Jeff Fagnan on Cultivating a Network, Focus, and Conviction

“It’s the most important thing to go out there and really build a network of trusted people that you believe in, and that are going to introduce you to other trusted people that they believe in.” — Jeff Fagnan

Cultivating a deep network as an investor is a vital aspect of your potential success. However, putting a significant amount of time and effort into building a strong network won’t turn any investor into a success overnight. “It’s not going to translate into an immediate opportunity, but what it’s going to do is it’s going to raise an ecosystem or it’s going to raise a network. That network has long-term pay-off implications,” says Accomplice Partner Jeff Fagnan.  

Before Fagnan left Seed Capital for Atlas Venture early in his career, he took interviews with several VC firms. During an interview, Jeff was told, “We’re going to make you an offer, but the thing that sucks is we’re not going to know if you’re any good, for 10 years.” After responding that he could potentially have an exit in five years, the interviewer replied, “Anybody can get lucky.”

Jeff believes that analyzing an angel investor requires looking at what they are doing rather than only how they are doing. “If you just continue to focus on the nucleus, the how will come,” says Jeff, who is also a strong believer in the importance of being intellectually curious and patient. “I think that you can only be an investor in technology companies if you’re intellectually curious, if you’re people curious, and if you’re really patient around seeing those results,” Jeff states.

In this episode of the Spearhead Podcast, investor and entrepreneur Cory Levy speaks with Jeff about the keys to surviving as a tech angel investor, mistakes Jeff has made along the way, and why he doesn’t pay attention to the investment climate when funding companies.

Amidst many successful investments, Jeff, along with every angel investor, has also missed out on investing in prominent tech companies, including Dropbox. Once-in-a-lifetime investments are often missed because as Jeff puts it, “you can talk yourself out of every single investment.” When you have partners and others working closely with you on deals, the consensus opinion on an investment may rule out companies that became successful outliers.

Instead of relying on the investment climate or what others are saying, Jeff relies on conviction. “I’m only going to invest when I have super strong conviction. When I know I have super strong conviction, I’m not really that interested in what other people think,” says Jeff.

For more advice from Jeff Fagnan, listen to the full conversation here on the Spearhead Podcast.

In the interview, Jeff Fagnan and Cory Levy talk about:

  • Jeff’s start as an investor
  • What he’s learned about investing over the past two decades
  • How to cultivate a network
  • What every investor needs to have in order to be successful
  • And a lot more!

Show Notes

  • The show starts with Cory asking Jeff Fagnan about the first entrepreneur he ever invested in (1:50)
  • Cory asks, “What are some of the biggest things that you’ve learned investing over the last 18 years? Has it changed?” (5:01)
  • “I don’t get too caught up in market sizing because a lot of the things you do, you’re actually creating the market” (5:35)
  • Jeff discusses things that he’s learned recently about investing, including how he believes every investor can talk themselves out of a good investment (7:46)
  • After Cory asks Jeff what he would change over the past 18 years as an investor, Jeff reflects on a missed opportunity to invest in Dropbox (9:00)
  • Jeff shares how to cultivate a network as a new investor at (12:15)
  • “I think that you can only be an investor in technology companies if you’re intellectually curious, if you’re people curious, and if you’re really patient around seeing those results” (14:50)
  • Hear why Jeff believes in giving his friends a check if they are talented and working on something interesting, regardless of the industry, at (15:39)
  • How Jeff goes about saying no to founders (18:09)
  • Jeff has benefitted from utilizing mentors along his journey as an investor. He discusses the most impactful mentors he’s had and what he’s learned from them (19:39)
  • Cory and Jeff discuss the importance of developing an investment thesis as a venture capitalist (23:32)
  • The price of investing has risen over the past decade. Is it still a good time to invest? Cory asks Jeff at (26:35)
  • Show close (28:00)
Jeff Fagnan on Cultivating a Network, Focus, and Conviction