Michael Carney leaving Pando for Upfront Ventures

By Sarah Lacy , written on March 11, 2015

From The News Desk

As Pando has grown, I curbed my early practice of writing posts every time new writers join, or leave, the team. But today I have to make an exception: Michael Carney is leaving Pando.

Those of you who have followed us since the earliest days may share my view that our newsroom is almost unthinkable without him. Michael joined Pando about three months into our existence-- a reformed investment banker who for some reason wanted to be a journalist. While he lacked classic reporter experience, I was floored by his natural ability to get to know everyone in an ecosystem, work for days seemingly without sleep, and never take any criticism personally. On a constant binge of self-improvement he'd not only get up early and cook breakfast then do the dishes at our staff retreats, but he'd do push-ups in between sessions. He'd bring blenders and grass-fed butter to our office to make everyone bulletproof coffee. He's continually taken on more responsibility, never shrinking from any challenge we gave him.

Over the last three years, I've learned that Carney's heart is as big as his work ethic. He's been a loyal friend and supporter to everyone on our staff, and has stayed close with almost everyone who has left.

And since his expertise in finance, venture capital, startups, payments, and enterprise software is similar to mine when I was a reporter, Michael and I worked closely on many stories over the past three years. Like most of the Pando staff, he's crashed at my house dozens of times and even babysat my kids when I've been in a bind. Simply put: He's the person you want on your team when your company hurtles from three months old to three years old, growing quickly and breaking just as quickly, the subject of hate blogs and threats, and trying against all odds to build a profitable company in a space littered with startup road kill.

And, clearly, I'm not the only one who noticed all those qualities. Upfront Ventures-- arguably one of LA's top venture firms-- surprised Michael last week with an offer to become an Associate at the firm. After much soul searching he decided to accept.

I felt so many things when Michael told me the news, but none of those things was anger, or even disappointment. I couldn't have asked Michael to do more than he did over his time at Pando. He made me a simple promise early on that I didn’t ask him to make: That as long as he was a journalist, he'd be at Pando. I know for a fact plenty of better funded outlets have tried to poach him, no doubt with higher salaries. But he stuck with us.

This is a great opportunity for Michael, who is expecting his first child later this year. Not all reporters make great VCs, but Michael will. He'll be able to marry his banking past with the last three years of helping us build Pando and writing about so many thousands of other startups on the same journey. He'll be an asset to the LA community and an amazing investor-- who is both empathetic and loyal, but also no-nonsense and direct.

I'm also proud. Michael is one of the last of that early, early crop that joined Pando in its first few fledgling months of existence. Sure we had a couple million dollars in the bank, but there was little other reason to think we'd build something great. We'd been forced to oust a powerful board member within the first few months, struggled to post five good stories a day, I had never run a company, and we hadn't bought NSFWCORP yet.

And yet this early crew was extraordinarily talented, as evidenced by the amazing things they've gone on to do elsewhere, whether it's Erin Griffith's amazing work at Fortune, Hamish McKenzie's role at Tesla, or Michael's move to the world of investing.  I hired and worked closely with all three back when I was running the newsroom day-to-day, and I'm proud that I got to play a small role in their journeys along with those of so many other talented reporters who have come through our virtual doors. The fact that we built anything of note is testament to them. Reporters don't stay at news organizations forever-- all you can hope in exchange for the work that they do is that they leave you with more opportunities than they had when they came in.

A word on transitions: As one of our top editors, Michael had a lot of responsibilities beyond what appeared on the page. He's generously offered to give us a month's transition time so that we can make this as seamless a transition as possible for our lean team. Given that he's moving into an investing role, we'll disclose on each article that he's joining Upfront Ventures, and we've asked him not to write about any Upfront companies or their competitors. A lot of the work Michael will be doing will be behind the scenes, mentoring his replacement and helping vet startups for Pandoland. (Applications opening up soon!) And expect his byline to remain on the site as a (fully disclosed) guest contributor in the future.

Filling Carney's shoes won't be easy. But watch this space for some new hiring news very soon.