The future is built, not discovered

TL;DR — I joined Atomic earlier this year to work at the intersection of starting and investing in companies. It’s already been everything I was hoping for and more; here’s why. 

The traditional framework of a job search always felt wrong. High-achieving individuals don’t really look for jobs. (Fun fact: the word “job” comes from jobbe or “piece of work”, which is a synonym for “task” and seems anachronistic!) They look for opportunities to work with amazing people on big problems that have enduring impact.

I’m lucky to have had a wide variety of experiences in my career thus far: 

  1. Finance: I started as an Investment Banking Analyst at Barclays in New York City
  2. Venture: Moved to San Francisco to join the investment team at Institutional Venture Partners (IVP)
  3. Startup Studio: Joined the team at Expa to build a cloud kitchen startup (acquired by UberEats) and a digital currency network
  4. Crypto: Helped Polychain Capital and the DFINITY Foundation launch an ecosystem fund
atomic.Web.Blog.JordanKong.03.png

Looking back on the jobs I’ve had, my predominant memories are less about the specific work I did (though that part was thrilling!), and more about the people I worked with along the way. So I embarked on a people-first search: prioritizing who I would work with above industry, role, responsibilities, title, compensation, and all else.

STEP 1: FINDING MY TRIBE

Now, “people-first” isn’t a setting on LinkedIn or Indeed, so I had to improvise. I started by asking my friends to help me think of:

  1. The most talented people they knew; the brilliant visionaries who make up the very fabric of Silicon Valley
  2. The friends who were always overwhelmingly happy in their jobs — you know, the ones who are always saying “I love my job!” with a half-guilty, half-satisfied grin
  3. The mentors who helped them grow the most and who were incredibly invested in the success of their team

Time and time again the names of the Atomic partners were suggested to me from across industry peers, mentors, former colleagues, and also other VCs. This was exactly the type of signal I was hoping for and it was equal to a resounding “Yes! I would work with ______ in a heartbeat.”


Crowdsourcing this “best people to work with” list helped me clarify my own priorities when it came to finding my tribe. For me, the people factor breaks down in two dimensions: 

  • Talent: finding mentors who I can hold as role models and continuously learn from for decades to come
  • Values: finding alignment in values (who we are and how we interact with each other); those that pass the airport test: “Would I want to be stuck in an airport with this person?”
atomic.Web.Blog.JordanKong.01.png

Over the last few months of working with the team and partners at Atomic, I learned first-hand that I could not have found a group of people that fits this intersection of both talent and values better. Each of the Atomic partners have co-founded a 1B+ company and as such, they’ve set a high bar for the talent they’ve been able to attract. Founding and funding companies is hard work, but we also make sure we enjoy the journey as much as the destination. After all, life is ephemeral; what’s it worth if you’re not having fun?

STEP 2: GETTING SH*T DONE

I am not a specialist (sorry mom, no Dr. Kong in the family yet!…), and I’m not really even T-shaped (sorry #VCTwitter). Silicon Valley is chock full of visionary founders who can dream the future. My superpower is taking those dreams and doing the hard work to make them reality. The challenging task of executing and operating a business, the magic of getting shit done, is my passion. 

Getting shit done is an art and a science. The art is embedded in personal values — some call it grit, perseverance, hustle… whatever term you prefer, you know someone who can “get shit done” when you meet them. The science, on the other hand, is purely process. Process is a double-edged sword that can either improve or hamper success depending on how it is implemented and evolves. Process done right is the Mario Kart Speed Boost for your startup.

atomic.Web.Blog.JordanKong.02.png

In my last few months at Atomic, here are some ways I’ve learned to think about our process:

  • Decentralize small teams for quick decision-making
  • Ruthless prioritization with a bias towards action
  • Err on the side of learning over the importance of being right
  • Get out of your own way when things start to work

STEP 3: TOWARDS A BETTER FUTURE

Even with the right team and right processes, no organization is complete without a common goal — a raison d’etre, a reason to get out of bed every morning. As our founder Jack puts it, 

As entrepreneurs and company creators, it’s our responsibility to figure out ways to apply today’s technology to traditional industries and everyday problems with the goal of driving down costs and increasing the quality of life for all.

Day in and day out, our collective goal at Atomic is to create the next big thing. We believe that the future is built, not discovered. Come build it with me.

This post was originally published on Atomic.vc on November 22, 2019.