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:
- Reputation for quality work
- Highly disciplined, thoughtful, and coachable
- Strong passion and personal drive to solve the particular problem their startups are attempting to address
- Team oriented
- Reasonable in their expectations
- 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 www.techuangels.com/startups. 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.