July 5, 2017 John Tough

Last month Choose Energy was sold to RedVentures. I joined Choose Energy as the Director of BD in June 2012 in coordination with the Series A investment from Kleiner Perkins. I was the third employee and first non-engineer. The range of highs and lows we experienced as we grew the company from under half a million in annual revenue to over $10M in ARR were dramatic. There were many unique components to the CE growth that I am look forward to diving into over the next few months. But now that the deal is done and public and was successful…

June 28, 2017 John Tough

When I began working at Kleiner Perkins I made sure to introduce myself to many of the executive assistants in the office. I knew that I was going to intermittently look foolish and lost in the coming weeks and wanted to learn some of the daily routines and protocols to the extent possible. That openness helped me bridge into some great relationships with men and women I still speak to frequently. One of the early dividends of those relationships came when, working heads down at my desk, Kendall (now at FBN) in her boisterous way introduced me to “Coach”. I…

June 28, 2017 John Tough

Fall 2010 August- Met with Professor Ellen Rudnick about different initiatives at Chicago Booth to promote venture and entrepreneurship. She introduced me to the Chicago Innovation team leaders. Met with the senior leaders there and quickly realized the program was significant more scientific than business model & scaling, where I wanted to focus. August- Found a way to reach out to nearly every second year student that had some VC exposure and even some recent graduates September- Met with (now former!) Professor Linda Darragh, who was launching the Impact Investing Summit in Chicago. She was looking to find companies that had both economic…

June 27, 2017 John Tough

Lessons from business school I am doing this with a few years separation so I am sure I am missing some of the intricacies but that should also help keep this more directional. A few background notes: – I lived in Chicago prior to school, and therefore didn’t live in the “dorms” where many students end up living – I didn’t go after a traditional on-campus recruiting job – I prefer to have 1:1 or 1:few in-person meetings versus mass get-togethers and do my best thinking after listening for a while and going off on my own to process and…

June 25, 2017 John Tough

To most aspiring MBAs, the tradition two year program offers a “reset button” to lateral into an industry outside of the applicants existing career track. And, depending on the target school’s strengths, the majority of applicants are usually aiming for a role within the services, advisory or direct investments field. When looking at the largest employers for the top 10 schools, similar names emerge: large investment banks, large consulting firms, select consumer goods firms and the occasional technology firm. Most candidates have heard of the prominence and pay upgrades that these careers offer and give up two years of income…

June 24, 2017 John Tough

When I graduated from Duke University I proclaimed to myself that I had taken my last exam. No more studying, ever. And with a degree in Biology and Chemistry, I was making the very logical next step to enter investment banking. It was 2007, finance was still (momentarily) the rage, and ethanol was still slightly the rage and between some midwest connections and the tiniest of Venn diagram overlap between ethanol and my life sciences degrees, UBS Investment Bank deemed I was one of the right candidates for their largest analyst class, ever. In retrospect, that should have been a…

June 23, 2017 John Tough

On occasion I get asked how I ended up where I am in my career and how certain transitions of my career transpired. Given I have likely written 20+ iterations of the same email to many inquiring students & mentees, I figure it finally makes sense to put some of those thoughts and tips out here. Overall, the biggest takeaway to me is how seemingly random events and acquaintances become pivotal. To most people, random means lucky; but I view random as the outcome to a function that somehow multiplies hard work, intelligence & curiosity, giving forward and staying hungry….

June 5, 2017 John Tough

If you have worked with me for more than a few days, you know my two favorite questions to ask when I am trying to better understand a situation are: “What surprised you about [x]?” and “What will surprise me about [y]?” I love these questions because if they are answered well, the conversation is engaging, insightful, and educational. If approached well, the questions allow the answering individual to display a combination of empathy and EQ, as well as capability to handle what can be a non-linear progression. And, while these questions are great to ask others, sometimes they are…

May 28, 2017 John Tough

There are many lessons you learn early in a VC career. You learn how to identify product-market fit, size a market, evaluate a team, review the business model and determine scalability within the market position. The list could go on for days. And yet, one of the items that I only slightly recognized in my ongoing venture experience – but ABSOLUTELY recognize in my operations experience is the importance of establishing a very lean (or non-existent) marketing budget for the early stages of a company. There are two main reasons why: 1) Organic / “free” customers that are naturally drawn…

April 28, 2017 John Tough

When I lived in London growing up I was immersed between locals, a host of ex-pats, and many African and Asian students that flocked to UK schooling to advance their education. The diversity of backgrounds was significant and it was arguably one of the most transformative and curious four years of my life. In any given week I would learn an Ethiopian tradition, how the local British kids has different curriculum expectations and then how many ex-pats from all over the US viewed different ongoing social events. I loved the difference every day brought and yet I took it all…