Alessandra and I met at 10 Downing St at the inaugural Founders of the Future event and she is one of the first members of the network whom I have had the pleasure of interviewing. We subsequently downgraded from Downing St to The Wolseley for breakfast for the interview (and forgot to take the selfie)! Alessandra has traversed the investment spectrum gaining experience in M&A, private equity and venture capital before founding her company Evermore – the new standard in bespoke nutrition. Fortuitously her two passions of health and science are some of the hottest tech trends and she is building a consumer brand in the intersection!
Favourite book I read all the time, so it’s difficult to choose! Last weekend I read Finite & Infinite Games by James Carse. It’s a philosophy text looking at our actions and seeing them as either finite, with a definite beginning and ending, or infinite. The theory behind finite and infinite games offers an interesting framework to think of a company’s long-term vision vs its short-term tactics and medium-term strategies. It applies to our own lives as well…
Necessary extravagance I love going to the sauna after a gym session!
Female inspiration in business Coco Chanel came from nowhere and never apologised for her ambitions. The society she lived in was very different from our own – yet, she built one of the most iconic brands out there. Chanel outlives her.
Top networking tip Be yourself and take time for meaningful interactions with people
Favourite tech company at the moment Slack – aside from using it with my team and finding it a good tool, I also think it is a company passionate about delighting users and with its own personality
You have experienced all levels of the investment paradigm – beginning at Goldman in TMT M&A, then at Blackstone in private equity rounding off with venture capital at Mosaic Ventures. What was your biggest learning from each tenure?
At Blackstone I learnt a lot of hard skills like data analysis, building financial models as well as requiring the discipline to be organised, structured and the power of just sheer hard work! I already started working as a kid, from setting up my resale business to teaching windsurf in summer. That’s always been a key part of my identity, so I got involved in start ups during my studies and even during my time in private equity. It taught me so much along the way – about myself and about the kind of company I want to build. Coping with chaos, learning all sorts of random skills every day, reading about everything and learning from other people… If you realise that world is for you, there’s no coming back! Coupling that with the training I had in M&A, private equity and venture capital gave me a good idea of the sectors I’m passionate about and how a company concretely looks like from setup to IPO stage.
What stood out to you when assessing early stage companies?
It comes down to the team, the market, the business model and the trends that are taking place over the short-, medium- and long-term. Companies might start tackling something very specific and then expand into a broader sector. You look for a specific go-to-market focus and an ambitious long-term vision at the same time, but the two also need to co-exist in a thoughtful, logical way. I personally believe that focus is key when launching any new product or service. In parallel, I think about the trends driving the sector in one, two, five, ten years. Hell, I love sci-fi and imagine it in 100 years from now too! There’s also an objective assessment of the company itself, its employees, its culture, the way they’re approaching the opportunity at hand and how they’re developing the strengths of their own business model.
Tell us all about Bright Mentors!
It’s a tech non-profit that I set up on the side while I was at Blackstone. I did it because I think we all have a responsibility to help inspire the next generation of STEM professionals. By bringing together technical talent and kids in secondary schools, I’ve also seen our mentors being enriched by teaching skills, talking about what they love about their jobs and observing their own impact. Since I had to teach myself most of what I know in CS and biotech, I firmly believe in practice before theory!
What is Evermore?
At Evermore, we’re building the brand for bespoke nutrition. We’re starting with the breakfast market, delivering personalised smoothies on a weekly subscription basis. Our customisation takes into account your current preferences, but also what you should actually be eating. That’s based on demographics, lifestyle and habits. Our products are meant to get “smarter” about your needs over each delivery. Eventually, we create a nutritional fingerprint that you can apply across our whole ecosystem.
Where did the inspiration come from and what is the evolution to date of the company?
We’re a mix between a lifestyle brand and a science company. These two areas, often unrelated, have always been my passion and are closely interrelated when building an end to end, vertically-integrated company. There’s so much that will change in the nutrition space. The consumer trends in the health and wellbeing market are really strong and in terms of science, I’ve witnessed what’s happening in biotech by being an angel investor in the space over several years. I think that the current developments in synthetic biology and cloud biology, along with the increase in accessibility and drop in cost for DNA / blood / microbiome testing, will result in a real revolution in life sciences over the next decades. It will bring a level of efficiency and accessibility which is comparable to what happened in computer science and the internet over the last decades. Currently, there’s a lack of reproducibility in biological experiments as well as a lack of protocols to work in a scalable way with biological complexity. This is starting to change. We’re bespoke and that’s part of our own brand identity & tone of voice, but it’s also something that will become increasingly relevant through scalable R&D and data analysis within precision nutrition.
What might surprise us about the health and wellbeing market?
The growth in health awareness touches every consumer vertical, from food & beverage to clothing & apparel. Beyond this, there’s also a shift in the type of consumer spend. Millennials like myself are much more focused on experiences, so what’s better than a cool and exclusive spinning class that gets you out of your comfort zone while also keeping you in shape? On the other side of the coin though, you have something much more profound going on. 72% of millennials feel like the public health system will fail them and are therefore particularly motivated to take care of themselves. This is mainly impacting immediate spending habits, which are actions perceived as more measurable than those taken over the medium- to long-term. The overall trends within healthy foods, fitness experiences, athletic clothing and quantified health are definitely here to stay.
What are the future ambitions?
Becoming the global brand that is synonymous with bespoke nutrition, both physically and digitally, and creating a company that sets standards by innovating all along the way. We’re starting with a clear focus – that goes for geography, product, distribution channels and digital presence. It’s important to be able to measure your activities and target your efforts to nail the initial business model, then expand from there. We want to have a blueprint and a strong understanding of our customers before starting to develop our long-term ecosystem, which is what’s the real game changer.
Women in Tech
What advice do you have for women looking to start their own business and raise capital?
I think it’s really important to spend time understanding what you’re passionate about and what drives you. By going through that process over time, you will understand whether you’re ready to commit for the long term. You should also build a genuine network around yourself. That goes for raising capital, but also for hiring and for advice on the many new things you’ll come across! Otherwise, there’s also lots of admin you’ll have to deal with. No rocket science, you just have to get on with it. Summing it up – know yourself, know your market and know people ready to help you get started. Bonus points for mixing a positive, can-do attitude with a thick skin and a clear mind.
What business support networks do you value?
I’m part of several networks for entrepreneurship here in the UK, in the US and globally. In the end though, it really comes down to genuine connections and building strong, long-lasting relationships.
What is your opinion on the women in tech conversation? How can we do better to attract and retain more women?
The topic is often controversial and it shouldn’t be leveraged just for the sake of headlines. We can all do something about it, but most importantly it’d be best to remove much of the fuss around it. Be spontaneous and take your chances! Charting unexplored territory is an adventure we can all be part of.
Tamara is the Founder and CTO of Mr & Mrs Smith! Yes – the luxury travel agent that you have spent hours trawling through daydreaming…procrastinating…imagining yourself on that beach! She founded the business 13 years ago with her then boyfriend James (now Husband)! It has evolved from a physical travel guidebook into a global online travel agent and Tamara is half of the team that manages its five offices and 120 people. Read on to discover her journey, her advice for female entrepreneurs and of course her top hotel picks!
Favourite hotel It’s like choosing a favourite child! My favourite hotel I went to last year was UXUA Casa in Brazil. The owner is the ex-creative director of Diesel and every single piece of furniture, light fitting etc. has been designed and crafted by him. You can just tell it is a passion project that is very special.
Dream place to visit So many on my list – Tokyo, the Himalayas, Nicaragua
Go to meeting spot I will meet anywhere where there is decent coffee!
Necessary Extravagance Hey Jo Leggings – never have I owned leggings so good (no baggy knees after flights)
Female inspiration in business I have three sources of inspiration:
My contemporaries – I have been fortunate enough to meet a small group of amazing women who all run their own businesses. We all support each other and they give me a huge sense of solidarity
My two really good girlfriends with whom I can just be myself
Strong women designers who I just admire infinitely because I cannot do what they do! Particularly Kit Kemp who designs the Firmdale Hotels and Judy Hutson who designs The Pig Hotels
Top networking tip Don’t try to put on a persona. Try and listen to the people who you are talking to.
There is a huge difference between listening whilst thinking about how you are going to reply and really listening to what someone is trying to tell you.
Can you tell us briefly about your background prior to founding Mr & Mrs Smith and what you gleaned from those experiences?
Straight out of university I was given a dream job to go to Brazil and launch an energy drink (largely because I spoke some Portuguese, was willing and probably quite cheap labour)! It was a watershed year; I learnt a bit about everything: how to create a business, how to initiate marketing, how to get a physical product from one country to another, production, distribution etc. At the end of the year the company ran out of cash so we had to come home but the whole experience not only taught me about business and getting stuck in, it also taught me that things are not forever. I came back to the UK and decided to work for some larger organisations to institutionalise my education a little. I also worked with my mother a little who has always been very entrepreneurial and runs an agency called The County Register.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today?
Well, my Father-in-law always says that
If it was easy everybody would be doing it
What has been your biggest challenge?
When we first launched with our travel guide book our biggest challenge was actually getting to know our end customers as our clients were the bookshops. We even put a little card in the book to solicit information and build a database! Of course the guide books was a dying industry and the internet was taking off so we pivoted from a book publisher to an online travel agent. Taking the leap to actually change the business was a huge challenge! Our challenges now are quite different…keeping the brand fresh, attracting a younger audience whilst still pleasing our core database who might have had families, managing global offices and motivating our team and keeping everyone pulling in the same direction.
What do you consider your greatest achievement, and what personal qualities do you attribute most to your success?
My greatest achievement is building my team – when you are in business it is all about the people who you work with and I love my team so much! I especially enjoy seeing the younger developers rise up through the ranks and become senior developers and witness them produce something they are proud of. I am delighted that we consistently push boundaries, stay innovative whilst retaining a no blame culture – just a great team environment!
Mr & Mrs Smith
Tell us about the inspiration, origins and evolution of Mr & Mrs Smith
Mr & Mrs Smith was born from frustration. When James (my husband/co-founder) and I were dating he would try to take me away for country weekends but we would end up bitterly disappointed again and again. But the inspiration has always also come from the hotels. There are these incredible places out there – Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bali where the architecture is jaw dropping is just one example! I love seeing hoteliers push the boundaries, create an environment where the small touches live long in your memory and who continue to inspire me. I never get bored of seeing new and innovative way of doing things.
You are the CTO. What does that role entail?
I run the team who make, create, fix and maintain the bookable websites… the blogs, the backend systems, the content management system, the rates and availability system plus all the integrations that we have with hotel central reservation systems and channel management tools.
Smith & Family was born as my husband James and I went on to have children. We realised that we were not prepared to drop our standards in terms of the hotels we wanted to go to. Just because you become a parent does not mean that for your evening meal you want to sit at a sticky table with squashed fish fingers under foot! There is a real market out there for families who want to stay in incredible places with their children.
Smith & Family is built on three pillars – it has to be great for kids, great for the adults and finally great for the family as a unit, because I find that as a working mum when I go on holiday with my children I actually want to spend time with them not dump them up in a kids club for the week! There are very few properties that tick all three of those boxes! So our biggest challenge with this brand extension is a supply constraint…they are out there but they are hard to find.
Sourcing your hotels sounds like a tough job! What does it take to be a Mr & Mrs Smith hotel?
SO many things – the way we curate is our gold dust!
It is all about the experience, so if you walk into a hotel and you feel like you are being treated like a number or just made to feel uncomfortable or that you should feel privileged to be in this environment – those feelings would discount that property for us. There are so many elements and touch points within a hotel that can affect that feeling as you walk in, down to the music levels, what type of music, the way the staff are dressed, the way they greet you, the way communal spaces are broken up etc. I always feel that a Mr & Mrs Smith hotel bedroom should make you feel excited as you walk through the door, and that you should feel an overwhelming urge to jump on the bed! But again – is the lighting really difficult to work out and overly technical, are the sheets a bit scratchy or Egyption cotton, is the bed big enough, can you fit two in a bath…
It is the sum of all of these things that make up the experience and make you feel special, whether you are travelling as a couple or as a family, that determines if it is a Mr & Mrs Smith hotel.
What is the vision for Mr & Mrs Smith and any other future ambitions?
Mr & Mrs Smith aims to be the absolute best guide to the best boutique hotels in the world.
In addition, last year we bought a small villa company so in 2016 we want to really get under the skin of that. We want to launch villas properly with a view of expanding the locations, going into cottages and perhaps developing our ski offering!
Women in Tech
How do you handle being a working mum – any advice for others?
My tip is not to be scared by people who look like they are managing everything and doing it brilliantly because I think that underneath it all we are all trying to do the best we can. I never feel like I do anything to 100% of my ability. When I am at work I miss my children, when I am with my children I think I should be doing some work – there is never a perfect balance. My advice would be don’t beat yourself up about it, just keep chipping away at it.
Who do you surround yourself with?
Positive people. I would advise you to remove those negative influences close to you as they are very very draining – often one does not realise what they are putting up with especially if they tend to see the best in people.
What advice can you offer women who are looking to start their own business?
I think women can sometimes get paralysed by the grandiose scale of what they want to embark on. I recommend thinking about it in smaller terms – just get to the first step, then overcome the next hurdle and continue to face each problem as it comes. If you had told me I was going to run a global, five office, 120 people business in the travel industry thirteen years ago I would have gone “What?!” But each step and success brings you more confidence.
I feel very fortunate to have met Francesca and now to be sharing her accumulated wisdom on Breakfast with Tiffany! Francesca currently works as an associate at Downing Ventures, moving into tech VC after starting out in a large advertising corporate, and is also incredibly passionate about increasing the diversity within VC. Have a scroll to read her thoughtful and perceptive account on transitioning into venture, her personal investment thesis and tips for female founders looking to raise finance!
Current Job Associate at Downing Ventures, a seed to series A VC fund, part of Downing LLP. Like most associates I focus on deal sourcing, portfolio support and reporting. We are an investment team of two in the Ventures team so there is always a huge amount to do, but I absolutely love it.
Go to meeting spot I haven’t found the perfect one yet. I’ve recently had a few ‘outdoor’ meetings where I have walked down to the river (two minutes from our office in Westminster), which has been a good way of getting to know someone in a slightly different way than sitting across from them in an office, staring at a pitch deck.
Favourite place in London Primrose Hill on a clear day or anywhere on the banks of the Thames.
Female inspiration in business So many. I’ve been lucky enough to have had several fantastic female bosses already so far and I look forward to being inspired by more. I think women who’ve broken down barriers in the tech/ venture world are particularly inspiring so people like Martha Lane Fox (now board member at Twitter amongst many other things), Brittany Gorevic (formerly of USV and now starting her own fund) and Ada Lovelace, one of the first computer programmers. Also my own mother who was the main breadwinner in our house.
Most interesting tech firm in London right now There are so many people doing interesting things but at seed stage a company that I’m a huge fan of at the moment is Craft.co, who are building ‘the source of truth on companies’. Check them out.
Can you share a little about your time at AMV BBDO – what were you involved with and what did you learn that you have transitioned to tech investing?
I worked in the account management team, which taught me how to juggle many projects at the same time and work with a huge variety of people. More fundamentally though, I learned the principles of sales and marketing, which has been very valuable and transferable to tech investing. Understanding how to segment your audience, how to target your messaging, what media channels to use, how to map customer journeys, conduct user research, track and measure response and evaluate success, all of these things are relevant to many of the startups I now meet and work with. Secondly, advertising is all about business strategy and being able to judge how ‘big ideas’ will be received. In a way, this is similar to what we do as investors. Whenever investors meet a company they ask themselves whether the ‘big idea’ behind the company is valuable and whether their product will be loved by customers, which are very similar to the questions that advertising and marketing executives ask themselves.
How and why did you enter the investment paradigm?
I got really lucky. I knocked on some doors in an exploratory way initially without seriously considering making a career move and the timing was right with Downing Ventures. They were looking for someone who could bring a different perspective to the team and could help on the sales and marketing side with the portfolio companies. I thought it would be a fascinating way to apply what I had learned in advertising to the world of tech, but also a huge learning curve and I was excited about the chance to meet phenomenal entrepreneurs.
What is your motivation?
To be a good person and to be someone who adds to things rather than detracts from them.
What are your future ambitions?
To be respected by my peers and to lead a company one day.
Tell us about Downing Ventures and your role there
I am an associate so I focus on three main things:
Deal sourcing and transacting
Hands on portfolio help (something we are very passionate about at Downing Ventures)
A bucket which I call ‘everything else’ which could include company reporting to our investors, it could be doing research, due diligence, meeting other investors or fundraising.
Could you elaborate on your investment thesis and what stands out to you when assessing early stage companies?
My personal investment thesis – I like purpose driven companies that have a very clear vision for how they fit into the world and why they exist. I always look for a sense of purpose when assessing companies and founders. More specifically, I like companies that do something infrastructural. So companies that form the building blocks of a certain industry or way of doing things that others use to build on top of.
What technology trends excite you right now?
The emergence of alternative finance into the mainstream – peer to peer lending, crowdfunding, remittance, challenger banks and the changes happening in newer areas like mortgages. The application of tech to consumer health is fascinating, especially the idea that our health data can work for us, for example when machine learning is applied to enormous data sets to start to predict future outcomes rather than treat present day disease. More generally the proliferation of new business models, as articulated in this article by John Hegal.
What are 3 things that have most surprised you about great founders who build great companies?
Some of the best founders have a-typical paths to becoming entrepreneurs. Founders come in all shapes, sizes and guises and there is no ‘cookie cutter’ template
The best founders don’t know all the answers, but more importantly are honest about what they don’t know
All founders are extremely brave but great founders particularly so as they constantly have to take to continually innovate and build great companies.
Women in Tech
What tips would you share with female founders looking to raise finance?
Ask people for help and introductions. The advice that you get from individuals that have been there and done it before is invaluable.
Be assertive and confident even if you don’t feel it.
Always have an ask at the end of every pitch or chat. Even if it isn’t money, chances are the person you are talking to can help you with something.
So many of the brightest graduates continue to go and work for a big bank or consultancy. What would you say to them to cut through that rhetoric and consider joining a startup or VC?
I definitely look back at my time and wonder whether I should have been more confident in taking a bigger risk when I graduated. Especially when I had the opportunity to apply to the first round of Entrepreneur First. I went for the safer route and it might have been a missed opportunity. It does surprise me that startups/VC/tech generally has not percolated students more from what I have experienced at careers fairs. It is still a misconception that you have to know five coding languages to work in tech, when in fact there are so many roles in technology companies which are non-technical. I also think it would help for parents to encourage their children to take more risk with their careers (within reason of course)!
What support networks do you value?
Aside from my close family and friends I do have a lot of friends in the startup world who are really good at giving advice. The VC network are also very open and collaborative – much more so than I have found in other industries. Last but not least, myself and two others have just launched Diversity.vc which is building up that network for people with a slightly unusual profile, so I hope that will become increasingly beneficial for others too.
What is your opinion on the women in tech conversation? How can we do better to attract and retain more women?
Support networks – we need to get more of these set up and functioning. I hope that Diversity.VC will become one of these for the VC community.
Transparency – currently there is not a huge amount of sharing as to what type of jobs there are available, how others perceive you when recruiting and what is the route upwards to enable people to visualise the next step. I believe if we talk more we will all help each other progress.
Tackling unconscious biases – be aware of the gender pay gap in tech and the gender gap in tech and take a test to evaluate whether you or your hiring managers are unconsciously biased against female applicators. You can take a simple test here. You might be surprised by the results.
Joyce and I met at the lovely Taylor St Baristas (her go-to meeting spot) to talk about all things venture debt! We met at Dawn Capital’s Young VC Christmas drinks and I was incredibly excited to interview her and learn more about this relatively opaque asset class. Joyce was born in China, studied in the UK (Manchester) and Canada (Ottawa), has worked in the US (New York, Los Angeles), and is now based in London as part of the founding team for Columbia Lake Partners, a pan-European venture debt fund established in late 2014. She started her career in investment banking and worked on the buyside financing buyouts of mature companies before she jumped into the world of startups. As an entrepreneur-investor, Joyce is incredibly passionate about working closely with visionary founders and technology investors. Enjoy reading about her exciting journey to date!
Favourite place in London One of the many parks in London on a given weekend
Female inspiration in business Sheryl Sandberg
Top networking tip Figure out what motivates someone the first time you meet and then build a relationship by discussing what they are passionate about. Spend most of the conversation asking questions, listening and absorbing.
Most interesting tech firm in London right now Sparrho (female founder!)
Tell us about your banking beginnings
I was born in China, moved to Manchester England when I was 5, to Ottawa Canada when I was 9 and upon graduation from university (Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University) I moved to New York, joining JP Morgan in 2009. I spent three years there and the best way to describe my experience was a “love-hate relationship”! I worked in sales and trading for a year before that group became divested and sold to an insurance company, Pacific Life, after which I joined the leveraged finance group where I worked for 2 years. The love was the privileged position of working with industry titans (I met Mike Milken the “Godfather of junk bonds” and advised Steve Hazy who pioneered the airplane leasing model) and worked alongside incredibly smart, driven colleagues, learning about the inner workings of financial markets. Downside was I basically lived in the office working 90+ hour weeks – there were nights where I would go home at 3.30am, shower, nap for an hour next to my Blackberry before getting back to the office. I am grateful for the experience, but couldn’t see myself living the life of the Managing Directors I worked with – it was terrible work-life balance!
What came after banking?
I wanted to get much more into the “nitty gritty” of a business and I ended up joining Ares, a global alternative investment manager with ~$92BN in AUM, in LA financing buyouts of private equity and growth stage companies. Ares bought a venture debt provider (BlueCrest Capital) which shared an investment committee with my group, and also had a sidecar vehicle that did co-investments in B2C growth stage companies in partnership with a fund in the Valley, and I found these businesses so much more interesting. Rather than focusing on operational synergies and “financial engineering” the balance sheet, I much preferred the excitement of working with young teams and understanding their growth potential. So I started looking at venture and was advised to go & work in a startup first to really understand the mindset of entrepreneurs before transitioning to VC.
Tell us about your startup experience!
Through a friend of a friend I was introduced to the founder of TRULY Experiences. Jack had bootstrapped the business initially and when he raised seed capital from EC1 Capital and others, he asked if I’d be interested in working as a Data Scientist. So I moved to London to be an entrepreneur and took a 90% pay cut in the process! I focused on customer discovery, SEO, and also did some corporate sales. We had customer data in Google Analytics, Zendesk, MailChimp, and Excel spreadsheets and I was responsible for generating a holistic picture of our customer base. We migrated it all to RJ Metrics in order to easily derive insights and start testing hypotheses on customer profiles I created. We decided to recreate our Google and Bing Ads when we moved domain names. My training on SEO was a 500-page Advanced Google Adwords book. I knew nothing in the beginning, so it really was an invaluable learning experience. About 4 months in, I met Craig at a C100UK Thanksgiving dinner I organised just as he was setting up Columbia Lake Partners. I was really impressed by his vision for the fund and decided to join shortly after.
Venture debt for beginners …
If you think about a company based on its maturity cycle – early stage companies carry so much uncertainty they only have access to the highest form of capital in terms of cost which is equity – the rationale being that people are willing to hopefully generate higher returns for that commensurate risk. However, there is a time point when there is a certainty around breakeven point and companies begin to be able to access bank financing. But with a startup, traditional banks do not know how to finance them (i.e. asset-light, negative equity) and also young businesses in the short-medium term typically do not generate the revenue targets bank desire (no M&A fees, hedging, etc.), that is where venture debt comes in to play. Equity funds typically ask for ~15-30% of your company in exchange for 12-18 months of capital runway and all the other network/operational support. For entrepreneurs looking to accelerate growth plans and desire more capital cheaper in between financing rounds, venture debt can be a very attractive complement to equity. In addition to monthly payments to pay back the loan, most venture debt funds will take warrants, an option to purchase equity typically exercised during an exit event, which usually ends up amounting to 1-2% equity on a fully diluted basis. Venture debt helps companies get to that next valuation milestone at low dilution. It’s all about optimizing cost of capital for high growth, scaling businesses.
Tell us more about Columbia Lake Partners
Columbia Lake Partners (“CLP”) is an experienced team of investors providing growth loans to European technology companies. Our transactions range €1 to €5 million and we partner with Silicon Valley Bank to write larger cheques. Venture debt only really started in the late 90s in Europe with Kreos Capital being the incumbent player. Other recent entrants in our space include Harbert and Boost, along with Silicon Valley Bank who have been very active in the US for many years. Despite this, only ~10-15% of all VC-backed companies in Europe receive debt financing, which is a marked contrast to the US where there are at least 10-15 funds and banks options for founders. It’s no surprise that over 60% of Bessemer’s portfolio companies have received debt financing. That is why CLP got started – with the belief that venture debt is underutilised and underserved in Europe.
CLP’s investment thesis in a nutshell?
The business should have a predictable nature such that it can service interest and principal payments, and its intrinsic value should be worth at least the value of the loan. A venture debt candidate is typically at the scaling stage – they understand who their customer is, have built a great product and team around it, successfully executed go-to market strategy in a given geography and vertical and therefore know their cost of customer acquisition, and just need more money to grow – they are in the ‘add water’ phase. Columbia Lake Partners is trying to educate the market – both entrepreneurs and VCs – in venture debt and make it as transparent and efficient as possible. Our term sheet is online along with regular blog posts about venture lending.
What does your role involve?
I’m involved in all aspects of the fund: from origination and building relationships with VC funds and founders to the diligence of potential investments to portfolio management and fundraising.
Women in Tech
What advice do you have for women looking to start their own business or enter the investing landscape?
Get to really know the people that matter
What business support networks do you really value?
What tips would you share with female founders looking to raise finance?
Do your homework. VCs are all very different and even the partners within each fund have niches, so build your strategy with that in mind.
People want to work with passionate visionaries. They typically generate great investment returns due to a “grittiness” and ability to figure it out when times are tough. So love what you are doing, be passionate about your product and customers, and hopefully you have personally experienced the problem that you are trying to solve.