Veteran VC Steve Jurvetson says he rates startup founders highly if they’re like his long-time friend Elon Musk: They have “20-year vision.”

  • Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist who is friends with Elon Musk, was an early investor in both SpaceX and Tesla. 
  • Jurvetson, who left the firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 2017 after he was accused of sexual harassment, co-founded his new firm, Future Ventures, in 2018 and launched a $200 million fund in 2019.
  • On Monday, the VC appeared on the podcast, The Twenty Minute VC, to talk about his friendship with Elon Musk, as well as what VCs look for when they meet with pitching founders. 
  • Here’s what the VC looks for in potential founders. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist and long-time friend of Elon Musk, was an early investor in both SpaceX and Tesla. They’ve known each other for 24 years. 

On Monday, the VC appeared on the podcast, The Twenty Minute VC, hosted by Harry Stebbings, to talk about his friendship with Musk, as well as what he looks for in founders when they’re pitching for funds from investors. 

Jurvetson had previously told Business Insider that he asks potential founders what the company will look like in 20 years. It’s still his benchmark, and he explained further.

“We want to invest in visionary founders,” the VC told Stebbings on the podcast. 

By asking founders about their 20-year vision, Jurvetson said, he can weed out founders who are simply looking to cash out. The VC said he looks for founders who are committed to their company for the long haul, and who have 20-year visions that are “more rich than anything they pitched.” 

“You want someone who is so deeply tied to their mission that they don’t think about sort of the common logic of what’s the best financial decision in the moment,” the VC said.

As entrepreneurs start crafting a vision for their company, Jurvetson said, those founders should take a page out of Elon Musk’s playbook and launch “risky, save-the-world companies.”

The VC said Musk has an ability to focus on what’s important at the moment, while still keeping an eye on the company’s long-term vision.

Jurvetson said that if you had asked Elon Musk about his 20-year vision when he founded Tesla in 2003, the CEO of Tesla would have said that in the future, every vehicle would be electric, “not just cars, but buses and boats and trains.”

Electric vehicles have the potential to save Earth and its citizens from suffering from the CO2 emissions that result from burning fossil fuels, Jurvetson said. Building an electric car was just the beginning.

Jurvetson said that Musk’s founding vision for SpaceX was not simply building a rocket, but colonizing Mars. 

“Arguably it’s a tough thing to pitch when you haven’t yet built a rocket,” the VC said, referring to Musk’s ambition to colonize another planet, “and, yet that’s really where his mind is at from the beginning.”

The VC said his eyes are peeled for founders who will go down in human history if their startup idea succeeds.

“If SpaceX achieves its mission, humanity becomes a multiplanetary species,” the VC said. “This will go down in the greatest hits of evolution, like the opposable thumb and like the neocortex.”

Jurvetson, who left the firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 2017 after he was accused of sexual harassment, co-founded his new firm, Future Ventures, in 2018 and launched a $200 million fund in 2019.

The VC currently sits on the boards of Tesla and SpaceX. He took a leave from Tesla’s board from November 2017 to April 2019, when it was announced that he will step down from the board at Tesla’s 2020 Annual Meetings of Stockholders, which is slated for September 20, 2020, per Tesla’s SEC filing

Jurvetson, who also took a leave of absence from the SpaceX board following accusations of sexual harassment, will continue to serve on the SpaceX board, as TechCrunch previously reported.

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