Mark Peter Davis is a venture capitalist, incubator, and author of The Fundraising Rules. He’s the founder of Interplay Ventures, a venture partner at High Peaks Venture Partners, and a co-founder of Kohort, DevSpark, Founder Shield, and Venwise. Prior to that, Mark was a venture capitalist at DFJ Gotham Ventures, where he invested in information technology companies. He has a B.A. in Economics from Duke University and an M.B.A. in Venture Finance from Columbia Business School.
1. How do you define success?
2. What is the key to success?
This is a difficult question, but I suspect it’s a mix of 1) understanding what dynamics make you happy, and then 2) pursuing a life structure that facilitates those dynamics.
3. Did you always know you would be successful?
I’m an optimist, so I always assumed I would be. “Assuming” and “knowing” are, however, very different things. While there were times when I doubted my assumptions, in general, with enough persistence, I expected a good outcome.
4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
When I was younger, I was motivated by achieving a goal. I aimed to overcome to reach an arbitrary destination. Now, I fight to continue doing what I enjoy most: innovating.
5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Difficult to pick the greatest, but here are a few things that have formed my approach to life and business: “The more you give, the more you get.” “Say what you’re going to do and do what you say.” “Nothing is business, and everything is business, if you’re in the right business.”
6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Entrepreneurship is my hobby—and it also happens to be my job. I consider all of my time the same. I’m either working on one passion or another—just some other people would call it work. What I enjoy doing includes spending time with my family, starting companies, reading, playing Rockband, and writing.
7. What makes a great leader?
I’m not sure that I am one. If the question was, “What makes a great leader?,” then the answer is most definitely supporting the team in their effort to achieve a common goal.
8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Until you know what you want to do, obtain generalist skills. Once you know what you want to do, back into a plan to get there. Out-hustle anyone who tries to hold you down.
This interview is an excerpt from Success: 30 Interviews with Entrepreneurs & Executives by Jason Navallo.