TechU Angels 2017 Investment Thesis

In annual tradition, I am sharing our investment thesis for 2017. I find the process of articulating our thesis allows us to envision the opportunities we find most compelling, and also to communicate in a transparent manner our goals and objectives to entrepreneurs before they reach out so they can assess fit.

Thesis: We invest in hard tech startups led by exceptional founders that solve real problems in key markets.

What it means in more detail:

  • Hard tech – the following TechCrunch article (from Nov 2016) does a great job of explaining hard tech. This has been our focus since we launched and we’ve been doing it way before it became popular. Just look at our portfolio companies if you would like some good examples. I would also add that we typically look to see if your technology incorporates some type of ‘secret sauce.’ What do you know that others don’t and what makes your technology novel and difficult to replicate by others?
  • Exceptional founders – we back folks with visionary leadership tendencies, strong technical expertise, and with an innate ability to attract world class talent to their team. Additionally, they are effective communicators, with high integrity, and culture oriented. We invest in people we like (and who are liked by others) and those who value teamwork and camaraderie.
  • Solve real problems in key markets – your startup needs to be solving a problem that other people or companies are having a hard time grappling with. You need to do it better, faster, and more efficiently than existing solutions and the target market needs to be compelling.

In terms of stage, we have primarily focused on investing at the seed and angel stage which is our sweet spot — although from time-to-time we will consider series A opportunities we find enticing because we really like the founders, feel we can help them in a unique way, or find the opportunity too compelling to pass up.

Some themes that we find exciting in 2017, include (non comprehensive list):

  1. Automation – robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision
  2. Personal healthcare personalized medicine, supplements, and beauty care
  3. Wearables – performance gear and sensor integrated “smart” clothing and devices
  4. Education – personalized, affordable, scalable education for the masses
  5. IoT – internet connected devices and tools
  6. Financial services -generally openminded about this space
  7. Space technologies – generally openminded about this space
  8. Food tech – tech-enabled synthetic or natural foods which are healthier, more sustainable, and can be mass produced

If you would like to reach out to get the conversation going, I suggest first exploring your network to find common connections who can make a personal introduction. Another viable option is to reach out using our online form: I personally check each submission daily and circle back promptly to provide our assessment about potential next steps.

I’m always happy to receive feedback or learn from others. If there is something you think we missed or can articulate better please let me know. Also feel free to reach out with any questions or any other suggestions.

Back to work!

2016 – TechU Angels Investment Thesis v1.0 – what is your ‘secret sauce’?

I’d like to usher in 2016 by trying something new. Although as a young venture firm, we are rapidly evolving, growing, and adapting to new realities, our core fundamentals and investment thesis have remained pretty steady throughout our existence. While some adaptation in the future is to be expected, I would like to articulate our current investment thesis and the types (non-exhaustive list) of companies we seek out for our portfolio. This should hopefully steer companies that fit our profile towards reaching out, yet at the same time allow those who may not have a strong alignment to focus their valuable time on finding the right partners. I will attempt to do this on a yearly basis in the interests of transparency and full communication, and also to keep track of our evolvement over time.

Our Investment Thesis (in concise form):

Investing in exceptional, disciplined teams who are building robust, highly technical platforms that have the capability of impacting a major global industry. In all cases, these teams posses a secret sauce that is not readily attainable by others. In most cases, these teams are world leading experts in their field.

We have built TechU Angels as a generalist firm, which means we look at a wide scope of opportunities. We are agnostic as to the location, demographic profile, or backgrounds of the teams. We like taking big bets and share a long term horizon with our portfolio companies (e.g. we are not focused on quick returns, neither are our L.P.s). Because of our partners’ affiliation with MIT we are very keen on supporting opportunities coming out of the Institute and related ecosystems, though we frequently look outside for investments and it is not a pre-requisite that startups have MIT affiliated founders.

The entrepreneurs that we back have all the following traits:

  1. Integrity
  2. Reputation for quality work
  3. Highly disciplined, thoughtful, and coachable
  4. Strong passion and personal drive to solve the particular problem their startups are attempting to address
  5. Team oriented
  6. Reasonable in their expectations
  7. Approaching problems with an open mind – willing to quickly iterate and pivot as/if situations warrants

With this in mind there are several sectors which we are actively seeking opportunities in 2016 and beyond. If you are building a technology platform in any of these areas, we want to talk to you. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and if you feel like your startup fits our criteria (even though it’s not in a listed category below) you should definitely reach out and we can provide a quick yes or no:

  • Financial services – specifically those that promote transparency, information accessibility, and which provide advanced decision making capabilities to the masses. Key focus here is on leveling the playing field and disrupting stale banking services.
  • Artificial intelligence – especially platforms focused on gathering data and information to enable efficient and rapid decision making and which automate mundane, repeatable tasks so that people/companies can focus more of their time on value-added activities.
  • Space – we are generally curious about the space space (pun intended) and are approaching this sector with an open mind.
  • Science that will further human health, condition, and understanding – especially companies building atop the CRISPER platform, those focused on gut bacteria health, or which provide a data driven approach to leading/living a healthy lifestyle. Anything related to increasing access and output of healthy, organic, and non GMO based consumable foods to the masses. We believe more information will begin coming to light in 2016 about the dangers of pesticides and antibiotics in mass scale food-products and this will precipitate rapid growth/demand in these markets.
  • Education – platforms which make democratize education and which will provide an automated, customized experience that is uniquely tuned to the learning habits of the individual and which increase efficiency throughout the lifetime using big data. More specifically, we believe the tutoring industry which has only been available to the affluent is due for major disruption.
  • Internet of things – particular interest in IoT startups building infrastructure platforms that enable an array of IoT startups to take hold and build on top of.
  • The blockchain – we are seeking companies building Blockchain 2.0 types of platforms.

If you would like to reach out to engage us in conversation, I would recommend you either get an intro from someone we trust (portfolio company founders or others in the ecosystem), or that you fill out our online form at I personally check submissions daily and try to respond within 24 hours or less.

Pro tip: I typically get many LinkedIn invitations on a daily basis. Sending a LinkedIn invite to me personally (without context or a prior relationship) is a bad idea as I only accept invitations from people that I know personally or have previously met. The one exception is for invitations from folks within the MIT or MIT Sloan community which I automatically accept.

Additional note: I have labeled this post as a v1.0 as I expect to update it at various points throughout the year as we add new categories to our watch list or as we refine our thesis.