Lifestyle Personal Lines the June 2021 issue

Joshua Motta, Founder and CEO, Coalition

“How can you learn anything new if you think you already know everything?”
By Chris Hann Posted on June 1, 2021
Q
How is it possible that you got a job at Microsoft when you were 15 years old?
A
I grew up outside Kansas City, and waking up at 6 a.m. to do a paper route didn’t seem like an ideal career path given my sleeping habits at the time. Instead I started building websites for local real estate offices and then e-commerce sites for the likes of Dogtoys.com. There was a Microsoft article that featured Dogtoys.com as a success story. One thing led to another, and I was offered a job to work at Microsoft. So in the summer of 1999, my grandmother graciously moved with me to Redmond, Washington, because I wasn’t old enough to drive a car and my parents both worked. I was the youngest software engineer in the company. They even put the word “Wonderboy” on my office door.

Favorite vacation spot: Italy (either the Amalfi Coast or Portofino)

Favorite movies: The James Bond series (“I just love every single one of them.”)

Favorite actor/actress: Mahershala Ali/Tilda Swinton

Favorite musician or musical group: Anyone other than the Dave Matthews Band

Favorite book/author: The Road to Serfdom, by Friedrich Hayek (“That was a very influential book for me in college.”)

Favorite San Francisco restaurant: Kokkari

Favorite dish at Kokkari: Lamb and Beef Moussaka

Q
And while you were a student at the University of Chicago you worked for the CIA. Doing what, if I might ask?
A
I worked in the analysis and operations arms of CIA. That’s probably as much as I should say.
Q
After graduating, you went to work for Goldman Sachs, which seems like a very different career move. Why Goldman?
A
It was an opportunity to learn. At the University of Chicago, all students take a common curriculum the first two years. Whether you’re an English major or an astrophysics major, you’re taking the same courses. It taught me how to think, but Goldman helped me gain a set of business and financial skills very quickly.
Q
Who were your childhood heroes?
A
I always looked up to my grandparents, Dr. V. James Rhodes and Verna Rhodes. I was very fortunate that most summers they would take my siblings and me on road trips across the country. I got to see quite a bit of the United States by the time I was a teenager. They both worked as professors at the University of Missouri. They were incredibly humble folks. My grandfather was the head of the agricultural economics department. My grandmother was an oncological nursing researcher.
Q
Is there a trip that stands out?
A
I loved going to the Naval Academy in Annapolis and the shipyards in Norfolk, especially seeing the nuclear submarines.
Q
Why cyber risk?
A
I almost prefer to call it “technological risk,” although “cyber” has fewer syllables. You can’t eliminate technology risk; however, you can eliminate the cost of it. And no one was doing it very well.
Q
Who have been your most influential business mentors?
A
There are so many. My co-founder, John Hering, who previously founded a mobile security company called Lookout. Alexander Tamas, from Vy Capital. Nick Shalek, a phenomenal fintech investor at Ribbit Capital. They have all been incredibly influential in how I’ve thought about building Coalition. Another person who comes to mind is George Tenet, the former CIA director. After he left, he became a partner at Allen & Company. He handed me a book when I was visiting him called Legacy. It’s one of the most influential books on building teams I’ve ever read. It details the success of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. Apparently they’re the most winning team in sports history. The book is about the culture they built as a team. If you have the former head of the CIA telling you to read this, you’re going to read it.
Q
How has your business and you and your family coped with COVID-19?
A
We’ve seen an explosion in demand for cyber insurance, but it’s also been accompanied by more claims. Technological adoption and cyber crime sped up during the pandemic. I was also blessed to have a pandemic daughter, Juliette, who was born last July. I’ve spent every single day of my daughter’s life with her at home, and it has been fantastic.
Q
Last question: What gives you your leader’s edge?
A
Humility. I’m constantly asking myself this question: how can you learn anything new if you think you already know everything?
Chris Hann Associate Editor Read More

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