What were your biggest learnings whilst working at Goldman Sachs and subsequently driving FirstMinute’s work into South Africa, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Egypt?
At Goldman Sachs, I worked in the Financial Institutions M&A Group working on transactions for Banks, Insurance and Payments Companies. I’ve always been fascinated by the plumbing of the Global Economy! At firstminute I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the startups trying to modernise this system — both traditional fintechs and crypto infrastructure companies. What’s so exciting about Emerging Markets is how much white space there is to build critical infrastructure in financial services and the value capture for companies as these regions move from cash to digital. The talent in these regions is amazing and Covid really changed the fundraising dynamic as meetings shifted online.
What inspired you to become a VC and was there a ‘lightbulb’ moment?
No lightbulb moment for me! I first started getting interested in tech at Goldman Sachs — the Banks were all thinking through their digital strategies as Revolut, Monzo and N26 were emerging as dominant players with younger consumers. firstminute was building a really interesting platform with a great team that was differentiated — a venture fund backed by unicorn founders with a General Partner that had taken a business public and sold it for $1bn+.
How do you access the new era of machine learning?
We’ve actually been looking at Generative AI for a while (e.g. we invested in Resemble — AI voice generation — back in 2019!). My colleagues have just written a good overview of the category. We’re seeing companies working on applying it to Text, Code, Images, Video, Audio, Data, Gaming, BioTech etc. There’s a lot happening here (a pitch a week at the moment!). Focus for us is making sure we back companies that won’t be easily disrupted by the cloud providers or existing products in the market that have distribution and can embed the feature in their products for their users. We are looking for people solving new product problems that may not have been possible before LLMs.
What do you look for when co-investing with Partners in today’s market, particularly having done so with Atomico, Sequoia, Notion, Mubadala, Spark, etc?
This is really driven by the founders (with a helping hand from us given we have worked with many funds across many different companies). It also depends on the profile of the founder, the sector they are working in and the maturity of the company. Sometimes working with sector specialists can be extremely beneficial. Other times generalist funds with great networks and Platform teams can be more helpful in supercharging the company to its next stage of growth.