Building The Machine Podcast Episode 5: Dan Kimerling Deciens Capital
Once you're a pirate, serving in the navy is hard': Dan Kimerling goes back  to his VC roots – Tearsheet
Dan Kimerling – Deciens Capital

I have known Dan for a decade through the NYC tech ecosystem. I lovingly call him the curmudgeon of fintech – in this episode we go deep into how he is building a venture capital firm and practice, not just running a fund and how he views the world of fintech investing.

Below is the full transcript of our time – and well worth it! I am thankful for Dan for spending the time with me.

Eric Friedman & Dan Kimerling

Dan and I recorded the following episode together which you can watch here, listen too on your favorite platform, or read the highlights from an edited transcript below.

Intro/Dan Bio:

Welcome to Building The Machine, a show about people building the “machine” inside organizations to help grow their businesses. 

Today, we are lucky to welcome Dan Kimerling of Deciens Capital. Dan is the co-founder of Standard Treasury, a Y Combinator backed company. He is also co-founder and Managing Partner of Deciens Capital, an early stage investment fund.

Previously, he was the COO of digital gift card start-up Giftly from its inception in 2010 to its acquisition by in 2013.

Before Giftly, Dan was a Booth Scholar at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Earlier in his career Dan was an award winning policy analyst at the Hudson Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In 2007, he was named the Anne Armstrong Leadership Fellow, a position given annually to the most promising young foreign policy professional.

Dan has a B.A. (with Honors) in Political Science and an M.A. (with Honors) in International Relations from the University of Chicago where he won numerous awards.

On Dan’s Motivation for His Current Work

Eric Friedman: Thanks for making the time, Dan. It’s awesome to have you. Let’s start with why you’re doing what you’re doing. In my mind, that will be a great way to explain what it is that you’re doing. 

Dan Kimerling: There are a couple of dimensions. One dimension is a pretty firm belief that starting financial services companies should not be as hard as it is, and that there is demand in the market for yet another venture fund focused on functionally day-zero companies in financial services.

There is also a belief that investing in day-zero Fintech businesses with certain tactical effects can generate a lot of yield for LPs. And then, of course, the ego and arrogance, I have to believe that I can do both of those things in a somewhat efficacious manner.

That’s why I’m running Deciens and we’re coming up on our fourth anniversary, our fourth birthday will actually be in August. 

On Describing His Current Work without Naming His Fund/Investments

Eric Friedman: It’s been an exciting four years to say the least as we’ve known each other a long time. If you had to describe what it is that you do to other people without saying “Deciens” and without mentioning the companies that you’ve invested in, how would you describe what you do?

Dan Kimerling: I invest in companies that fuck with banks for fun and hopefully profit.

On “Fucking with Banks” and Deciens’ Focus

Eric Friedman: [Both laugh] How do you think about your craft? There are so many investors, there are so many things you can do to go about “fucking with banks.”

Dan Kimerling: In today’s venture market, any given fund or affirm or an investor has four things that they could focus on: 

  • Qualit
  • Consistency
  • Velocity
  • Scale

I don’t think you can focus on all four of them. So, any given fund/firm/investor has to understand which of those he/she really cares about. Deciens really cares about quality and consistency; we don’t care about velocity or scale.

As many of your listeners may know, there was an incredible piece published by a gentleman from Founders Fund, discussing Tiger [Global Management] and how they’re focused on the speed and scale business.

On Sushi and VC

I think there are some real virtues to that, however, when I talk to my business partner, Ishan [Sachdev], about it, I use a slightly different metaphor: I talk about Jiro [Ono], Nobu [Matsuhisa], and Benihana. I think that in the world of sushi, there’s a role for Jiro, Nobu, and Benihana. Eric, as you know, I grew up in suburban New Jersey and in suburban New Jersey, we ate a lot of Benihana growing up and I love the Americanized version of this deeply traditional Japanese meal. 

Eric Friedman: Who doesn’t love catching shrimp in a hat? 

Dan Kimerling: [Laughing] That’s right, exactly. Then there’s Nobu and the institution he has built through all of his restaurants in many different cities in the United States and maybe abroad.

It’s a luxury brand, but a brand designed with certain scale effects. It is a brand designed to make you feel good through its choice of geography, its restaurant design, its build quality, and the consistency of the food you get. 

And then there’s Jiro who has one restaurant in a train station in Tokyo, but who is at the height of his craft. There have been documentaries made about the level of craftsmanship that he puts into his work.

I think we [at Deciens] want to be way closer to Jiro than to Benihana. 

That said, I think they all have a role to play. We know what we care about and we’re thankful that anybody else cares about it in the way we do. 

On Dan’s Definition of True Freedom

Eric Friedman: This is a great segue to something I was thinking about in preparation for this conversation. Sticking with the theme of restaurants, we went to dinner once and you shared with me a lesson that I’d love for you to extrapolate on.

You said that true freedom is not having to choose—even something as simple as what food you’re getting, what wine you’re getting. Interestingly, you had me make all the choices with the waiter. Can you share more about that and explain that moment? I’ll never forget it. 

Dan Kimerling: I think choice and freedom are often conflated. There is a certain Liberty in not choosing, in not having to choose. And, one of the few things I’m really good at is trying to understand where things are unintentionally conflated. So, in this case, choosing a restaurant and then having to choose what to eat is both a kind of freedom and a kind of burden.

I want to be clear on what these burdens look like. Steve Jobs, very famously, wore the same thing every day because not having to choose what to wear, for example, is a kind of burden and there’s a kind of freedom in being released from that burden.

Money management is a very odd business because what we are assessed on is, to borrow a phrase, “judgment.” We have to make judgments all day, every day. And in the fullness of time, we will be rewarded or not rewarded. We will either get just rewards or not based on the quality of those judgements.

And so, when I’m not working, there’s an immense freedom to not have to make any decisions.

Eric Friedman: Which is why you shared the burden of choice on myself. 

Dan Kimerling: Although if I recall correctly, you did a very fine job.

On Dan’s Unique, More Tacit Approach

Eric Friedman: [Laughing] Thank you. That’s your judgment on my ordering. It’s not quite capital deployment, but rather sustenance for Dan.

I would say from the introduction here that you represent a personality that’s different from many other investors that are out there. Can you share more about why you take this approach? 

What I mean by this is that a lot of folks are perched on soap boxes across social networks, shouting from the hilltops. You take a more tacit approach. Why is that?

Dan Kimerling: I joke with LPs that VCs can do one of three things well: 

  • We can be good at generating carry;
  • We can be good at generating fees; 
  • Or we can be good at stroking our own egos

You have to pick one. I’m very clear on what Deciens does. We’re in the first bucket. Everything we do. From who we hire to the way we go to market, from how we engage with our limited partners to how we engage with founders, it’s all about being very focused on quality and consistency so as to affect strategies to generate meaningful carry for ourselves and our limited partners.

Also, I think a big part of it is that I’m not comfortable with the idea that VCs are that important or that I’m that important. 

To borrow another metaphor, I am at most the person behind the soundboard. It is the entrepreneurs that are singing their heart out, playing the instruments, et cetera.

While there are a few famous record producers, they’re far less important to the overall music than the band. In that regard, I’m just thankful to get to hang out with bands all day because they’re way cooler than I am. 

I think there is a way that a tremendous record producer, or a coach with a sports team, can push people in ways to get the best out of them or get them to express themselves in deeper and more fundamental ways. In my mind, that’s a lot of my role in the boardroom or with entrepreneurs, 

On Dan being the “Curmudgeon of Fintech”

Eric Friedman: To get to that place, you have to have conviction, excitement, and judgment such that you are investing in those founders and becoming their cheerleader.

I hope you take this as a term of endearment. I think of you as the “Curmudgeon of Fintech.” How do you get to that point if you have that kind of a view of the world, of founders, and of this space? 

Dan Kimerling: In my opinion, as we touched upon before, people are not always as intellectually rigorous in how they make distinctions. One of the ones that really bothers me is how Venture Capitalists try and conflate what they do as being complicated. 

Venture Capital is not a complicated business. It is, in fact, the easiest business I can think of. We buy securities at one price and hope that we can sell them for a highly appreciated price at some time during the term of our fund because we borrow the money we use to buy those securities. 

But it’s really fucking hard. [Both laughing] It’s really hard, really, really hard. 

Eric Friedman: I love the breakdown. It sounds very simple. 

Dan Kimerling: I mean in general investing is an insanely simple behavior. There are way, way harder, way, way more complicated ways to make a living.

For instance, if you were to draw a two by two, there’s easy and hard, simple and complicated. Venture Capital, in particular, is an extremely simple, extremely hard business. 

And so, to get back to your question, I think we at Deciens are trying to identify what we think of as the three most important things we need to do to be good at our job and to get the judgment questions correct. I’m happy to share what those three things are. In fact, I’m happy to give away the entire Deciens’ playbook because giving the playbook away is just not that useful. 

When you do things which are hard and simple, you have to understand what matters and why [it matters]. You have to be fucking ruthless in your application of those principles. And there’s another dynamic here, which is that the cycle time in Venture Capital is so insanely long that it’s very hard to have any kind of assessment about the outputs of your business.

Because of this, you really have to focus on process discipline relative to the inputs of your business with a hope and a prayer of being good at the outcomes. 

On Dan’s Eternal Optimism (or lack thereof)

Eric Friedman: I want to dig a little further. Most investors, most people in the startup ecosystem, I would describe as eternal optimists, glass-half-full people.

I would not describe you in the same way. Two questions. Why are you that way and how do you come to terms with the fact that the sometimes irrational exuberance and optimism of others is the norm? 

Dan Kimerling: I’m actually largely a techno-optimist over long periods of time.

In college, one of the things that I studied was the history and philosophy of science. If you look at the progression of humankind over the span of decades and centuries, the trajectory has been incredibly positive on pretty much every dimension. You don’t have to believe me. You could read Steven Pinkerton’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, or many, many other books that talk about that. There are, at least at a high level, certain replicable cycles of human behavior. 

When you talk about irrational exuberance, I’m reminded of another book: A Short History of Financial Euphoria. There are cycles of irrational exuberance throughout history in all kinds of assets. That said, those bubbles are not permanent.

Carlota Perez talks about this a lot and Union Square Ventures has talked about this in some depth with their analysis. In general, I am a techno-optimist, as I said, and how I’ve gotten here is by trying to understand a few things: 

  • What serve as the underlying economic forces that help companies be great?
  • What are the underlying economic courses that create change? Because change creates opportunity. 
  • What are the forces that separate the past and the future? If the future and the past have some kind of relationship in most contexts, there are places where the past and the future become uncorrelated and there are ways to assess that around things like demography, technological shifts, et cetera.

On Cryptocurrencies

Eric Friedman: I appreciate the longitudinal answer, but I want to dig into something maybe a little more tangible. You and I have sparred on this topic for a while: the new and emerging idea of crypto. 

My understanding, correct me if I’m wrong here, was that you were not a fan to put it mildly. How has your thinking changed there? For me, that’s a perfect example of a glass-half-full view from myself and a glass-half-empty view from you.

Dan Kimerling: I want to talk about crypto and then I want to talk about fear and risk because what we’re talking about is the distinction between fear and risk. 

In general, I am not very long crypto. I have never been very long crypto. The opportunity cost of the money I have not made on crypto is insane because I first was talking about crypto in 2011 as I’ve been in financial services for a long time.

These kinds of concepts had bubbled up relatively early and I probably could have bought crypto for a single-digit dollar coin. It still does make any sense to me. Maybe in that regard I’m a purist because I can buy things and they will appreciate and I understand why. If I can’t understand why people want [these things], I’ll never invest in them.

For better or worse, I continue to not understand it. I think the metaphor of digital gold is probably the best metaphor I’ve had for it. I think that NFTs are interesting in that I can understand why somebody would want to digitize a baseball card. Baseball cards are a useful mental model as they are relatively rare assets.

All that said, I worry about a lot of things around crypto, especially around the power of quantum computers. We’ve talked about the technological shifts around quantum computing and cryptography more generally. The opening of new and material attack vectors is worrisome. But, it makes no sense to me. 

At one point, I had the opportunity to go work at Coinbase. Personally, I love Brian Armstrong; he’s an incredible entrepreneur. Fred Ehrsam, his co-founder, is also incredible. But, at the time, I didn’t understand why anybody would want to buy tokens anyway and I still don’t.

To give you another example of this, I passed on the seed round Robinhood. The reason wasI didn’t understand why anybody would want to trade. I still don’t understand why people want to trade. Trading is generally a fool’s errand. Over long periods of time, the empirical track record would state that trading is a bad idea versus buy, and hold.

On the Difference between “Risky” and “Scary” Investments

Eric Friedman: Do you look at that as a miss or adhering to your thesis? 

Dan Kimerling: It’s not a miss in my mind because I don’t really worry about passes on companies that turn out to be great. I don’t worry about my anti-portfolio. What I do worry about is whether the companies that I have invested in going to become great. That’s the only thing I worry about. 

Just to talk a bit more about this,, I was talking with a VC that you know well about my portfolio company, Chipper Cash. He expressed to me the idea that investing in Africa was—he used the word “risky.” I think he meant the word “scary.” It scared him.

I don’t think investing in Africa is risky. Well, it’s certainly risky as all investing is risky, but it’s not scary. Investing in crypto is scary because I don’t understand it. I can’t measure it. There’s no risk. There’s no derivatives that I can buy around it. There’s that pricing that I can control about it. There’s no way to manage the risk. That makes it scary to me.

Whereas investing in a payment processor in Africa is risky because all investing is risky. It’s not scary in the sense that you can manage that risk. 

In that regard, I don’t understand crypto. It scares the shit out of me and I have no framework for why anyone would want to buy it. But then again, I’m not a gold bug, I don’t trade stocks, I don’t go to casinos. Those are not things that I enjoy at all. Unlike eating sushi, of course.

On Other Scary Categories besides Cryptocurrencies

Eric Friedman: Are there other areas or categories that you’re scared of?

Dan Kimerling: The way people talk about their businesses [scares me]. We’re in a part of the late industrial cycle where people talk in very loose ways. That scares me. 

People talk about businesses that are obviously lending businesses as if they take no balance sheet risk or have no credit exposure. [They talk about] businesses which are not contractually recurring revenue in the parlance of recurring revenue run rates. They conflate flow businesses or they conflate usage-based businesses with contractual, recurring revenue businesses, and so on. 

That scares me. The lack of rigor and the lack of specificity concerns me. This doesn’t concern any specific industry, but that kind of behavioral finance.

On Balancing Optimism and Improbability

Eric Friedman: To me you’ve always been a counter-culture thinker. How do you come to terms with the new and the bold and the never been done and weigh them against things that aren’t going to happen? Crypto is one example, but let’s park it over there.

Maybe someone that pitches you an idea that’s going to break the system or fuck with the banks, as you’ve said that you’ve got to get some conviction behind, even though it seems like what they’re working on is improbable if not impossible. 

Dan Kimerling: Benchmark says this the best. Ironically, Benchmark is the benchmark by which we all probably judge or certainly one of them. They often talk about this idea of “what can happen if things go right.” That’s the hallmark of our business: sitting with an entrepreneur or some co-founders and thinking to yourself, “If this goes right, this is going to become fucking massive.”

It’s crucial to understand the quantums of risk being taken, how best to mitigate those risks, and how moving from one quantum of risk to the next quantum of risk changes the company’s valuation, its expected value on a risk-adjusted basis, and its ability to serve its audience in a way that delivers on its value propositions.

As you know, I started a company in 2012 focused on the question of open banking. Ultimately, I believe that the idea my collaborators and I developed turned out to be correct. We were just too early. It makes me think of Kozmo and Urbanfetch, DoorDash and Instacart. And so, I think a lot of it is being right at the right time really matters.

Relatedly, you have to do things which look crazy, but are not. If you aren’t doing things which are sufficiently crazy, you’ll never generate a 5x net fund. You’re not taking enough risk. Now, you don’t want to take stupid risks. You don’t want to go to Vegas and put it all on black. But, if you’re not taking enough risk, if you’re not scaring yourself, if you don’t think it’s a little insane, then you should get into growth equity.

On Dan’s Former Startup

Eric Friedman: To share more for those at home about that experience, what was that company and what happened there?

Dan Kimerling: In 2011 and 2012, I was working at a startup doing payment processing. We were basically emailing Excel workbooks back and forth to our bank partners every day.

This was right when John and Patrick Collinson were really getting Stripe going and it occurred to me that banks would have open APIs. We started a company called Standard Treasury which ultimately went through YC and raised money from Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, et cetera. Ultimately, we sold that company to Silicon Valley Bank and it became the genesis of Silicon Valley Bank’s open platform approach. 

I took on a senior role helping Silicon Valley Bank think about the future of their interactions with startup customers.

Relatedly, I look at companies like Deciens’ portfolio company, Treasury Prime, or some of its peers and I wonder.

Eric Friedman: At the right time, they’re building a business that maybe has a different trajectory than Standard Treasury, 

Dan Kimerling: For sure. All the credit goes to the fact that they saw the timing being right now and have pursued a strategy that takes advantage of the maturation of the market cycle. 

On Leaving Silicon Valley Bank

Eric Friedman: What made you leave SVB?

Dan Kimerling: There were a couple of things. SVB is a great organization. I think Greg Becker has built a world-class organization. For me, I am not well-suited to working for others. I don’t know that I’ve ever been well-suited for that. That was one aspect of it. A second aspect of it is I knew I wanted to go do early stage financial services Venture Capital and I didn’t think there was an obvious way to do it within that context. That said, I’m very thankful that I continue to have an amazing relationship with Silicon Valley Bank. I’m thankful for everything that we did within the organization during my two and a quarter years.

On Companies/Trends that Dan Hates Currently

Eric Friedman: Thanks for sharing that. I think that for a lot of VC interviews especially, people tend to ask them a question that’s not great: What are some industries or companies that are exciting right now? 

I always hated getting asked that question. So I never try to ask it, but given your filter and view on the world, maybe I’ll ask the opposite.

What are some companies or trends that you hate right now? That you are just not into and are not for Dan and not for Deciens.

Dan Kimerling: Well, we want to be an elite venture fund. That means we want to put up 5x net funds, we want to be investing in owning non-trivial quantities, generally at least 10%, of companies. We do that primarily through leading financings.

But there are really four things that I look for when I think about businesses that have the antecedents of greatness: increasing returns to scale, ever deepening moats in a winner take all or winner take most market that is very large.

I see a lot of startups that I don’t think fit those criteria. 

Eric Friedman: Can you get specific?

Dan Kimerling: Yeah, sure. A company that I’m personally an investor in is SpaceX. Though it doesn’t meet those criteria, that doesn’t mean it’s not a great company. That said, it’s not a great Deciens company.

There are a number of sources of competitive advantage. SpaceX has an incredible technological, competitive advantage over its peers and now it has an incredible advantage in sourcing government relationships. That’s great, but that’s not a Deciens investment. We invest in businesses that tend to have the kinds of business effects that I just described.

I think there are a lot of companies out there today that are not better, the bigger they get. They are at best neutral as they get bigger. Oftentimes they get worse the bigger they get.

There are businesses that have no moat around them. If I can steal your customers and then you can steal them right back from me, we have no moat around our business. We could be stealing lots of customers from each other, but there’s nothing enduring about that. What you would really want is a business where for every dollar I spend, I’m stealing a customer from you, you’d have to spend increasingly large quantities of capital to steal them back. For instance, $1 today, a $1.20 tomorrow, $1.40 the day after, et cetera. 

On What Separates Dan and Deciens from other VCs

Eric Friedman: What would you want teams to know about you that isn’t discoverable from an over-edited bio page? What are some tidbits that may help them understand who you are and what you’re looking for? 

Dan Kimerling: I think what separates Deciens from a lot of other VCs—and I hope this comes across in this conversation—is that Deciens is all about being very real. There’s no patina, there’s no facade, there’s just realness. 

A lot of founders don’t want that. You mentioned the word “cheerleader” before. I’m not your cheerleader. I’m there to help entrepreneurs see the world as clearly as possible. In a lot of situations, that actually means seeing things as being just completely fucked up. If you don’t want a VC who will tell you when things are off the rails, you shouldn’t work with us. If you want a VC who will give it to you very straight, I think we can be a great partner.

In today’s world, where speed and scale seem ever more important, I worry that a lot of VCs are going to cut and run on the companies that need the most support. I worry that all some VCs really care about is raising their next fund so they can raise ever bigger funds and collect even more management fees.

I worry about the ability of some VCs to actually work with their portfolio companies or their desire to do so because their incentives have changed. 

On Splitting Time between “Winners” and ‘Losers”

Eric Friedman: Let’s dig into the work that you do with portfolio companies. There’s an adage that says you should be spending the most time with companies that are successful and at least time with companies that are not. For many investors, that’s not the case. For many board members, they spend an adverse amount of time on companies that are struggling. 

You of course want to be there for those teams and companies, but how do you think about the split of your time and spending more time with the winners and potentially less time with the “losers.”

Dan Kimerling: I don’t necessarily like to frame it around winning and losing. One of the reasons I don’t like to frame it around that is I know incredible entrepreneurs who just got unlucky. And so, one of the very first things I tell entrepreneurs is that you should separate who you are as much as possible from the success or failure of your business.

The success or failure of a company is not, generally speaking, an indication of your own self worth. I think that a lot of people who have built companies that are not successful…it crushes their soul. I hope that I can do my own little part to help ease the psychic burden of the journey that many entrepreneurs are on.

Just yesterday. I met two incredible entrepreneurs who were pitching me a company. I told them, “Look guys, statistically, the likelihood is that this is going to fail.” You have to know that going in. You also have to believe that for some reason you’re different, that you can be the outlier.

Most venture funds return at best 1x net over 10 years. For me to start Deciens , I needed to have an insane ego to believe that I can put up exceptional performance. 

But, I still can acknowledge the fact that VC is a terrible asset class if you invest in median managers, and it can be an incredible asset class if you can invest in top quartile managers. That’s an empirically true reality that I can internalize. 

Just like when you talk to entrepreneurs, I think they can internalize the fact that the overwhelming statistical likelihood is that they will create no value. They know that in a Power Law distributed business, if they create value, it is going to be an exceptionally large quantum of value.

I don’t think those things are contradictory, but I think you want to start this relationship acknowledging the statistical reality and trying to do everything to bend the curve in your favor. If you can bend the curve even a little bit, the compounding will have so many cycles to compound that it can have very profound outcomes.

On Deciens’ Lean Operation

Eric Friedman: So many firms today have huge teams, services, and platforms. In my mind, you are effectively a one person show. How do you think about the balance between those offerings, but also how you spend the time and how you go up against what’s out there?

Dan Kimerling: Well, I’m very thankful that I have a colleague, Ishan Sachdev. He joined me as an investor and partner in January of this year. I also have an incredible back office team that probably doesn’t get enough credit: Kat, Becca, Ben, Chris, the team at Rimmerman, the team at Cole Freeman…

On Deciens as the “Anti-Platform VC Firm”

Eric Friedman: I think that everyone’s got their service providers and I’m sure they’re great…

Dan Kimerling: Well, if I may, I’m the face of Deciens, but just to be clear it is not only me. But Deciens is the anti-platform Venture Capital firm. I would encourage LPs to actually rigorously assess do, on a net of fees and carry basis. platform Venture Capital firms actually add incremental alpha. It’s not obvious to me that they do. Nobody has shown me a rigorous study which says to the contrary. 

Eric Friedman: If they did, would it change your opinion about investing in platform services? 

Dan Kimerling: Yeah, I mean the leading indicator of that problem would be that I put out term sheets and they’re not picked up because entrepreneurs choose to work with competitors of mine that have platform services. That is not happening.

If there was ever a time where we started to see that the fact that we are not a platform operation by design hinders serving entrepreneurs or LPs, we would change that for sure. I would welcome that evidence and anybody who’s listening or watching today, please send me that evidence:, DMs are open on Twitter too.

On Dan’s Favorite Books

Eric Friedman: I love that. That’s why I love conversing with you. Switching gears, what are some of your favorite books?

Dan Kimerling: I love 2001: a Space Odyssey. I think that’s an incredible book and an incredible film. Arthur C. Clarke is a very complicated guy, but I think the vision of the future and the detailed orientation of it is incredible.

I love a book called Certain to Win. I love looking at how other people in other industries have figured out peak performance. Certain to Win applies what the special forces in the military have used to create and sustain incredible levels of performance amongst their organizations. 

Not surprisingly. I love Danny Meyer’s book, Setting the Table. I’ve learned so much from Danny Meyer and what he has done at the Union Square Hospitality Group. It’s incredible, especially because that business has no moat. I can get calories at Union Square Cafe and I can get calories at McDonald’s. So what is it about a restaurant that creates a feeling of power? 

I love this book, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood. That’s a great, great book. 

Dune, The Power Broker, there are just so, so many. I always admire people who, whatever their craft have just poured their heart and soul into it.

If I may give one more, I love Michael Moritz’s book with Alex Ferguson, Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester. Not because I like sports, in fact, you know that I hate sports, but I think that there is a lot to be learned in reading Mr. Moritz’s book about Sequoia Capital. And they are the best of the best in our business.

On Investors Dan Admires

Eric Friedman: Who are some other investors you admire?

Dan Kimerling: I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great investors who I’ve learned a lot from. Jim Pallotta, of course I’m super thankful for Jim and everything he’s done to help me at Deciens. Nigel Morris at Capital One. Phil Black at True Ventures; without them Deciens wouldn’t be here today.

There are others who have really helped me as well, off the top of my head I couldn’t give you a comprehensive list.

Lastly, there are others that I haven’t personally met, but I’ve learned a lot from: Howard Marks at Oaktree is just incredible, and he’s an incredible writer as well.

Anybody who is in our business, who doesn’t study Buffett and Munger does so at their own peril. They are the greatest that have ever lived in our business, and Charlie Munger is a living national legend, a living national treasure, I would say. He has forgotten more than I will ever know, most likely. 

On Professional Interests Outside of Investing

Eric Friedman: Finally, Dan, if you couldn’t be investing anymore, what would you be doing? The world is your oyster, but you can no longer deploy capital and we know you’re not trading. 

Dan Kimerling: I would probably go be a lawyer. I continue to find some of the most important public law questions of our day intellectually inspiring. Whether internet law or national security law, these kinds of questions are big, meaty questions that I think would be something I would find to be a worthy use of my time. 

If I couldn’t do that, maybe I’d go be a ski bum. I like skiing a lot and there’s a limited window every year to go do that. So maybe I would just go and orchestrate my life around getting a hundred days of slope time every year. 

Eric Friedman: I don’t think it’s a far stretch for anybody to see you as a lawyer or at least it isn’t for me. But I thank you for the time and we’ll have some contact information in the show notes for where people can reach you. I truly appreciate you opening up a bit about your thoughts, dealing with some of my fun questions and sharing more about Deciens Capital.

Dan Kimerling: Thank you, Eric. And thank you to everybody who spent time with us.

One response to “Building The Machine Podcast Episode 5: Dan Kimerling Deciens Capital”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get in touch