Adam Zobler


'Pulling weight like a mack truck.'

Adam Zobler

My Backstory

Where were you born?

I grew up in Essen, the industrial heart of Germany, where people are known for being hard workers, straight shooters, down to earth, and easy to grab a beer with. My parents taught me the value of dreaming big and working hard. My mother founded a successful biomedical startup in the 1990s, growing it for 15 years before selling to a large firm. She taught me about perseverance, breaking through barriers, and doing simple things better than overconfident incumbents. My father started as a car mechanic before founding his own dealership in the 1970s. He saw success come and go with industry changes, but his amazing relationship skills allowed him to relate to anyone.

Starting at age 8, my parents had me help out on a small farm, which helped me appreciate physical labor. In my teens, I worked admin roles at my mom's startup, learning efficiency and attention to detail. At 16, I took a monotonous job besides high school at a bank’s account statement printing department that taught me patience - which is valuable as an early-stage investor. I studied energy management and finance, doing my undergrad in Germany before a Master's at Purdue and Tsinghua.

After university, I started in corporate finance and M&A, focusing on renewable energy deals. I then joined a large utility amid industry transformation during and after Fukushima. My role changed to business development in batteries, grid storage, and distributed energy. I also supported early tech investments at the intersection of energy and power retail tech. Later, I helped a global engineering firm leverage its vast hardware expertise to partner with early-stage hard tech founders - right before embarking on my own journey as a founder (unsuccessfully).

Where were you born, where were you raised?

I was born and raised in Los Gatos, California, a stone’s throw away from San Francisco.

What is the area you are from famous for?

A healthy dose of  ‘Silicon Valley radiation’ - its entrepreneurial mindset, grit and a hunger to be successful worked its way into the proverbial drinking water growing up in Bay Area.

What did/do your parents do?

My father worked at Apple for 16 years, as an engineering project manager. He helped create and launch QuickTime and was an early pioneer of ISDN/VoIP. And laying a ton of dark fiber across the country before fiber was a thing, all without a college degree ... I learned a great deal from him, that hard work, perseverance and, mainly, conviction and belief in oneself can accomplish really anything.

My mother was a nurse at Stanford hospital for ~20 years. I credit her and her outlook on life and people to what shaped and molded why I have a strong NF in my personality type (an almost pure opposite of my father).

Any siblings when you grew up?

One sibling, a younger brother by seven years.

What are the two things (outside of school) that you spent the most time on when you were a kid or teenager?

Outside of sports - swimming and water polo - I  was a heavy gamer and an all-things fantasy/sci-fi nerd… DD, Magic, Tolkien, Herbert and Asimov to Starcraft, Diablo to (yes) WoW.

What are you missing from your younger years?

I think mainly the early, powerful bonds one makes with friends at a young age that have a devil-may-care tint to them… this A/B testing of the world… Trying, failing, succeeding in making sense and decoding the world with a stumbling innocence  and ignorant glee. A rebel mindset.

Did you have a side job during school?

Yes, it sucked. Worked as a grocery clerk - bagged and shelved goods - at the local super-market. Was the most boring and patience-fatiguing job that showed me what true insanity was.

Summarize your work after university and before Foundamental.

I hail from a traditional venture background, previously a MD at a growth-stage venture capital fund (G Squared), focusing on social, mobile and marketplace sectors. I was fortunate and lucky to have invested and partnered in a few firms that clawed, sprinted and hustled its way to notoriety (and ultimately IPOd) - Spotify, Lyft to name a few.

What is your story of getting into Foundamental?

Meeting Patric and Shub ;)

I Am On The Lookout For

What makes a great VC investor?

An acute understanding and empathy of what drives end-customers' behavior. Long-term vision, persistence, exhibiting courage and conviction… Net-net less on ability to see the future, but to see the present very clearly.

What are 3 things you look for in a founder?

A large amount of grit (hustle) – tenacity, ingenuity, empathy… A founder who wields ‘people-power’ and the ability to be swift and adroit when scaling - with the ability not only to get ahead of competition but break free from it entirely, obtaining escape velocity discouraging others from competing.

What are the things in a business that excite you?

Product, people, potential.

What are mistakes that AWESOME founders don’t make, but many other founders make and you see repeatedly?

Biggest mistakes founders tend to make is not giving the process time to unfold.

Describe what 'partnership' means to you.

In terms of looking within an organization, to your fellow colleague or partner,  a working culture where every employee feels they personally own a piece of the culture. Culture, I believe, is not just an expression of how your team works together, but how your team works together at its best.

A partnership to me is a covenant, or a troth you make with a founder. Even if things go well, it's a 10-year journey or longer. And if things don't go well, it's still a commitment made.

Think of VC as an artisan craft, where every craftsmen has their unique method and finesse. How would you describe your unique 'craft' to VC?

To have an edge, you have to play the game differently. All investors look for the same things: outlier founder(s), large and attractive market, great/lovable service or product…

I index much more on the founders and their special qualities - their novel insights (or ah-ha’s !) - What led them to founding, and their lived experiences (and chips on their shoulders) that creates empathy for the customer they will serve.

… It’s a lot about founder-market fit.

Any favorite readings?

I"m a voracious reader of all things fantasy and sci-fi. auto-buy authors: Stephen King, Steven Eriskon, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie. Favorite standalone novel: It.

What is your favorite quote or mantra that can be applied in a business context?

'Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts'

Cool. Now give a second quote or mantra you like in a business context.

'The same hammer that shatters glass forges steel.'

In what ways do you feel inferior to some people you look up to?

Even with a modicum of success working and partnering with giants of industry, those who have returned an excess of hundreds of millions of dollars, there’s ongoing battle to conquer the overpowering sense of imposter syndrome. It’s great to be humbled by those you look up to, hold in high regard, and if I have the courage to have an intellectually honest conversation w/ myself, allows me to consistently improve to be better. Shed ego.

Is there something you would never mind spending a lot of money on ?


Selected Partnerships