Do Unto Others

Life is easier when you keep it simple. For me, this means living by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The corollary to this is don't treat other people badly. In life, I've often found that anti-role models are my best teachers of what not to do and of whom I do not want to become.

Indeed, as a serial entrepreneur, I have met more than my fair share of anti-role model investors. These include:

  • Investors who treat founders like they are idiots;

  • Investors who promise to invest and then ghost you;

  • Investors who don't have readily accessible funds but pretend that they do as they try to raise a fund;

  • Investors who have never done what they are claiming it's so easy for founders to do; and

  • One investor who told me that my contribution to my company was more replaceable than the money her fund had put in.

I don't want to be one of those people. Whenever I invest, I try to treat founders with entrepreneurial empathy. Being a founder is hard enough; investors need to generate outsized returns but the ideal is to do it in a way that also makes the entrepreneur's journey easier. If investors just provide cash, that's undoubtedly super-useful but probably not sufficient. In all cases, investors should treat founders with full awareness that founders are the stars, and investors are the supporting players. (In my early days, the preferred metaphor was that investors can provide the gasoline, but the founders are the ones that design and build the vehicle.)

I am proud of my track-record as an investor. Over 6 years investing for Wayra (Telefonica) UK, I invested more than $19 million in 190 early-stage companies that were worth $1.6 billion and had raised more than $524 million in third-party funding when I left in 2019. As a corporate investor, one of our KPIs was the number of companies that worked with Telefonica; our companies had more than 137 trials/contracts with Telefonica that led to 13 commercial agreements. Apart from our main hub in London, I launched spaces in 7 cities throughout the UK in verticals such as cybersecurity, digital health, intelligent mobility, AI and blockchain, and financial inclusion. Eventually, I managed a 25-person team. My best-performing portfolio company generated a 129x return.

Apart from the numbers, what I'm most proud of are the relationships that I have built with other founders. To me, it's a testament that various of my founders are now investors in my start-up, FounderTribes. They reached out to invest in FounderTribes, telling me that they wanted to back me not only because they saw my ability to execute as MD of Wayra UK, but also because they are grateful that I was often the first one willing to give them a shot. As an investor, we made a very deliberate effort to ensure that our portfolio companies looked like the rest of the world, including by race, gender, sexual orientation or geography.

The world needs more investors who are as brave and as empathetic as the founders in whom they aim to invest. This is who I aspire to be.

Wayra UK: Celebrating 5 Years of Accelerating Start-ups!

4YFN: Panel with Jon Bradford (Techstars), Lars Buch (StartupBootcamp), Telmo Pérez (Orange Fab) and Reshma Sohoni (Seedcamp)

Accelerate Yale: Investment Outlook Panel: Kevin Burrows (Diomedea Capital Advisors); Paula Campbell Roberts (KKR); Charisse Conanan Johnson (Bulldog Innovation Group); Akobe Sandy (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation); and Sid Smith (non sibi ventures).

Innovate Zaragoza: An Intro to Wayra Spain (en español)

South Summit 2016: Diversity in Venture. Panel with Bedy Yang (500 Startups), Jeremy Yap (angel) and Sia Houchangria (Seedcamp)

Global Innovation Forum: Start-Up Stage Interview about How Accelerators Work

What is Wayra? (various speakers)

Wayra UK: Overview

South Summit 2015: The Importance of Metrics

Wolves Summit (Poland)

ScaleUp Africa: Ecosystem Conversations

Wayra UK: Welcome Week

Wayra UK: demoDay featuring and Prince Andrew

Wayra Spain: Barcelona 2012 (en español) Interview about How Accelerators Work

Wayra UK Opening: Various speakers

Wayra: Rocky explains why he sold his car and moved to the UK after Wayra UK invested in him

Wolves Summit

Wayra UK: Fireside chat between Sam Altman of Y Combinator and Peter Nixey

FounderTribes Speaker Series: How to get VC Funding

FounderTribes Speaker Series: How to Raise the First 250k from Angels