424. Why Immigrant Founders Outperform, Lessons from Professional Blackjack, And Why Worrying About Downstream Financing is a Mental Trap (Semyon Dukach)

424. Why Immigrant Founders Outperform, Lessons from Professional Blackjack, And Why Worrying About Downstream Financing is a Mental Trap (Semyon Dukach)

Semyon Dukach of One Way Ventures joins Nick to discuss Why Immigrant Founders Outperform, Lessons from Professional Blackjack, And Why Worrying About Downstream Financing is a Mental Trap. In this episode we cover:

  • Investing, Immigration, and Blackjack
  • Investing in Immigrant Founders and Their Unique Perspectives
  • Startup Investment Criteria and Screening Process
  • Entrepreneurship and Founder Characteristics
  • Investing in Tech Startups, Focusing on Credibility and Founder Quality
  • Investing in AI Startups and Future Risks

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Transcribed with AI:

Our guest today is Semyon Dukach, Founding Partner at One Way Ventures, an early stage venture firm that invests in immigrant entrepreneurs. At One Way, Semyon has invested in Brex, Chipper Cash and Nuvo Cargo to name just a few. Prior to founding the firm, Semyon had a circuitous path to venture. He began his career as a professional Black Jack player, co-founded multiple businesses, and was a Managing Director at Techstars. Semyon, welcome to the show!
So prior to diving in, can you share your one to two minute background and path to finding one way?
Well, I was an immigrant sort of myself, my family came as refugees from the Soviet Union in 1979. When I was 10 years old, I grew up in Texas, but school in New York, and then came for grad school and MIT was doing computer science. But I got a little bit distracted, and went off and played blackjack, where I kind of I guess that was my first experience with investing with running a sort of fund and I sort of company as well. So that was my kind of the unusual part of my fantasy a few years later, there was some movies about it and whatnot books. But then yet it starts companies. And after a couple of them, kind of figure it out, and I really prefer the the investing path, I really enjoy working with founders, that kind of MIT people now have realistic immigrant founders, especially my people. But at first, it was founders in general, they’re the ones I wanted to serve. And I wanted to get better and better at being useful to them be helpful to them. And I guess I just enjoy being an investor in that you get to work on multiple things in parallel, right. And so I just had the opportunity to read a lot of Angel checks over the years and read more and more of them, it’s eventually it became profitable, when the money came back and recycled it and just kept doing that really did for about really liked it. But then they ended up running the Stuxnet Spergel in Boston, because some folks thought I would be a good guy to run it, I suppose. And that’s where I learned a little bit more about, you know, the venture dimension way of investing. And after a few years, I left and I love the sun, you know, I really wanted to have a mission. That was my mission. Right, that are truly believed. And I think I found this was a business. Right. And I think it’s pretty clear that like, all companies should be started with some sort of goal other than, you know, just making returns. So I think all funds should be mission driven funds, in my view. In some sense, they are it depends on how you look at it. But yeah, we raised first fund in late 17. The idea is that we’re just backing founders, right? It’s a filter, because immigrants are more likely to generate outside successes for a number of reasons, I guess we’ll get into its affinity group. And it helps us, you know, motivate everyone in our team, we really believe that, you know, in the long term, if we succeed, to the point of being widely known, widely respected, it’s a good font, we think that very successful, potentially, ultimately impact the discourse on issues like borders, and human rights, really. And that’s sort of the long term motivation. But to get there, we have to generate greater sorrow, peace. And it so happens that focusing on immigrants helps you do that. Both ways, right? Yeah.
Well, you guys are off to a good start. And as you noted, we’ll be talking about the thesis in more detail, the firm etc. But I do believe you’re the first professional blackjack player we’ve ever had on the show. So I guess first, how did you find your
right? Because there’s so many incredibly successful people from even just a group of political activity that not even the top two or three will be the so I think you should have more. Well, folks,
I might have to tap you for some introductions in here. But how do you do? How did you wind up becoming a professional blackjack player? What’s the story behind that?
Oh, God, I was, you know, when I was first exposed to it, it was because I played Pac Man. It was my joy in life. You know, we were refugees looking at projects. And so I got basically a quarter, but it was the budget was one quarter, right? And rode my bike to the corner store that in a Pac Man Machine. She was an exciting thing at the time. But the quarter, you know, didn’t last long. Because one game, right? It lives in over the earth. And so I’m very motivated to make it last longer. And the only way I knew of addressing that problem at the age of 10 was the library because that’s how I previously entertain myself. And so I went and I looked at books about back when there was only one in the library, or even it was like in the main library of the city. That was only one book about that, but But I read it and it taught me how to make that quarter last as long as they wanted to play the patterns and everything and memorise them. And so when I was no longer accent If you could just take her out left corner, it’s not that much fun. I went back to the library and looked up other books written by the same author. And it turned out like all his other books were about professional blackjack and Louis Kelston. Beat the casinos in the late 70s. And that’s when I that’s when I first heard about it. But then I met the folks there at like a team. Were playing there already for a few years before I joined. And, you know, at the time, I was actually working on a PhD thesis on moving money on the internet was 1991 92, kind of before the web, and really early work wasn’t necessarily fully thought out. But it was was interesting, and it was early. And that excited me because I was looking for like real world practical applications. Right. I didn’t want the internet to be some academic thing that university research labs do their pure size, and I thought like real business value that was that’s what I wanted. But yeah, I ended up meeting those guys and playing blackjack. First, I wrote some simulators and some software, but quickly get a player and then after a couple years split off, kind of as a leader of my own team, two teams, and I was involved with the core core guy and one of them. And yeah, we will make a few million bucks. We had adventures all over the world and learned a lot of useful things. Is
the movie 21 loosely based off of your guys team. Yeah,
kinda sorta loosely.
You like don’t mention that.
Ben Mezrich wrote two books. Right. And so one of the books was my story. I was like my main, my real name was the main character of the book. But that was his second book. And the first one was about the editing tubes. And the Kevin Spacey movie. I guess it actually was a combination of those stories. Quite a lot at the time, I actually met Gavin, and he said that there was going to be a second movie. That was the really my story. But I think that was that was Hollywood speak. And that was just really only one movie. So in that sense. Yeah.
Still Still very cool.
But what else was the spirit? Right? Like it felt kinda like, like, documentaries that the history shows that actually tell the story accurately.
Yeah. What else was interesting when I was listening to you talk about blackjack is how you equated it to investing? I was your blackjack experience informed your approach to investment in overall risk management?
Well, it wasn’t investing in the sense of generating value, you know, owning equity. But it was very much investing. It wasn’t an investment fund to the same degree that like hedge funds day trading or less than facts, right? It wasn’t similar to anything it was. And that’s that’s investing. Right in that, like, there was no, there was no gambling component to it, there was no joy, or, you know, the psychological aspects of gambling wasn’t what we were doing and what we’re interested in in this day. That’s, that’s something I actually don’t have an interest in, unable to enjoy, I would say, right? It’s, it’s because of us, so ingrained in me that this was a job and you have to know how much your statistical advantage is right. And you have to do the right thing. It just feels really wrong to go into a casino and not be beating, right like that. But how is it similar? Oh, so many ways. I mean, I would say the team aspects of it, just working together with a group having people have complementary skills, trusting each other. Having a mission, so to speak, our mission there, I think was just that we were the good guys, the Robin Hood, we wanted to like outsmart these bad guys who were running this evil, corrupt industry. So I looked at it. But you know, the really relevant parts, I would say is all about quantity ways of modelling risk, right, like measuring everything? Well, we don’t always get to measure everything mathematically right to calculate it, but you try to write you try to when you think about that, you model it that way. So it’s, I think the experience clubs, avoid fallacies, I’ve helped identify moments where something seems like it’s very likely or very unlikely. And it’s actually not the case. And just to be honest, like very objective, for example, that the notion that like, if you have an opportunity to the so partial setup position, let’s say right, we will have to always look at it, and we will have to examine like both selling and buying. And they wouldn’t like look at the world and the other. And the decision to sell has, like is completely separate and unrelated to like the basis, right? It just it shouldn’t be because it’s, it’s an identity, a decision to sell is the decision not to buy, right? It should be one of that. Like just thinking separate and rationally about each situation weighing all the factors or something. I think that from there, and also just the emotional control, right? Like separating the decisions from all the things that affect the person who’s doing it, right, because there’s the right optimal way to play the situation. You know, you could if you were to remember every single card of delta and calculate like the perfect precise An accurate thing to do, and, you know, remodel that right that that nothing has made us successful and made us a professional team. It was not the fact that we weren’t math geniuses, even though that’s the colloquial interpretation. I mean, yeah, you have to be somewhat good enough to like, get into a good school like MIT. But it’s not new or nasty, by any means. It was actually much more about the fact that like our simulations, simulated the errors that people would make, like we would have realistic exhausts in like a classroom, literally a classroom rather than the night at MIT, where we would have someone access the dealer and someone else will be playing and someone else will be checking how well they’re playing. And then other people would be like the cocktail waitress, so the crazy guy on the right, who is steaming monkey or whatever, right? So we would have all those distractions, and then we would have standards for how well someone has to perform right to go on the trip, and record everything right, keep all the records. But we would also understand that they still make some mistakes, right. And so we would model the mistakes that that would make as well, instead of I think a lot of other groups would just assume that people do this ideal thing, which they actually kept. Right.
Interesting. Was
the more you know, more scientific, I guess, grounded in reality way of predicting the future, and deciding what you should do. Yeah. Oh, once that realisation distributions,
what else aside from Blackjack, would you say is had a measurable impact on the way that you approach venture investing? Being
a founder yourself, of course, helps you think. Nothing else. My experience at Tech Stars was certainly very helpful. But I guess you could call that as far as venture investing. It’s a little different. And, you know, my experiences, I think, I think probably coming out of the Soviet Union, as a kid, like my parents, you know, you have to become like a trader to home. And it was it was really a one day trip, like, that. Got a lot of interest because people buy them on a ticket, right? But at that time, it was so one way that you absolutely certain you’ll never be able to see people that are returned, like you’ve burned all the bridges, right? You really burned all the bridges unit Republicans denounced, but like your friends and co workers. Right. And I think growing up with that, and maybe even going back further, like, my my father’s father came from Ukraine to the restaurant was like executed for being a spy with absolutely no reason at all succeed. He definitely wasn’t the spy, then, you know, a lot of people execute in the 30s. And so there was this, like, distrust of the system that was our deep emotional and personal. And I think perhaps this is also that maybe for other reasons. I just grew up, you know, questioning questioning authority a little bit more than than most people could on the channel or whatnot. Right? Okay. I had a fairly anti authoritarian, contrarian way of thinking, you know, being a child, and certainly a chip on my shoulder. In the like, I mean, I think just having that sharp division in your life, different culture, different language, it hops, right, for the same reasons that actually one of the reasons and we’re gonna get into why why, you know, maybe it’s the better and whatnot. One of the reasons is that when you go against like, you try to build a disruptive business, right, you’re going against the established players, and you actually don’t generally, fully know their language and their culture, like their way of existing has been protecting themselves from disruption, right? So you have to kind of come in fresh, you might think you’re prepared, right? But you’re still coming in fresh. And when you’re talking to your potential customers or whatnot, right? These like, it’s kind of similar to when you move to a new country, and you’re trying to make new connections, and you don’t have any right in the way. So to have the confidence, right, you can have the confidence that you’ll pull it off. I think I think it really helps. But going back to investing, I think, sorry, I lost my train of thought there.
No, no, I’ll get it. So the thesis of one my adventures if it wasn’t obvious for everyone is to invest in immigrant founders. And you mentioned some of the reasons why immigrant founders are disproportionately successful. But would you say that that’s the key reason the fact that they’ve overcome adversity? You know, the fact that
the the similarity between figuring out in your culture growing a big company disrupting big companies was just one thing I would say the biggest thing it’s overcoming adversity, but specifically, yeah, there’s a filter to it, right? Like it’s not that like people from those other countries are better than the companies it’s the small percentage of defaults are actually associated in their own vision of where they’re going to take their life that they kind of abandon their immediate circles who generally don’t want to live forever and buy a one way ticket. Ours they do they kind of want them to fail, come back and said, You know, I was wrong for you guys. I should have stayed where I ever should have known that was right. We it’s that’s the filter right? Like the people who somehow have it in them to do that. It predicts a level of persistence, right? level of grit, where you’re just not going to accept failure as easily, right? You don’t have as many other options either necessarily without having a strong network, you know, in the US. But even if you did, like, I find that, you know, persistence is really important, right? Because that’s how you actually do there’s, there’s luck involved, right? To actually develop the relevant booklet, something, you have to get some tails on. And eventually, and you know, the way you, you increase your luck, right is by just trying what types of exhibits you’re going to get lucky. So the people who refuse to give up when when things go bad, and just keep trying, you know, some will say that could be self destructive or irrational after like spent your whole life just continuing to try there may be an easier path. But you know, what, if that’s what you want, and it’s that important to if a founder just wants this thing to succeed, and doesn’t stop? Eventually, they do really, really well? Yeah.
Would you say that you spend a disproportionate disproportionate amount of time relative to most investors analysing this psyche of the founder in terms of like, why they came to the United States, why they made the decision that they did, how they view staying here, like really getting at that persistence and grit characteristic that you’re mentioning, I
think we have learned along the way to actually lean in more than Yeah, what
have you learned, I’d love to hear some of your primary learning.
You know, you have to learn a lot, there’s a lot of different aspects to it. And I made all kinds of mistakes, but we got it right in the thesis like, right, and we learn to still actually lean into it to make your exceptions to it to, we actually tighten that up. At first, it was like any co founder, and now it’s usually the CEO, sometimes it’s like the equal co founder, CTO, right, but we really prefer the person fundraising to be the immigrant. And it used to be, you know, that you could have come as a little kid, right, which has some of those attributes, but not all. And occasionally, we even think investment, like you were born here, but the parents came like right before you were born, and like your culture was very, very much a different culture. And, you know, we didn’t stop doing that. We, we really liked to have that immigrant CEO who personally bought the one I take it took that risk, right? And who’s immigration itself was like a previous startup success in a way, right? That’s not reflected in the initial valuation of the early rounds. And then we’ve now elected recently, actually, we tighten that even more, we explicitly say that Sargon of immigrants don’t really fit. Like, for example, if they already started, the company, somewhere else is already doing well, and they moving it here, like to raise more money or to be closer to customers. That’s great. That’s a model, you know, some of those companies will do well, but it’s not it’s not our model, right? Because we want people who came without, you know, with their little who had that belief in themselves that who went through that struggle, because that the filter plays a lot better. And we know that our initial screen is statistically going to increase our chances of finding that founder. But to answer your question, actually, it depends on the stage right, with with venture, certainly, the later the stage, the more we have to look at, you know the factors, right. But at early stages, personal characteristics of the main leader, usually the CEO, you know, it’s the most important thing, like he wants a large market opportunity, and you want a great founder. Right? And so, it kind of makes sense to have your filter be around the version of characteristics first, right? Yeah. Yeah. That both correlate with outside success and aren’t fully reflected in the person, right? Like, obviously, if you only if you’ll find that only invests in like, whatever, MIT, PhD CTO, plus Stanford MBA, you know, read like, those companies are much more likely to succeed, but it’s fully reflected in that first initial round valuation. So you’re not gonna get an edge just be investing in those stocks. Right. And of course, all the funds focus very much on verticals and domain knowledge. There’s lots of ways to do it. But yeah, for us, we do look a lot at that later. And in the lessons, we’ve swift sometimes successfully managed portfolio right like we have made the mistake of passing in and we go back like a couple of times a year we review and the portfolio lessons learned or whatnot and it often comes down to internal notes basically say Wow, incredible founder like a fire break like so thoughtful like the stats and suddenly everything well doesn’t just like take your advice immediately but actually shows deep thinking and vision and a big market but like everything else sucked crazy too many competitors already raising three rounds ahead of this company like to crowd that read those that most of their personal data look like that. And so now we try to not worry about that as much at all we try to really if you can get those first two sets as long as the big opportunity potentially and the love the founder you know, that’s the one that probably gonna pick up their business and then yeah, there’s also like vertical so we do we do have some areas that we focus on a little bit right, we’re not completely completely broad. Each of each partner has some some interests right and we have 80 90% of the time it will stick to those. And sometimes, you know, the mistakes you make is it has to do with like being talked out, or the things you actually believe and then leading a little bit compromising and a little bit. And, you know, we’ve learned that the similar thing we don’t need to compromise, and it’s really it’s a good one.
Yeah, I want to talk about verticals or markets in a moment. But I had another question, because I love how intentional you guys are around the supervised learning approach a couple times, if you’re reviewing the anti portfolio, tightening up the thesis around the immigrant founder even more, what, what else have you learned in this process and feedback, specifically about the founder, like, what are their characteristics? Do you either index on more than you used to? Or do you index on less? Obviously, the immigrant founder being the primary and you spoke to that, but are there any others that come to mind and are worth sharing? I mean,
I think a lot of investors gonna know this and look for the same stuff, right? It’s that person who has a very strong vision of the world in which they succeed, right? They, they believe that things will happen a certain way. But they act, but then they actually really are interested to hear every objection to hear every question. And they, they don’t agree with you, right? But they’re interested in hearing it because they want to know why you said what you said, right? So it’s a thoughtfulness and listening ability and targets like integration ability. It’s not like blind stubbornness, or you know, you ignoring reality, in only selling it, right? But the thing you really can’t, can’t replace this, this this division, like the confidence, the confidence that you and sometimes confident people have a lot of moments you get impostor syndrome, you know, we all get it right. And, and I think I often find that I enjoy, I think I am able to help a lot in those situations, when one of these confidence CEOs loses their confidence for whatever reason, right? And I can help him get through that, you know, moment, but But yeah, you can’t, you can’t teach entrepreneurship, really, in my view,
is there any anything you can share on how to bring back confidence breeds confidence in a CEO who’s maybe lost it for a moment of time, whether it’s a blip of hardship, something didn’t break their way? What do you tell that CEO? Who’s momentarily lost their confidence? How do you reinstall that?
Oh, I think it’s a good question. You have to put yourself in their shoes, right? You have to empathise with what they’re experiencing. It’s funny, I think, a lot of times, we do hope to really help a founder, it’s not so much about what’s in know what information you can bring to the table, it has a lot to do with, like how much you actually care, like your, as the person trying to have, like really, really, really wanting to help is actually a really important factor. Like, especially when you talk about like angel investors, and some of them that they just read, it’s, I often find that the ones that truly care the most, they’re actually quite rare. And that he can actually help a lot. And because people can sense them, right. And sometimes, you know, just providing a space, just it helps sometimes not to have the worst season the situation, right? To be more of an advisor have to gain the trust, you have to gain trust, and then you have to sort of show them. The other thing, of course, this is bring people together, right? So we have like a CEO group, where it’s like a very private CEO to CEO, bunch of companies regularly speaking. And the fun stuff that accelerators that I learned at TechStars, it’s a little bit more effective when there’s an affinity group. So for us, like the integration thing, it’s the filter, but it’s also an affinity group, right? There’s a founder is more likely to open up and actually really try to help another founder in our portfolio and there’s no camaraderie. Yeah. This is not just gonna say vertical or that, you know, you happen to share grey, Lester, right, you have a little bit more in common. You know, it’s, we try to expand the touch of identity a little to some extent, right, because, you know, there’s Indian mafia or Indian founders raise money from Indian VCs, and get sold to m&a leaders inside big companies, right? Like, they they help each other because they’re from that place. That’s a natural thing to do, right. And so we can sort of tell another foreigner, like, Sheila, the Israelis have a similar thing going, but nobody knows. You can combine all these things. You can combine the Brazilians and former Soviet Union people, right. And all of these groups, and we have 45 countries, I think, represented in in a portfolio of six companies, right? Like it’s a lot of places. That’s a little bit of empowering people don’t always believe it, but that to the extent that it’s true, and it’s a work in progress, you’re creating like a very, very powerful affinity group, right? Because in aggregate, you that the represents most of the value is generated, like it’s over half the unicorns select 55% Just right Yeah, if you can combine this last, yes, it’s a very strong group. And yeah, we’re, that’s what we’re doing. Like, especially like with this Pathfinder programme, we’re adding even more successful people than our LPs and other portfolio founders that people can really build big and multi billion dollar outcomes who sign up because they get it, they get our thesis, they get, you know, this idea that, like, orders shouldn’t impede you from creating building, you know, equality of opportunity, right? Like, it shouldn’t matter was stamped with triplicate passport, right? Like, you don’t choose that anyone on the colour scale or whatever, people should have the same chance anyway. It’s just that right? Nevermind that it’s good for America, to allow folks who start companies to come to America, there are a lot of evidence that that’s good for America, right? It’s the creative side. But it’s actually even more important, I think, for Americans to realise that they have to let them in because it’s good to know, because it’s the right thing to do. Because we should be this nation of simple values are so old people are created equal. And so actually doing that makes it a great nation. And so you can’t you can’t give it up. Right? You have to you have to, you have to do that. And, and I think all of this makes more likely for us. Sometimes we wouldn’t hills and competitive deals. You know, we of course, we have to show that we can add practical value and make the show specific, you know, people on network who can help. But sometimes you also win because the founder just accept liquid cool. Wow, you know, what, come to think of it. Yeah, I never think about being an immigrant. But actually, a lot of my friends, immigrants, not necessarily from where I’m from just having had that experience. And they they liked the fact that there’s a fund built around this concept, and they want to work with us. Right? So it’s helped that way as well. Yeah,
yeah, absolutely. I did want to circle back to markets and spaces that you find interesting, because before the show, you mentioned a number of industries that diverge a bit from those in which your typical investor gets excited about. So, you know, should investors tackle potentially disruptive but capital intensive hardware opportunities with extra manufacturing or inventory supply chain? Or are they better off? Generally sticking to backing startups with easier business models like b2b SaaS or fintech? And where do you stand on that?
Well, let’s start there. Let’s as myself for it, because I’m the only guy who tends to invest in deep Tech really, by far rather interesting, because we do. So when we do a lot of FinTech, right and other areas, but I think it depends, right? It, I don’t think it’s ever obvious like it, it’s never going to be the case that you can simply say, Well, this is an easy market. And this is a hard market. I mean, that may be true by some measures. But if you look at an aggregate risk return profile of an investment, it’s going to actually depend on the situation like sometimes a business with a lot of technical risk upfront, almost by definition, as much less market risk. When you’re selling, if it’s easy to build a particular kind of SaaS company, and obviously, high demand area, there might be a lot of competitors. And you might find yourself having a pretty crappy business model, once you realise that the cost of acquisition keeps changing, right. And the partnerships deeper negotiated. I mean, so it I would say, it’s not it’s never very obvious. And you have to actually look at each specific situation. And there are absolutely opportunities in the tech, as far as that Yeah. Even though there’s all these extra difficulties, right? Because sometimes she’s, there’s rewards for that when you can overcome them. And in a sense, it all comes down to being able to read if she can overcome, you’re going to generate more value. I mean, that’s something difficult, just obviously, right, there’ll be a high variance, just from that, aside from whatever barriers built into your business, that are going to be just a barrier proportional to how bad a business it is, right?
Are there commonalities within the tech opportunities that you find exciting, like if a startup has X, Y, and Z, you’re especially inclined to invest? It will Yeah, so what are those
so that you don’t have to have some domain knowledge? Right, which is so I don’t do everything in deep tech for instance, while by that, because all the tech right now I don’t any of it, many other areas. And also my other interest is I just because it’s something you know, some some domain knowledge and, and I’ve always focused like, I considered core AI to be the tech actually, it’s, I wouldn’t say that today, right? Because it’s everywhere, and it’s its own category, but I get into space. I’ve always liked robotics in the midst of several investments, interesting investments in robotics, and space or something I just like loved in theory, like love just being a kid, but haven’t done a lot of investing and until the early days of one way, it’s so happened, you know, we made one investment and it led to another and another and we have like five, five or six I think Space companies, different types of just I learned about it as I went along. And at this point, you know, know enough about it to the insurance, I suppose it has this nice characteristic, you know, besides being hard, there’s a there’s a credibility advantage. So yeah, it’s capital intensive, right. But if you a lot of things just blow up on the way up, right? It’s less true maybe today, because it’s getting simpler and cheaper, but, but generally speaking, there’s a certain level of credibility that you gain by just demonstrating functional working MVP that’s actually up there flying doing something for customers that I think, in many situations, provide someone else with a lot more capital and will access from just not being right. Because even though it’s ultimately going to be better capital, unless if you’re going to, you’re going to find the capital, right? Because you because you’re already that like, the difference between, like a very well funded company that hasn’t won something, and poorly funded a company that has, you know, very significant, your, you know, so so there’s a first mover advantage, in a sense, that’s, that’s not there in many other markets, right, where the second mover is actually better off. But in space, it’s still important to b2b. Firstly, it just, you can pull ahead from there. How
do you factor in capital intensity, when you’re making investment decisions and ensuring that an investment you’re making that as technical risk, it’s deep tech is going to have capital available to them at the next round? After you invest? Is that something that you find yourself thinking about when making these investments? Or how do you factor that
a lot more, you know, yeah, especially like x stars, it was very few of three, three seed accelerator stage companies worry about interesting things, that division is all that arrested on larger issues a little less than after. And I, I’ve kind of shifted to really just finding that best founder and a big market, right? Because if that great founder overcomes the technical risks, investor interest will actually shift to their space because of this, you know, because of that read, like the, if you invest in things that you really believe, are for the right reasons, you ask the right questions, and you see the far older things on the right way. There’s a lot of great investors out there and every stage, they’ll find it, they’ll find it no come around to it. And and you know, that there’s quite a few top tier funds that invest in things that other people think unless them all right, then almost anything, like the terrible markets like after whatever, all of that, because there’s always some company, you know, that that actually is because of their valuable. Yeah,
yeah, I feel like we see that quite a bit, right. Govtech is undesirable to invest in them. And Andrew comes along, and now everyone wants to invest in GM to again, that same pattern tends to repeat itself across across sectors,
I try not to look too much at what the latest dish folks are doing. I mean, I just found that if you if you look too much at that, you’re gonna be gonna be looking backwards instead of forwards, right? It’s a little bit, you’ll see, you know, the things that again, if I did now, are the things that are good seed investments, you know, a couple years ago, right, almost by definition. Yeah. And we an animal investing in a lot of like core Gen AI startups today. Full of a lesson that’s a while back and even more excited about the rest that I’ve had at the moment. Yeah.
So prior to the show, you also mentioned that you’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about ways in which technology can either further improve human lives, but also in ways that might endanger us as as humans as a species, because you as you look toward the future. And as you think about where we’re headed, do you feel more excitement? Or more concerned about where we’re headed?
Both of you can say, I mean, optimist? Absolutely. I think being optimistic is it’s less like a reflection of your accurate read on on reality and modelling the probabilities is more like a view there’s an obligation actually a duty to be optimistic. I think it’s the right thing to do. Because if we feel like we don’t believe in the lesson, Mr. Galef, come along, right? Because, right. So as long as he doesn’t diverge from the facts, right, but the facts as you’re able to analyse them as partial information, they always support multiple possible outcomes. You don’t have all the data and even if you have quantum uncertainties, right, like realistic uncertainties, universe is kind of a quantum computer. Right? So yeah, I think you got to be optimistic, but at the same time, yeah, why worry a hell of a lot about about this, the risks, you know, other people worry, but also, I mean, I worry a lot about nuclear war. That’s a risk, which needs to worry about a lot and seem to worry about less because they just get tired of worrying about it, but it’s actually Literally a bigger risk than it used to be today. But I also worry about the safety. I do see scenarios where where things get out of control really quickly. I just don’t go down the rabbit hole of pessimistic paranoia into religious scouting. I avoid that. I think you have to worry. And I do want founders who care, right? Like father should at least care about whether whatever they building excellent, a little better a little worse. Like I actually won’t invest in the person who genuinely does care. It just see an opportunity to make a bunch of money. I actually don’t see that many of those most people do. Right. But I think that’s important. Send
me an if we can feature anyone on the show, who should we interview? In what topic? Would you like to hear them speak about?
Oh, goodness, I think investors or founders are,
whoever comes to mind.
I mean, think I want to see young people be interviewed about their concerns for the future of the world. The things that make them like pessimistic enough not to want to have families are the things that excite them enough that I would love to share more about, like the ways the world is interconnected. Like what globalisation versus like retrenchments, it’s kind of walled gardens, nations real risks that we need to worry about as a society. On the other no other ways technology changes fundamentally who we are how we think, right, especially across generations.
What book article or video, would you recommend to listeners something in recent memory that you’ve either found informative or inspiring?
I’ll go broader than the book, I would say. I even feel like fiction is nothing much more than nonfiction in general. So novels, teach me about people. And people are the most complicated, interesting thing that we’ve covered. So far less, but specifically for investors. Very good old venture capitalist once gave me this advice. It’s science fiction, your work is you gotta read sci fi, like the newer stuff you have to read. Because it gets you to think in the ways that you should be thinking to better be able to appreciate the dreams the founders, like this is have to read that section will make you especially black or whatnot, and so that my sister saw a whole category rather than a particular book.
Did you have a favourite sci fi book?
That I know I had? Never heard of the MR would likely miss laughs What’s the challenging right, with our interrupter in the world? But
yes, fair enough.
There’s a lot of folks that that Nicholas knew for sure. cluding a science fiction but I would say biggest deathless novels. And
then last, what is the best way for listeners to connect with you and one way ventures? One
lady.com I mean, at one Lucia calm like literally Awesome.
All right. Well, thanks again, Semyon. Appreciate you coming on, and I hope to have you on again here in the future. Thanks.
All right, that’ll wrap up today’s interview. If you enjoyed the episode or a previous one, let the guests know about it. Share your thoughts on social or shoot him an email. Let them know what particularly resonated with you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. Some of the smartest folks in venture are willing to take the time and share their insights with us. If you feel the same, a compliment goes a long way. Okay, that’s a wrap for today. Until next time, remember to over prepare, choose carefully and invest confidently thanks so much for listening