michael-skok-742x1024For the first twenty one years of my career I built companies as an entrepreneur learning many hard lessons along the way. For the last twenty I’ve been helping entrepreneurs build their own startups. Since having a health shock I’m now lucky enough to have lived through that and work behind the scenes with my partners and an incredible group of founders and executives who I learn from continuously.

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 people and organizations behind them. That plus a differentiated way to go the market with a business model that builds value for the customer are essential ingredients imho.

Putting technology, people, and business strategy together became the foundation for the rest of my career. It’s also been the basis for teaching to learn Startup Secrets.

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.

it’s a pleasure to back great entrepreneurs around market changing technologies such as AI, Quantum and Cloud Computing, plus disruptive business models such as, Open Source, and Web3. In these areas I’m currently focused on reimagining all SaaS Applications with AI in areas like eCommerce, new platforms such as IoT, or AR/VR. 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, eg in Spacetech, I’d be focused on their vision and potential above and beyond all else. A good example of this is an investment I made in FXP. The founders, Gil, Ron and Tsahy, coming off building Cloudlock and being acquired by Cisco then ran a major part of their Security business. They are just formidable in their vision and execution tackling DevSecOps problems. 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 subsequently acquired by Vista for $1bn. Or REVOlution Analytics (acq by Microsoft). Then in B2C eCommerce companies like Demandware, founded by Stephan Schambach, grown with my Underscore 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. When we tried Coda not only did we solve our problem we found hundreds of other use cases to run our business. We then 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 its way to becoming an industry leader for AI 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.

Now, 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.