Want Money Got Money with Sam Kamani

6: When founders don't deliver the results that they promised their VC - Part 2 with Hattaf Ansari

August 04, 2020 Hattaf Ansari
Want Money Got Money with Sam Kamani
6: When founders don't deliver the results that they promised their VC - Part 2 with Hattaf Ansari
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode I interview New Zealand based ex-VC, ex-Private equity investor -> Hattaf Ansari ex - New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

This is the part 2 of a 2 part episode.

He sheds light on the following topics.

  • What they looked for in a company.
  • What would happen when the founder or startup did not deliver results

If you are a founder that is interested in raising money then this is a must listen episode for you.

In the first episode Hattaf shared his thoughts on evaluating risk and the mandate of a VC.

You can connect with Hattaf here:-
Book recommendation


If you enjoyed this episode then please subscribe, I will be interviewing other successful founders and investors to provide you a shortcut to success.

Want Money Got Money ep - 6 Hattaf Ansari - Part2

Hattaf: [00:00:00] Especially if you go poorly, they don't hit their milestones. The next round, the founder comes through and says, look, we messed up. Okay. There was XYZ. There was this, there was that, there was an earthquake. We had one company say, look, we were attacked by pirates. Literally there was a company that was doing, it was a consumer product.


[00:00:18] Sam Kamani: [00:00:18] Hello and welcome everyone to another episode of Want money got money. with Sam Kamani. 

[00:00:27]This is the second part of my conversation. With venture capitalists Hattaf Ansari. In this episode, he shares what happens when founders can not deliver the results that they promised. To get more context. I would highly recommend you listen to the part one of this episode that I published in July, 2020.  

[00:00:49] without any further ado let's get into it

[00:00:52]So Hattaf we were talking about. Last time in the part-one of this episode, what are the things as a VC you look for in a startup or in a founder?  

[00:01:04] Hattaf: [00:01:04] Then we used to look at obviously market size. We used to look at, we used to look at where is this guy going to sell 

[00:01:10]precise, precisely, precisely. So if you're a number one in New Zealand, you're still nothing. Right. So we are not going to get a thousand percent return.

[00:01:18] I mean, you've had outliers, like trade me. You've had outliers where you have gotten. really because the market was big enough, but for most industries, especially if you're operating out of New Zealand, you're probably better off targeting a niche industry. So what we used to have a preference for it.

[00:01:33] Target your niche. Go global.  You want to be, you want to be your global niche, but how will you get there?  Okay. Do you have a plan in place? Your plan will change, but what's the plan. Is it a well thought out plan? so again, market size, what's the plan. Who's with you. We used to look at your cap table.

[00:01:52] We used to look at how much funding do you require? What valuation are you raising at? you know, how are you going to, so if someone gets diluted really early, then you're never going to be a global business because you've given away your equity upfront. So again, that's something that we would not be super enthusiastic about.

[00:02:08]We would look at, you know, who your board is. We would look at, what your financial plan is used to go talk to your customers. We used to see, so you might think that I'm a product market fit. We would go talk to your customers and say, are you guys actually product market fit? We would have our own opinion.

[00:02:23] So we would listen to founders.  But eventually, essentially what we're doing is we're trying to figure out, do we have all the metrics in place for the investment proposition to stack up?  So our investment thesis, why are you investing? How long are we investing for? Is this the right industry to back?

[00:02:41] What's your competitor landscape looking like, where are you competing against? Is your plan real estate? What do we need to believe? Yeah, so used, because again, we have to believe in you the earlier become, you have to believe what do we need to believe? The more outlandish it is, the less likely we are to back you.

[00:02:57] And there were times where we had. Let's say there were times where we had two, three companies doing the same thing, approach to us at the same time. At that point, we would look at who's further along in the journey, what price are they raising at? Who's got a better chance of success. we would make that call behind the scenes at that stage.

[00:03:15] And then we would, you know, so when we used to write up our case, so we would talk about all these things. No, how much are we raising? And we had opinions. So whenever we made a first, so the first investment will always the hardest investment to get, but if we've backed a company and this is how most funds think when you backed the company, the first check is the hardest to get it.

[00:03:35] And it's the smallest one, but it's the hardest to get, because what we would do is we would have a thesis internally. We would be like, okay, because we would never back someone for just one round. Our thesis is we need to keep backing you until you're successful. Either we help you get the additional money or we, invest in you ourselves.

[00:03:56]so from that perspective, from that perspective, the first check was always the hardest to get.  But internally we would decide what metrics we need to see when you see you next time. Okay. For example, we might internally agree that their biggest challenge is actually customer acquisition or the customer acquisition we feel is too expensive for this specific industry.

[00:04:14] We'll give them some money now.  next time around, we have an internal thesis as to what this might look like.  If that, but that's, that could be a red flag for us. Then the next time you come around and you, and, and it shows that our concerns were accurate, then we challenge you on it. We say what brand here?

[00:04:30] And you can say, Oh, there was a pivot. There was this. There was that. And then what we do is revisit the thesis and say, does this thesis hold? And if everything's worked out, then we go bigger. Next time. then we go bigger next time and then bigger, next time. And every additional money is actually easier to get.

[00:04:46] The first one is always the hardest to get. and, yeah, so these are some of the things we would look at, and this was how we used to build a portfolio.  yeah. In, in essence, like, you know, nuts and bolts and at different industries, you're looking for different things. So if you have a biotech industry 

[00:04:59] you know, you're so. At every stage of the company. The other thing you need to keep in mind is you need to raise enough money. So what you're typically doing when I say raise it, what does that mean? What that typically means is when you come back to a VC, cause really sees, look at stuff, it's the same investment, right?

[00:05:17] So when I look at a company super early stage, I'm like, I'm imagining can this company could, could this company be a billion dollars in a few years time? So that's my initial thesis. I have a thesis, could be, these are the risks, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Could you be a billion dollars in say 10 years time.

[00:05:33] So when you come to me next year for money, my thesis doesn't change. Ideally, unless you've permitted, but my thesis is the same. I'm still assuming, are you going to be that billion dollar company? I revisit my thesis, but then I see what have you done so far? Hmm. So essentially my price, you're still in my eyes.

[00:05:51] Well, a billion dollar company, but if you've used money and you've spent one year, my question is what have you done in that one year?  And. The reason, what I'm looking for is I'm looking for milestones. And what is milestones? Founders are told, hit your KPIs, hit your milestones. But from an investor perspective, what milestone is doing is it's de-risking the company.

[00:06:11] So every investment is risk and return. So in my eyes, my return is still a billion. It start changed the end results, but if I'm investing in you again and your valuation is now higher. The only way I would agree to pay a higher valuation is if you are now a less risky company, so if you don't raise enough money.

[00:06:29] right. So if you, for example, need half a million dollars to build   a product and then get customers on that product, rather than there's half a million years to 50 built the product, you still don't got customers for it. So you have two 50 evaluation and you come back to me and say, now my valuation is higher.

[00:06:47] They have a product before now I have the product. No, your riskiness is the same because your product is improving. You just have a product, which we don't, we don't know as VCs that work or not.  so what you've done is you have brought raised enough money to actually direct your company. You risking a company is essentially the nuts and bolts is answering my, answering the different questions to my thesis and the different challenges.

[00:07:09] When you come back to me, if you come back to me and say, look, you know, In my initial thesis, you could say, I think I'm going to attract large corporates. They are going to be my customers in the initial stage. You come back to me one year from now and you say, look, I did everything, but I didn't do the sales yet.

[00:07:25]So I still don't have large customers. Are your, are your customers are not because there's no proof to it. There is nothing, there is no pilot, nothing. So in my eyes, you're still early stage. You still you've wasted a million dollars because you're still not proven to me given me enough evidence that you are now a less risky company.

[00:07:40] Sam Kamani: [00:07:40] This profile is still the same. 

[00:07:42] Hattaf: [00:07:42] Yeah. So I like a lot of people, you know, get really fuzzy about what they're looking for. I'm looking for this, I'm looking for KPIs. I'm looking for revenue. I'm looking for this, I'm looking for that. But that's just the mandate that the fund has given them. What essentially VCs are looking for is they say, look, I'm comfortable investing in a certain risk profile.

[00:08:02] All these things inform what the risk profile is, and I will give you more money. If you are a less risky proposition. Or if you come back to me and ask for a higher valuation, you don't get it because in my eyes, because my opinion, again, future is always an opinion, right? So my opinion was that you're a billion dollars.

[00:08:20] Now you've come back to me with all this traction. And now my opinion, you know, you know, you're actually a 500 million based on the, based on what competitors have done based on how the market's moved economic landscapes. Like, so even though you may have hit all my milestones, but because my. Opinion of your company has gone down.

[00:08:37] I might not give you a good valuation.  So that's why New Zealand, you often don't get good valuations and that's because the size of the market here is not too big. So your price is not that big. And VC's in this market, there is no rational reason for them to think you'll ever be big in the U S 

[00:08:52] right. So rationally, you, you, you could, you could chance your way, but if you come to me and say, look, I have no networks in the U S. I have not done any advertising in the U S I've not done any selling in the U S I have no customer person in the U S but trust me, I'll be a billion dollar business based in the U S one day, then I know.

[00:09:11] So dreaming, a lot of them can cause as a founder, you find a way, so you can do it, but it's just, you know, from a VC perspective and New Zealand VC perspective, you're like, okay, how, how are you, how would you do it? Based on the information I have today, you know, I don't have anything which proves to me that this would happen.

[00:09:29] so which means the founder saying, take a bet that I wouldn't make it happen one day. That's a bet. That's not an investment. So that's just some of the flip 

[00:09:38] Sam Kamani: [00:09:38] side. Some mangers do take those 

[00:09:40] Hattaf: [00:09:40] back. Yeah, exactly. So, but you need to just know, you need to differentiate between who you're raising from. Yes, absolutely.

[00:09:47] No. So they are, and I think it's very, very important. It's very important for these angels that take bets. These angels are very important to this ecosystem, I think because, you know, and cause when we were at whiff, we were told to do you know, this is your mandate. And so we had to go by the mandate. So in New Zealand there's there was I think a hundred plus million in early stage capital.

[00:10:11]a lot of them are angels did back people really early. 

[00:10:14] Sam Kamani: [00:10:14] Not 

[00:10:15] Hattaf: [00:10:15] so, so back then. Yeah. Well, 

[00:10:16] Sam Kamani: [00:10:16] so individually angels, as well as angel funds and it's only grown since back then. Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

[00:10:22] Hattaf: [00:10:22] Yeah. So New Zealand does really early stage angel funding. Well, I think globally. So as, as, as it says, as a VC, because as a VC angels are investing their own money, but if you're a VC, you are actually accountable for this money.

[00:10:38] Sam Kamani: [00:10:38] Some angels are like a fund. They would have 200 angels behind them. And as a fund, then they will go and invest in 10 startups or startups or 

[00:10:49] Hattaf: [00:10:49] something like that. So that angel fund  will have its own criteria. I agree. So if someone's managing that fund, they're answerable to those specifics. Yes.

[00:10:58] Sam Kamani: [00:10:58] Angels  who 

[00:10:59] Hattaf: [00:10:59] are basically backing them. But as, as, you know, as, as a general rule, Angels are investing their own money. They're not answerable. They can do what they want. They don't have to follow a process, a procedure. They can invest in you because they like you. They can invest in certain industries.

[00:11:16] They're doing it for fun. Most of them. Okay. Other than some professional angels, when you have the title VC attached, you're a professional investor managing other people's money. And this, because of the Susan, you need to have a professional process as to . Why you're investing, how you're investing in need nuts and bolts know just essentially needed to have an investment thesis and all the things I told you about founder and this and that and cap table and legal and hypey and Peyton's and a market size.

[00:11:44] This is all informing the investment thesis to figure out what the price is. And you then do a risk, you know, is this too risky? And then what other opportunities are there?  So it could be that you're in a really bad year with no, it could be were there lots of genius founders asking money from VCs and you could be an above average founder, but because in this specific year, all the good founders have approached VCs will back.

[00:12:08] The idea that they think has most merit or the ones that they can add value to  that they can de risk, essentially.  So if you are a split up a biotech, a specialist VC, you say I'm only gonna invest in biotech. Why. Because you have the networks in biotech. what you're doing is essentially as de-risking the investment for yourself.

[00:12:27] So you might go earlier because you know what you have the relevant network to do with that investment.  If you are a, industry agnostic, VC.  And you're just a check, a blank check. You're not really adding any value. You can't deal with the investment. So if all investments are risk and return, you can't influence there.

[00:12:47] The return, you can influence the risk. So you're just a blank check and essentially that's how that's how, as a founder, that's how you need to vet VCs, you know, vet them based on who's given you money.  Right. If you have professional investors putting money in you, that means that there's some credibility behind you.

[00:13:04] If you're backed by angels, just figure out which angels are the influential angels. Why? Have you been back, Yeah. And they're all, all different types of funds, all different types of fun, different stuff. I know of a fund in the U S which is a BDC fund. So the guy, I think was an ex, a Wharton professor he's invested in four unicorns.

[00:13:23] All of them are B2C. business to consumer and he was the chair of marketing. Yeah. It's very hard. 

[00:13:29] Sam Kamani: [00:13:29] Hi, the customer acquisition, the user engagement, those things are so hard to get. So 

[00:13:33] Hattaf: [00:13:33] this specific guy has backed four different companies doing B2C. And because he was the chair of marketing at Wharton.

[00:13:41] he has the credibility with all the retail networks in the U S so he's now has a fund, which just to speak to see, because he says, if you're a, B to C, come to me, I have the relationships. I have the context I had the credibility.  if I put my name on this behind you and I get the marketing behind you.

[00:13:56] and then I can even get big brands to collaborate with you on day one, you know? So what is it? What's it doing? It's de-risking the investment for you? So, 

[00:14:06] Sam Kamani: [00:14:06] no, that's great. That's very, very good. I have got a couple of quick questions just as a VC. What was the hardest part of your job? 

[00:14:16] Hattaf: [00:14:16] Hardest part. So there were lots of.

[00:14:18] So it was an awesome job. Let's start off there. 

[00:14:21] Sam Kamani: [00:14:21] or even as an investor, what's the hardest part of the 

[00:14:23] Hattaf: [00:14:23] hardest part is seeing yeah, no to sell really, really smart, brilliant people, passionate people, especially people who have, I can, you know, you meet them and you can see that this guy will go to the ends of the earth to make this company work.

[00:14:38]And if they're committed, they're smart. They're passionate. And I basically go do the numbers and I say, you know what, I'm not getting a 10 X on this. I might get five X on six X on this. Right.  and that communicate this with the founder. And I say, look, we're in a, we're going to pass. 

[00:14:54]Even though five X in his eyes in a founder's eyes, five X return is not bad. It's not bad. It's not bad. It's fine. It's five X return. I say, yeah. But it's not 10 X and communicating to them. It's hard to know for me.  based on, yeah, obviously I could not decline a deal. It was investment commission decision, but 

[00:15:13] seeing the noise cause some of the facts cause you really feel for these people.  so I'm really, really passionate people come up to you and say, this is my dream. This is my passion. I've put everything into this blood, sweat, tears. And if you back me,  this will be the big break I need.  and you go and say, Oh, I'm sorry.

[00:15:28] I can't. They're like, what the fuck? No, you've not worked. Cause again, I did not get into VC because I sold, exited a company. I go into VC because I managed to lock my way in, in a nutshell. So for me, it really used to feel really bad saying no to founders. There's a lot of, so that was very, very tough.

[00:15:47] the other tough things. Well, what would you ask somebody? A tough thing. again, I think managing conflict. So there were times too. So if you've backed a company already, and the company's not medics milestones, for some reason, for some reason, the company did not do what it set out to do, 

[00:16:04] Sam Kamani: [00:16:04] which is going to happen.

[00:16:05] And I'm sure that's very common because. I have been involved in startups in the class that has happened and they had to go and face the investment. So, yes. How did he deal with the debt? What happened in 

[00:16:16] Hattaf: [00:16:16] those scenarios? So we had many, many, many scenarios like that. When I first joined was really easy because there was an emotional connection.

[00:16:23] because when I first joined, we had lots of previous, you know, legacy companies saying no to them was easier.  because there was no connection. But then there were companies that we had personally led. right when we were involved. Because again, when we invest in a company, we've done a lot of analysis and we are really believing in the founder.

[00:16:40] Especially if you go poorly, they don't hit their milestones. The next round, the founder comes through and says, look, we messed up. Okay. There was XYZ. There was this, there was that, there was an earthquake. We had one company say, look, we were attacked by pirates. Literally there was a company that was doing, it was a consumer product.

[00:16:59] They were, I think it was pirates or something. Or if something was stolen from there, like we discussed stuff got stolen and we have this much product missing. Don't worry. We have insurance. 

[00:17:09] Sam Kamani: [00:17:09] Well, I'm working in like Northern Africa or 

[00:17:12] Hattaf: [00:17:12] they basically had sold, I think, some products to somewhere in the Caribbean or something.

[00:17:17] Again, my memory escapes me. I don't want to name it. No, that's fine. 

[00:17:20] Sam Kamani: [00:17:20] That's just for fine. 

[00:17:21]Hattaf: [00:17:21] so we had incidents like backers, trust us, you know, this was, this was a fluke. Give us more money. And I would be nice as a, someone who is professional would go back and say, are you a less risky proposition than last time?

[00:17:33] The answer is no. Then why would I not invest in other companies? So again, this was our mandate. We were told by government to back the best companies. So it's a success. Other funds would probably do not do this because if you have a narrower portfolio, you are a partner to the firms. You are a really strong partner at the firm, so you will help them.

[00:17:53] It just depends on if you're hands on or hands off. But those situations were very painful where you were like, sorry, man, we're going to back that company. Cause that companies actually hit their milestones. We're not going to back you. So the founder would be really upset as you can imagine. Yeah.

[00:18:08] And there's no easy way to do it. It's just, you have to show empathy.  you have to sit down, you have to have a chat. And I think it was really good cause I was never the decision maker. I was just the bearer of 

[00:18:19] Sam Kamani: [00:18:19] bad news, the messenger. 

[00:18:20] Hattaf: [00:18:20] So I was the messenger, so that, and it played out. I think that that was good.

[00:18:25]but no, it's, it's painful. Like you feel it, you empathize with the founders, so that's not a pleasant 

[00:18:32] Sam Kamani: [00:18:32] on experience. 

[00:18:33] Hattaf: [00:18:33] It's not a pleasant conversation. And there have been times where we've not backed a company and they've proven us wrong.  right. They've proven us wrong. And they've been like, you know what?

[00:18:41] We're not going to give you a chance to invest again. They bring been incidents like that too, because no one can predict the future and  you know, no one can, so there have been those issues as well. And as a government entity, because we were a government, I used to get people coming up to me and saying, you know, this is government money.

[00:19:01] What do you have to lose? why, why are you being so stingy? Why are you doing this? Why are you doing that? So maybe that was a political part of the job. but again, that was part of the job. So I had to manage all of that. but 

[00:19:12] Sam Kamani: [00:19:12] it, it doesn't matter, even if it's not government, it's someone else's.

[00:19:17] Yeah. Precisely someone else's money that you are in charge of being a good shepherd or a good guardian I'll fit. So, yeah. Yeah, 

[00:19:27] Hattaf: [00:19:27] yeah. Yeah. But it's just like, in my, in my opinion, it was a thankless job. Because a regular VCs actually get compensated by Terry and stuff. Yes. Yes. So, but it was, it was very, very rewarding.

[00:19:41] It was like, it made me learn so much. It made me empathize with founders. It made me see what can go wrong.  no, company's going really well. How it can suddenly go wrong and how companies doing really badly. Certainly you do a pivot. Boom.  You know, someone else funds you and boom, like you're on your way.

[00:19:58] And then yeah. And then you, you hate us for not backing you. So 

[00:20:02] Sam Kamani: [00:20:02] is that is all really, really good, very insightful. having this chat with you, this is just three things that I ask, like all my guests and that's like, what is one book that you recommend or that you are reading right now? 

[00:20:15] Hattaf: [00:20:15] So I'm not, unfortunately I'm not reading any book right now.

[00:20:18] I should. two really good books that come to mind is one is, Randy Komisar straight talk for startups, a hundred rules. And how to make it in Silicon. Yeah. So Randy is one of, you know, one of the smartest people I've met very, very smart guy. So I totally, he ex partner at Kleiner Perkins. Really recommend you read that book.

[00:20:38] And the other book is obviously Peter Thiel zero to one. So that's a book that I think all founders should read it just to get a view on how.  how entrepreneurship and I, you know, founders teach me stuff every day, so yeah. So not that's good. 

[00:20:54] Sam Kamani: [00:20:54] And then the second one is any podcasts or YouTube channel or anything that you recommend, any other media that you consume?

[00:21:05] Hattaf: [00:21:05] Can't think of anything right now. Yeah. No, not for podcast. Yeah. 

[00:21:09]Sam Kamani: [00:21:09] And. If you had unlimited time resources, money, where would you invest it? 

[00:21:16] Hattaf: [00:21:16] Where would I invest it? 

[00:21:17] Yeah. Well, I want to be in BC. If I had another 10 minute resources, I would want to have a VC with unlimited money and I would invest it, trying to find the best founders.

[00:21:29] we're going to change the world and just partner up with them early on. Just trying to support them, trying to help them out, trying to. 

[00:21:36] Sam Kamani: [00:21:36] Done the mapping connections and everything 

[00:21:39] Hattaf: [00:21:39] pretty much. Yeah. Cause you know, I really, really enjoy, working with founders. I really, I really find the whole, you know, someone coming, cause there are two types of founders.

[00:21:49] You have founders, which are there to make money.  and then they're founders, which is fine. Cause VCs want to make money. And then there are people who are trying to change the world. So I want to find those people who are trying to change the world. Because, they inspire me and, you know, they make my life cause I've met a few of them while working at with, and yeah.

[00:22:05] So I just want to keep close to those people and just, you know, make those connections and yeah, just, yeah. 

[00:22:11] Sam Kamani: [00:22:11] That's really good. So if you do want to make those connections, so my last question they do, people find you. And what is your ask? Is, is there anything you are looking for just in case if someone is 

[00:22:24] Hattaf: [00:22:24] missing?

[00:22:25]so you can, you know, just find me on LinkedIn at the Finsbury. So if you just send me a connection request on LinkedIn, I accept everybody. And you can just, send me a message. And so before I was a VC, I was actually very straight. It's connecting with random people on LinkedIn. I was very stingy with helping people randomly.

[00:22:47] But the way I got into VC myself was because someone took a chance on me. Someone I reached out to cold on LinkedIn and asked for a coffee. This is a very powerful person. Very well respected, kind of good president. He said, why not?  And he was, it was his way of giving back. And since then, because of that Goodwill, I have now really want to give back to the ecosystem and I really take meetings with everybody.

[00:23:11] That's great. And I connect with everybody. So if you have, you know, if you want to connect, if you want to talk, if you want to chat, reach out to me on LinkedIn and just send me a message and I'll try to be as helpful. That's it. Good. That's great. 

[00:23:23] Sam Kamani: [00:23:23] So, yes, I'll put the links down in the description of this podcast or YouTube or wherever you are watching or listening this.

[00:23:30] Thank you so much for your time. I'm sure this is very, very valuable. 

[00:23:35] Hattaf: [00:23:35] Thank you. I hope so. Thank you.