Balancing the Grind with Will Richardson, Managing Partner at Giant Leap

Will Richardson is the Managing Partner at Giant Leap, Australia’s first venture capital fund which is 100% dedicated to investing in impact businesses.

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

I’ve worked in investments for the past 15+ years in private equity and venture capital. 

My passion is early stage impact investing in startups.

I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade through Giant Leap, Australia’s first impact VC firm, previously part ofImpact Investment Group, owned by Danny Almagor and Berry Liberman of Small Giants. 

I am also fortunate to sit on the Board of Alberts, a fifth generation family office who is seeking to invest for impact. 

On the side, I help out at Startmate as a mentor and Upside Founder programs as a faculty member.

While my pathway from a Bachelor of Commerce at The University of Melbourne to my current job may look like a direct line, there have been lots of sliding door moments. 

Notable moments include leaping out of a safe and secure role in private equity to join Impact Investment Group, which was just a startup back in 2013 at a time when no one knew the term “impact investing“. 

Another was pitching the idea to create Giant Leap to Danny Almagor, CEO of Small Giants and running around town presenting to anyone who would listen, to see if they would invest in our first fund in 2016. 

I’m really proud that our team has been able to invest in over 25 mission driven founders, who are seeking to solve the world’s most pressing problems through their startups. 

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

My day is bookended by family commitments. 

I do the drop offs to daycare and school for our daughter and son. I’m also most often present for dinner, bath and bedtime routine. This means that at night I often have the laptop open after they go to bed, which isn’t ideal but it isn’t forever and just a stage of life. 

Most of my day is on the phone or in person having meetings with investors, founders and ecosystem players. My job relies heavily on being curious and listening, as well as learning from lots of different people and groups and then pattern matching trends, technologies and talent, but also connecting people and startups, and just generally trying to help people succeed. 

One of Giant Leap’s values is to have an “abundance mindset” and we believe by paying it forward, helping people to find talent, source capital, find a trusted advisor or recommend them for a panel or interview, is good for the world. We also think in decades that this approach will yield positive results for Giant Leap investors and founders. 

I try not to fill my diary completely with meetings (which is something I used to do) because sometimes I just want to go with what arises, with the opportunity that presents itself. To have space to say yes to serendipity. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

We are a ‘remote first’ team and have been since 2016 because Giant Leap’s team, included three amazing Venture Partners in Peter Cameron, Kylie Chalrton and Adam Milgrom who were not employees. We have been using Slack, Zoom and Trello since way back then and needed to find ways to build the social glue to connect us in a remote world.

Covid lockdowns didn’t affect the  productivity of my colleagues Rachel Yang and Charlie Macdonald at the time because we were already a remote team. It’s nice to be able to meet up again in person though – we have a coworking space membership at the Commons and we are intentional about having regular in-person catch ups, where we do fun things as a team such as VR games, escape rooms, pottery, painting and volunteering. 

Remote first is important for a bunch of reasons – to hire amazing talent like our new investment analyst, Hannah Mourney who is in Sydney. It also means my Partners Rachel Yang and Adam Milgrom and I walk the talk regarding being an inclusive workplace offering flexibility to reduce commuting times, and for parents to do drop offs and pick ups etc. 

We believe in the research of Dan Pink (Ted Talk video on Drive here) that employees operate at their best when they have the mix of purpose, autonomy and can build mastery. 

For this reason, we try to let our team members work on what they want, when they want but in a cohesive way with fellow team members, all in alignment with our strategic goals and objectives. This ends up looking like minimised all hands meetings, but enough so people don’t feel they are blocked and get the necessary context they need to thrive.

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

My wife Melanie and I have two young children and they are the centre of our universe. 

Since having kids, it has meant I have had to drop my approach of working crazy hours, especially attending events before and after work. I’ve had to say no a lot more, as I just don’t have the hours I used to. 

Work life balance is about meeting other people’s needs, my family, my work colleagues and friends and for me doing things that give me energy and restore my energy. When I feel energised, I know I am close to equilibrium or am in a state near equanimity. 

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

I am in the process of transitioning from a mindset of doing hard things as soon as I wake up like cold showers, so I could do hard things in the day to one of less struggle.

I turned 41 this year. Since then I’ve been working on less grind and more flow. For instance: I have traded swims in the icy waters of Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne, for a heated lap pool with a steam room after. Both my mind and body are thanking me. 

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

  1. Magazine – Podcast reader – puts incredible podcast content into magazine form so you can digest the complex ideas in the time – I suggest enjoying in a warm bath 
  2. Book – The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business – on how to build aligned high performing teams
  3. Newsletter – Small Steps (note my conflict as it is by Giant Leap) but for all things impact startup
  4. Podcast – Dan Ariely Capital Allocators – the distinguished behavioural economist and Ted Talker waxes lyrical on why happy healthy teams outperform in terms of company performance
  5. Article – Po Bronson What Should I Do With My Life – when you feel like navel gazing

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Airpods for sure, but AcousticSheep is next level. Headphones designed for sleeping or nodding off to sleep with. 

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

Bruce Lee to hear his understanding of philosophy, physicality and kinetic energy, here is a great snippet of a lost interview.

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

Think about life as a variety of seasons, don’t try to go through it all in one mode. There’s time to push, time to replenish, rest, plan and act.

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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.