Emilio Diez Barroso is a partner at Bold Capital, a Series A fund that does a lot of deep tech and biotech. He also runs a family office, NALA Investments, and he is the author of a book called The Mystery of You. Emilio, I think you're the first guest that I haven't either known or at least met before I've had on the podcast, so this'll be fun.
Well, I know there's a lot of different things to talk about, but this podcast really has started as something to help entrepreneurs who are looking to fundraise. So I wanna just at least start with some of the basics of Bold Capital and then kind of see where the conversation goes.
I think you're a Series A fund. Tell me about where you're investing. We also do seed and we'll do some Series B. We've actually also raised a growth fund, so we're on Fund III. We also have an additional vehicle that invests in follow-on for later stage.
And how did you guys all come together? How did this get going?
I was on the board of the X price on the innovation board and X price is Peter. Yeah, man, this is nonprofit and just seeing the amount of deal flow that was coming through at the time, and I still, way I run this family office, it's actually I run two family offices. I run. Family office and I run my family's family office, which is a whole interesting conversation because I wear two very different hats and I invest very differently when I'm investing for myself, when I'm investing for my family, and when I'm investing for lp.
Those are very, very different dynamics that come into play. But a lot of what was. Coming through on the early stage, particularly from the amazing ecosystem that Peter had access to in Singularity Universes University, had access to were amazing companies, that my nature tends to be very optimistic and I was having a difficult time filtering and understanding, okay, how much of this is just my own optimism and the fact that I, I'm totally buying into the Kool-Aid of what's possible and I didn't have the deep tech.
Expertise to be able to really discern in house. My team was mostly sort of much later stage private and mostly public. So they didn't understand how to read necessarily a startup check so it was a, it was a way of saying, okay, what if, I channeled all of my early stage tech investments through this vehicle?
Got it. actually, you probably know my partner, Gil Elba.
Yes, yes, of course.
So Peter is involved and then you've brought in, I think I know Timor on the team a little bit too.
Yeah, Tmore is wonderful. , he's really the sort of the one that's leading the day to day operations mostly cause I don't get as involved in the day to day of the fund. and then we have Neil, but Comcar as well, who's up in the Bay Area, and we've got a whole team locally that, you know, Nia that are just incredible human being.
And I said at the beginning, it's a lot of frontier tech, deeper biotech. Is that the core focus?
Yeah, I think we all respond to different things and we have, uh, I think most funds. Have like their mandate and they try to stick to it. And then we make excuses as funds for why we should invest in something a little bit different every now and then. , but yes, our internal directive could be split into one is live sciences, biotech, and the other one is sort of more deep tech.
And we're, we're always. Are interested in things that have the potential to truly transform how,, things are done, and uplift humanity
Great mission. And how did you get here with bold capital and running your family office and your family's family office? so I, I grew up in a very unique life circumstance. , my family started a business called Televi and people may be more familiar with Univision. We also started Univision or , my great grandfather. So I'm fourth generation on that side. And I was being groomed early on sort of be part of that executive team.
There were really only couple of us that were in that age range that would be taking up as a next generation. And part of what I got to see, there's a story , that I think will be very telling because we were that, you know, 0.01% of population as far as social economics status Uncle who was running the company at the time loved boats. And we were on this huge mega yacht. This is, you know, 30 years agoAnd we actually had two twin yachts that were traveling. So he had two identical yachts we would park and intermingle and switch and it was a larger availability of stay rooms.
And that's why he did that. and I remember. For a while, those were the bigger yachts that were around. And then there was this one moment when this big boat came across our, view, and it was bigger. And I could start sensing the discomfort in some of the people that were part of my family, like, oh wow, our boats are no longer the biggest.
And obviously at that point . It was fun and I was sort of young teenager that admired everything having to do with power and money and you know, what the kind of respect that that gave people and how much I sort of idealized them. But later on I really started to recognize this inevitable chasing that we are so engaged in, and the belief that somehow we will get to some place where it'll be. Where we'll deeply recognize sort of that inner piece that's available, independent of the size of our boats, metaphorically
And, uh, so I, decided not to be part of that business and I stayed in the States after gonna college. I did college in Mexico, then transferred to England and then came to Los Angeles, so the weather,
and started doing all sorts of business. So it was very entrepreneurial and that was difficult for me because coming from Mexico City where I had a lot of contacts and I could essentially pick up the phone and reach anyone, any company, given my family's background, I kinda had to start from scratch over here. And so I failed a lot.
And I had a lot of fomo.
So I would say yes to every opportunity that came my way. I literally, Dozens of companies that I had started or partnered with someone and co-founded and, you know, most of them I had no idea what I was doing. So most of them really failed and a few got lucky enough to succeed. And that's when I started investing, when I had some of my own capital.
and so your own capital, did you have some startups that were success?
Yeah, I started, I was very involved in businesses early on that weren't your traditional business that I would normally invest in through a venture fund. They were more like, I was wholesaling minutes, so I was going everywhere and buying. Large termination minutes for telecom and then coming to the US and selling it to the at and ts of the world in packages.
And I was making like fractions of a penny per minute, but that would just add up. I also started a marketing company for Hispanics in the US and bluff my way into being Coca-Cola Hispanic marketing agency for a while, for a division. So this is just all scraping and pretending and sort of a lot of, uh, mirrors.
But it was, it was really. And then when I, started investing my own capital, I realized that I was a better investor than an operator
Yeah, I, I always say that nothing like being a founder to make me appreciate being a vc.
yeah. And I think we're not all cut. For the journey, and I don't think we should all be cut out for that journey. Right? I think that it takes a very different character , to start something from scratch and, you know, go to the, you know, 10 employee mark than someone that goes to the a hundred employee mark.
And certainly beyond and public. I did listen to you on a podcast and you were trying to make the analogy of growth, and I loved it. It was very techy. It was something like, we've all got old operating systems that are sort of running on autopilot and we need to like disrupt our, you know, kind of the way we talk about disrupting old industries or something we need to disrupt ourselves.
Tell me more about that.
That's my jam cuz that's really what I was trying to say with this humility mindset is our capacity to question all of our assumptions. ? All the things that we learned and that took us to where we are now. Which ones of those are still relevant moving forward
And it is like a software, like , we're running these programmings.
We were the programmers of this, this, particular operating system that we're running out of has been passed on from generations when things were very different.
And so much of our way of dealing with the inefficiencies of our current programming instead of rewriting that programming or questioning it, are just finding patches and
coping with it. And we, patch, we patch, we patch, we patch. So we end up with this. Very strange piece of code that is a function of all of our experiences and wounding
So you would say we have a lot of tech debt,
a lot of fact. Definitely we do. We do. And, and it's sometimes hard, kind of like those big companies that the early stage founders are trying to disrupt. , I'm on the board of some larger. And they know what they should do, right? It's not like they don't know that they're the dinosaurs in the, in the , in the landscape, but it's just so hard once you've learned to do things for so long and you have an infrastructure that does things in that way to try to disrupt yourself.
And I think as human beings, we perceive our own inner journey with that similar. Like, do I really need to, I mean, I know there's something there. I know I could heal this, but I've kind of just learned to live with it and I'm okay with that.
Yeah, I know how to patch it.
Yeah. I'll have a drink. I'll binge tv. I'll do this. and you know, more sophisticated ways are, I'll just meditate my way out of it , and that's fine.
That's all wonder. But my invitation is that there is an opportunity to unravel all of it, and it's a lot easier than we think to really examine the whole stack and say, okay, where are all these places where we started patching? Because the reality is we don't need to un patch every piece of code when we do the healing work.
Cleaning one piece cleans the. we often, I don't know this is your experience, but we often find ourselves being confronted by very similar issues,
whether it's work, relationship or, or otherwise. Right? , and it's like the same thing that happens here, happens over there.
And the reality is that's probably happened.
It's like when when you hear someone say, I don't understand why my five previous boyfriends were the same person, . It's like they did the exact same thing to me. And what I would honor is what is it in ourselves that is looking for resolution?
Hmm, , so what was it for you? What were some of those old pieces of code that needed fixing that had come from your family? so many, so many, particularly my identity around being really the smartest person. So I'll give you another story. , I transferred into Harvard of the, , the Technological School of Mexico City, and I would say the mit, but it's, it's not quite mit, but it was, it was the best school down there and I was.
Considered to be the smartest by everyone. It's like, whoa, how do you do this? I you study the day before. And, my ego got such a big boost out of being the smart guy that could party and then show up and, you know, ace the exams and then when I went to Harvard, it was a whole different all game.
And my identity around being smart got incredibly challeng. And for the first time in my life I applied myself and I studied really hard and I still got like a B. And it was that moment of like, whoa, okay, well this is super challenging. And at the time, because I was so invested in my identity,
instead of working harder,
I defaulted to doing just enough to.
B minus or C plus, but partying across the street with a sort of back of a crowd. And then I would be the guy that was partying still and getting B minuses or C pluses at Harvard. So then I maintained this sense of, oh wow, if you only tried, you probably would be so good. And Ultimately, deep down it was wanting to be perceived as valuable and special,
There's a great Zen Cohen, the Zen tradition. There are these images that are used to sort of elicit contemplation and curiosity. And one of them is this stick figure with a pole in his head. And in the front of the, pole is this sort of price, whatever the price is, and the back is a bag.
And, the contemplation around it is like how much we're running towards something and how much we're running away from something else. And I had always been very familiar with the go chase, the carrot.
And I loved getting carrots, so I didn't. That there was an infinite supply of cares that I was always gonna be chasing. Cause I was like, it's fun to close the deal. It's fun to grow the business. But what I hadn't been in contact with is how much of my fuel was derived from trying to outrun that bag of poop.
And that bag of poop is very different for all of us. But for me, it was feeling not good enough,
feeling that somehow I was wasting my.
And I see a lot of entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs, activists, people, you know, all across fields. And I can tell the difference when they're running from this fuel that is sort of very quick burning
because there is an anxiety that oftentimes makes us narrow minded. We are so attached to what we think should happen
that we leave very little space for the possibilities
Yeah. And which parts to pivot are always a hard one for me too. Like what's the core?
Totally. And so I, I think I, I would invite any listener, whether they're founders , or investors to see, because as investors, we, can also be very attached to certain outcomes,,So you also mentioned , that you invest with bold at the early stage, and then you also invest out of your family office as well as your family's family office. We talked a little bit about Bold. What are you investing in out of NOLA and your other investing work?
We're pretty diverse. We will look at everything, so we're generalists. As a family, the real advantage, and what's a different mindset than the venture mindset is, is that we can invest in decades, right?
It's generational investing and hopefully you receive a premium. for that patient capital and illiquidity should carry forward a greater return to some degree, or at least should be compensated for it. And so being disciplined to be able to understand what deals will be compensatory for that patients is, is, is important. And the trick for me as it is with any founder is the capacity to attract people that are more talented than myself
around me. .
I, I mean, do you think there's ways you've learned attract that talent or,
You know, I'm still learning. I've recognized the value of head hunters actually, which I hadn't in the past, But I can elicit certain conversations That it can be very telling
in people, and I love that.
Well, I mean, it's some of why I love doing on podcasts. Do you have any questions or anything you like to ask people?
Yeah. I, I don't have like a it very quickly gets into the personal.
With people whether I'm investing or or hiring. Because it, it gets them into a place of discomfort. And I'm interested in reactions., I used to teach a class at UCLA Anderson on, uh, entrepreneurship and leadership. these students would apply to participate, and I would have like 15 minutes to evaluate each one of them and see which ones were a right fit for the, for the classroom.
, and the question I'm trying to recall, but it was some version of when's the last time you.
And it was such a quick, easy way to read people. and then I would say once they answer, cause most of them would answer , at the time they were all starting businesses.
But then I would say, okay, when's the last time you failed personally?
it. And then it would bring a whole other set of dynamics, right? And, and you could see the people that can take responsibility
because a lot of people will go straight into blaming
like, I failed because so and so, and so and so, and so, and so and so, and that's okay if there's the willingness to be open , to taking more responsibility from there.
But I tend to gravitate towards people. Quick at saying, this is a hundred percent me
and this is how I showed up and this is what I learned and this is what I, how I could have showed up differently.
I have one of my more vocal listeners is always telling me I need to ask that question more. It's a good one. Can we pivot and talk about that for a second? Like what, when you look back at your career, I'll make it broad, what's a big failure that stands out for you?
Oh, whew. I've never failed
It was, it was all my brother's fault,
I've failed so many times. You know, where I can see I, a lot of my failures happened. They were oftentimes I think are super, power is our kryptonite,
and one of my superpowers is optimism and seeing the best. And a lot of the times that I have failed has been in my lack of capacity to listen to the signs. Cuz it's not that I wasn't picking up on the signs, but I wasn't fully listening to the signs that I was receiving.
I was convincing myself, oh no, this is gonna change. Oh no, that was just a, that was just a fluke. Or what I, what didn't feel right inside of myself was, you know, that was just, it's okay. And I would convince myself, cause I was so invested in whatever I was doing, that
I stayed in deals or relationships longer than I should have.
So I think a lot of it has to do with, that and, the, the trick for me has been not losing my optimism and the fact that I see the best in people, It's been a challenge, but a very rewarding to stay open and still trust people. Pay greater attention to that voice inside of me that is always sort of speaking and not overriding it. I used to run a, a film business
Talk about it, strange business cuz , there's really no correlation between risk and reward like in every other business. And there's also. Not a second chance. Like if you create a business in most other industries and it doesn't work out, you'll, you know, redress it. You'll do something else.
You'll figure out a way to reemerge film once the film is out by that Friday night at 7:00 PM Pacific, you know, to a plus or minus 5% certainty what the whole growth of the film's gonna be over its lifetime.
And when I didn't get the success that I wanted with my earlier films, I put so much weight into the financial part where I sucked out the creative out of it,
And I became, Sort of this scry sort of financier that was looking to save every penny. And in that I started making films that weren't of the quality that I was hoping to make.
And, and that was a really big lesson, how I was somehow so dedicated to not failing that I kind of guaranteed my own failure.
Mm. It's weird. Do you think about that with regards to venture
Yeah. Yeah. And I think a lot of what happens is that , we do suck the joy out of it. We forget why we're doing what we're doing because we've become so narrow focused on not losing money. Right. And it's a very different approach, not losing money than creating value.
And I think if the approaches create value, then money will.
And I see it with, the less experienced venture capitalists not necessarily, I would say just less experienced early stage investors. A lot of them are sort of angels and so forth that are, are doing it outside of the sort of more institutional framework. And they try to get as much as they can on those early
And they flip the ownership in a way that is eventually just detri.
Yeah. And um, I, I also say maybe I'm being the optimist here. I also think sometimes it's not really understanding. How this all works, Yeah, no, I, I agree with, I think it is lack of experience, lack of knowledge and it can also be just, it's hard to leave money on the table.
We know now we're not leaving money on the table, but it's looks like you're leaving money on the table. It's like, well, if I can take 40% of the business, why would I choose 20?
Yeah. Yeah. sort of going back to like, , you've produced films and your family, you have a lot of history in the media business. Do you have certain areas like media where you still spend a lot of time thinking about
Media or particularly content creation feels like like an ex-girlfriend
a good sometimes ex-girlfriend. I mean,
It's a, it's a
great ex-girlfriend, but I don't necessarily wanna
run into her.
you're not going back there.
I'm there, there I it is strange. I feel like when I finally, and I, got lucky. Because we ended up financing was one of the founding investors of a domestic studio, and we hit a home run with Twilight.
and we ended up selling the company to Lion Landscape. So overall, the film business was a great experience financially for me but I also learned. How challenging it is to make money in it. like I was saying, because I had extracted a lot of the joy out of it, I ended up noticing the last film I I made was so contracts almost like I was making socks.
You know? That's how I was approaching , when I loved movies. I was like, what am I doing here? And, so I, don't think I fully recovered from that cuz I don't focus on media anymore. What I'm most interested in are things that alleviate human suffering. So I think we're dealing with a deep mental health crisis
And the challenge is that we, in the technology investment world think that adding more years. Or even betting Better Cures is going to make us happier.
And I don't think that's the case. I think that as we are with our lifespan and with the advances that we have in medicine, we're not necessarily more at peace. I think we were trained to pursue happiness. We were never trained to be. And we are always chasing this next something that's gonna be okay. And the reality is that that leaves a lot of space for stress and anxiety and depression. And when things don't turn out okay, then we can be extremely hard on ourselves. , but it's hard to fail and not feel bad.
I don't remember the last time I felt guilty or self judgemental,
And I've been much more capable of adapting and moving, and I think I am not afraid of the consequences of failing,
of the self-imposed consequ.
It allows me to adapt quicker.
mm And I mean, I think a lot of this you write about in your book, right? The mystery of you. Yeah, I think we're all used to either, whether we're judging externally or judging ourselves, we've coupled information with added weight. I'm gonna call this added weight, sort of the energetic baggage so , if I am experiencing someone doing something, That I don't agree with. There's the information
And then there's the energetic baggage that gets coupled into it that is telling, oh, these guys, this is oblig, it's blah, blah, blah. This always happens. That's my fault for doing this. Like all that additional narrative is not necessary.
And the thing is that we think we need all that energetic baggage to learn. We think that without it then we would just forget and it would happen again. And that's really what we're scared of, right? It's like someone wrongs us, we're scared that if we don't hold a grudge against them, then we'll be wronged again. And the invitation is how can we start separating these two, the energy from the information? Because if I can take the inform. I can become really good at discerning and a lot more effective at making change, when I'm not burdened by all this additional energetic, emotional baggage.
And now when I find myself doing something that just feels totally off, I very quickly say, oh, I'm so sorry for doing that. That's not how I wanna show up with you.
And that's separating the information from all the emotional baggage that goes along with it,
Yeah. Someone just said to me that holding onto a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping someone else will die.
it's terrible. It, it really becomes poisonous and forgiveness is so powerful and we think that somehow if we forgive, it's the same as condoning.
It's very different. . Mm-hmm. . anything else on your book? You talk a lot about flow. I, I love the idea of flow. I, for me it's all like surfing,
playing sports, usually. for me, flow, like if we talk about your surfing experience, it's likely that when you're surfing what I call the layer that we use as an intermediary between ourselves and our environment. It gets very thin, right? Because in this layer, this intermediary, it's almost like where our inner narrator lives.
It's the one that says, oh, I like this. This is good. This is bad. You know, I did okay. I didn't , and when we're in a state of flow, my suggestion is that this layer gets really thin.
And there's less commentary, right?
Yeah. No, the, the, no. It's usually like, oh my gosh, I need to breathe. It's like, don't drown. It's, that's pretty, it's pretty thin. Pretty thin layer.
Yeah. It's a thin layer , and I think , to me, it's a degree to which , this layer is existing , or thinning out. , and what ultimately happens when that is thinning out is that there's a deep intimacy with life, right?
And what I love to do is use the body as a gateway to the present moment.
So coming into the body, even when we're evaluating a deal as an investor, right?
Like how is my body speaking to me right now? and when I'm listening to a founder, I can track where my body is feeling at a any moment. How is my body responding to this instant? Right? And, and I think , that's an unlevered resource
That's good. I'll try. Um, Was writing a book harder than you thought?
You know what was hard for me? , I deal very comfortably in quantifiable evidence in objective. Binary outcomes.
You know, I can look at numbers and, okay, this worked, this didn't work. , I, I understand that realm very well. The subjective realm is a hard one. Like when do you stop writing a book?
When do you stop painting a piece of art or sculpting? It's almost like my nature is to just keep tinkering
because I don't know where the end.
so with a book, it was fascinating to see how difficult it was to just finish it. Cause every time I would read, I'd be like, oh my God, this is awful.
rewrite the whole thing. And I would do that again and again. And at some point it was just like, it's not that I felt finished, is that I just said, okay, I gotta put this down.
And it gave me a deep appreciation for everyone that creates things that are more on that creative subject. Realm, right?
I mean, I make a podcast every week, and honestly, in the editing, we can make the podcast. There's so much better. When they're really edited ,
But if you do it every week, you just throw it out there and you're like, oh, it's good
Yeah. Yeah. What is it done Better than perfect.
Yeah. Yeah. That's good.
And the film business really taught me a lot about that because you're, you end up in the editing room and you , you've got so many hours of footage , , every frame has five different ways of representing it at any given moment.
Cause it's shot from different angles. , and at some point, , the thing about the film is, is that editing base are very expensive. So at some point you're
just running outta money. It's like, ok, we just gotta finish.
Interesting. Well, congratulations on the book. we only have a few more minutes. Maybe I'd ask you like advice for young entrepreneurs You don't have to pretend to have it all together.
humility is. And vulnerability are assets and qualities in the journey. , and particularly you don't feel like you have to have it all together with your investors.
I notice that it's tricky because sometimes I mentor people that I'm investor in their companies and they treat me so differently when I'm in sort of a board.
And a Emilio, who is the right person to approach you about getting an investment? Is it in the capacity of bold capital? Like ? Who might you be excited to? invest in.
I invest in, . In the moment, . So it's, it's people that, that just have this, what we've been speaking of, this capacity to take full responsibility for how they show up and they have a vision and they have the willingness to go and execute it.
I just love people,
so I love when people are lit up.
I love that. I love investing in people too. I think it's great. I've loved getting to know you. thanks for coming on
the podcast and hopefully our, paths will continue crossing.
I love that. Thanks for having.