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John Zeratsky

Emerging Industries  |  Venture Capital
Co-founder and general partner
Character  |  Milwaukee

John Zeratsky spent time working for YouTube, Google and VC fund Google Ventures before co-founding his own Milwaukee-based VC fund, Character, with Jake Knapp in 2021. After less than a year in business, Character announced in late 2021 that it had closed on more than $30 million for its first fund and invested in six startups. Among its first investments is Seattle-based Phaidra Inc., an industrial artificial intelligence company. In addition to investing up to $1 million in seed capital to startups, Character helps businesses find and expand product-market fit, using the so-called design sprint process Zeratsky helped develop at Google Ventures.

Zeratsky’s 2016 book “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days” helped popularize the design and prototyping process. Zeratsky also co-wrote “Make Time,” a book about creating time and finding focus in daily life. Zeratsky is a frequent keynote speaker and workshop facilitator.

While at Google Ventures, Zeratsky worked with nearly 200 portfolio companies.

An alumnus of UW-Madison’s School of Human Ecology, he now serves as an advisor to the dean and faculty of the school.

Education: Bachelor’s, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Fun fact: He and his wife, Michelle, spent 18 months traveling in Central America aboard their sailboat, Pineapple, before moving to Milwaukee in 2019. The couple visited Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the Cayman Islands.


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