Investor Stories

Meet Paul Anthony Claxton: Businessman, Athlete, Marine

"I had already suffered at the mercy of others, so I figured that I may as well go on my own, as I could be free to make my own mistakes and could certainly cause my own suffering, I do not need others to do it for me."

In venture capital, we often encounter stories that are nothing short of extraordinary.

Today, we have the privilege of delving into the insights and experiences of a remarkable figure, Paul Anthony Claxton, who has carved a unique path in not just in the world of investments, but in life itself.

Paul's journey into entrepreneurship began with a profound realisation born from a period of turbulence in his life.

After leaving the Marine Corps in 2010, he found himself navigating the unpredictable terrain of the corporate world. His path was marked by resignations, terminations, and layoffs, akin to a personal war he felt had been brought upon him by people in the market.

What he discovered was that many others shared similar trials during their careers. But Paul's response was not to seek pity or place blame; instead, it was a call to action.

Refusing to be a passive observer of his fate, he turned to entrepreneurship as the means to protect not only himself but others from the capricious nature of corporate life.

This shift allowed him to reclaim his fighting spirit and serve others with a mission-driven purpose.

In his own words, he explained, "I knew the best way for me to do that was through entrepreneurship. I refused to be a passive observer of my fate. I neither sought pity, nor held grudges, nor leaned on external supports."

Independent Resolve: Navigating Challenges with Self-Reliance

Paul's creed and conviction revolved around self-reliance and taking action, even in the face of personal suffering. He boldly declared, "I had already suffered at the mercy of others, so I figured that I may as well go on my own, as I could be free to make my own mistakes and could certainly cause my own suffering, I do not need others to do it for me."

"When the world mishandles you, that's the moment to take matters into your own hands."

This determination to take control of his destiny and channel his suffering towards a progressive mission underscores the fundamental difference between corporate life and entrepreneurship.

In corporate, there might be no true progressive mission, but as an entrepreneur, everything ties back to a progressive mission and flying above the radar and beyond."

This does not mean I am not subject to the errors and lack of ethics from others as an entrepreneur, but what it does mean is that I have more freedom for decision-making, tools, and control to pre-empt these things and overcome them. When the world mishandles you, that's the moment to take matters into your own hands."

Paul's approach to investment hinges on three fundamental elements: people, products, and innovation potential. He values the individuals behind a product just as much as the product itself.

As he succinctly puts it, "I want to see that a Founder has the ability to 1. Execute and 2. Hold themselves responsible for their actions or inactions as well as the actions or inactions of others."

In Paul's view, people are the constant factor, much like a capable driver is essential for a fast car. You can have the best product or car in the world, but with the wrong person behind it, things can end up having very destructive or inhibiting consequences. The ability of a product to adapt and innovate over time is another critical consideration.

As he elaborates, "the ability of the product to adopt innovation over time is important. How malleable is the product to better versions?"

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On Due Diligence

Paul's due diligence process is rigorous. He recognises that at the pre-seed and seed levels, there's often limited data and metrics to base decisions on.

Therefore, personal character, total market opportunity, and innovation potential become the basis for investment decisions.

He realises there's a need to go beyond the conventional investor role by actively engaging with founders, working alongside them for 2-3 months before deciding to invest.

"Explaining setbacks that were beyond my control to individuals with minimal knowledge of the intricate workings of the project demanded unwavering patience and clarity."

As he explains, "Generally, we have a robust pipeline of opportunities that comes from our network and existing partnerships, so that always helps if the Founder comes through those pre-existing connections or resources."

This hands-on approach is rooted in Paul's personal experience as a Marine and a bootstrapping entrepreneur, where the ability to do more with less in high-stress situations is a key factor.

While Paul couldn't share specifics about his VC firm's investments, he did provide an inspiring example of a successful investment in a 50-million-dollar banking trade project. This project was a testament to leadership, resilience, and unwavering teamwork.

It involved navigating diverse cultures and regulatory hurdles across multiple time zones, showcasing the power of clear communication and determination.

As he reflects on the challenges, he noted, "One of my most significant challenges was enlightening our managers and stakeholders about subjects outside their expertise.

Explaining setbacks that were beyond my control to individuals with minimal knowledge of the intricate workings of the project demanded unwavering patience and clarity."

Finding The Best in Future Founders

Throughout this arduous journey, Paul demonstrated the leadership qualities that he values in founders - the ability to manage emotions, embrace different perspectives, and make fair and decisive choices.

The project ultimately emerged as a resounding success, a testament to the power of leadership, resilience, and unwavering teamwork.

When asking Paul about specific trends or technologies that are promising, he said the intersection of consumerism and Artificial Intelligence particularly exciting.

However, he also acknowledges the challenges, including combating deep fakes and misinformation in conjunction with creating an artificial world where it is hard to determine what is real and what is not. But this artificial fusion is necessary in order to expand our sensory depths and capabilities as humans.

Every technological advance carries its own set of negatives, and it's essential to navigate this complex terrain.

"I see it as a fiduciary, societal, civil and leadership responsibility to invest in technologies and people that can make the world a better place and improve the world and the lives of others." - Paul on the most rewarding aspect of being a VC

As he points out, "It is like Paul Virilio said, 'When you invent the ship you also invent the shipwreck, when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash, and when you invent electricity you invent electrocution... Every technology carries its negativity, which is invented at the same time as technical progress."

The most rewarding aspect of being an VC, as Paul describes it, is the opportunity to be part of journeys that aim to advance the world and improve people's lives. It's a mission that goes beyond personal success, rooted in a sense of societal and civil responsibility.

In the world of startups and investments, Paul's perspective and experiences serve as a guiding light for both founders and fellow investors. His journey is a testament to the transformative power of entrepreneurship and the enduring spirit of leadership and innovation.

As he aptly puts it, "My job as an investor is easier than a Founder's job; it is the shoulders of giants that I lean on to achieve my mission of advancing society forward and improving the lives of others, in this case the Founders, and as an investor, when alignment exists, I believe that I can achieve my mission and a Founder’s mission as one dominant super force."

Learn more about Paul at paulclaxton.io, or give him a follow on LinkedIn.

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