Ryan Morris has been on both sides of the table as an investor and an operator. His latest venture has already raised close to half a billion dollars to tackle a huge problem.
During his appearance on the Dealmakers Podcast Morris talked about team building, inflection points, turning companies around, picking great investors, getting your practice in, and investing in businesses.
Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.
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Leaping In, And Learning
Ryan Morris was born in Toronto. Known for its Canadian winters that are much more brutal than his current home in California.
From a very early age Ryan was deep into reading, technology, and figuring things out. Though he has certainly stayed well rounded with contrasting interests, personally and professionally.
As a kid he was fascinated by nuclear fusion. To him it was as interesting as any sci-fi entertainment. At 11 years old he thought it was a great way to create clean energy and save the world.
Then one day his father challenged him. Telling him that if he was ever going to do anything with it, he also needed to have a team to help build it, as well as the capital to fuel a real business.
So, he looked up the Forbes 400. He learned about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and how they did it. Years later he has landed Gates as an investor in his latest venture, Turntide
When it came time to get into a great college his uncle told him that rowing was a big thing among the Ivy League schools where the big science labs were. So, in spite of not having the build of your typical hardcore athlete, he signed up for the rowing team. By the end of high school he ended up being the strongest on the team, and winning the national championships.
It was a big wake up call that if you put yourself in a competitive playing field, and were willing to stick with the grueling first years, and have the patience and discipline to chip away at a big problem, you can achieve world class things.
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Masters At Cornell And Working On Oil Rigs
When pursuing his Masters at Cornell he decided it was smart to maintain some more perspective and to stay well rounded. So, he took a year off, and looked up the most dangerous jobs in the world. He picked one he could get into, and ended up working around oil rigs in minus 30 degree weather in northern Canada.
He later did this again with road bike racing. Throwing himself into something, and building the muscle and skills as he did it.
Ryan managed to graduate right as the world was melting down in the 2008 financial crisis. Huge layoffs were happening, few were hiring, and many of his classmates went back to their home countries as a result. As for himself, he figured he might as well just jump into being an entrepreneur.
Fixing Things & Being Your Own Customer
Morris’ first project leaned on his own experiences and challenges. With all of the breaks and other activities he did during school he missed a lot of classes. So, he and his co-founder created a solution that would allow them to use video notes.
They took it to being cash flow positive and stable enough to fund their other interests. One of which was investing.
At the pit of the financial crisis he started Meson Capital Partners. An investment firm that now has $175M under management.
In a sense this was also a product and company he created to solve his problem as a customer too. In fact, sticking to that concept is one of his top pieces of advice for others considering starting their own businesses today too.
Then ensuring that you combine a deep empathy with your customer with better technology, and business you can scale, along with having the right people on your team. Those whose values are aligned with yours, and whose skills are the right fit for your stage of business.
The latter are points which he really learned as he invested in other companies, and then often ended up getting involved in turning them around.
They would invest in companies where they could add value. In many cases it was a human problem. With dysfunctional politics, executives and board members refusing to change things, or admit that they had made mistakes.
One of these companies ended up selling for $200M.
Ryan Morris’ latest venture is Turntide Technologies.
A company building software-driven efficient electric motor systems for buildings and electric vehicles. Technology that powers most of what moves on the planet. With a focus on solving the problems of using rare earth minerals.
They’ve already built a team of 500, and raised $485M in funding. Their investors include Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and the Canadian Pension Board, as well as others.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Ryan Morris was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
In choosing these investors Ryan says that he was focused on those with shared values and timelines. Whereas most VC funds are only looking to invest for 5-10 years, and will pressure founders to meet their timeframes, he wanted people on board that would support them for the very long term. To do the big and hard things that will be really transformative.
Their investors include Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and the Canadian Pension Board, as well as others.
In choosing these investors, Ryan says that he was focused on those with shared values and timelines. Whereas most VC funds are only looking to invest for 10 years and will pressure founders to meet their timeframes, he wanted people on board that would support them for the very long term. To do the big and hard things that will be really transformative.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- What Turntide is doing for energy and the planet
- Inflection points
- Scaling teams
- Operating at different levels of scale