We partner with teams on a lifelong quest to build something for others that expresses who they are - in other words, people doing their life’s work.
We always ask how the founding team came upon the problem they are solving and assess the alignment between that problem and their own path in life. We find that these founders tend to be driven to create, they tend to build domain knowledge quickly, and they tend to be disagreeable, with a distinct point of view for how the world will look different as a result of their success. We love these qualities. Ultimately, we find that founders doing their “life’s work” become magnets for talent and have the perseverance necessary to survive and thrive in difficult periods.
“What is it we are questing for? It is fulfillment of that which is potential in each of us. Questing for it is not an ego trip; it is an adventure to bring into fulfillment your gift to the world…” — Joseph Campbell
We can evaluate teams directly, but markets help us evaluate products. We look for clear signals from customers that a given idea or product is valuable. We deeply respect a market signal even if we don’t yet understand what is behind it, but then seek to understand the customer’s motivation in a deep way.
The question “will customers use this product often, and will the product get better and more valuable as they do?” is at the center of our investigation. Products that get embedded in their user’s lives or workflows tend to be more defensible. Our experience suggests that companies focused on “one thing” early on maximize the odds they can do more things in the future, because the customer grows to love them for the original solution.
We focus intently on why now is the right time to build this company. New technologies, changes in regulation, cultural shifts, and other enabling factors create opportunities for unnatural growth in a business. We always look for alignment between a company and the world at large.
We want to invest in companies that can earn enormous profits over a long period of time. The odds of this happening go up when 1) a business demonstrates (or we can foresee) positive unit economics, 2) the business model can scale with demand and 3) the product gets harder for others to copy as it grows. We look for all three components.
We also want great alignment between our two teams. We hope to have decades-long relationships with the companies we support, so the fit between Positive Sum and the founding team is paramount. We make fewer investments than many comparable funds so that we can be closer with portfolio companies and spend more time with each of them.
We are a team of curious builders, storytellers, and investors. We partner closely with the companies we back to provide dedicated, tailor-made support. Our mantra is “learn, build, share, repeat” and we constantly look for ways to share what we learn alongside companies with as many other people as possible.
We invest primarily in early stage technology companies in the United States, though we are flexible across stage, sector, and geography. We provide patient, long-term capital to the companies and teams we back. We prefer to lead rounds and write checks that will have a significant impact on the business. We aim to continue investing in companies as they grow.
We believe that great storytelling is critical to a company’s success - to marshal resources, recruit team members, sell to customers, and inspire others with your vision. We help founders tell their stories. Through our partnership with Colossus, we can help a company’s message reach the right people, and spread a founder’s unique ideas more broadly.
We connect founders and operators with the most talented people in the world. Those may be operators seeking to offer advice; investors interested in backing the company; future team members looking for their next home; and more. We pride ourselves on “matchmaking” with the right person at the right time for any given need.