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April 25, 2021 81 min

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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