Badass 36-Year-Old VC Aims to Compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics

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Many of us go through life working hard and finding success in our respective industries. However, there is always that bucket list of things in the back of our minds that we have yet to do. Some can be as simple as visiting a country or as big as starting a business. For 36-year-old venture capitalist and now aspiring cross country skier Paul Bragiel, it was to compete in the Olympics.

Bragiel never had a chance to fulfill his dream during his younger years, however he’s found great success in the past 15 years as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. His company, i/o Ventures, contains notable companies including vidIQ and TouchOfModern in their portfolio. He is also an advisor for the fast growing tech startup Uber.

So how does a successful venture capitalist decide suddenly to qualify for the Olympics? This is what Bragiel told ArcticStartup:

“Around the New Year I was able to help one of my closest friends accomplish one of his biggest dreams. Then a few weeks later I was giving a speech at the largest startup conference in Berlin. I talked about some of my go to topics of shutting up and just starting as well as going for your dreams. That evening over a few drinks it flipped a switch in my head about how I have pursued most of my business dreams but perhaps I should try to figure out how to pull off one of my most impossible childhood dreams. The next morning I woke up, started doing research and emailed my brothers and a few close friends saying I was going for it and to call me out if I didn’t give my absolute effort to make it happen.”

After he was set on fulfilling his dream, he spent some time researching the “easiest” sport to qualify for. He ended up choosing cross-country skiing, which according to The Wall Street Journal, has one of the most polarized results of first-place and last-place finishers.

Ten months after he decided to pursue his Olympic dream, he managed to get Columbia as the country to represent him and has since been training meticulously to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Recently, Paul Bragiel was kind enough to catch up with us via email in between his training and traveling. Here, we discuss updates on his journey, how his experience resonates with entrepreneurship, and whether qualifying for the Olympics is harder than building companies.

First, give us an update on how your training has been.

“Training is good! I’m currently in a place called Livigno. It’s a really beautiful valley in the Italian alps and it happens to be sunny all week. [I’m] making a big push at high elevation to prep for my next race on Dec 21st.”

Back when you first came up with the idea, how tough of a decision was it for you to put your job on hold?

“The decision wasn’t that hard. I really couldn’t have put this off anymore without it becoming an impossible dream. The logistics of clearing my schedule and my speaking engagements was a major pain though. :)”

What are some lessons that you’ve learned in entrepreneurship that you have applied to your journey?

“For sure! First and foremost with sports as in entrepreneurship, you need to build a good team around you. I’ve been lucky to find an awesome coach as well as specialists to help me. The emotional rollercoaster is also very similar, so having been through it a bunch of times allows me to be way more mentally prepared.”

You’ve been training for a while now. What is harder? Training for the Olympics or building and running companies?

“The Olympics has been harder since it’s a shock of sorts and just so out of my comfort zone. I’m not an athlete, so I’m just not used to pushing my body as hard like this. In running companies it’s years of experience that I have built up gradually. That being said, if I had to jump in and start a company with no experience and get to a really high level as with the Olympic project, I think it would be harder.”

Tell me what was in your mind at the end of the following YouTube video. You must have been freezing your ass off no?

“We were doing more serious shots with my friend Luka who happens to be an awesome video producer. I thought we needed to do some silly shit so I decided that some ridiculous shots were in order. In general I was just laughing about how silly this was. Yes, I was freezing my ass off. Luckily it was sunny though and not too windy. :)”

Care to share any funny stories from your journey?

“I’m the oldest athlete at all the competitions for sure, and it was really made obvious when one time I was checking into an event and I told them I was with the Colombian national team. They politely asked me how long I have been a coach for- DOH. :)”

Being a VC, I’m sure you’ve encountered tons of young entrepreneurs asking you for money. What is something young entrepreneurs need to STOP doing?

“Stop talking and start doing. So many people overanalyze to the point where they could be very far along progress-wise if they just acted on their initial instincts.”

Lastly, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far from your experience?

“That I should have started earlier. :) Seriously though, I’ve always believed that anything was possible but it was in a business context. Now, I really feel this can be extended to anywhere in life.”

Follow Paul Bragiel:

Website: Team Paul


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