Tim Porter is the guy on the other side of the table. He’s the decision-maker whom eager, nervous entrepreneurs pitch, hoping to secure funding. As managing director of Madrona Venture Group, he finds and evaluates software startups with the highest potential, and coaches founders.
“I do a lot of meeting, learning, and analyzing. This includes many meetings with founders at all stages; evaluating their markets, products and teams; talking to technologists and leaders at other technology companies; educating myself on new technologies and industry trends; and collaborating broadly with others in the Pacific Northwest tech community,” he said.
Porter also helps manage Madrona and works closely with the firm’s investors. We caught up with him for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire and tips for managing a busy workload.
Current Location: Downtown Seattle.
Computer types: MacBook and iMac 5K.
Mobile devices: iPhone 6+.
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Evernote, Smartsheet, Waze, Slack, Spotify, MobileDay.
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? Stand-up desk. My partner Scott and I have shared an office for almost 10 years. We both have stand-up desks that can be lowered, plus a small conference table in the middle of the room. We like to compare notes on companies, news, etc. in real time. I try to ignore his framed Chicago Bears jersey and he ignores my cheesehead and Packer gear.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Try to focus on the important and not just the urgent. Be intentional about managing your calendar. From a work perspective, I try to prioritize portfolio companies first, entrepreneurs/prospective investments second, everything else third — with the overarching mindset that Madrona exists to provide great returns to our limited partners (investors). I also try to leave some time to read, think about trends and how I can be more strategic and proactive, and not just react to the flow. This last part is the hardest. Our strategy is to meet and invest in the best entrepreneurs attacking the biggest markets in the Pacific NW and I’m on 10 boards. There are fortunately a ton of interesting things happening in our region these days. So there is a lot of flow.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? I use LinkedIn for work every day, for both background on people I’ll be meeting with and constantly helping portfolio companies identify candidates and recruit. I find it invaluable, although it’s disappointing they haven’t improved search or the UX over the years. It will be interesting to see how it evolves as part of Microsoft.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? 12 unread. Unanswered, a bit less clear … I seem to keep getting farther away from my aspiration of inbox-zero, rather than closer to it.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 33, which is about average.
How do you run meetings? Two main types — For board meetings, get the data in advance to digest and then be able to focus on key questions. During the meeting, first get highlights, lowlights, and key focus areas from the CEO, and also apply this format to other business functions that are reporting. Also for each meeting, work with the CEO to pick one to two key strategic questions facing the business to then roll-up our sleeves and workshop on together.
For meetings with new potential investments, don’t waste too much time on introductions, make sure they explain what their product/service does upfront, then really focus on how they solve a customer problem, can be differentiated over time, and why it’s a big market.
Everyday work uniform? Jeans and a button down.
How do you make time for family? I try to be home for dinner most nights with my wife and two children and not look at my phone for a couple hours each night while with my family before getting back online later in the evening. I have also tried to choose a few ways to be a part of our kids’ activities (like coaching), school, and our church where I schedule time in advance and make it work with the rest of my calendar. Most importantly, my wife Jenny is awesome and makes everything work for us, while also being an entrepreneur running her business and store, Satsuma, in Wedgwood.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Primarily hanging out with my family. I also like to play sports, particularly basketball, tennis and golf (although I don’t get much golf in these days). I also love to watch or listen to most sports — college hoops and the Green Bay Packers are my favorites. Having grown up in Wisconsin, all the teams there are my first loves, but the Seahawks, Mariners and Huskies are adopted close second favorites.
What are you listening to? Mostly indie rock on Spotify (like The Head and the Heart). Some classic hip-hop (like Tribe Called Quest).
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? Newsletters I read every day: GeekWire (obvi), The Information, Jason Hirschhorn MediaREDEF, Re:code, Fortune Term Sheet (Dan Primack) and Data Sheet (Adam Lashinsky), StrictlyVC, TechCrunch, The 451, WSJ (several), NYTimes Bits, Stratechery
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? Most recently finished “The Alchemist” (recommendation by Indochino CEO, Drew Green) and “Ready Player One.” Both awesome. Just started “Before the Wind” (Jim Lynch) and “How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking” (which was a Bill Gates recommended summer read I learned about on GeekWire).
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? Definitely early riser. I get my best work done early in the morning before most others are up and before all the meetings start.
Where do you get your best ideas? Hmm, a bunch of sources. I’m fortunate to constantly be exposed to a wide range of interesting ideas from smart people in a lot of different areas. I also get to see many different companies and what is working and what is not. We are able to form our best ideas by synthesizing things we see across our portfolio and the market. We also try to learn from smart technical people in a variety of ways to identify trends early.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? I would say I most would want to emulate Jeff Bezos. I’m just in awe of what has been built at Amazon and its efficiency, breadth, and innovation at now massive scale. Have to aim high, right?