In search of engineers that give a damn.

Atypical invests in engineers with empathy.

If it sounds simple, perfect. These words were chosen carefully. 

The original idea took shape during my many years as an operator. I used to describe it as “working with quietly awesome people trying to solve hard problems.” That idea stuck with me and ultimately evolved into the mission behind Atypical Ventures.

This is a mission with no definitive end.

Atypical exists to explore the intersection of technical innovation and the human condition, or of what it means to build with empathy. We do not claim to have all of the answers — far from it. We have hypotheses, and like any good science, we expect to enlist collaborators and iterate.

A-typ-i-cal: not representative of a type, group, or class.

We seek to work with individuals crazy enough to believe that they can change the world. Such founders maintain — as we do — that perspective impacts experience. To believe that change is possible is to make it so. 

Business model innovation is not Atypical. We operate at the leading edge of technology. We are comfortable envisioning what could be from what is, and we follow through, helping to turn the improbable into reality. A fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions that has the potential to create new markets and net new value where none existed before — this is Atypical.

Most startups fail, and they do so for largely predictable reasons

There are countless ways to quantify startup failures and parse them for lessons, but some lessons are not easily captured in a spreadsheet. These are lessons of empathy. 

Empathy may be a familiar word, but it has been largely overlooked and underappreciated in venture capital. We believe that the best founders combine empathy and a refined style of interpersonal communication with subject matter expertise. Empathy acts as a balance to intellect, and we believe it is a superpower that can propel a novel technology from innovative to transformative.  

Consider the implications of the following as examples: 

  1. Find strength in silence. Empathetic founders can settle their internal voice, sit back and fully listen.

  2. Seek discomfort. The path to growth is through discomfort. To stop growing is the only sure way to fail.

  3. Expect the unexpected. There will be surprises and setbacks. Someone in touch with their emotions and those of others can respond accordingly to surprises and setbacks, and is resilient amidst uncertainty.  

  4. Be accountable and take account. Technology has the potential to deliver both positive and negative outcomes. It is not enough to answer the question: “can it be done?” We must also ask, “what comes next?”

This is the first of a series on the Atypical Angle.

Expect us to share open-ended questions and lessons learned from our many experiences and experiments. We will share the failures and successes alike as we explore our people-first approach to investing, as well as our lens on technology and what we refer to as “basic building blocks.”

Until then, stay healthy and keep the hustle strong!