Balancing the Grind with Max Kausman, Investor at Tidal Ventures

Max Kausman is an Investor at Tidal Ventures, a VC fund based in Sydney and New York backing product-led tech founders.

Learn about the daily routines from the most successful people in the world by signing up to our newsletter

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I studied a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Finance, and a Bachelor of Laws, at Monash University. Over the last 3 years of my degree I worked as an Analyst at Vesparum Capital, helping private and public companies to raise funding, and then after graduating spent two years at Bain & Company as a management consultant, where I largely advised Private Equity firms on acquisitions and Technology companies on growth and strategy.

I’d always had an interest in the tech and investing space, particularly around the early stages, so two years ago I was fortunate to join Tidal Ventures as the first hire into the investment team.

Tidal is Australia’s leading seed-stage venture capital firm, investing in exceptional founders with game-changing products bound for international markets. On the side I do some angel investing and I’m building J Combinator, a community for Jewish folks in the tech & startup ecosystem.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Most days I work from 9am to about 6pm with a short break for lunch, and one or two nights per week I may log an extra couple of hours after dinner and/or exercise. My work is flexible (a hybrid of in-person and remote) and my calendar is open to everyone on our team (including my personal engagements).

There is no typical day – the work is enormously varied, and there’s lots of context-switching. Broadly, my time is split across:

  • Deal flow: the end-to-end process of sourcing and screening investments, meeting founders, building conviction and convincing our team to invest, and then executing the investment
  • Supporting our portfolio companies: Working closely with a handful of companies we’ve invested in on key topics like strategy, growth, product, finance, and fundraising
  • Building Tidal as a VC business: Helping the fund to raise money and grow, improving our internal operations, resources, and market presence.

Given the variety, I try to structure my weeks so that I preserve time for a mix of active, collaborative work (processing emails, screening investments, meeting founders, collaborating with the team), and deep, solo work (market research, diving deep on a company, preparing an investment paper).

3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I try to think of work-life balance in two ways:

1 Is energy management. I try to be mindful of my energy and productivity, and take advantage of working flexibly to match the quantity and type of work I’m doing to the time I’m likely to enjoy it most and do it best. 

2 Is time management across different dimensions. On top of work, I try to achieve quality, present time in any given week for myself alone, my partner, my family, my friends, and for exercise.

Doing well in both of these cases is about self-awareness, systems, and routines. I like the metaphor of work being a balloon that inflates to the size of a container that surrounds it. If I make sure these other things already command space in that container, the balloon can only grow so big!

The role helps in a couple of ways: Parts of my work actually give me energy, and things like talking to people in the ecosystem and researching tech trends don’t ‘feel’ like work. Also, I have a lot of calendar flexibility.

While the hours are more than the standard 9-5, there are rarely urgent deadlines (unlike say client work), so I will almost never have to miss a personal commitment. I can just do the work another time. 

Elon Musk, Kobe Bryant, Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, receive a new daily routine each week about some of the most successful people in the world.

4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) said ‘You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.’ Each year I try to do a ‘systems’ review.

I’ve made a bunch of changes in the last 12 months, that have helped me feel more productive and more balanced:

  • I bought an Oura Ring, which has helped me monitor and materially improve my sleep habits
  • Added more regular exercise into my week, and reduced weeknight alcohol consumption
  • Turned off work and social media notifications on my phone
  • Changed some of the software I use to create effective systems for calendaring, emails, and to-do’s

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I mostly consume non-fiction and I’m fascinated by tech, psychology, geopolitics, and macroeconomics. I also read a lot of news.

My favourite book is Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz — it uses internet data to shine a light onto the darker side of humanity – fascinating! 

Newsletter-wise, I’m obsessed with Matter’s weekly ‘staff picks’ newsletter which curates a few articles for me each week. I also like Noahpinion, Not Boring, and Stratechery.

Podcasts: I enjoy 20:VC and Invest Like the Best; and for some psychological intrigue I love Where Should We Begin by Esther Perel.  

6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I think founders and working mothers face the hardest constraints around work-life balance, so I’d always be interested in learning how they do it well. But I also think work-life balance is a very personal choice. What works for others may not work for me, and what works for me may also evolve over time!

7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Work-life balance isn’t just about productivity, it’s also about the ‘life’ part, and making sure I have energy for that. I’m very social and have lots of interests – travel, sport, music, food, getting outdoors. I’m perhaps guilty of trying to do too much with my time, but I’m also self-aware enough to know when I’m tired and not able to be present, so I can adjust from there! 

Before you go…

If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.