Note to myself & other venture capitalists.
Most of the best investments are counter-intuitive at first if not totally out of the consensus. In Venture Capital, we’re dealing with 90% of uncertainty (at least) in which we put unreasonable faith and conviction on what we believe could possibly go right in a foreseeable future. Therefore, the only thing we can really count on is the clarity of vision and execution of the teams we decide to back.
Long story short, if you’re not in Venture Capital for the people, you got it all wrong.
This being said, it’s just not enough to be here and present, you must build a truthful relationship with the founders you back. With Kima Ventures, we aim at playing the fast good guys, acting as a joker in the hands of the founders, that we believe they will never regret and that hopefully will appear to be useful at some point.
However, when it comes to the very few Seed and Series A deals that we have led through this investment thesis, the purpose is different, we’re here to act alongside the founders and it’s our responsibility as active investors than to build the right kind of relationship with them in order to unleash their power into achieving some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. So what does it take?
We must get along with each others, share the same vision, ambition, values. Of course, it’s difficult to know for sure after just a couple of meetings how things will evolve over time, but to openly and honestly discuss personal or soft business matters around a drink or a meal allows to break the ice nicely.
Trust & Communication
The second thing to master is trust & communication. We’re building a relationship. It’s bound to last, which means that one should be able to tell each others everything, loud and clear. No misplaced egos nor unspoken matters should define our relationship.
Investors are biased by their own interests and the ones from their stakeholders. We should always put them aside for a minute to consider how the founders and the team, as a whole, are involved and affected by a given situation, in and for the best interest of the company.
We are the witnesses of many mistakes and best practices among the companies of our portfolio. It’s our job to observe things and learn how to reflect on them in order to help other founders access to the best resources, ask themselves the right questions, get the best out of any given situation.
The best decisions & actions always sound obvious afterwards. Yet it takes an incredible clarity of vision and execution to get there. The role of a venture capitalist is to provide an intelligible perspective that helps founders reflect on what they’re doing and where they’re heading to.
Great ambition comes with great responsibility. And only the founders and their team carry this commitment on their shoulders on a constant basis. That’s why investors should always try to respect and understand the founders’ wishes as well as to align them with the interests of the company.
Founders don’t always come naturally to their investors for help, being sucked up by the flow of their agenda. it’s our role to come forward, provoke the discussion and help them manage the relationship with their stakeholders.
Now, a little bit of history…
Over the past 30 months, we have backed as a lead shareholder six companies through this investment thesis: Zenly, Sourced, Ibanfirst, Side, Payfit, Forest.
You can’t imagine how proud and excited I am every time I mention one of those companies. To be part of their journey is something truly incredible.
I met with the founders of Zenly in January 2013, when they raised their Series A rounds in September 2015, it felt so right to me that they would go far and that we had to be part of their journey.
When I met with the founders of Payfit in may 2015, there was a genuine force and a lot of talent in every of their intention and action. As they were performing over the course of the following months, it was impossible to resist, we had to invest.
I was an intern in the very first company of Pierre-Antoine, the founder and CEO of Ibanfirst. It was in 2006. At the time, I told my wife that whatever company he would launch next, we should invest. It was Ibanfirst, 10 years later. He’s a pragmatic, ambitious, thoughtful entrepreneur, building a real fintech, not a finscam (fintech + scam) nor a feanture (feature more than fintech), far away from the startuplalaland game.
When Pierre told me that they were building the product that would empower a new work experience, it just sounded so obvious. Side is a product first company, a rare gem in the employment world. It was about time to provide them with the capital that would allow them to fuel their talent and ambition.
How lucky we have been to invest in Sourced. After a couple of hours passed with Eiso, I asked myself if the man was a fool, a scam or truly brilliant. The following days proved me it was the latter. We invested in may 2016 and the past 18 months have not only proved that the foreseeable future he was envisioning was real, but that Sourced was leading the way to own it.
Two years… It’s often what it takes to truly understand a complex environment and build a product that really start nailing it. Sandro is the founder of Forest, our most recent investment, and he‘s building the future of every admin panel, piece by piece.
Venture Capital is all about the people and we should never forget what it implies. It’s a profound responsibility even though we play a modest role into helping those entrepreneurs shape the future.
Money is just a mean, sometimes a consequence when things go well, but it should never be a cause nor a motive.
People first :)