to this point, and it’s something we’re constantly working on. We’ve often used an organizational consultant to help, and we also spend a day every quarter off site to work on Foundry as a firm, the portfolio, and our relationships with each other. We each have different strengths and weaknesses, and over the years, we have done a great job of leveraging those to the betterment of our firm and the portfolio.

We have learned to leverage our strengths and weaknesses to better our firm.Tweet This Quote

But I need to be honest about something. I’ve struggled over the years with working in the shadow of Brad, and it has taken me a while not just to admit it — and admit that it bothered me — but ultimately to embrace it. Actually, it feels good to write that down. Brad is a truly amazing human being and by an objective measure, an exceptional venture capitalist.

Brad quite literally taught me the business of VC. To the outside world, he’s larger than life (I hear this from people all the time). Therein comes the shadow. It bothered me for a long time, and I struggled with it for a while. We have a completely equal partnership at Foundry — in our ownership of the firm, our decision making, and how we work across the portfolio. But Brad is everywhere (writing books, blogging, on Twitter, speaking) and for a long time, I felt like I was in a race to keep up, which, let’s face it, isn’t even remotely possible.

It was a breakfast I had a few years ago with Brad Burnham that really impacted my thinking about this. I asked him about this dynamic in the Union Square Ventures partnership, and he essentially said this: ‘Fred does his thing; I do mine. It’s complementary, not competitive.’

VC partnerships should be complementary, not competitive. Tweet This Quote

I suppose this should have been obvious to me. To some extent, I’m sure I already knew it. But hearing it from Brad Burnham directly and forcefully really forced me to stop and think about it more deeply. What I was looking for was really just the ability to be at peace with the various roles we each play at Foundry, generally, and in my own role. And honestly, my own role as an absolute, not as compared to my partners. It was a powerful discovery for me, and is one that has been incredibly important in how I think about the future of Foundry.

It was actually with much of this in mind that I asked Brad to join me on a trip to Minneapolis. I’ve long had a love for the Twin Cities (I went to college there and have been on the LeadPages board for several years). The trip was really about introducing Brad to the Twin Cities startup community, as well to visit the Techstars Retail program.

The highlight was a Beta.MN, an event that featured me interviewing Brad. It was a great way for the community to get to know him, and I loved the chance to be the guide, but not the focus, of the event. In preparing for it, I thought a lot about Brad, our long relationship, our respective roles in Foundry, and how we are viewed externally.

For me, it was a real embrace of the conversation that Brad Burnham and I had years earlier. I even got to ask Brad a few questions that I had long thought about, but had never asked him before. Our dynamic has never been better.

This post originally appeared on Seth’s blog. 

Seth Levine

Author Seth Levine

Seth is a Boulder, CO based technology investor and managing director at Foundry Group. His career spans venture capital investing as well as operational, transactional and advisory roles at both public and private companies.

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