#UserManual – Send Us All The Early-Stage Supply Chain Technology Startups

Brian Laung Aoaeh and Lisa Morales-Hellebo, at #SCIT2019, June 19 – 20, Microsoft, Times Square, NYC. Photo Credit: Ray Neutron.

Author’s Note: This blog post is an updated version of User Manual: The Early Stage Startups I Want To Hear About Most in 2016 and 2017 and User Manual: The Early Stage Startups I Want To Hear About Most in 2017 and 2018. Certain portions of this version may be exactly the same as in the prior versions. However, there are significant differences between the prior versions and this one.

About REFASHIOND Ventures

REFASHIOND Ventures is a seed-stage venture fund that Lisa Morales-Hellebo and I are building to: invest in startups developing technology innovations to refashion global supply chains – across different industries. 

We are in the process of raising our first fund. Once we raise the fund, we will be based in New York City. 

While we are raising the fund, we are collaborating with a family office to make some early investments that fit our investment thesis, and the family office’s investment interests.

The three philosophical pillars of our investment thesis are;

  1. The world is a supply chain.TM
  2. Software is eating the world.
  3. Disruption creates opportunity.

Our working definition of a supply chain: “A network of connected and interdependent organisations mutually and cooperatively working together to control, manage and improve the flow of materials and information from suppliers to end users.”

– Martin Christopher, Logistics & Supply Chain Management: Creating Value-Adding Networks, 4th ed, Pearson Education Limited 2011, p4

We believe that a perfect storm of irreversible social, economic, technological, and environmental forces, has created an urgent and critical need to refashion global supply chains. This process presents the biggest investment opportunity of the next half-century. We are building a fund to invest in that opportunity.

We’ll invest in startups in the following areas; Supply Chain Management, Supply Chain Logistics, and Supply Chain Finance – across industries.

Our initial focus is on startups based in the United States, and Canada.

About The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation

The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation, which we founded in August 2017, is the collaborative, and mutually supportive coalition of grassroots communities focused on technology and innovation in the global supply chain industry. Each chapter is a community of practice that connects the builders of technology innovations for supply chain with the buyers of technology innovations for implementation in real world commercial supply chains. The New York Supply Chain Meetup is its founding chapter.

The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation is the world’s first, largest, fastest growing, and most active network of grassroots driven communities focused on supply chain, innovation, and technology. You can learn more here: The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation.

You can check out our Youtube Channel here. Join our community here. Follow @tnyscm on Twitter.

Characteristics We Look for in Teams, and Founders

We look for – we will not learn this until we actually interact with you. But this is what we will be looking for;

  • Teams in which the founders have known one another for a considerable amount of time prior to launching their startup; We look for teams in which the level of trust and respect between the co-founders is high. This reflects our belief that at the earliest stages of a startup’s life, team risk is the greatest risk we must worry about.
  • Teams that will not have difficulty attracting other great people to join the startup; We look for founders who inspire confidence and loyalty from others because they are good at what they do, the kind of people we could picture myself working for. We look for people that others outside the startup can come to look up to as thought leaders in their chosen area of expertise.
  • Founders for whom solving the problem that their startup is solving has become their life’s mission and they will work to solve that problem with or without help from outside investors; We look for founders who have an unconventional opinion about the market opportunity they are pursuing, and can explain their position is with evidence that investors can analyze independently. We look for founders who are focused squarely on solving their customers problems.
  • Teams that can focus on building a simple product that their initial customers love, and who can focus on a niche within which to launch that product. We look for teams that are judicious and frugal in how they deploy the startup’s resources.
  • Founders who value teamwork, and who can become great leaders if they desire to do so; We value transparency, honesty, and openness. We value self-awareness. We like people who are determined and tenacious, who do not give up just because the going gets uncomfortable and things seem bleak.
  • Founders who have a hard time doing something simply because it is what someone else expects them to do; We do not like obedience. We detest arrogance. We admire confidence. We look for founders who are not afraid to be different. We look for founders who have prior demonstrable experience of good decision-making when things are uncertain and information is incomplete. We are not looking for perfection.

Characteristics We Look For in Markets

We look for;

  • Large markets that could ultimately be served by the startup’s product, even though the initial target might be a small portion of the whole. We look for customers capable of and willing to pay for the product, and who are looking for and eager to find a solution to their problem.
  • Markets in which the pain is acute because the problem suppresses customers’ profits significantly, or because the problem makes users far less effective and efficient than they could be.

If currently the addressable market is between $1B and $10B, we want to see evidence that it is growing quickly enough to support the startup’s future goals, and the competition that we assume will quickly follow if the team is successful.

Characteristics We Look For in Business Models

We look for products and business models that:

  • Will benefit from network effects as time progresses,
  • Can scale efficiently and quickly once product-market-fit has been established, and
  • Can eventually benefit from an economic moat as the startup matures into a company, and the business model becomes established.

The Themes We Are Focused On

Notes:

  • These themes cut across different industries and sectors. That is a deliberate choice in the way we are designing REFASHIOND Ventures.
  • The technology sector evolves constantly. Accordingly, our team’s interests might adjust in response. The themes we have described below should serve as a rough guide to how we think about the universe of startups in which REFASHIOND Ventures will invest. It is not comprehensively exhaustive, nor is it mutually exclusive of themes we have not described. If the innovation you are working on fits our definition of supply chain and the descriptions above, please reach out to us.
  • We anticipate that REFASHIOND Ventures first fund will be a pre-seed and seed-stage fund. Our current collaboration will primarily focus on startups raising an institutional seed round, or raising a round between a previous institutional seed round and a series A round.

Our current investment themes;

  • Next Generation Logistics: Platforms or applications that significantly improve how logistics and transportation networks are operated and managed.
  • Advanced Materials: Platforms or products that make it possible to research, invent, and create new types of materials at scale. We are especially interested in the conversion of large quantities of waste of different types into new materials. 
  • Advanced Manufacturing: Platforms or applications that make it possible to integrate advances in software engineering into manufacturing processes. 
  • Data & Analytics: Platforms or applications that help people or other machines to manage, analyze, interpret, make decisions, and take actions based on vast and growing amounts of centralized or decentralized data from disparate sources. Such platforms or products enable large numbers of different types of connected devices, machines, apps, and websites to communicate with one another seamlessly, and with the people managing or using them, within a secure environment. 

Connecting With Us

If you know someone who knows us, an introduction would help. If you do not, never hesitate to communicate with us directly. We are both very easy to reach on the major social networking platforms. 

The best time to start communicating with us is before you are raising a round because we believe it is important to build trust and understanding before entering into the kind of working relationship that exists between startup founders and their early stage investors.

That also gives us sufficient time to understand the problem you are solving, so that if REFASHIOND Ventures invests, we are doing so with conviction. Time enables us to become a more effective advocate on your startup’s behalf when we have discussions about you with other investors we know, and who we feel would be a good match for the round you are raising.

Communicating With Us

If we are not meeting through an introduction, we will respond quickest to founders who get straight to the point, and explain why we should speak with them in 250 – 400 words in their first email to us. We try our best to respond to founders who initiate communication with us. However, depending on what else we have going on, we may not respond if we feel the startup is outside REFASHIOND Ventures’ areas of interest. 

Follow up with us once or twice if you believe we have made a mistake by not responding.

Things We Believe Are Red Flags

  1. Exploding rounds: An exploding round comes with a caveat like “Seed round in ground-breaking tech startup closing in 1 week!” We need time to do our own homework.
  2. Meetings led by an advisor: We prefer our first few interactions with a startup to be with the team of co-founders, not with an advisor or an investment banker. It is okay for an introduction to come from an advisor if that advisor is someone we already know. We do not like to have advisors or mentors micro-manage our interactions with startup founders. That does not inspire confidence.
  3. Lack of control over core technologies: We try to avoid situations in which the startup has a product that has launched to the public, but the startup’s team has no primary responsibility for actually building the core product. If there’s IP we’ll spend some time trying to understand who owns the IP.
  4. Founders who are mainly focused on invention: Some founders are born inventors. In and of itself, that is not a bad thing. However, as investors we have made a choice to invest in founders who want to build potentially big businesses. 

Our Commitment To Startup Founders

Based on Gil Dibner’s VC Code of Conduct;

  • We will be transparent.
  • We will respect your time.
  • We will not ask you for material we do not need.
  • We will not string you along.
  • We will let you know about any competitors in our portfolio.
  • We will be transparent about conflicts of interest.
  • We will not share any of your material without your permission.
  • We will not speak with your customers without your permission.
  • We will educate before we negotiate.
  • We will be honest about what standard terms are.
  • We will not issue a term sheet unless we have made a firm decision to invest.
  • We will reflect the term sheet in the final legal documents.
  • We will not seek an unreasonable equity stake.
  • We will avoid surprises.
  • We will always act in the best interests of the startup.

Without doubt, there will be times when we fail to live up to these ideals. When that happens we hope founders will let us know. That is the only way we can get better.

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