Personal Story: Matt Cohen, Principal
Prior to joining City Light Capital I had the privilege of working with talented people in diverse areas of asset management and investment banking. I have worked in both entrepreneurial start-ups and in large, less nimble institutions. One thing has been constant across all of these experiences – the value that I place on the special individuals who are willing to take the risks and put in the hard work required to generate change.
The global financial industry and Wall Street have certainly been experiencing change in significant and often unexpected ways. But, the necessary changes that the business of finance is experiencing is just a prelude to the changes that can and must be created across all areas of business if the marketplace and society are to address the unprecedented economic, social and environmental challenges we all face.
The transition from the industrial economy to the knowledge economy, from a carbon based energy system to a low carbon, sustainable system, from more isolated nations and regions to more deeply interconnected and globalized markets are some of our big challenges. And, the financial industry and Wall Street must innovate to make positive contributions to the challenges in front of us. That is the primary reason I left a traditional Wall Street post to join City Light Capital. I joined because I passionately believe that the changes these markets are currently undergoing represent a unique set of business opportunities. And, that by supporting entrepreneurs through the City Light vehicle we can not only generate outstanding financial returns but also help foster the change needed to ensure the health and well being of this country for future generations.
I was introduced to City Light through Tom Groos, City Light Partner and Chairman of Viking Corp. At the time, Tom (through Viking) was an investment banking client mine at Citigroup. I had developed a great working and personal relationship with Tom and his team and after about a year of working with them, Tom approached me with the vision for City Light and introduced me to his partner, Josh. We now, along with Jamie and Bill, have a very special working relationship – each of us brings a unique perspective and expertise to the table and we’re all opinionated yet flexible enough to continually challenge each other.
Throughout my life I have connected best with those who have had the confidence to think independently, the drive and work ethic to constantly push themselves and the conviction to take calculated chances. Regardless of success, I think it is important to maintain sense of humility and a willingness to take the time to laugh and enjoy life. The resonance with those values and traits along with an innate affinity for self starting entrepreneurs stems from the deep respect that I have for my Dad who managed to raise my brother and me by himself in a fun, work hard – play hard environment all while running his own practice.
Following my dad’s lead, I have been on several entrepreneurial rides. First I joined an asset management shop that was just getting going out of undergrad. That grew to over $1 billion in assets under management before we eventually morphed it an internet-based business called Netfolio. We raised $40 million for Netfolio and ramped to over 100 employees before folding the business into the Asset Management Division at Bear Stearns where I worked for a couple of years after the acquisition. This experience led me to return to school to get my MBA where I further focused on entrepreneurship and helped run the student led venture capital fund.
Outside of the office I continually look for ways to operate entrepreneurially on behalf of charitable causes. In 2005, I founded, raised money for and created the curriculum for an organization called the Future Stars Partnership that annually takes inner-city high school students to a rural college campus for a three day college immersion experience. And just recently, I ran the New York City marathon on behalf of Hope for the Warriors and raised over $60k to help support the families of wounded and fallen U.S. soldiers. I recognize and deeply value what it takes to make a difference and realize that the impact can delivered in both traditional, business settings and non-traditional arenas.
Part of my job, as a member of the team at City Light, is to find entrepreneurs who are going to make a substantial impact. Now more than ever the world needs the entrepreneurs who are launching the type of companies that we are backing – companies that will help us all live in smarter, safer, more sustainable ways. I could not be happier with my decision to join City Light. We have invested in great people and products and our pipeline of investments and incredible network of people continue to grow. Every day more leaders from Wall Street to Silicon Valley and in places across America are applying their skills and capital to create the solutions we need. I am proud to be a part of it and look forward to working with the growing City Light community.