Today’s guest is Tony van Marken. Tony has had a successful career as an award winning high-tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist, management consultant and independent investor having worked in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada and France. Currently, he is Managing Partner and co-founder of First Ascent Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Toronto, Canada focused on investing in emerging technology companies. Tony is also an accomplished endurance athlete (including marathons, ultra marathons and mountain bike stage races) and a veteran of over 35 high-altitude mountaineering expeditions with over 65 summits. He summitted Everest in 2005 to complete his quest to climb the world’s original seven summits (the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents), becoming the first South African to do so. Blending his success as a businessman, endurance athlete, and mountaineer, Tony has acted as a motivational speaker for corporations and international conferences around the world. In this interview, we get into how Tony has had to adjust First Ascent Ventures and his mountaineering passion due to the pandemic, what it was like living in South Africa during Apartheid, his entrepreneurial journey, climbing the seven summits, and much more.
00:02:43 Adjusting to the pandemic
00:06:58 Managing First Ascent Ventures during the pandemic
00:10:02 First Ascent Ventures investment criteria
00:11:27 Portfolio Company Dialogue
00:13:00 Next big adventure he has planned
00:15:43 Where he grew up
00:18:23 Was he a natural/born entrepreneur?
00:20:31 What traveling a lot growing up taught him
00:22:00 Living in South Africa during Apartheid
00:26:05 Studying computer science and what he wanted to do for a career
00:29:52 How foundational that job as a software engineer was for him
00:31:46 Pivoting to entrepreneurship and going to Architel
00:40:35 How the dot-com bubble affected his career path
00:42:17 Lessons learned on building a company from his time at Architel
00:45:03 His decision making philosophy
00:47:16 Why he decided to tackle the Seven Summits
00:52:09 Weekly training schedule for the Seven Summits
00:53:59 Which of the Seven Summits was the toughest?
00:57:58 His favorite mountain to climb
01:00:53 How mountaineering has prepared him for the ups and downs of life
01:06:57 Taking Vox Telecom employees on expeditions
01:08:27 How he's managed to balance everything over the years
01:11:14 What he wants to accomplish 5 years from now
01:12:58 His daily routine
01:14:45 Books that have made a significant impact on him
01:18:27 His driving force
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