Why I brought on a Co-Founder three years after starting Akkadian


Ben Black

As the founder and sole investing partner at Akkadian, I have had the honor and responsibility of making the final investment decisions at Akkadian for the past three years. I have also had a great team supporting me in fundraising, sourcing, due diligence, research, valuation and legal, and we’ve done very well with this model.

Today, I am very pleased to share the news that secondary investment pioneer Mike Gridley is joining our team as a Managing Director.

Why have I brought on what amounts to a co-founder three years after I started Akkadian?

Some of my colleagues have expressed surprise that I would bring on a partner this late in the game, after the brutal slog of starting a company from scratch. The horizon of the fund already looks quite bright: we’re invested in 17 companies and have worked with over 60 selling shareholders. Thus far, it appears we have been right far more than we have been wrong. Our investors seem pleased, and we’ve been able to raise plenty of capital without another investing partner, which usually defines how investors think about partners.

But the day that I heard Mike was leaving Industry Ventures, I called him and scheduled a meeting for that week. I offered him an equal partnership in the first five minutes of our meeting.

It was the easiest major decision I have ever made.

I’d like to tell you a bit about how that decision came about.

I first met Mike when I was helping a friend sell a position in a software company five years ago. Mike was a founding team member and managing director at one of the largest secondary firms in Silicon Valley. He ended up beating the competition for that particular investment and getting the deal. I was impressed with how he handled the transaction in a highly professional, transparent manner.

When I started doing my own secondary investments, Mike could have been upset. Instead, he invited me to lunch.

We kept having those lunches every few months. I sent him some deals that were too big for me since we were capital constrained, and we frequently shared insights into the constantly evolving state of the secondary market.

When we had our lunches, I grew to trust him and talked about many of the challenges I faced building this business. I always appreciated his feedback and wise counsel. It became clear, as we discussed business in general, that we shared a similar investment philosophy.

When I was raising our first dedicated “blind pool” fund in 2012, some potential investors doing back-channel due diligence called Mike and asked about Akkadian Ventures. He could have perhaps kept me out of the market merely by saying I was unlikely to succeed. Instead, I heard back the most complimentary comments.

These are the moments in business that build trust.

The decision to bring on an equal partner – essentially a co-founder – several years into a start-up investment firm is not easy, but I think it’s justified for three reasons:

  1. There is deep trust: My interactions with Mike over and over again have convinced me that I can trust him and put my business future in his hands.
  2. We have complementary experience: Mike brings a very different set of venture connections and experience than mine, having worked with the major institutional investors in the secondary market for close to a decade.
  3. We share the same investment philosophy: Mike and I completely agree on what a good opportunity looks like and how to attack the market.

Most importantly, Mike and I both think that financial success is nothing without happiness. Life is too short to care more about ownership than working with people you admire and believe will deliver real value.

The team at Akkadian Ventures is ready to take the firm to the next level, and Mike is absolutely the right person to partner with to help accelerate our growth. I am looking forward of many years of being in the investment trenches with Mike. Welcome to the team!

About Ben Black

Benjamin Black is the Co-founder and Managing Director of Akkadian Ventures, LLC. An eleven-year veteran of the private equity space, Ben co-founded Akkadian with Peter Smith, to specialize in offering early liquidity to entrepreneurs, early employees, and investors in successful private companies.

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