I’ve been an angel investor for over 10 years. I try to invest in areas where I have have some sort of asymmetric advantage; usually in specific areas where I have knowledge and experience or people who I know well.
Here are some areas that I’m super excited about and actively investing.
Crypto / Web3
I think crypto/Web3 is going to change the way we build and consume products in many different industries across the digital and physical world. It’s going to be a multi-decade long shift and I’m excited about engaging with and supporting the community at all levels (more here).
I’ve been investing in chains and tokens since 2013 (starting with BTC) and played a more active role in DeFi towards the the end of DeFi summer in 2020. I now spend time every day learning about new projects, buying tokens, yield farming and providing liquidity for projects that I plan to support over the long term.
I’ve also started started making equity investments in Web3 companies and I’m particularly excited about companies that are innovating in:
- Future of finance (DeFi, Emerging markets)
- Content creation and ownership (NFTs, marketplaces)
- Gaming (collecting, competing, play-to-earn)
- Community (DAOs, creators, contributors)
There is still much to learn and much to follow as more innovation happens — this is just a starting point and I’m sure this list will continue to evolve. I’m mostly chain agnostic, but particularly excited by some of the possibilities that are unlocked with faster, cheaper protocols like Solana.
Example companies include Ponto (backed by Polychain and General Catalyst), Mirror (backed by USV and a16z), Topos and Paysail.
Future of Work
I think that the way we work is going to change fundamentally; jobs will be unbunded, people will collaborate digitally (natively), and more creators will be able to monetize their passions. These shifts are being accelerated by Covid-19 and it’s incredible to see all the innovation happening here.
Tools for Work
As more knowledge work becomes distributed, more work will happen in the cloud. I believe we’ll look back in 5 years and be shocked at how inadequate our tools were in 202I. There are three areas of innovation that I think are especially exciting:
- Communication & Collaboration: I think the best tools will seamlessly work in person, hybrid & remote as well as synchronously and asynchronously (Slack is a great example). If we reduce the mental load as to “which tool is right for which situation” work will be more fun and productive for us all.
- Orchestration Layer: As we use more and more tools to build products together, each of these tools will need to communicate with each other better (using APIs) and we’ll need some common standards to make this happen effectively.
- Community: We will need better tools to build genuine deep relationships for organizations (internally and externally) – people desire to find community and their tribes and invest deeply in these communities.
At Automattic, a fully distributed company for 15 years with over 1400 people across 85 countries I helped make P2 which is the internal tool we used to power distributed work at scale and so understand this space as both a user and a builder. I’m also a productivity nerd, tools enthusiast and product manager so love meeting startups innovating to make work better — although incredibly competitive, some new products will be built that we’ll use every day for work.
Example companies include Remotion, Aviyel, Claap, Playbook, and SkillMagic.
Tools to Create
Creators of all kinds, from all over the world are now able to make a living through (side) hustles/projects over traditional employment. There have been great improvements in creator tools (and reduction in cost) and access to large audiences through distribution channels (albeit through mostly closed networks – Twitter, Instagram, YouTube). I worked at Automattic on WordPress for the last few years and 43% of all websites in the world are now made using WordPress, an open source project to help folks create their online presence.
The tools that creators need to power their workflow, improve production quality and engage their audience are going through rapid innovation and improvement. The best creators will also want a more direct relationship with their community and want to capture more of the value they create over paying a large share of this value to these discovery and engagement platforms.
Example companies include Ribbon, Slerp, Contra and Mirror.
Tools for Gamers
I believe that making games is going to be as easy in the future as making a website today. There is a ton of innovation in both the tools both for gamers and game developers and I’m excited to support building this future. I tend not to invest in game studios but look for products that support the growth of the overall gaming industry instead. I spent five years making games at Pocket Gems, where our games reached hundreds of millions of users and it was one of the most fulfilling professional experiences I’ve had to date.
Example companies include Start Playing Games, Metafy and Vungle (sold to Blackstone in 2019).
I believe that there will be significant value created in global, and particularly emerging markets over the next decade. The data point to more and more entrepreneurs building businesses in their home countries (even after a tier 1 US education #novisas) versus trying to build their companies in entrepreneurial hubs like Silicon Valley e.g. over 40% of Y Combinator founders are now international, and the vast majority want to build their businesses in their home markets.
There is great potential for technology to power the growth of Africa – many young people ready to work (median age of 19), increased urban mobilization (45% living in cities by 2025), high smartphone penetration (50% and growing fast) with digital finance access, and increasing capital and talent flows into African technology hubs. I grew up in Kenya, worked in mobile money across Africa and have been an active investor on the continent for 7 years; it is now more than half of my seed investing activity.
I run a fund (with external investors) to support this thesis and have written about it here, if you want to learn more. It’s never been a more exciting time to invest in technology companies in Africa 🙂
Example companies include: Flutterwave, Sokowatch, mPharma, and Shara. Full list of 40+ companies here at https://www.mushaventures.com/africa.
Global (mainly Asia)
I’m also investing more foundational startups all over the world (mostly in Asia) and my general approach is to partner with a local seed fund or angel investor and build a strong relationship with them as both an LP in their fund and co-investor. I have started implementing this approach in Indonesia (Intudo), India (iSeed), and Asia (Iterative) and am learning more about the Pakistani venture ecosystem as well.
I believe that the best SAAS companies in the world can come from anywhere as long as product quality and sales (team with experience in western companies helps) is world class. If these companies are based in countries with cheaper technical talent they can offer products at lower cost and win sales against similar companies who are building in markets like the US. I’m also excited about foundational fintech rails in each market (where local norms and regulation are distinct).
Example companies include: Cashfree, Guidewheel, SalesKen, and Everstage.
As much as I enjoy investing in areas where I have specific understanding or theses that I’m exploring, incredible people are a trump card.
If I know the founders well or someone in my inner circle can vouch for the founders I’ll often invest as long as I believe that the market is big enough. Ultimately, and especially at the earliest stages, people are most important and amazing people are difficult to find.
Examples of companies founder by people I know well because I collaborated with them closely in the past include Heron Data, Rinse, ID.me and many others.
If you’re interested in talking about ideas in these areas please feel free to reach out on my website (https://www.mushaventures.com/contact). I often co-invest with a close group of angels, Village Global (where I’m a Network Leader) and Sequoia Capital (where I’m a Scout).