Justin's a Partner at VC fund EVP, where he has led investments in the likes of Hnry, Shippit, and most recently, Explorate. Prior to EVP, Justin worked at Credit Suisse, EY and Investec
On an atypical behaviour
Being 5 minutes early is a mantra I live by. It means being the most prepared person in the room, putting in the extra effort consistently, and generally following through on promises. Maybe this is my imposter syndrome, but I’ve constantly been the youngest in every setting throughout my life. I have to earn the right to speak in board rooms or to win deals. I don’t have the grey hair or CV that gives you cut through by default. But I try to be more motivated and committed which, almost by definition, forces people to trust and listen.
On Being an Optimist
I’m an optimistic cynic. When I meet founders or hear a pitch, I can often be dismissive – not because I want to be rude, but because when you hear multiple ideas a day, you stay grounded by reality. It takes a lot to make me believe. But where I have conviction I am your most optimistic fan. My default is to look for the positive, ask what could go right, or generally focus on what’s working.
The best teams I work with aren’t necessarily fighting against the tide, they aren’t revolutionary in their endeavour, but they are sailing with the wind. Helping to produce an offering that is superior but grounded in reality. You don’t need to predict the future or use your imagination to understand the value. Think Shippit + logistics, Hnry + self-employment or Biteable + video. The best operators are deeply passionate about their problem set and it’s this passion that drives my unwavering optimism behind the founders I back.
On being busy
Funds management is not a job option for those that enjoy consistency, stability or normalcy. I have always had a little trouble sitting still. And while venture can be a game of patience, and long-run feedback loops, working across a portfolio of 40 odd high growth companies is the perfect milieu for someone looking for a different day each morning. I feel fortunate to work in this industry which is centred around people and growth. There’s always a new challenge to face, some strategic imperative to weigh in on, or a new idea to be discussed. I find preparedness and focus to be the only way to stay afloat. Having strong calendar management and time for focused work is critical. I am also an obsessive note taker, trying to augment my memory at all times.
On advice to a younger self
Early in my career a mentor told me that every job ends up being a sales job. With time I’ve seen this to be very true. Being able to present an investment opportunity to a co-investor, influence a Board to pursue a strategy or convince someone to join our team; so much of my core workflow relates to selling. Being able to concisely structure a business case can also be an under the radar super power.
On something you are notorious for
When I sit down at my desk in the morning and when I leave the desk at night I complete the same routine – every day. I have a notebook where I write down the daily key metric across my portfolio of investments. How many orders did Foodbomb do overnight, How many conversions at Biteable. The cadence is a forcing mechanism to be across the disparate businesses and to spot the trends well before a backwards-looking board report. Guy Pearson at Practice Ignition was my first venture investment. 1,718 days ago. And I’ve written down their new customer count every day for 1,718 days.
On software still eating the world
People don’t understand just how far software has to run. They use their mobiles each day and it’s hard to imagine a more complete device. But software is only at the beginning of a several decade trend. Spend a day in any factory or large corporate and the opportunity crystallises. Or try to untangle the CRM stack at Telstra. In my view, we are only entering the second stanza of software’s long term revolution. And in my view, in 20 years, every company will be a technology company at its core.
On something you would pay 10x for:
Coffee is the one of the best parts of every day. I invested in a decent home coffee setup during lockdown but would pay a lot more for a decent brew in the house each morning. Still haven't quite nailed that barista brew. As Patrick Collison says "the very best part of a new day, at least in the immediate term, is the chance to drink more coffee."