December 31, 2017 John Tough

2017 was a year of change for me. I started out the year as Chief Revenue Officer at Choose Energy, culminating a 4.5 year role with the company that began as the first non-engineer in 2012. With the sale of Choose Energy in Q2 and my responsibility with the company melting away, I experienced a brief, but noticeable emotional lull. I had (re)started my dream job, working in venture capital at the intersection of technology and industry with the Invenergy Future Fund but I was missing the action of day to day operations. Working at Choose Energy with world-class employees…

August 7, 2017 John Tough

This post is a bit late but with the whirlwind first few quarters behind me, I finally had time to reflect on joining the Invenergy Future Fund. We had our first close in May and the team has been going full steam since 2016… – When I review potential venture investments, I look for a special team with leading & complementary industry experience that is targeting a big market by addressing a specific, impactful problem. Using those parameters, the Invenergy Future Fund was a personal investment that was too good to pass up. What is the Future Fund? The Future…

August 7, 2017 John Tough

On a recent RECODE/DECODE podcast where Kara Swisher interviews Frances Frei, the SVP of Leadership & Strategy at Uber. Frances is a renowned leadership coach with a special skill at turnarounds and an unparalleled optimism and belief in an individual’s redemption potential and trajectory. In the podcast Kara and Frances cover Frances’ 3 key to modern leadership: 1) Making others better as a result of your presence. This is usually a “catch-all” line, but the impact needs to be internalized: are you as a leader actively focused on improving those around you? 2) Having strong performance outlast your presence. Replace…

July 27, 2017 John Tough

I like to joke that if I could, I might just go back to a younger “me” and punch him in the face. I had a dream job as an associate at Kleiner Perkins. I was working at a storied firm, had access to world class mentors and investors, and had premier investment opportunities literally walking through the door. One of the main problems I faced? Saying no. Saying no in venture capital is hard. I saw hopeful, brilliant and dedicated individuals dedicating their lives efforts to potentially transformative ideas. And as a VC, you have to say no to…

July 17, 2017 John Tough

Over the course of 4-5 years with a start-up, I got a first-row seat into the ups and downs of scaling a company. One of my main takeaways was that you have to enjoy the journey. If you only seek the destination you won’t last the trip. And to enjoy the trip you have to work with people who make the miles a bit more enjoyable. You don’t have to like them and hang out on the weekends, but you have to respect them. Respect their perspective, their experience, and their contribution. Respect enables trust and trust is a prerequisite…

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….