All startups have an origin story. So do all founders. These origin stories are important. They explain why a startup began. Or why we believe particular founders will be persistent, constantly fight for success and never give up on their companies.
Whenever I interview founders, I always ask about their origin stories. I need to know and understand who I’m investing in.
Investors have origin stories too. Some people began startup investing because the idea of discovering a company before almost everyone else — and profiting handsomely off of that investment — is exciting and much more interesting than investing in stocks or bonds. Others jumped into startup investing and crypto because they want to build a nest egg for their families. Some started investing to bond with their children or grandchildren (those stories are my favorite). I’ve heard thousands of origin stories from investors over the years. And each one inspires me.
Part of my own origin story passed away earlier this month. And I’m still heartbroken.
Linda Pavich taught both English and Spanish at Troy High School in Michigan. The fact that Mrs. Pavich — I still call her that despite her pleading with me when I was in my early 20s to start calling her Linda — was one of my favorite teachers is no shock. She was almost everyone’s favorite teacher.
Most of us didn’t realize just how effective Mrs. Pavich was as a teacher while we were in her class. It was only after we went off to college that we understood just how well she prepared us. While our college classmates struggled to write essays, research papers, white papers and even dissertations, Mrs. Pavich’s gang churned through writing assignments with confidence. Because Mrs. Pavich didn’t just teach us how to write. She taught us how to communicate using writing.
Mrs. Pavich taught us how to write clear and convincing arguments. She taught us how to make those arguments using the fewest words possible. She taught us to write using language that was easy to understand. And she taught us how to do all of that under deadline pressure. After all, we had tests to take and exams to pass.
For those of us who went on to write for a living, Mrs. Pavich’s English class was our springboard to success. But none of us knew that at the time.
What we did know was that in a pretty traditional high school, Mrs. Pavich was different. She was demanding, but not a taskmaster. She brought joy to the classroom. She embraced mischief. And she loved gossip. Mrs. Pavich was a disruptive force. And we flocked to her.
Mrs. Pavich let us turn in essays in her mailbox at home. She helped a few of my friends sneak off campus (in her car!) to eat Taco Bell for lunch. She let us plan and execute school pranks and then covered for us when other teachers came to her looking for answers. (The school might still be mad at us for changing all the names of swimming record holders to famous scientists right before the biggest meet of the year.) And when other teachers were failing to teach us, she stepped up and made sure we were prepared to take our advanced placement exams.
Mrs. Pavich showed us teaching could be different. She taught us that nothing was sacred and to question everything. She taught us that disruption and joy could go hand in hand. And she taught us to enjoy the smallest moments in life.
Mrs. Pavich was 80 when she left us. Her passing was met with an outpouring of emotion and stories from former students. And it became clear that most of Mrs. Pavich’s flock carried her teachings into the world with them.
Disruption and joy are powerful forces. Together, they’re virtually unstoppable. I’ve spent my professional life pursuing them. And it’s no accident that disruption and joy are at the heart of some of the best investment opportunities we’ve spotted at Early Investing.
So today, I thank Mrs. Pavich for shaping my life in ways I’m just learning to appreciate. I hope wherever she is, she gets this message.