Meet the EHF Fellows: Scott Nolan


(applause) – Kia ora. Thanks everyone
for having us here. I wanna echo something Ellie said at the start which is we’re
all so happy to be here. We all feel extremely
welcome by New Zealand. I’d say it’s like the most
welcoming country I’ve ever been in since my first visit in 2011, so thank you for having us here. Let’s see, yeah, I’ll talk a little bit about what I’m working on. I’m an investor at a venture capital firm called Founders Fund, we’re
based in San Francisco. We’re on our sixth fund, we’ve invested in many companies over the years. My background, and I’ll talk through some of those companies and really
how we’re approaching things and how I approach things as an investor. My background’s as an engineer. I originally worked at SpaceX. Spent some time at Bain & Company trying to learn, then started my own company, and started as an investor
about six years ago, so we make investments all over the world. These are some of our
more well-known companies. You can tell it’s kind
of all over the place. Everything from social media
to music to cancer drugs to you name it, kind of to rockets, to a company I used to work at. So, really a wide range of
things we like to invest in. Every stage, every
sector, every geography. And so that’s included New Zealand, where I’ve invested
personally in one company and where our fund invested in 8i, and Toni from 8i, the COO is here also, so if you want to hear what
it’s like to work with us, or work with me at least, for better or for worse, she can fill you in. And so we’re going to hear from
a few other investors today. I think we’re all gonna
share a few common themes, one is we want to invest in companies that are making a really positive impact and that we think can be
sustainable large businesses, led by teams that we really believe in and think are always gonna
try and do the right thing. So then the question
becomes, “What is each of us “doing differently or
what’s our different angle “on that end goal?” and so what I’ll talk about is really what do we try and invest in, apart from really everything, every stage, every sector, any geography, really just where the greatest high-impact
company is gonna come from, and the one rule we have
is we invest in founders. So people, I think, think sometimes that with a name like Founders Fund it’s all about our team, and our team
has started companies before, and that sort of thing, but
it’s actually the opposite. It’s about the founders
of these companies, and at the end of the
day we view every company that we invest in as that
team’s company, not our company. We’re really backing that entrepreneur and their life’s mission and vision, and trying to be as
helpful as we can in it, and one form of that is capital, another form is advice, and
another form can sometimes be protecting them from other investors. So, the first is it’s almost
like a Hippocratic Oath, it’s like first do no harm,
back what they’re doing, they’re gonna run with it
better than we ever could. So, that translates into
a few rules that we use to kind of live out that mission. We have never fired a founder
from their own company, and usually if other people are trying to get rid of their founder we will defend as strongly as we can against that. We don’t require board seats,
sometimes we will take one to help protect the company
from other investors, and we view ourselves as
supporters and not micro managers. So that’s our philosophy of how we try and invest and I certainly try
and live that out every day. Some people then ask
“Okay, that sounds great, “why are you here in New Zealand? “Why is this the place?”, I could explain why those other investments were made, why 8i was made, how that
connection to Wellington and the computer graphics
and visual effects world in our view really enabled that company to be a world leader, the best volumetric video-capture company in
the world for VR and AR. Now, that’s one example,
there’s gonna be many more and I probably won’t
even be able to predict where those are gonna come from, but here’s a few theories, and my guess is that the next great company
to come out of New Zealand or the next five great
companies may not even be in these sectors, but if I had to pick, I’d say these are four industries where, in my view, New Zealand
has huge expertise, and where its position geographically in the world can actually be an advantage, and the way it works with
government can be an advantage. So, blockchain and drones,
I think we’ve heard a lot about those, certainly
about blockchain this week, and I think the regulatory climate here, the ability to work with
government for companies to innovate and say “This
is what we’re trying to do. “Is this something we can do
here?” Is a huge advantage for New Zealand, and then
obviously expertise in graphics, expertise in agriculture,
so my goal going forward through the fellowship is gonna be to try and meet the next great
companies that come out of New Zealand, hopefully fund them, help them find capital if it’s not us, and just generally be a supporter of what they’re doing. Thank you. (audience applause)
(upbeat electronic music)

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