VC Recipe

Overcooked

Have you ever tried to reverse engineer something and see what would be the output if you applied the exact same formula again from the start. If you did, you might have experienced the cooking recipe fallacy.

The challenge of cooking at home: expectation VS reality! - Freepik Blog

All the ingredients are listed, you have the material, quantities are precise, every single step is detailed, and you seem to follow them patiently, in order. Yet, by the time you reach closure, the probability that it’s actually a success is often pretty low compared to your perceived efforts. A successful recipe takes time and experience, even with a clear set of data.

Cooking is not like lego-ing by the book. It’s alive and subject to our interpretation.

Seed Recipe

Seed funding is like cooking with infinite uncertainty compared to a Soufflé Grand Marnier.

  • Multiple ingredients… Team, Market, Product, Strategy, Stage…

  • Sourced in high numbers from various locations;

  • Sorted out, selected, matched in a more or less structured way;

  • Cooked together in different ways, evolving as things move forward;

  • In an endless competition for validation & appreciation.

Chaos

It might sound like chaos to have those many attributes that compound together and to which high variability applies. But chaos is the law of nature while order is the dream of mankind (Henry Adams). It is malleable and seems to react pretty well with two things:

  • Principles, defined as a rule of action that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning. Principles don’t really care about the substance of things, they apply regardless. Chaos has no grip on principles. They act as guiding vectors for our decisions.

  • Horizon because it is a synonym of long term, and chaos can’t stand the test of time. A system will eventually get bored with chaos, the group dynamic will evolve into a certain order, whether it’s arguably a good one or not.

As much as Venture Capital could look like a recipe for disaster, it is also a recipe for singular, creative, new, successful outputs if the right principles are applied throughout a long term horizon.

Cooking

As guiding principles, know what you’re looking for if you don’t want to end up with a messy preparation, for instance…

  • What stages are you interested in ?

  • What type of companies are you looking to fund ?

  • What is the persona of the founders you are looking to back ?

It can sound very broad, but Venture Capital is also like playing a mix of naval battle and mastermind with ingredients. You process by elimination & selection and from there you refine, it’s actually a lot faster and easier than it looks to have a small bucket of hot deals.

The biases of appreciation, the timing and the competition are what make the final process of selection a bit more complex.

  • Biases because they can go against principles. As markers of singularity, biases can also be a great things to uniquely spot great companies…

  • Timing because it’s often slightly too soon or too late as a stage of development. It’s almost never the perfect time (Is there such a thing…)

  • Competition because it forces your hand, increasing the odds of making a decision based on the wrong factors and without all the information you would normally need to shoot.

Like the prince of pasta or the princess of soufflés, one way to maximize success is to go vertical like Point Nine, Sweet Capital or FJ Labs for instance. The great thing about (the best) specialists is that 1) people identify them better and 2) they are supposedly developing better skills, more in depth experience and an extended network within their area of focus, which is valuable for both the dealflow and the portfolio management.

This being said, even the most generalist investor is actually a specialist of some sort… Because their character defines their lens of appreciation for deals.

Brigade

There are a lot of moving pieces in Venture Capital. To deal with the uncertainty and the complexity of that sort of cooking, we must maximize the odds of success by increasing capacity and spreading capabilities. Said differently, investors must provide the means to a specialised crew for them to perform at the highest level.

Capacity is cash, we equip the kitchen with high performance equipments.

Capability is people, entrepreneurs must surround themselves with the best people.

The more investors help founders surround themselves with the best people, develop a stronger growth mindset and adjust gears in order to perform, the more likely they will succeed, if given the means.

Timing

The final element of a great cooking recipe is timing. If your guests aren’t present when your meal is hot, you’ve cooked for nothing. If your preparation stays too long in the oven, regardless everything you’ve done before, there is not turning back, it’s over.

Timing is a prescient element, it applies to hires, to fundraising, to go-to market, to product roadmap, it’s a success factor or a killer of efforts.

Epilogue

Venture Capital is an attempt to find a path through a chaos of creativity & creation in a kitchen full of possibilities. Once principles are set and the horizon is long, our senses are set to detect signals that will forge our conviction.

For me, the most extraordinary feeling is when a team of founders strikes that chord in me that resonate both as obvious and genius.

It’s not how they envision the solution of a problem but how they understand the opportunity and their process of delivering the right solution, beautifully, quickly, to their users. There is often a before and an after moment.

DICE.FM for Live Entertainment, NABLA.COM for Consumer Health, SWEEP.NET for Environmental Change.

Self-esteem beats perfection

This is a short request for startups :)

I find disappointing the cognitive hooks of applications around sport, nutrition, and more generally anything around learning and training. They allow us to define milestones, to progress step by step, to share our journey with others, but are they really grounded to the reality of our life ? Maybe yours, but not mine.

  • Expectations create pressure.

  • Routines are subject to external events.

  • Constraints can be painful at times.

  • Habits require a constant effort of discipline and consistence.

Perfection is the enemy of the good. And even though good isn’t good enough sometimes, our attempts to reach perfection are actually deteriorating our self-esteem and consequently our ability to be happy.

It’s still a reflection in progress, but I would love to see more applications built around the honourable aspects of our self-esteem with a system of records that takes failures into account in a moderate way.

It’s not a fatality to sometimes let go and it’s through failures that we learn. Those two aspects are part of our growth journey.

With Kima Ventures, we are engaging with more and more entrepreneurs taking those aspects into account with purpose and authenticity and would love to see more of them :)

You have tout compris

How to beef up your Internet connection in wild areas :)

https://www.universfreebox.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/restecheztoi.jpg

If like me you have “tout compris” (understand it all), Free.fr is your Internet provider.

But if you’re in the countryside, with no fiber and a poor wired connection, there is not much you can do about it, regardless the operator. That is why some of them will allow you to get an unlimited 4G plan to compensate this lack of regular access, but it doesn’t solve a couple of issue:

  • How good is your signal inside your apartment/house

  • How fast is it, especially when everyone is using the same connection

As a subscriber of Free.fr, you can couple your susbcription with a maximum of 4 mobile lines. It will only cost you 15.99€ per line for an unlimited plan, free of fair use ! Every single mobile operator will limit your mobile bandwidth once you reach the limit of your plan, the highest and cheapest being 100Go with Free. This limitation disappears with Free if you’re also a Freebox customer. Get your sim card straight from a vending machine in less than a minute… Find one here: https://www.free.fr/boutiques/bornes-free. And then, all you need is the right equipments:

  • At least a 4G Router

I have found this Huawei 4G Router very reliable, even without an external 4G Antenna. It’s not the cheapest option but surely one if not the most reliable one. https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B07L556QXK/

  • A 4G Antenna if you want to maximize the signal

Find where the nearest 4G antenna is (https://www.antennesmobiles.fr/) and install your antenna accordingly in order to maximize the signal. https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B01E7CWNSI/

  • A Loadbalancer if you want to use several 4G routers at once :)

This is the fun part. If like me you have 3 routers with 3 different sim cards, you can connect them to a loadbalancer in order to distribute the bandwidth throughout one single point of exit. https://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/B074GK47KF - This model will increase the security of your network and allow you to set various parameters to dispatch the bandwidth.

  • A Mesh network to cover your entire apartment/house without a glitch

To cover a large area with a very stable solution that includes WiFi 6, I recommend the ORBI from Netgear (https://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/B081SF349N/) and if you want a very robust solution for a cheap price, I recommend the Xiaomi AX1800 that you can get on Ali Express.

  • A wireless 4G Router if you need Internet on the go

Finally, if you want a wireless 4G Router when you’re on the move, get a Netgear nighthawk 2 or a Huawei E5785-92c.

A lot of people have asked me the past few months how to beef up their internet connection in order to reduce the frustration of a freezing zoom call or a degraged movie on netflix.

I understand that this solution doesn’t come cheap if you go all in. However, once you have supported the initial equipment (the 4G router only will cost you about 200€ and 3 Xiaomi AX1800 a total of 200€ as well), the cost for an unlimited 4G plan is only 15.99€.

Enjoy the speed :)

Under The Hood Of Kima Ventures

Xavier shared with me recently the excellent piece of Fabrice Grinda about FJ Labs Investment Strategy. As an echo, I wanted to publish a post about Kima Ventures.

Kima is the Angel Investment Arm of Xavier Niel, the owner of Iliad, Station F and 42. We are a team of three people (Alexis Robert, Jeanne Cluset and Myself), acting as a proxy of Xavier to invest in 100 new deals per year.

Xavier Niel

Xavier has been investing for more than 20 years in startups. However, it’s in 2010 that he decided to become the most active business angel in the world. I believe it is true with close to 1,000 investments to date.

You can read about Xavier on Wikipedia of course, but I think it’s interesting to understand the character beyond some facts. He is one of the most respected entrepreneurs of his generation in France and Europe. One thing that strikes people when they meet with him is how nice and approachable he is. He is genuinely interested in your story, listen to you, ask relevant questions and make sound comments. Despite his natural aura that comes with his stature, he is always trying to make people comfortable around him, surrounding himself with young ambitious profiles and always trying to learn from younger generations. Kima Ventures, in a way, serves this purpose as well. Another fascinating aspect is how responsive he is. If Flash was playing against Xavier to answer emails, he would definitely lose. Whenever I am in front of an audience, I give Xavier’s email to someone without a single instruction and bet anything that he will reply within 2 hours. I have never let Xavier know about that little game, and he has always replied within 2 hours. Note that he receives more than a thousand emails per day and answers personally to every single one of them.

When people ask us what it takes to work with Xavier, the answer is simple: be nice, be efficient, be honest. Take it from there.

Strategy

In 2010, when Kima Ventures started, it was about investing all over the world in any sector and nationality up to $150k seed checks in up to 100 new deals per year. Of course, the landscape has changed over the years as it always does and we had to adapt our strategy.

Back in the days, in 2011 and 2012, we had access to deals like Carta and Transferwise. Not anymore since the distance in space and time between founders and funders has decreased tremendously. Founders raise more money, quicker, and closer to them. It’s one of the many things that has changed in just 10 little years.

With more and more french entrepreneurs and more concentrated networks of founders and funders everywhere, we had to narrow our strategy and decided a couple of years ago to focus on funding French founders in tech almost exclusively, all over the world.

Also, let’s be honest about another thing, it’s more challenging to build a sense of community or belonging with a portfolio from many nationalities, dispatched all over the world.

Dealflow & Investment

With Kima Ventures, we invest around $150k from pre-seed to series A in 100 new startups per year, only once per company.

It would send too much signal to invest during following rounds in some companies and not others. Also, like a date, it’s easy to say yes or no the first time, it’s trickier the second time, and we don’t want to leave bitter sweet impressions to entrepreneurs who have chosen to work with us.

For those who wonder where our dealflow come from, mostly from our network of founders and co-investors, but also more and more from our in-house tool for deal sourcing. The necessity to build this tool was that companies raise money so fast that we must detect them as soon as possible and not wait for someone to talk about them.

Also, in order to stay alert and see what’s happening in the market, we have a tinder for dealflow that allow us to screen what’s happening on product hunt and several media sources.

In total, we source somewhere around 200 to 300 deals per week.

Kima is a fascinating venture for our team! Whenever we speak with a founding team who share passion, ambition, obsession, resilience, talent… We wonder what could possibly go right; and if we believe there is a match between a market opportunity and a team that we like, we go for it! It takes probably 30 minutes to decide whether or not we want to invest.

The size of the rounds getting bigger and bigger, we tend to be followers, but when a founder requires from us to lead their round, we happily do it.

Regarding the exits, we aim to stay for as long as possible, we have no exit horizon whatsoever. Also, we have noticed that our best performing companies often go from 0 to 1 in 5 to 7 years, and then double their valuation after 2 to 3 years and again in the following 12 to 18 months. Therefore, the longer the better.

Note that we only work with the law firm of the company and take no lawyers on our side (zero fees the past five years). We try to be as efficient as possible in order to close with simple terms in no time, so that entrepreneurs can focus on what matter.

Portfolio management

We are a pretty small team to deal with new opportunities, make deals and manage a portfolio of close to 900 companies. We don’t make false promises. We are a joker in the hands of the founders that they will never regret. Our job is to be efficiently instrumental, to maximize our impact by the minute, not to brainstorm for hours. If we don’t know, we either connect our founders with the right people in our network or we stay silent.

We learn so many things from our interactions with the founders and their reports. It allows us to build a machine of reflections to better assess new opportunities and also share insights with entrepreneurs in a very concrete way, whenever it is possible. Just this week, you could ask the founders of Mojo, MWM, Athenian, Payfit, Unlock, Imparfaite, DICE or letsdeel.com…

We don’t try to sound smart or to brainstorm, we share what we’ve observed and we let them grab what could be useful to them.

  • You tell us about your OKR, we will share with you that every single company took three quarters to nail them and that the process of running OKR matter more than the OKR themselves. We will emphasise the critical importance of the weekly reviews to measure progress.

  • You share your deck for your next round of funding, we will get back to you with a 10 minutes Loom review full of feedbacks and impressions.

  • You wonder how to step up your game as a CEO, we will introduce you to an instrumental coach.

On top of that, founders access to our portfolio management platform, payitforward.vc, from which they are able to…

  • Benefit from perks;

  • Ask questions to the community;

  • Share one-to-many resources (resume, office space…) on various channels;

  • Require introductions to services providers or portfolio companies.

If you want more info about how things work at Kima Ventures, this post is still accurate in many ways

Performance

People say that a decent performance comes from doubling down on the winners. We have two periods of investments. 2010 - mid 2015 when Jeremie Berrebi was in charge of Kima Ventures / mid 2015 onwards when the new team took over. The total invested is 110M€. We must say that the returns are pretty steady so far.

Also, from mid 2015 onwards, our IRR on realised investments is 59.4%, and 29.2% on unrealised investments.

Things to come…

We have built a software in order to share our committed deals with other business angels and venture firms but the process could be improved.

We are still fine-tuning how slack and whyse can become instrumental tools for peer learning and support.

And of course we are open to any suggestion from anyone to beef up our game and we are likely answering any questions as well :) We thrive for new challenges !

👻 Fight 💥

Watch The Great Fight | Prime Video

I have a big mouth when it comes to call out offensive or poor behaviours in the venture capital industry. People rightfully complain about that. it’s a valid comment to say that it’s probably too much. My unacceptable excuse is that I compensate for the colluding hypocrisy of some people in our industry.

I don’t care, I do this job for the founders, not the investors. It has never been about the money. The investment enables the relationship, but I would still do this job of supporting entrepreneurs without it.

Let’s take off the pink glasses, I don’t live in a yes world. I like to pick fights for two reasons: The first one is to defend someone who is suffering from a disrespectful and hurtful behaviour. The second one is to get into a constructive conflict during which I intend to potentially change my opinion/perception of things.

If you are in the first category and suddenly decide to engage with me into the latter, I will reject it, as someone shall first make amend for their mistakes with rightful intentions, and attempt to clean-up their mess.

I hate hypocrisy.

As I said to an investor yesterday over email yesterday… “If we are not aligned in the way we conduct business, it’s useless. If at one point in the future, we are aligned, let’s collaborate. For now, let us stop there.

And more recently over Whatsapp to a Partner at one of the top venture capital firms in the US who was fishing for deals the week before in Europe: “Disappointed by your silence regarding this deal. It's not the output that matters the most, but how the situation could have been handled around the circumstances. I must say, quite poorly this time. Let's hope for better future collaborations.

Actions matter of course, but rightful intentions are the foundations. And it always translates in the way we do things from a behavioural standpoint.

Are you familiar with the notion of Growth Mindset ? In short, individuals tend to achieve more if they worry less about appearance and instead put more energy into learning, through hard work, strategy and input from others.

The latter is a matter of open-mindedness and rational compassion, which are respectively our ability to fully welcome the views from others, contemplating the possibility they might be right, and to put ourselves in their shoes, trying to understand their feelings.

Those elementary aspects for a fruitful discussion are only possible if the parties respect each others and have rightful intentions.

Many times, this is not the ground that is set during an argument or a conflict. People are masters when it comes to hide behind excuses of all sorts, run away from their responsibilities, deny their faults, or force their views.

I don’t think I can change how people behave. Sometimes, we speak our mind, call out wrongful behaviours with no impact, without the ability to provide a solution, and it is frustrating to feel powerless.

This post is for the ones who care and believe that they could do better in the way they engage with people in discussions, negotiations, conflicts.

It’s about positive honesty.

As for entrepreneurs, I advise you to read the two tomes of the five dysfunctions of a team from Patrick Lencioni in order to set the ground for a thriving organisation.

In the meantime, enjoy this late discovery…
I will share with the audience on radiochateau.live today !

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