I started GMM Nonstick Coatings in 2007 from the ground — no products, no clients and no employees. By working hard and never giving up, my partner and I built GMM into one of the largest nonstick coatings companies in the world, employing hundreds of people and supplying nearly every iconic American housewares brand.
However, despite my day job as a CEO, beginning in 2010, I have been investing directly in hi-tech start-ups. In some deals I have been the first investor, and in others I have participated in later rounds. The companies I've invested in have collectively raised hundreds of millions of dollars, and the VCs who co-invest with me are sometimes surprised I have the desire for such an expensive (many millions of dollars personally) and highly risky (start-ups routinely go to zero) hobby.
Why do I do it? First, it's a passion. Second, it might be lucrative — I am optimistic that at least one of my investments will become a billion-dollar company. But there's another reason that escapes most people: Investing in start-ups has made me a much better CEO. How?
Here are a few ways moonlighting as a VC has helped me be a better leader.