Alex is inspired by both inventors and artists. As a teenager, he spent as much time in the laboratory conducting research as he did in concert halls performing for thousands. “I am drawn to the creative process,” he says. “Whether the output is an algorithm, a cantata, or something else entirely is less interesting to me. The struggle itself, the process of creating something from nothing, is endlessly fascinating.”
While studying physics at Harvard in the early 2000s, Alex witnessed the creativity of a few students who started a website called TheFacebook.com. “I didn’t think of Facebook as a business at the time,” he says. “I just knew that it tapped into something innate—our desire to be connected and to express ourselves. And it was everywhere. Facebook was the first example in my adult life of a piece of software that was visibly changing the world.”
Facebook’s success inspired Alex to leave an academic career behind and focus instead on working with entrepreneurs to achieve their creative ambitions. After graduating from Harvard College, MIT, and Harvard Business School, he joined venture firm Highland Capital Partners in 2009. He became a partner at the firm and, over a seven-year period, worked with over a dozen companies. Several have since IPO’d or been acquired, but a few failed too.
“You learn more from failures, even if they are painful to recall,” says Alex. “It’s easy to be a cheerleader for founders in good times, but I also enjoy rolling up my sleeves when times are difficult.”
At Lightspeed, Alex invests in online commerce, marketplaces, and digital media. He has also led investments in emerging sectors like virtual reality and aerospace. “Working with founders is a great privilege,” he says. “I find immense joy in helping them invent the future. My commitment to every founder is that I show up engaged, informed, and ready to listen. And then I follow up and do my best to help them achieve their goals.”
Alex’s data-driven approach to VC is different than that of consumer investors who focus on product features. “My lens is that great consumer companies require a novel, but non-intuitive insight into the behavior of their users. I use data to find evidence of that behavior, and then I look for ways to scale it to the masses. When you have the insight, the data that validates it, and a path to market, that’s when you have something truly special.”