Why Jonathon Triest is Following His Must with Ludlow Ventures by Jenna Abdou


One of the greatest days of our lives is when we stop subscribing to what we should be doing and start living our Must. I learned this lesson from Elle Luna, an artist and designer who shares her story leaving her job as a designer at Mailbox, in The First Round Review.  She previously worked on redesigning Uber’s mobile app and spent time at Medium as well. 

She says, “If you believe that you have something special inside of you, and you feel it's about time you gave it a shot, honor that calling in some small way - today... Because there is a recurring choice in life, and it occurs at the intersection of two roads. We arrive at this place again and again. And today, you get to choose.” 

Jonathon Triest, the Founder and Managing Partner of Ludlow Ventures, is one of the rare individuals who pursues his Must every day.

After running a design firm for three years in Atlanta, Jonathon chose to risk it all and pursue venture capital. 

Being a VC is a risky job in itself; Thus having no knowledge about the space and borrowing money from family and friends didn’t make it any easier. 

Jonathon moved back to his hometown Detroit to start his fund and reached out to mentors for guidance. 

While many of them weren’t responsive, Brad Feld and Naval Ravikant welcomed the opportunity to help. Only a few years later, it’s clear that their contribution has been immeasurable to his success. 

When I asked Jonathon what he was gaining from his relationships with Brad and Naval, he paused, and simply said, “Everything. They give endlessly.” 

Here’s how he describes it. 


A lot of people talk about how important it is to keep giving, giving, giving and things will come back. The last part is what people wait for, and that’s their motivation for the giving. It isn’t just the give - The ability to continuously help without any notion of what’s coming back is a really, really important point that I’ve learned from them.

When it comes to his founders, Jonathon is known for returning the good deed. 

Meredith Perry, the founder of uBeam, a startup Ludlow battled to invest in (it came down to a video of Jonathon’s three-year-old daughter), described him as one of the most loyal and determined investors she’s ever worked with (According to a quote in Crain’s Detroit). 

The commitment, corky personality, and deep social intuition represented in that video is the driving force behind Jonathon’s early success. That and pure hustle, of course. 

I started our interview telling Jonathon that hustler is the first word that comes to mind when I think of him. (Still wish I could have included Jay Z’s - ‘I’m a hustla baby, I just want you to know!’ as the intro to his interview. Apparently I’m not as confident as Jonathon yet.) 

From the early days of pasting designs all over a CEO’s office while she was out of town (more on that story in the interview), Jonathon’s transferred the hustler mindset to his work at Ludlow.  

Whether they’re sending a team flowers and chocolates or going out to sell a product for potential partners, they’re adamant about doing everything, and I mean everything, they can to work with the founders who intrigue them. 


Once we get in front of someone I’m very confident that we can articulate why it’s beneficial for them to have us as partners.

For the times, it doesn’t work out, Jonathon’s open about the pang. 

The things that sting the worst are when you say ‘I could have done this. I could have done that.'

To combat the uncertainty of the 'could have' and the risk that runs in their business, the Ludlow team gives every meeting everything they’ve got.

It’s rare to spend time with individuals who have chosen the Must path, simply because there are so few of them. 

That’s what I’ll remember most about my time with Jonathon, the unequivocal intuition to be himself, even when that person is a ‘good crazy,’ air guitar, playing founder. 

One of the best questions Elle Luna asks in her piece is: “When you decide to look for your dreams in real life where do you go?” 

For Elle it was in a small white-walled room that she’d been dreaming about, then time in New York and even Bali.

For Jonathon, it’s investing in companies like AngelList, Product Hunt, and Sprig, and partnering with Adam Lisagor and The Sandwich Fund. 

I urge you to follow their lead. If you haven’t found your Must, keep looking. Your life will change when you find it. 

To learn more about Jonathon’s journey building Ludlow Ventures tune into his 33founders interview where he discusses pitching, social intuition, and why your personality is the best way to do business. 

You can also check out Elle’s piece in The First Round Review here. I highly recommend it. 




Further Reading
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.
  • WeFestival Aims to Make Women Stronger Entrepreneurs — Since launching in December 13,000 messages have been sent across 22 channels in the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival Slack community. Ranging from questions about beta-testing to fundraising, or simply asking for advice, the community thrives on WeFestival’s founding mission to fulfill women’s unique need to connect and be heard.
  • Female Funders Accelerates Change for Women Entrepreneurs and Investors — When Katherine Hague made her first angel investment, she was one of two women in a round of 70 investors. “It seemed like the deal had gone through an old boys network that women were excluded from,” she says. “It revealed an incredible opportunity to break through these barriers and expose women to investing.”


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