John Elton


New York, NY

John Elton

John is a Partner at Greycroft Partners and is based in the firm’s NYC office.

Prior to Greycroft, John was a Partner at iNovia Capital for six years.  While there, he worked with Greycroft on eight co-investments including: Babble (acquired by Disney), Collective, OggiFinogi (acquired by Collective), Vizu (acquired by Nielsen) and WorkFusion.  John also led the firm’s investments in TripleLift, Chango, BeyondtheRack, and Lenddo.

John was part of the early NYC startup community starting at 24/7 Media where he worked in Strategic Planning and later ran marketing for two of its products. Afterwards, at Turnstone Capital, John advised dMarc Broadcasting on its first round of institutional financing as well as an acquisition prior to its sale to Google.  John started his career at Veronis Suhler Stevenson an investment firm focused on the media and communications industries.

John holds a MBA from New York University with a dual specialization in Finance and Marketing and a BA Degree in Economics from Lehigh University.  John is married with three kids and lives in the wilds of Westchester.

Crazy or smart?

I’ll take both—The best people I have worked with combine equal parts of crazy enough to try something audacious with the skill, brilliance and tenacity to actually accomplish the task. Did Icaraus have too much hubris or should he have tested a few designs first besides wax and feathers?

“Unless you continually work, evolve, and innovate, you’ll learn a quick and painful lesson from someone who has.”

— Cael Sanderson

Long term thinking is my keystone.

Every success of mine has been a series of failures where upon reflection it occurs that we have made it. Success only happens for a fleeting moment a customer win, a fund raise, an exit, an IPO, but the journey never stops.

I launched my first startup when I was 15, I used an early Mac, creative suite, and silk screen printer to make original T-shirts and stickers. My anchor client was my brother’s rugby team that put in a $3k order. Felt like I had made it cashing that check.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

— Michelangelo Buonarroti

Predict often remember selectively.

In venture, you have to forget everything you have learned. Rather than focusing on pattern recognition, I try to find out why something will work this time. It’s a dialog that is fueled by desire to solve a problem and is never ending.

It’s too late?

In market formation theory, the top 5 companies when a market is 20% formed are the same when its 80% formed so if you are looking at areas that have analyst reports and a litany of startups chances are it’s too late.

Structure is the enemy of success in start-ups.

Artificial constraints are the bane of most funds, minimum ownership, board seat requirements, all are arbitrary. In Greycroft’s model the bounds of what’s possible are only constrainted by the sole focus on helping the curious minds buld the largest companies.

You may not like what I have to say, but that’s the point.

While I have claims to have helped build some companies from the inside, as a board member, I view the role as more of a devils advocate. Where you can’t make snap judgements based on limited information. Challenge assumptions, cajole people to do more, be a sounding board, but don’t speak up if you don’t know what you are talking about.

Keep failing.

If I don’t fall during a day of skiing, I think how I didn’t push myself hard enough. In business, if I’m not trying things that fail, I’m not pushing the boundaries far enough. Aswath Damodaran taught me a great way to think about risk, which comes from the two chineses symbol for risk which are the combination of “danger”, while the second is the symbol for “opportunity”, making risk a mix of danger and opportunity.

Have fun.

Start ups and by proxy venture capital are incredibly difficult endeavor where the feedback loop can be measured in decades. If you don’t have fun along the way you may forget why you left in the first place.

“When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.”

— Joe Namath

Still looking for what’s possible.

I started out in computers because I liked to play video games. I was lucky to have some of the very earliest computers since my father used them for research. Think punch cards. I quickly became the IT manager. It was an unhappy alliance though as I would occasionally crash the machines as the gaming needs outpaced early PCs RAM. As my vision cleared to look at things beyond just games, I looked at what technology could do. I’m still looking.

“I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”

— Stephen Hawking

I’ve been lucky enough to have a relatively early brush with death. Not my own, but a close family member. My fear is not made of failure, but not accomplishing the things I want to do. It’s people that share this mindset that I want to work with.

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

— Steve Jobs