Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Shure, the Global Head of the Early Stage Practice at Grasshopper Bank. Jeremy is also a Kauffman Fellow, and is based in New York City. In this role at Grasshopper, he leads the bank’s work with founders and emerging companies, also working closely with the venture capital funds who invest in the innovation economy.
Prior to joining Grasshopper, Jeremy was a Managing Director at Silicon Valley Bank, leading its East Coast Early Stage Practice. His experience also includes co-founding the Emerging Companies practice group of a national law firm, and directing the innovation practice of the world’s largest privately held media agency.
Jeremy sits on the Advisory Board of the Techstars Foundation (supporting diversity and inclusion in the innovation economy) and the National Board of Directors of Active Minds (combating the mental health stigma on college campuses). Jeremy is also the President of the Class of 2000 at the University of Pennsylvania, and is past President of The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Young Leadership division.
Jeremy lives in Westchester, NY, with his wife and three sons, and spends his weekends coaching his sons’ youth sports teams.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Myjourney has always been one of being in service to others.
I began my career as a lawyer almost twenty years ago at a large firm and focused on high stakes litigation. However, I had a nagging frustration where I questioned whether I was making a meaningful difference in the world.
To address that, I did what I now advise founders to do when they come to me for mentorship and advice: I started a process of self-reflection to determine my drivers — what matters and what motivates me in my career — and these motivators encompassed feelings that were both personal and professional.
I determined that my drivers were (and are) two-fold: that I want to have meaningful impact and add value to the people, company, and teams I work with. In doing so, I want to leave a legacy that outlasts me. I asked myself where the greatest potential for creating legacy and building impact was, and the answer was the innovation economy.
With that understanding, I began by pivoting my legal practice to a start a practice group where I was representing tech companies and mentoring entrepreneurs. I spent years developing expertise and learning how to be most effective in service to founders, and continued to get deeper and deeper into the arena to accelerate their success.
That choice, and a number of exciting moves in-between, brought me to where I am now: leading Grasshopper Bank’s Early Stage Practice, as well as becoming a Kauffman Fellow. At Grasshopper, I am most excited about working with tech founders and teams (internal and external) of all backgrounds and powerful journeys traveled, and focus most on the question of: ok, we have your banking taken care of and your funds are safe….now, let’s see how we can help you and accelerate your success, beyond banking.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered [or a major challenge founders encounter] when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
A lot of the founders I work with think they are required to seek venture capital investment — and then achieve venture scale returns — to be successful. It’s almost as if it’s a rite of passage. They think being a successful company means becoming a unicorn. This isn’t true.
There are a lot of definitions of success and a lot of successful companies that haven’t achieved unicorn status.
There are also a lot of sources of funding — angels, high net worth individuals, bank loans. Or, as my friend David Cohen says, “the best way to raise money is to make money.” Not every company needs to raise Capital, with a capital C, to be successful — venture-scale and unicorn companies are not the end-all-be-all of entrepreneurship, and founders can create companies with very positive returns while maintaining significant ownership at the same time. I’d add that one thing we try to do at Grasshopper is provide best-in-class banking services to founders, no matter the size or scale of their company.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Several factors have helped drive my success, though success is a relative term. To be clear, my view of success is not necessarily the amount of money in your wallet, but rather, how many individuals, families, and communities you’ve been able to help.
First, I’m lucky to have a great partner in my wife. She’s supported me throughout my career. We both have fairly frenetic work lives, so a critical component to the strength of our relationship is our honest and consistent communication.
Second, one of the most influential pieces for me has been finding and cultivating special mentor relationships. No matter your level of success, a mentor relationship is always beneficial. I’ve had tremendous mentors and work hard to serve as one myself. Mentors keep me honest. They call me on my BS. They help me see around corners and reframe questions. They don’t give me the answers to the questions, but frame or re-frame a way to think through something to get to my own answer.
Third, I am a believer in always being a student. No matter how much one knows, there is always something new and exciting to learn. I spend a lot of my time digesting data: books, podcasts, blog posts, white papers, etc. One area that’s of particular interest that I’m studying up a lot on these days is founder coaching, which I find to be an incredibly helpful resource to help founders navigate through the challenges (and the highs too).
Fourth, I anchor my values in gratitude. Gratitude is also critical for perspective, both personally and professionally. Our business is very relationship-driven. You need to practice genuine gratitude and care for the people that help you along the way.
Finally, finding a tribe. As an entrepreneur, the relationships you foster become your tribe. This is especially important in an industry where there are as many downs as there are ups.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Be a friend, not a fan.
- To speed up, sometimes you need to slow down.
- Be hungry, not thirsty.
- It’s okay to say “I don’t know.”
- When someone shows you their true colors — believe them.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The main thing is to create guardrails for yourself and make sure that you adhere to them. For example, keep a healthy relationship with your mobile device and ensure that there are times when you unplug. When you’re spending time with family or friends, make sure you’re fully present.
At work, it’s important to work smarter, not harder. Also, face time is less of a priority than efficiency, and while this may be a cliché, it’s true that perfection is often the enemy of “good enough.” If you obsess over perfection it will prevent you from moving on to the next task, and if you continually strive for perfection in all areas you will burn out.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are two people, both of whom remain my mentors today: Brad Feld and David Cohen. Brad is a managing partner at the Foundry Group and David is a co-founder and managing partner of Techstars. Brad and David introduced me to the Techstars community many years ago and it’s become a major force in my life. I’m very grateful to them for that, and I gravitate heavily toward to Techstars’ mantra of “give first”. What I appreciate about both Brad and David is that we don’t only talk about my professional life, but how personal and professional can bleed into one another, and their own experiences across both have been incredibly helpful as I navigate my own journey.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
I’m looking forward to trying my hand as an adjunct professor and teaching a law school course next semester (in the evening, so as not to conflict with my job!). Candidly, I’m a bit nervous about it, as I know the amount of money and time the students invest, and I want to ensure that I deliver a top-flight experience worthy of that investment.
Personally, being a husband and father, I’m always looking at how I can ensure that my family is happy, healthy, and that my wife and I are raising great citizens of the world. We’re so proud of our children. Today, given how prevalent tech is (iPads, mobile devices, gaming), we make a concerted effort to keep our kids outdoors and playing, versus being tied to screens. This is something I too must work on, which is being fully present when with family and sometimes taking that break I advise others to take from their devices.
Finally, in my current role at Grasshopper Bank, I hope to continue working with and helping founders of exciting new companies. By providing safe, secure banking options and tools that help them manage their business more efficiently, we can allow founders to focus on the work that matters.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I hope that the interactions I’ve had are meaningful for the people I’ve spent time with and that they’ve been able to take away some measure of value either personally or professionally.
I also hope to leave a legacy of commitment to diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship and fighting against the stigma associated with talking about mental health, two issues that are dear to me, as I work on as a member of both the Advisory Board of Active Minds and the Techstars Foundation.
Likewise, I hope to build on this legacy through my work at Grasshopper Bank. Our goal is to provide best in class banking services to founders of all backgrounds, stages, sizes, and locations worldwide. By expanding access to and democratizing banking services, we hope to help new founders grow and build vital, important businesses that will make a difference in the world.
Finally, one lesson I’ve learn along the way is that it’s important to aim to make oneself obsolete in a job. To hire amazing people, to cultivate a team (or platform or product) that is bigger than yourself, and then to move on to pick up an even more challenging boulder. My hope is to have a whole slew of boulders, driven by hiring exceptional people, building powerful teams, and then letting them spread their own wings and progress in their careers. Being a manager of many people throughout my career, I’m highly aware of the responsibility that comes with growing talent. It’s always top of mind, and I love it when team members past and current continue to excel in their lives.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
That’s a great question with lots of answers. I suppose today I would say first that I would further Active Minds’ mission and make it “ok” for folks to say “I’m not okay.” While the US has become quite progressive in certain areas, mental health is still something that is whispered about and has a stigma associated with it. The truth is, as it relates to mental health, we are talking about diseases and not decisions. And so I would continue the movement of being a stigma-fighter to have a more open dialogue without judgment on this subject. Way too many people still suffer in silence and that does not need to be the case. A suggestion here is to check in with your “strongest” friend and ask how they are doing, as often it’s that person that most always gets overlooked.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow me on Twitter at @JeremyShure, where I am pretty active, and have also found it a place that has been the catalyst for some of my now strongest relationships.
Also check out Grasshopper bank at grasshopper.bank or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/grasshopper-bank/.