“I love what I do not for what it is called, but for with whom I get a privilege to spend my time.”
Before starting his VC career he launched a startup, spent some time in the corporate world and consulted companies in Silicon Valley. Now, he is enjoying his VC life at enern, having backed docplanner, Twisto, and finiata. I’ve been a fan of Pavel’s ever since I listened to his lecture about value creation strategies during our first run of VCLeaders in 2017. I hope you’ll enjoy this short interview!
Paweł Michalski (PM): What did you do when you were in your twenties? What stuck with you?
Pavel Mucha (PMucha): I was dating my today’s wife. And yes, I stuck with her and ever since happy I did so. Besides, I tasted the world: launched a startup with my school mates in the nineties, joined a challenger telecom as a product manager, and experienced strategic consulting with McKinsey. I was basically searching for my own Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (smile).
PM: How did you get into venture capital?
PMucha: I started doing venture capital without really thinking about it as venture capital. It was much more about supporting and engaging in projects across Central and Eastern Europe that have been seriously challenging the status quo, are genuinely valuable for users, and led and surrounded by people that have the courage, drive, and are somewhat lunatics in working it out.
Only a few years later — after we made some investments — it turned out that what I do is recognized as venture capital. I love what I do — not for what it is called, but for with whom I get a privilege to spend my time.
PM: Is there something you wish knew before becoming a VC? If you had a chance to do it again, what would you change?
PMucha: I wish I knew how much I would love it. It feels like the best toy store in the world — an endless stream of new and cool ideas with the adrenaline of suspense and surprise. If I knew it before, I would have started earlier, maybe even skipped some preceding experiences.
I have realized over my VC lifetime that nailing down what I am passionate about is the single biggest learning to stay loyal to. I wish I had that clarity on day one. Today, I know I am a “consumer” investor, not an “enterprise” one, and I am passionate to invest in next-generation service providers and businesses with strong network effects.
It’s this clear individual focus that makes our partnership excitingly diverse as other partners in ENERN have very different angles of passion, like automation for one, or business productivity for another.
PM: What are the most important, challenging, and rewarding aspects of your job?
PMucha: Important? Radical honesty served in an appreciative manner, is the most important thing to me. We work in a high-uncertainty environment, reliant on values of partners — not just the partners on the fund level, but founders, buddies in the boards, friends in the VC world. I believe that the greatest things happen in the toughest times and through the rarely easy idea exchanges.
Challenging? Not getting my own mood swayed by unexpected turns, pressures, other people’s emotions, or just by the unbearable morning traffic is the challenging aspect of the job. I’ve learned that the hardest discussions are rarely fueled by anything more than basic “fears of failure”. If we can work “them”, not having “them” work us, challenges become way easier.
Rewarding? Moments. Defining moments. As the U.S. Supreme Court once worked on the definition of porn for many weeks and concluded that the best one is “you know it when you see it”. For me: it’s the moments when you see the sparks of success in the eyes of a founder.
I feel privileged to have an opportunity to partner with founders like Mariusz Gralewski (DocPlanner) or Stefan Batory (Booksy).
PM: What are the tools that make your job as a VC easier?
PMucha: We make fewer investments in a single fund than most VCs because we are proponents of a concentrated portfolio. Thus, we are able to provide more active support and personal time to our founders. That’s why I am most keen on tools that ease the opportunity detection and foresight, just like our little internal jewel, which we call Kaya: it’s an emerging “robot” that scoops the opportunities under the radar for our outbound reach.
PM: Do you practice any habits that you would recommend to fellow VCs?
PMucha: Hmm. A very good question! I would offer one: I practice “to like those I choose to partner with”. I never invest — regardless of how great business it could become — until I am convinced that I truly like the person, from inside my soul. It has guided me well to remain helpful and dedicated to such a person under any circumstances, independent of how emotional they can turn out to be.
VC life counts in decades, rather than years, so you better surround yourself with people you want to be with!