Nan Li, Managing Director at Obvious Ventures, is often called “the smartest guy in the room” (according to many of his colleagues). We’d say that’s true. And we’re delighted to show you a look at how a Chinese immigrant raised in Detroit spends his day in Silicon Valley at one of the most compelling venture funds we love.
I wake up around seven. By that time, all of my morning newsletters are in my inbox ready to go. I read Axios, StrictlyVC and Fortune Term Sheet.
Right after my reading, I’m thinking about the gym. I go three days a week. I live in a building that has a gym downstairs, so it’s all self-motivated. No excuses. I keep a 1920’s gym routine: very basic. Treadmill, bench presses. I don’t do classes like SoulCycle or anything like that. I just like my headphones on while I lift and run. I listen to everything, indie rock, electronic, techno and house music.
I’m at the gym for about an hour then it’s back up to my place for a shower.
When I’m getting ready and heading into the office, I normally listen to podcasts. My favorite podcast is called 99% Invisible. It’s local, produced out of Oakland. Each episode is spent exploring some unknown hidden part of the world that you might pass every day and not notice. One episode was about how tall doors are and why they’re a certain height. It’s a combination of science, history, anthropology, and design.
I normally eat breakfast with the team. We make steel cut oats in our Insta Pot here in the office. Everyone in the office is hooked on that. I have that and black coffee before my meetings begin at 9:00 AM.
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
9:00 AM is when I officially start my day because it’s when the meetings begin. I don’t really get a lot of email time during the day, because the meetings start right away, so whether it’s video calls, in-person meetings downtown with our founders.
A lot of our jobs as VCs is to accommodate our founders, and it starts with scheduling. Make it convenient for them. So during the day, I spend a lot of time out of the office to meet with our founders’ teams and to see what they’re building. Because of the travel, I have a mental map of all the best free wifi areas and bathrooms all across San Fran.
If I’m back in the office for lunch, I’ll have it with the team. We have hosted lunch every day using an app called Caviar. Everyone here eats healthy, so picking a restaurant is easier, and everyone chooses what they want using the app. I’m probably the least healthy person here in the office, I like Panda Express…I LOVE Subway.
Official work meetings normally end around 5 pm. But in, venture, there’s such a blend between work meetings and social meetings because everyone you’re friends with are involved in the industry in some way. They either work with a startup or they’re an investor so the meetings generally can go on and on. One of my favorites has been Beck’s media dinner. I never have a chance to sit and chat with journalists, but that night I met so many. I liked how casual it was and the food was really good.
I’ll try to typically do something social, like a meetup with a friend or go to an event. My fiance is in the industry so I see her often at events, but we try to keep that outside of home. We have date night, you have to keep it up. If you’re not careful about protecting your time, you can be out at 7:00 AM every morning and home at 11:00 PM at night every day. So I block out a few nights per week to stay in.
Before bed, I like to read. Currently I’m reading a book called the Three Body Problem. It’s a sci-fi novel that was just translated in several countries after finding success in China. On occasion, I’ll spend a good amount of my time in the evening watching Netflix with my fiance.
I’m in bed by 11:00 PM.
Want to learn more about how Nan spends his time? Follow him on Twitter @nanli.