Greg Stofman is a Principal at Struck Capital, a next-generation Seed stage venture capital firm in Los Angeles, CA. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, in another life he would be leading an attack line as a professional hockey player. We’re grateful to have him instead at Struck Capital. Greg leads our deal team and helps founders scale to new heights with an incredible eye for potential and an impassioned, human-centric approach to venture capital.
What was your path to the world of Los Angeles venture capital?
I actually began my career in startups right out of school in Boston with a very early stage online video ad network called OneScreen. I joined as employee number two to help grow the organization and things really took off as the team soon grew to around 200 employees. I rode that role all the way through the company’s acquisition by a public company called Adaptive, which actually brought me out west to the Bay Area as I joined the investment bank that we had retained to advise us on our sale. I found myself doing tech investment banking in San Francisco for close to three years: advising founders and CEOs on large capital raises and M&A deals anywhere in the $50M to $1B deal value range. And while I definitely enjoyed my time in banking, having learned a ton, I eventually got the itch to move back over to the entrepreneurial side of things, so I left the bank to join another startup called Kamcord — a YC and a16z-backed consumer mobile application — as the Growth and Business Development Director. I helped scale our platform to around 15 million monthly active users before another acquisition came about — this time by Lyft — and it was again time to plan my next steps.
Around this time I was introduced to Adam B. Struck, the Founder and Managing Partner of Struck Capital (as you may have guessed!), and was immediately attracted to what he was building. At this point, through my various roles with startups and in banking, I had pretty extensive experience with all corners of the investor landscape and generally knew what kind of value creation you could expect to see from the investors around the table. However, as I got to know Adam better, I quickly realized he went well above and beyond the typical investor. He would lead equity seed rounds of digital lenders in tandem with originating their first credit facilities. He would do everything possible to help expedite the go-to-market strategy, getting companies to market six months faster than going the traditional debt route. He would walk companies into their largest customers during the diligence process before ever writing a term sheet. He was the kind of true partner many had never seen in a VC. That really resonated with me. I thought, “here’s another young and hungry VC”, and I truly wanted to learn more from him. About what that true differentiated value add looks like and how to operate outside of the box. The rest is history.
Coming from the startup world, what attracted you to Struck Capital?
Coming from growth roles in startups, I felt like I could be an immediate contributor in building the reach and brand of Struck Capital. Things like building a unique and compelling brand identity, building out the rest of the team, establishing what a long term vision looks like and then working tirelessly to achieve and evolve that vision. And so I did a lot of that. There were a lot of similarities between my previous business development successes and where Struck was at the time that we got connected — that really attracted me to the team.
I also loved that we took a vertically-agnostic approach. One of my favorite things about VC is that the knowledge curve is endless, and Struck Capital, more than any other firm I was looking at, did an amazing job of surveying the entire landscape of possibilities rather than putting blinders on a specific vertical.
Last but certainly not least, I loved that Struck Capital ‘walked the walk’ when it came to partnering with founders. Venture can at times end up very compartmentalized, with a sourcing team handing off to a diligence team handing off to a platform team and so forth. Struck was different. We wear every hat imaginable, and play every role for our founders, which I believe makes a huge difference. We are a true extension of their teams, and with so many different founders doing so many amazing things, there is no ceiling to what we can do here.
What is your vision for our work at Struck Capital?
I see a ton of growth: I just think it’s in our DNA. There’s always room for growth, and we’re always looking to drive continuous innovation and stay ahead of the curve. It’s a little bit ironic that venture firms haven’t changed themselves in 20+ years but preach that they want to back the next generation of technologies. With Struck, we very much have the ‘move fast and break things mentality’ possessed by some of the most impactful startups of all time; that kind of innovation and drive is deep in our DNA.
We are operators through and through, and yet I still get excited thinking about all the room to get creative on how we help build companies, from incubation to maturation. We are also incredibly excited to continue doubling down on and comprehensively developing our focus on Pre-Seed and Seed stage investing. There is a beautiful relationship with founders that is unique to our stage. We’re not just an investor and board member, we are tied at the hip: we’re a therapist, we’re a friend and we’re a shoulder to lean on. As you move downstream in the investing world the relationships can become more transactional, and it really makes you appreciate the human element of Seed stage investing where we’ve built our identity.
You’ve talked about your grandfather as a big role model of yours. What have you learned from him?
My grandfather was born in the basement of an Atlantic City house that was home to seven other families. He started collecting recyclables as a teenager, and would sell them off to scrapyards to turn a profit before eventually turning that into a fairly large iron business. From there, his entrepreneurial spirit took over: funding real estate projects and spinning up one of the largest community banks in the US, which was actually taken public on the NASDAQ.
From his experience in funding a few hotel development projects, he decided to build up his own hotel business, and grew it into something really special. In my mind, he’s the definition of hard work, grit, and vision. He came from humble beginnings and carved his own path, and that’s something I take with me every day as I work to build my own empire.
You’re known around the office for your excellent taste in music. What’s at the top of your playlist these days?
I have a real love for reggaeton! I love to travel and in 2018 booked a last-minute, 3-week-long trip to South America. And I mean last-minute — I booked the flight at midnight and it left 6 hours later. Usually, I’m a big planner, but timing was tight and I had found out that I had a 3 week open window, so I just had to get on the road. With such a quick turnaround, though, I didn’t have time to plan out my itinerary. This left me with one real option: I had to immerse myself in the culture and go with the flow. I ended up meeting some amazing local friends who wanted to do everything possible to make my trip unforgettable, which included introducing me to the music that moved them. The sounds of Ozuna, Bad Bunny, Nicky Jam, or Lunay have stayed with me to this day, and you can definitely hear me blasting them around the office!
Also be sure to check out Greg’s recent interview with Confluence.VC here!