Macro

Episode 29: Venture Capital Investing with Vikram Chander of Krewe Capital

Ben Lakoff, CFA
January 25, 2021
62
 MIN
Listen to this episode on your favorite platform!

Angel investing is often touted for very high returns. However, it is not easy.
This interview is with Vikram Chander who is the Founder & Managing Partner at Krewe Capital.

We shared an investments panel in early 2020 and I was fascinated by how well thought out his macro views were in addition to his great track record in VC / Angel Investing.

Vik talks about his experience with Angel investing and how to get involved with Angel Investing Syndicates – his favorite way of investing in startups.

Enjoy this conversation with Vik of Krewe Capital!

Listen on your Platform of choice:

Check out https://anchor.fm/investinalts for all the listening options (Spotify, Apple, etc.)

Show Notes

0:00:00   Welcome and context

0:02:07   What is your background?

0:08:16   Real estate in India and real estate in New Orleans

0:12:15   How did you become interested in Angel Investing?

0:14:50   What kind of investments do you look for?

0:18:51   Are you still actively Angel investing?

0:23:34   What key areas are most appealing to you on the angel investing startup scene?

0:27:40   Location independence

0:31:13   How angel investing through a syndicate works?

0:39:41   What’s the minimum investment value?

0:43:59   What advice would you give to people that want to get into angel investing?

0:47:07   What are your views on the macro global market at the moment?

0:52:56   What narrative you constantly hear and you disagree with?

0:56:15   How do you position your portfolio?

0:58:11   What are your top 3 sources of information?

1:02:25   Any books that you’ve read recently?

1:04:11   Where can people find out more about you?

Show Links

Episode #2

500 Startups

Krewe Capital

Jason Calacanis

Episode Transcript

Ben: [00:00:00] Welcome to the alt asset allocation podcast, exploring alternative investment opportunities available to the everyday investor. Here’s your host Ben Lakoff.

Hello. Welcome to the alt asset allocation podcast. Today’s interview is with Vic Chander. Angel investing is often touted for very high returns, Uber, for example, based on the IPO price of $45 a share.

It’s lower now would have netted you a cash return of 5,000 times. Your initial seed investment. I’d take that. However, it’s really not that easy. Here’s some stats. 90% of new startups fail. 75% of venture backed startups fail under 50% of businesses even make it to their fifth year. This interview is with Vikram Chander.

Who’s the founder and managing partner at crew capital. We shared an investment panel in early 2020. And I was fascinated by how, how well thought out his macro views were in addition to his great track record in VC and angel investing big talks about his experience with angel investing and how to get in involved with angel investing syndicates, which is his favorite way of investing in startups.

If you’re interested in angel investing, I’d encourage you to check out episode number two of investing with startups with. The we funder, they’re making it much, much easier for the ordinary investor to get involved with startups. Also, before you listen, please don’t forget to like, or subscribe to the podcast or even better leave a review.

This helps more people find the podcast and keeps this thing going. It really helps without further ado angel investing with Vic. Enjoy.

Good morning, everybody. I’m here with Vikram Chander, who is a startup enthusiast and investor. He’s the founder and managing partner at Krewe capital. Welcome Vikrum.

Thank you.

Vik: [00:01:54] Good to see you. Yeah. Likewise buddy. Honored to be one of your inaugural guests.

Ben: [00:01:58] Yeah, absolutely. you and I shared an investor panel a couple of months ago now, probably about three months ago. And I’ve always known you as an angel investor and Very much keeping on top of financial markets, but I was pretty impressed by the way that you, you had a very broad macro outlook on a number of different asset classes, in addition to, you know, angel investing and startups.

I’m really looking forward to this conversation going into a number of different topics. I wanted to start off today. Just a little background who you are and where you come from.

Vik: [00:02:36] Sure, absolutely. I am. Currently in my hometown of new Orleans, riding out this pandemic this moment in history, like everyone else.

But yeah, so originally from new Orleans my mom’s a social worker and a head start teacher. And that definitely informed a lot of my the way I view the world. And my dad was a civil engineer. So stuff you can imagine, he designs those oil rigs and bridges and heavy construction and industrial type stuff.

So. Pretty standard middle-class life here. Big, you know, the unique thing for me and it gave me kind of informed my world view is having a, you know, being an, being an immigrant, a first-generation in the United States and having a pretty big and extensive family who. For the most part, all of them have made it to the United States and have done quite well.

And they’ve done well in different industries, obviously this sort of stereotypical ones for, for Asian Americans medicine, law, but we have had some, you know, tech people as well, and they just caught their way with the right time. So despite being from new Orleans, pretty small market, I was able to see Just there’s a much bigger world out there.

So you know, went to undergrad at a tech university of Georgia tech. My first job and it’s actually very relevant right now was with the OCC, the office of the control of the currency, which does the oversight for national banks. And I was just a young pup out of school. Had no idea what I was doing, but that.

Actually, it was the sort of the access of the biggest things in our country leading up to the global financial crisis that has sort of in a way put us where we are, but it informed my view of the way money moves around the world and to think macro level. So that sort of was the impetus of where my interest in investing my interest in finance started.

But it also never fully felt like my world. I’m just a guy from new Orleans, you know what I mean? And so, but that kept me in the game. And then I ended up having to go through a pretty unusual event. Hurricane Katrina that almost happened immediately. One year into that job, I basically had to come back home and rebuild my parents’ house.

And then I got my foot into real estate and in real estate was one of the other Industries that was blossoming in the late two thousands. And had a lot of belt bubble like qualities, but any Orleans was much, it was a lot driven by three rebuilding of the city. So, you know, fast, you know, go back a decade.

We’re sitting in a very similar environment. It was a, it felt very Bubblicious financial assets, real estate assets. I’m excited for my future. I realized I need a little bit more training start applying to grad school and the kind of the world falls apart due to some of the indulgences let’s call it that of the biggest financial institutions in our country.

And it has a lot of similarity that it was like, my life came to a stop. A lot of people who lost their jobs I’ve came to a stop. Fortunate for me. I got into business school and I was in school from 2010, 2012 and was able to see how. The world as a whole kind of patched up this massive hole that was created, you know, and you quickly realized that self-policing of the financial system is exactly what you would get, you expect the results to sort of get.

And you know, I finished that. I graduated out of into a pretty Rocky. Economic environment jobs were limited. You sort of took what you got in 2012, but you could see the tea leaves that were going to have a nice fluid decade ahead. So most of my classmates were getting jobs, as opposed to when we got in, we were totally afraid that they wouldn’t be, you know a future for us, just like you kind of feels like that.

It does right now. I, I decided to go the more entrepreneurial route I went to. India where my parents are from. And my dad specifically had a, you know, was born into a a family that was a physician. His father was a physician, my grandfather, and he built a hospital. So that property was sitting there.

And because my dad was an only child, which is kind of unusual. We, and he came to United States. It was, we were left with sort of this reality of either we’re gonna lose this property. If no one goes in attends to it or Me essentially has to go back there and sort of sort this out. So that’s what I did.

So it was 2012, 2013, 14. I was bouncing back and forth between the States and India. And it was so much fun. I mean, they really gave me perspective. In 2015, we’re able to exit that. We repositioned it. We marketed for sale was sold it and I created a financial windfall. And then I became, you know, someone who watched the markets from a, from a, you know, kind of interest perspective, almost like a sport to actually being in the game.

And from then on, from 2015 to 2020, I have been dabbling in angel investing. And also investing into the financial markets you know, where we were on the backend of a pretty nice bull run. Things were getting very frothy and alive late, you know, late 2010, just a couple of years ago. And I was just riding that wave and kind of figuring out where my foot in the world would be.

So that’s sort of my story.

Ben: [00:07:55] Definitely. Awesome. I’m curious to dig in a bit, it sounded like you started dabbling in real estate, in new Orleans post hurricane Katrina, which was great timing I’m sure. And then also real estate in India. if you could please. Talk about, high level what are the differences of dealing with real estate in a place like India versus a place like the U S or specifically new Orleans?

Vik: [00:08:24] I have to preface this by saying they were shockingly similar because new Orleans post-Katrina banana Republic to begin with post the greatest Natural disaster in American history. It was even more banana Republic ish ironically the temperature and the humidity and the heat feels very similar as well.

So I was prepared in both circumstances for a lot of just frankly, headache and stress. And both presented both those realities. The only difference was I was probably a decade apart in age. And your willingness and the way you value your time changes as you get older. Correct. But I will definitely say that what I learned in new Orleans, sort of the frustrations, the lines, cause he couldn’t imagine post-Katrina everybody needs something done with their property.

There’s so many transactions happening. So there was just a lot of waiting. And in both circumstances, the properties that I worked on in new Orleans and the property that I was dealing with in India they had to be transferred ownership to somebody who could be a better steward to them, frankly.

So really I was in, in new Orleans specifically, I started by. Gut rehabbing free properties. One is still a rental property. I own. The next thing I did was I worked for developer and we did prefab housing offsite, and we redeveloped some of the mid market. You know, I would say B class commercial real estate in the city that had been flooded or destroyed because of Katrina.

And the long story short was we were getting it to a place and then carrying it over to an investor who could bring it to market and. Make the, you know, make the property as high as the best use. And my project in India was very similar. Obviously cultural differences, language barriers but just a lot of similarities.

I mean, the business makes you gives you fixed skin. And it is actually one of the things that, you know, created my interest in. The liquid financial markets and angel investing because real estate, as glamorous, it can be in is as lucrative as it can be. It comes with a lot of, lot of pain and heartache and just requires a lot of patience, you know, and, and, and nurturing.

But yeah, fortunately for me, both. You know, periods of my life, both projects and did successfully. And I was able to kind of get out of both markets right. When they were peaking.

Ben: [00:10:57] Nice. Well, that’s always good timing. Although as an investor, it’s always. Pretty bad at well, it’s, it’s tough. If you make big wins and your first couple of investments, then it kind of shapes the way that you invest going forward.

I’m curious, so liquid and base, it sounded like you got more interested in, but angel investing is a very illiquid investment with also lots of headaches. I’m curious how you balance those two because they’re very different.

Vik: [00:11:27] Well, let me, let me, I should probably back up and say the impetus or the interest in angel investing came out of those real estate experience.

It’s real estate, even though you can work with a team, it’s a very specifically, typically a smaller team. Your development team can be three or four people. Almost everybody else, your architects, your attorneys, your surveyors, et cetera, et cetera, are, are third parties. So you are typically in an office with two to three people and.

In my case, there were always always males. So it was, I was looking through the lens of the world through, you know, a very, you know, just a handful of eyes, you know, on my team. And when I finished that project in India, specifically, it really was so much self-driven. And when I finished that, I was like, I want to go.

And the exact opposite direction. I wasn’t thinking duration of investment. I was thinking of return on investment in time. And I was thinking about in terms of relationships, friendships You know, working with a team that’s going to grow and scale fast, all those human dynamics that, that, that makes startups a little bit Rocky and dysfunctional for me, I was craving that having worked on, you know, projects, you know, like I said, in a very small team or just by myself, self-directed I love the fact that, you know, when I finished the project in India, we were, I was entering a world where.

You know, it was pretty easy to get funded at a startup and, and it was easy to kind of hire and market for positions. People were willing, the young people were willing to take a chance on a startup in return for equity or just to be work on a product that they’re passionate about. And that energy drew me in.

So I wasn’t thinking about whole period of my dollars investment dollars. I was thinking of What kind of ROI would like it? As far as the people I would meet the community, I’ll create an, a network, frankly, that I will build from scratch because I’d spent so much time abroad. So that’s what brought me into the startup world.

Ben: [00:13:29] Awesome. Just to dig in a little bit deeper about startup investing, angel investing. I mean, what is kind of your overall investment thesis? What kind of investments do you look for? How do you find them? If you could just expand on those things?

Vik: [00:13:46] Right. So I would say that it’s. This has been dramatically shifted in the last several months.

Naturally, I think COVID is an absolute accelerant game-changer and brick wall for certain industries. And I don’t think of startup startups as a whole, as an industry, but I do think that some of the things that I was looking at, the deal flow, I was just evaluating just a handful of mine. I just think you’re like dead on arrival.

You know, so and you feel for everyone of those founders and teams, but you just, you know, when there’s a crisis, you have to kind of triage the most important things and Trends get created and consumer behavior changes rapidly and it can stay that way for a very long time. So for me, my, you know, Maya observation was, is that I I’m San Francisco in 2015.

And I was there 2016, 17. One of my best friends in business school was working at 500 startups. So that was my first introduction. I mean, firearms Arps is obviously a very well known incubator accelerator and, you know, they make. Pretty generous investments into a large group of startups. So I was able to sort of see and get access to deals very early, but I also had that sort of East coast.

View slash reality of also working in real estate that I wanted to see like a XL for forma, with like a handful of tabs, you know, the PowerPoint alone and a five minute elevator pitch or Wyman. Pedro pitch was never enough for me, but it gave me, you know, you could see the way the world was trending.

You could see what You could see how the youth was looking at the future. So I actually was pretty stingy with my investments in the beginning because I had this huge amount of skepticism I had been through you know, a couple of crisises, you know, like I’ve been through Katrina, I’ve been through the global financial crisis.

And I, that was like but I was very fascinated too. And I was, I was, I was proven wrong many, many times about how quickly Startups and young teams can create a community frankly now, loyal community. So my thesis has always been if I can’t add value through my investment dollars, but I find the team or the founder, interesting.

Stay engaged, help them anywhere. I possibly can introduce them to my network, send them a podcast episode three months down the line that might be relatable. And I achieved the third of my three objectives, which is I created a network and a community that I always wanted and I have one in the West coast now.

And when I moved to New York city in 2018, I did the same thing and I created one in New York. And you know, I’ve heard from a lot of them in the last four months, mostly like the cave Vic. What would you do? You know, Or are you still investing? And frankly like a lot of my priority in the last couple of months has been moved to my portfolio, which was, you know, actively managed in the market and the market has been very volatile.

So I have been giving people more you know, moral support and helping them thinking about maybe consolidating or even Ways to unwind some of their positions, some of their strategies. So I think we have to, you know, we’re, we’re entering a period of at least I think another 12 to 18 months of uncertainty.

So you, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s cut and survive as much as possible, you know?

Ben: [00:17:17] Yeah, that makes sense. are you still actively angel investing right now or it sounds like it’s more scaled back.

Vik: [00:17:23] Yeah. And, and I think I’m, you know, I think investing is, is very broad. So deal flow. Hasn’t actually reduced for me.

It’s gone up, I mean, I’m part of two or three syndicates. I’m a part of a syndicated with Jason Calacanis. So I get two deals a week from that. The benefit of that is they’re doing, doing demo days virtually. So I literally do not feel like I’m missing out by not being in New York or San Francisco right now.

I have deal flow from a, my alumni university. Like I’m part of the Georgetown, you know angel community and deal flow. Hasn’t come down from that either. So, but what I, what I have, what I have been thinking about is duration now. Because there is a cost of capital. Now there is an opportunity cost.

When you have private, we start when you have public companies like Amazon or zoom going up 30% in a month. I mean, that’s, that’s a pretty decent return on investment on an angel investment. Like, let’s be honest, like most of them are going to bust some will a hundred X and the likelihood of you getting to that one, those ones are pretty low.

So if you get a five bagger or a 10 bagger. That is sort of the numbers I was looking for for a startup to achieve in five years, 10 years. Yeah.

Ben: [00:18:40] You can get it expected to be locked up for that whole time. Right. To have put a day the whole time. It’s a game changer.

Vik: [00:18:47] You can get that in Hertz, you know, three hours.

Oh God, please. No. Yeah, no, but the point is, is that it just, you know, I’m not, I just, you know, I’m not at the place right now where I I have to be a little bit practical. You know, so what I do is, you know I allocate a day, half a day, a week to go through those pitch decks and maybe one out of 10, I re I loop back to them and I say, listen, let’s have a conversation.

Let’s do a Skype call. As soon as zoom call, I want to learn more. Whereas, whereas, you know, not, not, not more than six months ago, it was like, I need to get in this right away or it’s going to be over subscribed. That’s how quickly the world has changed. You know, I now feel like I have to leverage, I can tell them, Hey, wait a week, you know, wait two weeks.

And so that’s sort of where I am right now. And I certainly, my intention is to get back into it. When we have a little bit more clarity on the world, you know, the ones who are positioning and setting themselves up or already we’re in the space to benefit from this work from home. Environment. I mean, I, I am actually, I am I, what we saw in 2010, 2020, I think we’ll see that two X, three X, you know, the pace of technology is not slowing down.

The problems the world is not, you know, they’re escalating, so that’s just, all these things are making it right for. Rapid rapid growth in the startup ecosystem. In my opinion,

Ben: [00:20:19] it sounds like you have a good amount of deal flow. Most of that’s coming through the syndicates you’re involved and the alumni network.

Do you also get cold email pitches every once in a while? These sorts of things

Vik: [00:20:29] I do, and I wouldn’t call them cold. They come through, you know, it comes through a network. I have. You know, after business school and my friends went into this dark space or they went into frankly they’re asset allocators.

And if you’re an asset allocator in the last, you know, say 2015, 2020, almost everyone had a portion allocated to angel investing. So in a weird way, I have these like professional screeners out there. So when I get a cold email, it’s usually coming from, you know, one degree or two degrees separation from me and actually have a lot of confidence in, in, in the cold emails I get, because it’s usually like, Hey, Vick, I got your email from your friend, your friend, you know, X or Y.

And that tells me like, okay, it’s worth checking this one out. So am I actively hunting as much as I was in 2015 and 2016? I’m not, but circumstances have changed, you know, and you have to sort of you know, my brand is still, you know, my brand, my, you know, my professional ambitions are definitely being informed on what’s happening in the world.

So I’m being flexible because I think you have to be flexible during this time.

Ben: [00:21:40] Absolutely. I’d be curious. You’re it sounds like you’re seeing a lot of different pitches and startups and different categories. These are spread out across a number of different industries. What key themes or macro views do you have?

What kind of. Types of startups are most interesting for you at this point. And obviously this is being recorded during COVID time. maybe it’s changed over the last couple months, but what, what key areas spike your interest the most within the startup angel investing scene?

Vik: [00:22:16] So I, I, I think, you know, we started off the conversation talking about that.

I’m the founder and managing director of crew capital crew capital is, is, is something I created. And that crew part of the capital is in new Orleans. We have what’s, we have these, we have the tradition of Mardi Gras and we have these tribes, these, these, these community, and we call them crews. And it’s sort of like kin it’s your people.

You know, and and it’s not it’s not an offensive term and it’s not a device, you know, it’s just, it’s like, Hey, that’s part of my, they’re my crew. You know, we kind of, you can think of that’s like playground talk, but it’s it’s K R E w E. So for me when I got into sort of the space angel investing, I realized that I wouldn’t have to like, read it down, come up with a thesis or come up with a, a space that I enjoy because the deal flow was overwhelming.

So the crew part of the crew capital is I, I love startups that have to either they have to do with community creating community that create, you know, things that create joy things that can go viral fast, frankly, you know And I mean, I think the biggest and most notable example in the last, like two years, it’s probably Tik TOK.

Right. And that would be a dream to be in that one originally. But you know, I always turned into things that were people were taking advantage of our changing relationship with technology and our changing relationship with our work habits. We are obviously spending way more time on our phone.

We are now connecting virtually. So I see those trends actually not changing, but accelerating you know, the founder or the co-founder of Twitch actually went into my high school. And, you know, if you told me gaming 10 years ago was going to be. So important that if Twitch went down, you know, for 24 hours, people would just like, you know, lose their mind or they lose their accounts.

So you know, it’s, it’s catching the way that we are interacting and engaging. And creating friendship and meaning in our life. So those are the trends I like now there’s many, many, many trends happening right now. And, and, and, and headwinds for work from home headwinds for SAS, head foot headwinds for I’m sorry, tailwinds for SAS tailwind for a working home.

And you can come up with little niches and thesis is around each, but for me, I’ve always, you know, focused on Founders and teams that can get people really passionate about meeting in person or meeting virtually. So that’s what I, the space I like to work in now, charging for things is, is a, is another subject, you know?

But I, I, you know, as much as much flag has to be worked on, I’ve always been, I mean, I was a huge fan of it. I think they fundamentally changed the way people thinking of think about work and, and maybe it will have an opportunity to kind of. Re-entered the space and, you know, you know, but one thing that’s undeniable is that almost all of us have been into a, we work, you know, we’ve connected over, we work, we’ve chosen to work or do a coffee meeting or whatever at a, we work over a coffee shop.

And that’s something that I’m really curious about is how we. Connect in the workplace and exchange ideas going forward.

Ben: [00:25:33] Yeah. It’s wild to see how quickly the rest of the world kind of accelerated. We’ve been working remotely and then these these communities of, location, independent workers for a number of years.

And it’s crazy now, just being out in California, I’m meeting people from New York. now say that while I can work from anywhere sort of. Mentality, that we’ve been saying for years and it’s, it’s crazy to see the rest of the world catching up with this. Wait, you mean I can actually work just as efficiently from anywhere in the world.

And it’s interesting to think through the longer term implications. So do people start leaving cities in mass? Do they start going to foreign countries where the much lower cost of living? these trends that have kind of started within this. Location, independent digital nomad world now rippling out into the broader society.

I think it’s very interesting. And, and your thesis with crews and communities becomes also important in that, in that aspect.

Vik: [00:26:35] It’s very interesting. It’s very, it’s very, we should put this on a table that it, it is it is very much a privilege and a luxury that, that. You know, a few of us or handful of us have, but the, you know, had before and a lot more people are coming under the fold, but it certainly is a, is it a privilege that comes with the pros and cons?

But it is a trend. It is a shift. It is a, it is a, it is a drug, frankly, that once you experience, it’s so hard to go back as you and I both know. Right. So The opportunity and it is an instant infancy. And I think the unique aspect is, is that we now have some very well paid employees of some very well-known brands in companies, some of the biggest in the world.

I, you know how said that their employees may be working remotely for another 12 months

Ben: [00:27:32] until there’s a cure, right? I mean, some have publicly said that, which is God knows when.

Vik: [00:27:38] For sure. So the, the ripple effect in the commercial real estate, the ripple effect in residential real estate there will be a lot of opportunity and work for people who are willing to put their head down and fix or tackle or where I, these waves, these ripples that are going to be coming out of, you know, so I’m actually ultimately optimistic.

I think it’s going to create a ton of Opportunity. And just to frankly, a new reality that we’re all gonna, you know you know, Get to experience.

Ben: [00:28:11] Oh yeah. it’s exciting for the workers that now are location. Independent can work from anywhere, but it also should be very terrifying because me expecting a salary here.

Well, now they can hire my position and I don’t have to be in this position in this location so they can hire from anywhere in the world at this point. Well, my salary here. There, there is a ton of people willing to do it at here or even here or here or here. And they can do just as good of job as me.

And if I don’t have to be, if it’s not location dependent, then suddenly the smorgasbord of available options for that position get very large. it gets a little terrifying as well. I’d be curious to jump into, it sounds like a lot of your angel investments you do through syndicates. if you could walk me listeners through how, if syndicate works kind of the nuts and bolts of how this process works of investing in an angel investor meant through a cynic.

Vik: [00:29:14] Sure. Absolutely. So just, just to be clear, I mean, this is all relatively speaking. If you look at the duration of time and we think about financial markets investing in startups, angel investing is you could, you could say it’s, it’s, it’s pretty much in its infancy. You know, it started maybe less than a decade ago.

I think for me, it, I think it really just took off when angel list was founded. Angel list is sort of a almost like a Reddit, a Craigslist, a forum, a, you know, a meeting place for startups, founders, people looking for jobs and investors with the very basic and clean UI. It, it is the, you know, it is the LinkedIn for the startup community, frankly, as far as I look at it.

So it. The beauty of that is you could be sitting anywhere in the world, Kansas, you know, Alaska doesn’t matter, you can sort of see who’s hiring what jobs are out there and trends. And, and frankly, it was a way to democratize angel investing angel investing. Typically the rule state is that an investor has to be accredited, so they have to have a purse, you know, personal.

Milestones, either a salary or a liquid net worth. And fortunately for me, I qualified for that. So when I initially did, when I started on angel list, you know, and you know, I said, Hey, I’m. Blah, blah blah. At Cru capital, I’m an investor startup enthusiasts. And within 24 hours, I was getting emails like, Hey, do you want to get my pitch deck?

Hey, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We’re doing this, we’re doing that. Can I have a minute of your time? And I literally took every phone call. And then when I was San Francisco, I was able to do a lot of them in person. And it was incredibly informative, but one thing that informed me was that there was literally no barrier of entry to this space.

So I quickly realized that I’d be, you know, this game is about quality deal flow and just like anything in the world, the good stuff gets gobbled up quick. Right. So I. Was like either I step out now cause it’s, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m a little bit too late to the game is going to take me a decade or half decade to build a network.

And do I really want to put in that time? And then the syndicate structure kind of came out and some of the more experienced, well healed investors in frankly silicone Valley were like, this is an amazing opportunity. I can do way more deals, take more way more shots on goal and put a fraction of my money if I get.

Enough qualified, qualified investors because there’s no shortage of the appetite of people who want to angel invest. I just have to get them under a structure that illegally allows me to kick them deals and take a small carry. If a deal was successful. And so once I learned of that structure, I felt like I fit the perfect almost textbook version, a textbook definition of what a an angel investor to be.

I’m enthusiastic about the space I qualify, you know, financially I have a little bit of have enough training to know what I’m doing. And once. I signed up to be a part of a syndicate. I have, I mean, I do love the space, so I, I mean, I, I genuinely will help any portfolio company. So for me, it was then, you know, once you get that step, you know, that, that far in the road you get on Angeles, you’ve discovered, you know, kind of how this space works.

You discover sort of salaries trends you can see without even having to Put too much effort that, you know, this there’s 15 meal delivery companies coming. Okay, that’s going to be a trend, you know? And then you find out who the players are. Who’s doing a lot of big deals. So in this particular case, I found a syndicate that I liked Jason Calacanis, he’s a well-known angel.

Prolific podcaster and just knowledge share. And I just resonated with him. I resonated with his East coast mentality and frankly, he’s just the beast. He’s doing two or three podcast episodes a day. He’s been boy, a pot of startups. And I just resonated with them. People resonate with different, you know, syndicate leads.

I resonated with him. I applied to join. I got in, it was a pretty brief interview. And since that day I get two to three deals kicked to me. And the way that works is I get a pitch deck, usually a link to a 15 minute to 30 minute pitch from the founder. And I can do it all in my pajamas from the comfort of my home or the comfort of my Airbnb in Bali.

You know what I mean? Which I’ve done both. And once you’re in that world, you get a magnitude of benefit. You don’t have to do a deal. Or you can do 25 over the course of a year. And the more shots on goal you have, the more shots you do more likely will you’ll hit, but the learning you get from being part of a syndicate and I’ve been in a cynic in long enough where I’ve seen some deals go from C to a, to B now where it builds confidence in you to take.

To take more shots.

Ben: [00:34:29] Yeah, it makes sense. it sounds like the biggest and Jason Calacanis he’s he’s big time, right? I mean, his Twitter handle is Jason. it’s been an early adopter of a lot of these things. I’ll link those, a link those in the show notes, I think it’s less syndicate.com. it sounds like the biggest benefits of joining a syndicate.

Like this is access to quality deal flow, right? They’re doing filtering they’re filtering out these. Beautiful website. They were, were sort of startups for you. So you, they knew, you know, they have a bit of quality and they pass some filter. Right.

Vik: [00:35:11] and then there’s, there’s, there’s actually several benefits.

And in this particular case in Jason syndicate he actually runs an incubator and an accelerator. So for him to make his minimum a hundred thousand investment and that’s his personal check. The company has to have come to the Bay area. At least they used to have to help come to the Bay area, spent six weeks with this team and gone through.

So you feel like, you know, that they’ve hit a certain threshold of you know, grooming, frankly. So not only does he read the pretty websites and we, the slick PowerPoint decks, he brings them, in-person make them go through this, you know, frankly dog and pony show, but. You know, makes them the best result you know, the best sort of you put it like the best way to kind of judge the future success of a, of a, of a company that, that early on is the ability of the founding team to convince the next round of investors.

And I feel Jason has a fantastic, and his team does a fantastic job of grooming that initial team. To go out for that, that process. The second thing is in this particular case, we are I’m part of the Slack channel and I’ve gotten together with investors in the syndicate. And multiple places around the country.

And Jason puts on about two or three events, you know, pre COVID in real time. And I’ve attended two of them and you can meet, you know, you can meet your, your colleagues or counterparties in different parts of the country and see what has attracted them to angel investing. And so I’ve created a, actually a pretty good investor network just through joining a syndicate.

Ben: [00:36:56] Nice. Yeah. I can see that definitely being, I mean, I network is everything right. I’m curious, what’s the minimum investment value into these startups and then what is the cost of, of going through a syndicate, such as this?

Vik: [00:37:12] Sure. So, and Jason, you know, Jason has, is really big on democratization, so he, you know, it’s hard for him.

I’m not quite sure off hand how many. Angels LPs are part of the fund right now, but it’s a very, very low bar. It’s two K minimum investment per deal. Typically the more popular deals get oversubscribed. So then it becomes almost like a waterfall mental method. So a minimum 5k or minimum 10 K if the deal becomes extremely popular, but literally two K’s the minimum.

I think that he takes almost a standard two 20 fund management and then Carrie fee. But I have to probably double check that, but it’s, it’s actually quite you know, to, to only comes into play once you make an investment, if that makes any sense. So there is no cost Until you write your first check into the syndicate.

And that becomes part of the money that the team is managing. So I get all this information, this community, this network this free learning from, you know, looking at startups and deals and power, you know, presentations and sort of you know, founder pitches virtually for free. So I, I think if you can get yourself into a civic, if you resonate with a syndicate lead and to have a pretty, you know, easy, low bar for membership, I say, do it.

If you love the space.

Ben: [00:38:49] And, and the quality we have deals. I mean, you kind of alluded this a little bit. But presumably the qualities are a lot better than something, you know, one of these crowdfunded startup websites where you can do a minimum of $50 like Republic or we funder, but what sort of valuations are you seeing on most of the startups going through?

What stage of the company, I mean, are they, pre-revenue, they’ve actually started to get a little bit of product market fit.

Vik: [00:39:16] Right, right. The one thing I, you know, again, this is where it’s really important to find your investment thesis, you know, your investment, you know, philosophy and aligns with. Your syndicate leads.

So I mentioned Jason’s from he’s from Brooklyn, New York. He is like, no, pre-revenue now pre-product. He wants to see 10 K five to 10 K MMR. Like, you know, he wants to see things that are off the ground. He wants to see a paying customer. Of course there’s exceptions, but he’s not that visionary. Like here here’s, here’s a million dollar check, go do what you want.

So, you know, but has that served. The syndicate, well, well, he’s done six or seven investments into quote unicorns calm.com, which is why, you know, hugely popular was the first deal done by the syndicate. Unfortunately, I wasn’t part of the syndicate then, but there’s been a handful of notable ones. Land to school.

Just ones that if I jot dropping names that I think the world will know about and not realize that, you know, they were baby, you know, baby companies, part of a syndicate almost never came into the, you know, came into reality. So I’ve seen pretty quality, you know, Gail flow. Good.

Ben: [00:40:41] last one on angel investing. It’s a fascinating space. What advice would you give to somebody? I mean, you’ve alluded to this in a bits within our conversation, but what kind of main advice would you give to somebody who wants to get started in angel investing?

Vik: [00:41:01] I would say,

Ben: [00:41:01] like, besides be an accredited investor,

Vik: [00:41:05] I think that one of the ways to rapidly, I mean, to become an accredited investor is what, listen, I think there’s things in the works.

That’s going to actually remove that barrier as well. So be patient, as far as that, I think, I think that is one route, you know Yeah, the opportunity to work for a startup do that, that ship has sailed. Get to know many as many startup founders as he possibly can and be as helpful as possible. It’s it’s never a smooth ride, right?

So you gotta be a therapist. You gotta be a coach and you frankly gotta be like a a low-level employee. If they’re, if they’re dealing with the question that you don’t have the answer of, it’s not like, Hey man, I can’t help you. Or Hey, Hey, you know, Hey I just, it’s not part of my domain. If they are a, you know, your, your, your classic founder, they have so many things that they’re working juggling, that you might be the person that has to kind of go out and find that for them.

So take that approach before you write your first chunk, because once you write your first check, you’re going to have to do that plus more. So kind of put on your you know, your, your critical thinking, your coach life, coach, your mom and dad hat. And if that’s part of your DNA, you know, apply that and see if it’s for you in the first place.

If you’re just starting out. I, I just think, you know, Unless you go, you’re like, you know, you got a credential, you went to one of these elite universities. You can get yourself to Silicon Valley or in New York city. And that’s going to maybe the way you had to do it. You know, that, that was one route.

I think, you know, I think going forward is just, like I said, getting on angel list, it’s free, you know, creating a website. Creating a company creating creating an investment thesis for yourself before you make an, a first investment. Like I did is a way to go. What passion, you know, what are you passionate about?

You passionate about renewable energy. You passionate about, I mean, you can just see the world’s changing, pick one of those niches and say, Hey, like, I may not have dollars to put behind something right now, but I have time, you know? And, and, and, and, and the sooner you pick a niche in the space the sooner you can, can find people who can kind of pull you in and find the, you know, into the, into the world of angel investing.

Ben: [00:43:34] Good stuff. I love it. Shifting gears a bit. it sounds like you really spend a lot of time monitoring and trying to understand the bigger pictures behind financial markets in general. these mega trends these things that are impacting the publicly traded markets. Perhaps share a bit of your macro view, kind of on global markets as they stand.

And this is being recorded the end of July, but something that’s, you know, will last a little bit longer than like in the next month sort of thing.

Vik: [00:44:07] Absolutely. But we did this why like a couple of months ago and the sky was falling. And if you would’ve told me where we are right now, as far as financial markets.

I would’ve thought you were talking about like 20, 25, you know, not five months who knew. Right. Right. And do we even have a free market system? You know, is this capitalism, are we living in sort of some sort of dystopian socialism for the rich or people who were at the investor class and, you know capitalism and free markets for the rest?

Yeah, I’m dealing with a lot right now, you know, from a, from a, from a moral standards, a lot of things happening in the world. A lot of things happening, fissures and problems and cracks that are happening in the United States that are getting exposed to a magnitude scale that I’ve never seen before.

And it’s actually, for me, it’s very, it’s very it’s very positive, you know you know, the, the amount of frankly, The sort of extent, the amount that the federal reserve and, and, and, and fiscal and monetary policy that’s happening across, you know, across the world, not just the United States, it’s, it’s like we get to see firsthand sort of a dry run at like modern monetary theory MMT.

We’re going to see literally what a universal, basic income, you know, things that we thought would bring down or, or dilute, or kind of just. Break our system. We were getting a dry run at it right now. And I think the reality is that, you know, the rich have done very right. Well, the investor class has done very well, and I’m actually very, very worried about inflation in certain aspects of the economy, specifically financial instruments and real estate, as you know, has an investor, someone who’s invested in real estate.

You get a cost basis once you buy a property and then you pass it on to your renters or your tenants, and that has made living in most American cities for your standard blue collar, you know, bartender, waitress, chef FedEx driver tasks. That’s almost too, too tall to bear, you know, and should it be that way?

So I am. I would say that we’re at a point where it’s not sustainable, so it’s going to have to be addressed and it’s going to be addressed pretty soon. You know, it doesn’t matter who wins the election. And this is taking a very like American in, in us centered viewpoint. But for me, ultimately, I am.

I am, you know, I’m, I’m positive. I feel like the world will, you know, I feel like I don’t look at my bottom line is I look as, as my, as my kin’s blunt, my crew’s bottom line, you know, and if, you know, I find that, I think that things are breaking. We might have policies that, you know, make certain aspects of economy grow a little bit slower.

If it brings more people into the fold, I’m perfectly happy with that. You know, I never got into investing too. Just create wealth indefinitely. It was to improve and solve, you know, saw problems, improve people’s conditions. Those are startups I always gravitate to. So I feel like we’re going to have a tremendous amount of opportunity right now, what I’m seeing in the short run.

And I’m seeing a lot of. You know, party politics and you know, fed backstopping of financial assets and I’m seeing frothy market. I’m seeing I’m seeing, you know, I’m seeing a lot of like gambling behavior. I’m seeing a lot of like, Foria, I have no idea where this is going. You know, and I’m also seeing Uber drivers who pick me up and say, Hey, Malik is, is hard.

Like we’re scared. You know what I mean? Like you’re my first pick of the day. It’s like 2:00 PM. You know what I mean? So for me, I’m looking at this event as, as something that might inform my, my role in the world. You know, I think I’ll always be an investor. I loved the Jim Rogers. I loved the most.

It’s like, you know, you know, investment biker. Like I love that story. But I am, I ultimately, I care about my like fellow humans and I feel like this might, you know, the world’s gonna present opportunities for me to back and support startups and companies and make investments that, you know, get the world to a more equitable place.

That’s what I’m excited about.

Ben: [00:48:41] Yeah. I’m curious. everything that’s happening right now, I mean, I just keep using the word unprecedented because it is in fact unprecedented, we don’t know this QE unlimited all of this stuff. Right. The stimulus printing. It’s just, just wild.

I’m curious if. What narrative do you consistently hear within the markets that you completely disagree with? I mean, right now it’s there, there’s a lot of people thinking about you know, sound money. there’s money flowing into gold, silver, and Bitcoin right now because of the eventual inflation in debasement of the dollar.

Is there any, any investment thesis that you consistently hear that you disagree with?

Vik: [00:49:25] There’s several the one. Okay. I’ll start with the one that I, I mean, you said it perfectly like we are, we are debating the currency. And it seems like there’s a race right now. It’s a two, two horse race between gold and Bitcoin.

And it’s like you know, and in, in, in, in their role Individually in an investor’s portfolio is goal two is golden insurance policy is gold, a hedge against a falling dollar is, is gold, a, a tool to, are we going to actually bartering gold and when all hell breaks loose. And then and, and in Bitcoin, which kind of more on a, on a.

On a, on a sort of accounting level. I understand that makes a whole lot of sense. And I’m a, you know, I’ve, I’ve a percentage of my portfolio in Bitcoin, but I’m an adoption level. You know, we, we all, ultimately we, we, we know that we trade dollars. We have the full weight of a U S government, you know, Behind our back, but we also transact and don’t, you know, in, in, in, in, in Fiat currency, because we can do debt instruments, we can write loans and you can do IOUs.

And as much as someone who’s been so like flabbergasted and discouraged about the basement and sort of what’s happening in financial assets. And so the way they’re being priced and sort of risk being eliminated because. Trillions of dollars can be literally thrown onto the, you know, thrown into this in the marketplace overnight.

I am all for a blockchain based system. I just don’t know when or how we’ll ever get to a place where it’s mass adopted and we can do contracts between me and you for services, goods, exchanges of property, whatever. I’m hopeful. And I’ve seen some extremely, extremely sharp, smart people saying, this is the moment.

Just wait and see, I’m guessing this the one I’m more I’m like I bought it. I don’t know why I bought it. You know, I dunno where my, where the price would have to go. Probably be like I’m out, up or down. You know what I mean? So it’s, it’s one where I’m I would say I have the biggest blind spot. Beyond that.

I mean, I was you know, the weather, the bears went out, the bowls went out. I have no clue. No. Is his Tesla overprice or underprice Avenue.

Ben: [00:52:04] And how are you positioning your portfolio accordingly?

Vik: [00:52:09] I’m thinking of a momentum strategy, frankly. I haven’t been playing the price volatility of a lot of these, you know, Robin hood stocks, for example.

But I think, I think the thing that everybody who it’s in sort of my age bracket with my amount of years of experience, we all were formally trained in business school to do a just kind of cashflow analysis to study historical PE ratios to kind of price the market as a whole and price and individual stock.

And all of us tried to do that in March and April. And we sat on our hands. We had weekends and the market just blew bias. Right. And some of the smartest people, the most people I respect the most are like, are saying they don’t know. So who am I to say? You know, the one thing I see is I see stocks, I’ve seen markets, I’m seeing investors favor, certain stocks, certain industries, And it’s just going and it’s ripping and it’s not slowing down.

So do I sit on the sideline and say, Hey, this is probably correctly, the cheaper expensive right now. I’m just riding that train, you know? And it’s been a learning experience for me. Cause I’m, I’m, I’m thinking that once it’s all settled, we will have to come up with new pricing mechanisms for this market.

But right now I, you know, I am joining the party, frankly. Cautiously, you know, and my hedges are in, are in Bitcoin gold and a large allocation of cash. Right now.

Ben: [00:53:47] Keep your finger on the pulse of a lot of these financial markets and startups. What are your top three sources of information to kind of stay on top of all of this stuff?

Vik: [00:53:59] Just listen to me. I think one of the, and I was a, a and I am a Spotify investor. I think, I think podcasts are phenomenal. I’ve been incredibly amazed at, you know, a market event can happen and two hours later there’s a long form hour and a half plus episode with one of those market participants. Hey, it’s like, or I can have a three minute soundbite on CNBC.

So for me, if you find positive podcasts that you resonate with where the host or the team can get on, you know, high level guests, you know, when real-time events are happening, kids subscribe. Your learning will go through the roof because it doesn’t matter if you have an MBA, doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or 60, the world is changing rapidly.

So we all have to kind of sit and learn, you know, sort of pay attention because we have no framework for, for a lot of the things that are happening. So it’s almost like a very democratic system. You follow the right people, listen to podcasts, listen, the right podcast. You know, the information is right.

It’s right out there. As far as have us, you know, I think, I think I do think that second kind of peg is my, my community and my network, you know have a community that is in multiple different spaces, have a community it’s, you know, in the startup world have a community that’s. Physicians, one of the most valuable thing for me is that I’ve have a lot of friends who are doctors and nurses.

My brother went to medical school, my a couple of best friends that, so I get to kind of hear their perspective on COVID the world, washing hands wearing masks. And I don’t, you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s just another, it’s just another, if you’re a young, another, like another. Reason that, you know, have a big and broad, diverse community.

So people in all different industries and fields, it doesn’t have to necessarily have informed the way you United us, but it can inform the way you think in a form arguments. So for me, it’s been podcast my immediate community. And, and just to add to that immediate community thing, if your life presents you the opportunity to travel, because you’ll make more friends from around the world, The world doesn’t think the way Americans think the world thinks in its own unique way, you know, and they value different things, you know?

And, and, and, and, you know, things are happening in Germany right now that are significant, important, you know, just as important as things are happening here in our, in our borders. So think high level. And I think the third one would be you know, just I’m informed a lot by my life experiences. And that just takes time.

You know, this is my third, second financial third financial crisis, I would suppose. I’ve been through a natural disaster. I’ve been, you know, I lived in India for two and a half years, so I perspective, you know, So it, it gives you a perspective that like your, your personal bank account go up or down, but you know, to the rest of the world are on unimaginably wealthy, you know?

So that’s, that’s the way I’ve been thinking as a kind of Ooh, answers. I mean, you know, read the news, read the wall street journal, you know, follow the right podcast, CNBC, you know, those kinds of things. If you’re in financial markets, if you’re in other things, you know, find, find the people who you, you know, have the credentials.

Or get the people, maybe they’re not credentialed, but they just are prolific and they get great guests and listen to them.

Ben: [00:57:46] I’m curious. Do you, have you read any books recently that have helped inform your macro view of financial markets or anything like that?

Vik: [00:57:56] No, but I have a whole list of them because they were getting recommended on every podcast.

I listen to you, right. I would say my, my thoughts on my thoughts on books right now are, are it’s good to have a store perspective, but like I was listening to a podcast and Mark Cuban just from yesterday. And he’s like, we’re, we’re living through in real time an M and MMT experiment, you know?

So what book is going to inform me on that? There’s so many books that said, if we did this. These events will transpire. Well, why not just sit and walk

Ben: [00:58:30] right. Theoretical too. Right.

Vik: [00:58:33] When I was in school a decade ago, when we saw what the federal reserve did to sort of QE one, QE, two QE, three stabilized the financial markets.

You know, I, we were told like this is a once in a lifetime event, the magnitude of what we’re doing in 2010 was never going to happen again. And here we are a decade ago and it’s tenfold. Right. So it’s not, how am I advocating, not reading books. I’m saying the amount of time it would take me to read one book.

I can knock out four or five podcasts, kind of actually just go out of my apartment and see what’s happening in the street as well. Just walking around and listening to your neighbors, listening to your, you know, people at your CVS, your store, take out, talk to you, Uber driver. Cause that’s, that is the real world, right?

What they’re experiencing, what they’re feeling, what they’re, you know, that is what’s happening, you

Ben: [00:59:25] know, very valid, well, Vi k how can my listeners find out more about you crew capital for where do you want me to send them?

Vik: [00:59:35] I mean, I’m, I’m on crew capital on Twitter. I, my Creek up at a website, I have a friendly, you know, dropdown say hello.

Instagram is just my name, age book is just my name. But yeah, just stay informed. I mean, I love to talk to smart people because they’re gonna inform people. The world was changing right in front of our eyes, you know? If you have an expertise in one particular field, I love to learn too, you know?

And so yeah, just reach out. I’m pretty easy.

Ben: [01:00:01] Awesome. I’ll link all those things in the show notes. Anything else for the listeners?

Vik: [01:00:06] Just keep your eyes open and be, you know, be, think long-term. I just think, you know, like, I think there’s think about the idea of, you know, return on, on your time beyond just dollars.

You know, friendships, relationships, community to me has always provided way more dividends and, and, and, and, and now frankly, with zoom and you know, you can put yourself in some really interesting eclectic communities. People around the world. You couldn’t travel before, while the travelers can travel right now.

So, you know, finagle your way into a zoom call with people who are interested, you know, into things that you thought you would be into, you know, take advantage of this time. We won’t have it again. And yeah, just stay positive. The world always comes back. It’s you know, it lands on his feet.

Ben: [01:00:55] Very wise words.

Hey, Vick. Really appreciate you coming on today. Thanks so much.

There you have it. Thank you for listening. Really appreciate your support. Show notes, transcript links, and more can be found on our [email protected] If you’d be so kind, please share this with anyone you think might be interested or get some value from this conversation.

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Happy investing.


Ben Lakoff is an entrepreneur and finance professional. He has developed strong global finance experience through 10 years of international assignments in the US, Brazil, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Czech Republic and through the award of his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification.