Despite his youth, Max is an old hand at Rockaway – as a member of the Ventures team, he examines and evaluates investment opportunities, monitors the start-up market, creates financial models, and helps maintain the current portfolio. Investment he recently had “on his conscience” (in the best sense of the word) include companies such as Viviere or Lingvist.
One learns from one’s mistakes. What mistake taught you the most, and what, specifically?
It’s not really a specific mistake, more like a disappointment. It didn’t happen at work, but when I was still in university. I was just completing my Master’s degree and didn’t pass the state exams on the first try. You see, prior to that I’d passed every exam with an A and everything was always fine. From my perspective I’d been absolutely prepared, but I was given two questions related to things I hadn’t studied that much – and I simply couldn’t answer them. Suddenly I realized that this was reality. When I look back, the lesson is that it’s always necessary to go a step further. And that’s the way it is both in work and in life. The fact that you work from nine to five, do your work well and so you have an income – that’s fine. But when you want to grow and move forward, you need to make an extra effort and being proactive is important.
What inspirational book influenced you most, and should we read it?
I’m not really the type that reads inspirational books, I’m more into reading fiction for fun and it’s relaxation for me, like movies. Much more often I look for stories around me and take inspiration from people – for example when I’m talking to friends or eve the founder of some start-up, and listen to their stories. I meet someone and say to myself: Wow, that’s a cool story. For example, at Rockaway there are many people with interesting stories that inspire me, and as part of my work I meet interesting founders who have lived through a lot since the age of 18 and have lots of experience. When I see these things around me, it motivates me.
What is the number-one rule that you follow every day in your business?
The most important things for me are honesty, transparency, and openness. I try to be as open as possible toward founders and to not sell them any pipe dreams and high hopes. And I expect the same from them. I often receive feedback that they like this approach – and so they open up more to me too. It’s important that I know everything I need to know. Sometimes it’s hard, of course, and there are certain grey areas that I still need to understand – and sometimes someone tells me that not all things should be said (laughs).
How can one stay calm when the company is having a crisis?
If it’s because I’ve got too much on my plate, it’s good to take a step back. I’m still gradually learning to prioritize things, stop, take a deep breath, think, and tell myself what needs to be done and plan everything. I know that when I’m stressed, I have a harder time thinking. That was the case in school too: I never studied till midnight, and preferred to get a good night’s sleep before an exam.
If there’s a tense situation at work, for example due to negotiating some deal, I see it as an opportunity. It’s something different, which makes work interesting – it’s a challenge that motivates me to keep going and find a solution. And when something fails, you can learn from mistakes too.
Which skill do you work on because you consider it to be the most important for the future?
I’m a fairly analytical type, so I try to work on interpersonal relationships and abilities. You need these mainly for negotiations with founders. I enjoy meeting them and try to understand the emotions of others, to be able to step into their shoes.
And I also work on patience, which is needed mainly in one’s personal life – when you have a child, I learned that patience is tested greatly and it’s also a big learning opportunity.
Where do you find inspiration for more ideas?
I try to look for trends in certain areas where we want to invest, and have lots of inspiring people in our team. At work I try to keep my eyes open. And sometimes it even inspires me to start a company, but for the time being I haven’t had that strong of an idea. One needs to search everywhere one can.
What life hack helps you most in your work?
I like my work and enjoy it. Of course, there are occasional rough patches, but it’s still something that makes sense to me. When I look around me, I see that a lot of people don’t have that. Most of them are aggravated by their work, one can see they’re frustrated, and go there because they have to. I experienced this while still at school in various part-time jobs – I enjoyed the work for a while, but after a while I began to feel like a trained monkey, and at that moment I said to myself that it’s time to move on.
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