michael-skok-742x1024For the first twenty one years of my career I built companies as an entrepreneur learning many lessons along the way. For the last eighteen I’ve been helping entrepreneurs build their own startups. Today I’m lucky to work with an incredible group of founders and executives who I learn from every day.

Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I first fell in love with technology as a teenager when I taught myself programming and started building and selling applications before I went to University. That passion for solving problems through technology evolved in to a passion for business as I realized that innovations don’t get adopted without talented organizations behind them and a differentiated way to go the market with a business model that builds value for the customer.

Putting technology, people, and business strategy together became the foundation for the rest of my career. As an entrepreneur I founded / co-founded and worked with great teams to build a variety of different companies that spanned CAD/CAM, document management, workflow, imaging and collaboration, security, and analytics, eCommerce and more.

To learn the discipline of investing, I became a VC and turned my focus to helping entrepreneurs build their own businesses. For me, investing is a continuation of what I’ve always loved: bringing together groundbreaking technology, amazing people, innovative market making and game-changing business models. After over a dozen years of investing I saw an enormous amount of change and went on a listening tour to meet with hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors in the ecosystem. I learned a ton. We’re now building a new kind of partnership, Underscore.VC, based on what we heard entrepreneurs want and need for the future.

I’m still focused on backing great entrepreneurs around market changing technologies such as Cloud Computing, and disruptive business models such as, Open Source, the distributed Web, DAOs and Crypto. In these areas I’m currently focused on SaaS Applications in areas like eCommerce, new platforms such as IoT and the resulting Big Data/Analytics/Machine Learning need. And I’m always building new investment theses based on trends like the shift from offline to online Marketing, PLG or bigger mega trends such as Fintech and the disruption DAOs and Crypto will bring. But I’m the first to admit that if a great entrepreneur had an idea outside any of these areas, I’d be focused on their vision and potential above and beyond all else. A good example of this is the latest investment I’ve made in FXP where the founders, Gil, Ron and Tsahy coming off building Cloudlock and being acquired by Cisco and running a major part of their Security business, are just formidable in their vision and execution to tackle DevSecOps. We’re really proud to back them as they create multiple companies such as Slim.io and Jit.io with great founders. 

Overall, conviction in people first has given me the opportunity to work with a group of incredible entrepreneurs and executives at security companies like Symantec way back or more recently Open Source companies like Acquia. Founded by Dries Buytaert, the founder of Drupal and co-led by Mike Sullivan and subsequently acquired by Vista for $1bn. Or REVOlution Analytics (acq by Microsoft). Then in B2C eCommerce companies like Demandware, founded by Stephan Schambach, grown by my Underscore founding partner John Pearce, then taken forward for public offering by Tom Ebling (NYSE:DWRE), then acquired for $2.8bn and grown with Jeff Barnett as CEO to a $1bn revenue business inside Salesforce).  And now in B2B eCommerce Salsify, founded by Jason Purcell, Rob Gonzalez and Jeremy Redburn, who just crossed $100m in ARR on their way to building a multi hundred million dollar enduring public company for leading Brands like J&J or CocaCola.

I’m also excited by pure innovation like Coda where Shishir and Alex founded the company to reinvent the all in one document. We lived the problem at Underscore.VC trying to run our business across Google docs, Excel, Evernote, various databases and when we tried Coda not only did we solve our problem we found hundreds of other use cases to run our business, so we broke every rule in our early stage investing program to jump in and become a series C investor. We’re so glad we did! (It’s now another “Unicorn” in our portfolio, on it’s way to becoming an industry leader for integrated documents.)  If we get passionate about the team and space like Coda, we go into business building mode and that’s such a pleasure.

My main hobby is Startup Secrets, and learning to inspire founders and builders to solve the problems of our world, but when I break away from that,  Photography and increasingly Videography get me excited. I try to use my own imagery wherever I can. All the background images for this site are personal. You can see more of my photography on instagram @mjskok.