29 Apr 2019

Insiders Perspective: Mark Sherman

Mark Sherman

MD

Investments, Networking, New Technology or Careers?

This month we sit down with Mark Sherman, Managing Director at Telstra Ventures, to understand a little more about what makes him tick, both personally and professionally. 

 

What are the top 3 things you look for when investing in a company?

People, Product and How We can help.

People: Life is a team sport and great people attract other great people. Whether our companies need to grow from 20 to 200 or 200 to 2000 people, we know how to facilitate that growth in terms of finding great talent.

Product: Great products are the best expression of talent, customer value, market size, competitive differentiation, changing the world for the better, etc.

How We Can Help: Our mission is to work with pioneering leaders and help them deliver on their dreams. Our customer is at the helm and we help scale their growth.

What are some of the common pitfalls companies make when presenting?

Two come to mind: “Ignoring the comparative.”  We are constantly comparing customer experiences, technology / product choices, market timing, etc. The second is “Why now?” Most companies are involved with trends that will happen. However, there is a big difference between now (2 years) and later (20 years).

What advice do you have for companies wanting to expand their footprint globally?

Work with someone who has done it before. We have helped roughly ½ of our portfolio (currently 29 companies) connect with 1250 customers in Australia, China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, New Zealand and many other countries.

What are your tips for staying focused and productive?

Each week, I put together a list of what is most important and work to get at least the top 3 things done.  It helps me to focus on what is truly important and time sensitive. I continue to re-evaluate and study how I am spending my time. I track how I use my time. I find that bad habits creep into my life slowly, incrementally, and quietly (too much time on email) and I either cut them out (sugar during the week except for kids’ birthdays, etc.) or manage them down (email). I also use rescuetime.com as a weekly reminder to use my time well.

What books are you reading?

I am currently reading The Hundred Year Marathon China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower by Michael Pillsbury. One of my most recent favourite reads was On China by Henry Kissinger. Pillsbury is more the bear case and Kissinger is more the bull case for China and the USA. We are investors in China and I would like to understand this market better.

In my eternally growing queue of things to read are The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and Principles by Ray DalioI.

Who is your mentor? From who do you learn?

Too many to name. My partners (wife (who corrected this sentence that was ending with a preposition, which is something with which she will not put up!) and Telstra Ventures). Graduate school friends (Andy Cummins, John Moran, Fred Wang, Chris Lord, Evan Marwell, Todd Carter, Gary Pinkus). Early career mentors (Jeffrey Leeds and Tom Bryson at Lazard and Jim Feuille and Mike McCaffery at Robertson). The CEOs and co-investors in our portfolio companies. So much to learn every day and some many people from who I learn!.

Looking back, what advice would you give yourself when you started your career?

Start less and finish more. Worry less about what others think. Take more risks.