Life has been a series of reinventions for Santo Politi. Growing up in Turkey, Santo received a scholarship to study electrical engineering in the U.S., paving the path to a job at Panasonic in the company’s Broadcast and Television division. After a decade working as an engineer, Santo went to business school, where he juggled a full-time job with his studies.
As he was graduating, Santo declined a job offer as a trader with Morgan Stanley in London to remain in the U.S. to be with his now wife. The choice changed the course of his life and career. “Coincidences matter,” he says. “These chance encounters and decisions are what direct the course of your life and your business.” After school, Santo joined Bankers Trust, to help launch the bank’s first early stage venture arm. He left to become the President of Blockbuster before eventually returning to venture capital as a general partner at Charles River Ventures. After a few years, Santo struck out on his own to start Spark in 2005 with Todd Dagres and Bijan Sabet.
Spark was a chance for Santo to do venture his own way. “We wanted to be an East Coast firm with a West Coast offense,” he says. “We decided to swing for the fences every time, and this is how we’ve invested since day one.” Santo helped build Spark to challenge venture’s commonly held beliefs. He believes there’s no repeatable lessons when it comes to investing—the most impactful companies tend to break the rules. “Everything at Spark is written in sand, not concrete,” he says. “Most firms are predicated on rules, and every year they make more rules, which will only guarantee that they miss the exceptional companies.”