Nick Grossman: Venture Capitalist
What I do:
Why I do it:
I invest in startups working to solve hard problems and reshape markets. Generally speaking, my work tends to focus on three areas: infrastructure (I've recently led investments in telecom infrastructure & green energy infrastructure projects), community (leveraging online communities and open source models), and governance (particularly in the crypto/blockchain space where technical systems are governed by their stakeholders). These areas will likely sound familiar to all the Urban Studies Buddies out there, but in a slightly different context! To me it as always felt like the digital / technical world mirrors the real world in a lot of ways, and the lessons I learned via Urban Studies seem to resonate in my work every day. Today, in addition to our traditional early and growth stage venture funds, we have also launched our first Climate Fund, focused on investments that address the climate crisis (carbon/methane reduction, energy transition, human adaptation to the climate crisis, etc).
How I got here:
I started my career in kind of a dual-track mode. My first "real" job after Stanford was with an urban design & planning consultancy in NYC called Project for Public Spaces (www.pps.org) where we advised cities on public space design & community engagement processes. At the same time, I was learning to code on the side and really enjoying getting hands on with programming and design. My next job was with a tech & media incubator in NYC called OpenPlans (openplans.org), which built software and media products intended to support more walkable, bikeable and livable cities. This is where my interest in cities really collided with my interest in tech, and I also began really learning about the power of open source software & data models, and started to apply patterns from urban studies to tech, software & data. Throughout all of this I also became fascinated with impact of policy and governance on both real-world and technical places/systems. From there I ended up working with USV, initially focused on tech policy issues (copyright, patents, net neutrality) and their impact on startup innovation and competition. Over time my work expanded to supporting the USV portfolio companies (~100 early- and late-stage startups spanning social media, marketplaces, developer infrastructure, learning, health and fintech) on issues around data/privacy, trust & safety, policy & governance and regulation. As we delved further into blockchain and cryptocurrency systems, that's where much of my focus landed, since these open source systems are designed and governed completely differently than traditional tech systems (more like democracies and less like autocracies).
What my background in Urban Studies has done for me:
If there's one thing that Urban Studies did for me, it was help me draw the connection between the way places "feel" (like, wow this street is so lovely) and the systems, policies and governance structures that made it so. I've always been a keen observer of places & experiences, and Urban Studies really helped me get curious about the underlying systems that drive them (either positively or negatively). This applies equally to the "real" world (cities, public places, government) and the digital world (open vs closed systems, web standards, platform governance, tech policy, etc).