22 Comments
Jul 9, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

What's also different about these solo capitalists is that they are public about their investments. Not just an obligatory LinkedIn Post "hey we invested in X startup, here's why" but in the sense that you can see exactly what their mission is by tracking their investment records on AngelList or other third party website.

Chapter One (@JMJ), WorkLife (@BrianneKimmel) and other solo capitalists are openly publishing their track record and investment thesis which has become their signal to those who are listening in. It's like listening to a radio station and tuning into their broadcast. That's very powerful and it cuts out the middle person and other institutional players who can muddle the message or make it less powerful than a singular voice.

You're definitely onto something Nikhil and I can't wait for future essays on this subject!

Best,

Chris Harvey (Twitter: @chrisharveyesq)

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author

cheers Chris. I'd actually put Jeff and Brianne in a separate bucket of super angels/micro funds, given their fund sizes right now, but potential solo capitalists in the future, should they choose to go in that direction and should they be able to raise the funds necessary. The solo capitalists I list here are a mix of more public and more private than the traditional VC. But in general, I agree with you that the industry is becoming more transparent on investments and track records, and yes, that is the signal that draws in founders!

thanks for reading, and for all the feedback πŸ™πŸ½

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Jul 10, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

Very interesting!

What is your opinion of those GPs who have raised institutional capital from the likes of a16z/Thiel Capital as well as personally from Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon, and Mark Cuban? Are these folks still considered "super angels" or are they institutionally-networked and backed by the biggest players in the industry?

It is a very interesting undercurrent from the traditional "solo capitalist" vs. "super angels". I think there's more to the story than you (or I) know.

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I think they are in a different bucket from solo capitalists or super angels. Perhaps "super scouts." But they'll turn into super angels or solo capitalists. One aspect that's fascinating is that these institutions and GPs are "arming the rebels" by investing in these super scouts, some of whom will end up competing with them! Need to noodle on it more :).

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Jul 11, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

I'm personally an LP in funds where deal flow is different, but complementary.

I aim to have a diversified personal portfolio and want to stay laser focused on sectors where I have an outsized advantage: access, picking, ability to win.

What's different today from super angels previously is the deep specialization and differentiated network.

I find the majority of traditional seed funds are quite generalist in team composition and services to founders.

The solo capitalists look more like specialized GPs at a top-tier firm, however maintain a low profile and highly selective approach to maintain a higher than average CS:H ratio (check size: helpfulness).

https://twitter.com/briannekimmel/status/1280192440389914624?s=20

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Jul 11, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

thanks Chris.

Agree, I share a similar strategy with the solo capitalists mentioned although I maintain a high level of transparency for pre-seed and seed stage investments.

I do follow-on and will occasionally lead a Series A/B investment via an SPV or WLV Opportunity Fund.

The goal with a named entity "worklife" is two fold: recruiting lever for portfolio companies, I have a strong following of developers, designers & community builders & category creation.

WLV is the first fund strategically designed for the new era of builders, creators and individual contributors.

The focus on consumerization of enterprise enables scalable ways to build community & portfolio companies can learn from each other, so I can focus my time and energy on the solo capitalist model.

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Jul 12, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

Phenomenal overview, thanks for writing Nikhil!

I wanted to surface another type of solo capitalist: A startup employee who leads an SPV into their employer.

They differ from external investor solo capitalists in a few ways:

-Sourcing: the employee has already picked the deal and doesn't invest energy in continuously sourcing new deals.

-Allocation: the employee often has preference over external non-lead investors since there is a huge retention/incentive benefit to the company if the employee leads multiple SPVs into the company over the years and has potential to earn carry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3gcYh1p04w

-Diligence: The employee is already a functional expert and likely a domain expert in the industry. Plus they would probably be involved in preparing diligence materials for external investors so they don't need to spend the same amount of time on diligence as an external investor.

-Value add: unlike external investors, the employee SPV lead is 100% focused on a single portfolio company with plans to lead follow on SPVs. The employee also effectively gets their management fee as an investor paid for by the company (their salary). Arguably, the employee may even have more tactical power than a board member since the employee is often the ground level implementer of any decisions.

Employees can generally raise an average of $1m per SPV relatively quickly: https://harveymultani.substack.com/p/metrics-employee-led-spvs

In the long run, employee led SPVs may become the dominant shareholders on startup cap tables: https://harveymultani.substack.com/p/master-plan-employee-led-spvs

CEOs are also huge fans because they get capital from a pre-existing relationship on great terms along with the ability to retain talent (and ensuing compounding benefits) for much longer: https://harveymultani.substack.com/p/the-ceos-guide-to-employee-led-spvs

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Thanks for sharing, Harvey!

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Jul 8, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

great post. you ask how they scale...but why do they need to scale? i am guessing anyone that is able to create one of these situations for themselves is quite happy - they can make big interesting moves, generate returns, etc. without the overhead and headache that goes along with hiring people, performance reviews, investment committees, partnership dynamics, etc...seems very different than the businesses they are backing which must scale or die.

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Rob, this is absolutely the right question. Any fund manager, solo or otherwise, should be thinking about "what do I want to build?" and "do I want to scale? if so, to what extent?" before starting a firm and raising a fund. Staying solo and with smaller funds can certainly lead to a better lifestyle and better returns, for the reasons you describe.

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Jul 8, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

Will attempt to answer this question directly: "Are LPs just more amenable to backing individuals given the past decade’s rise of the super angels?"

As someone who, in a past life, did diligence on VC firms for large institutional investors (endowments, specifically), the main questions a good LP asks on the diligence front are always centered on 1-2 specific deals - the deals that return the fund - and claims by specific partners that they 'led the deal.'

The goal is to prove/disprove that specific partner X really did A) Source the deal; and B) Added some specific, proprietary/unique value to the founder.

That process used to be a nightmare, and was intentionally obfuscated by both the firms, and the individual partners themselves, with founders caught in an awkward situation because they never wanted to disparage the partner, or state they they 'didn't' source the deal or add-value.

That diligence process is significantly easier today as founders are much more honest/open/vocal about past partner involvement in their company, and individual partners more willing to build their own brand - vs. staying in 'their lane' and touting the firm brand.

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great feedback, cheers Micah! had no idea you were at Cambridge back in the day πŸ˜‰. these are great insights, and interesting to note that the increased transparency has helped enable the solo capitalist trend (as well as general emerging manager diligence).

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Jul 9, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

Yeah, it was a LONG time ago (I'm semi-ancient!) but that was back when Cambridge was more of a gate-keeper than they are today (which is to say, not at all), so was fortunate to see a lot of first-time / spin-out funds

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Jul 10, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

Great post NBT!! An accurate observation that hasn't quite been written about. Another facet of this - it seems there's been a shift towards funding that comes with operational experience. (Notably, the individuals you spotlighted above are all ex-founders.) In addition to a looming recession, unicorn alums and AngelList SPVs have contributed to this trend.

Really excellent writing, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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all phenomenal points, Steph! and so great to see an old friend here. thanks for reading and hope you're well :)

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Jul 9, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

Are these solo capitalists able to participate or lead follow on rounds? Or do they leverage their network and reputation to attract other funds for later rounds?

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Hey Prasant, the ones I highlight here have raised funds that are big enough to participate in follow-on rounds. The solo capitalists also often put together SPVs to invest more money than they can through their funds in follow on rounds. And yes, they are also operating like traditional VCs in that they are typically trying to attract funds for later rounds as well.

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Jul 9, 2020Liked by Nikhil Basu Trivedi

Great post

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cheers Remila!

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Thank you very much for sharing! https://substack.com/

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Hey Nikhil - fascinating insight into the shifting dynamics of the space! I don't ask with any judgement, but what inspired you to form your recent fund Footwork after having written this article?

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You are a Great πŸ‘ Inspirator for me!

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