Investment Memos

I write a short memo for every angel investment that I make and I’ve practiced this for the last 10 years.

I do this because I believe that writing is refined thinking (to quote Stephen King in his book “On Writing“) and because memory can be warped over time. A memo best captures my thinking on the rationale and the risks of the investment at the time I made it. It’s also helpful to share with co-investors and helps build mutual trust and help refine the thesis.

Memos are typically 1-2 pages and I usually assess the Market, Team, Product and Traction between A-C (letter grades) in addition to the qualitative description. If a company does not have any As, then it does not make sense to invest and most great investments have more than one A but rarely all As.

At the earliest stages, Market and Team and the most important but as the companies mature and entry price becomes higher, Product and Traction become more important. In Africa, I rarely invest in companies without at least one paying customer unless I have very high confidence in the market and team.

Here is the format that I use – I don’t imagine there is anything groundbreaking here.


Company Name

Date

Website

Background: What problem is the company trying to solve? How did I meet and get to know the founders?

Market: I need to believe that that market is currently big enough, or it could be big enough in the future. In newer investment markets (like SAAS in Africa) it’s important to understand the pain point and willingness to pay deeply when sizing the market. (e.g. can they only sell to other startups?).

Team: Teams that know each other well and have complementary skills are often excellent. The founders’ ability to tell a compelling story and paint a vision that allows them to continue to raise capital is also important. If the problem ios something that is authentic to the team in some way also helps a lot – understanding their “why” is something I over-index on in my calls.

Product & Business model: Summary of the product, stage of development and an assessment of product/market fit risk vs. execution risk. Clear synthesis of their business model in this section as well.

Traction: In newer venture markets like Africa, I look for some traction before investing. Traction, especially recurring revenue, has a 10x derisking effect on the business as there is some evidence of product-market fit.

Key customers/suppliers: Early stage B2B companies typically have only a handful of customers. As they grow I look for customer concentration risk. I try and call their early customers and ask how they would feel if I took the product away.

Competition: Who else is building in the same space? Are they competing against other startups or mostly outdated incumbents?

Investment Rationale: I try and crystalize “the why” for the investment as it’s one of the most important sections of the memo. My bar for investing are things I’d be happy spending my time but may not have the time or the skills.

Risks: This is another important section and one I come back to particularly in cases where it did not work out to see if I identified the reason it did not succeed upfront. For things that ultimately fail, I try and pattern match across them for future deals.

References: I try talk to at least one other investor, customers, or old colleagues of the founding team. Almost all my deal flow is through trusted referrals so this happens fairly naturally as part of the process.

Cap Table: Companies that have been around for a while may have strong fundamentals, but messy cap tables so this is a deal hygiene step to make sure I understand prior funding and equity ownership.

Investment: How much I’m investing, the round size, the terms and the key co-investors.


Hope this is helpful to both other angels and entrepreneurs.

Solana – Practical Primer

I’ve been spending the last few months getting deeper in the Solana ecosystem because of the explosion of new projects, attractive yields and step function better crypto experience enabled by faster speeds (65,000 transactions per second) and lower cost (fraction of a penny). The goal of this post is to give new users a starting point on Solana.

The recent price movements in $SOL have drawn a lot of attention to Solana although this is a lagging indicator of all the cool stuff that has been built on the platform over the last few years. Solana has added almost $5bn in total value in the last two months to its ecosystem.

Source: Defi Llama (September 7 2021)

I think there is space for multiple chains to co-exist in the future depending on their intended use cases. However, there seem to be more and more high quality projects and great development teams innovating on Solana and this will lead to more users and more money moving to the ecosystem.

The graphic below is a good summary of the different chains and supports the case that Solana may be technically superior to alternatives. I won’t go into details about the blockchain trilema (decentralization, security, and scalability) in this post but plan to write more about this later.

Source: RareLiquid

People are drawn into crypto and new L1 blockchains for different reasons: technology, financial returns, cool stuff (collectibles, art) and community. Each of these can bring in new users and developers into the ecosystem and these folks can cross-sell into the other products which creates a halo effect.

I started playing around on Solana because it was so fast and transactions were basically free. It was an order of magnitude faster than Polygon which was in turn an order of magnitude faster than Ethereum. It felt like I was just using the internet today over a dial up connection on my 486 dx2 in the 90s in Mombasa, Kenya (which was pretty slow). I then started yield farming because of the attractive returns and only recently discovered some of the NFT projects. I came because of the technology and then cross sold into DeFi and then NFTs.

Here are three excellent articles on Solana if you want to learn more:

I’ll summarize some of the tools, DeFi and NFT projects that I’ve used as well as share some thoughts for the future.

On Ramps & Tools

One of the first things you’ll need to do is figure out how to buy Solana and figure out how to get money into the ecosystem.

  • Wallet: If you want to engage on projects in Solana you’ll need a wallet (like you use MetaMask on other chains). You can just send $SOL from whatever place you choose to buy it. My favorite wallet for Solana is Phantom which is a Chrome extension – it’s fast, intuitive and well designed. You can also “stake” your $SOL with validators for 8% yield if you just plan to hold.
  • On-Ramps: If you want to bring other currencies to Solana like $USDC, you’ll need to use an exchange like FTX.US that lets you send $USDC to a Solana wallet. You can’t do this from an Ethereum wallet or Coinbase (yet).
  • Portfolio tracker: It’s really useful to pick a tracker to visualize all your positions or it can get super confusing. I use Step Finance and I like it. You can view your investments by investment type and also claim tokens, swap and visualize your NFTs. A decent alternative is Sonar.

Once you’re set up with some $SOL and $USDC in your Phantom wallet you can do a lot and that’s when the fun starts.

DeFi

The yields on Solana are very high right now, with many pools paying 40%+ APR for credible projects. I only farm on projects that I think have long term potential. Here is the process I usually go through before investing in a project. Make sure you understand the risks of Impermanent Loss (IL) when farming assets that are not correlated as large price deviations can adversely affect your returns over just holding the asset directly.

  • Raydium: Raydium is one of the oldest DeFi projects on Solana. It’s been more battle tested than the others on this list. They have a cool feature called “AccelRaytor” which is a place for new projects to launch. Users who stake Ray get special access to these projects.
  • Orca: Orca is a decentralized exchange designed for normal people, not programs. I first heard the team talk on the Solana Podcast and they are an ex Google/Stanford team that is very thoughtful about UX and product design. I’m excited about what they will build. They recently launched their “double dip” pools which pay out multiple tokens as rewards (including STEP-SOL). I stake SOL-USDC and I’m comfortable with the impermanent loss (IL) risk even as the price of SOL goes up, given the high farming yields.
  • Saber: Saber is built to provide liquidity across chains. I typically only stake stable pairs (high or perfect correlation pairs with no IL issues) in their liquidity pools e.g. USDC-DAI and wFTT-FTT. The founders are brothers Dylan and Ian who previously worked at Pipe in product and engineering and they raised $7.7M from Social Capital, Jump, Solana Foundation and Multicoin Capital.

I’m playing around on Sunny, Marinade Finance and others but top three are good starting points with attractive yields and intuitive UX.

NFTs

NFTs only really started picking up on Solana a few weeks ago, so are still pretty new and there are a lot of new projects launching every week so this section will get out of date quickly.

If you’re going to mint NFTs I’d also recommend setting up a different wallet for minting without any NFTs and a small amount of money in them. Solana transaction confirmations are harder to parse and this will prevent any bad actors from stealing your stuff.

Projects

My favourite projects are:

  • Solana Monkey Business (SMB): One of the original NFT projects on Solana with 25k Twitter followers. I joined the MonkeDao Discord, which is a community owned and operated DAO for SMB holders and found it to be an inclusive and knowledgeable community on Solana.
  • Degenerate Ape Academy: I think these 3D apes are fun and cool. Mine looks like “The Dude” from the Big Lebowski. They have 48k Twitter followers and a solid discord community. Lots of folks have these Apes as their profile picture (PFP) which is just one signal of their community.
  • Aurory Project: The Aurory project plans to make a game and by releasing NFTs to users, they start to build a community and a player base for this game. They have 76k followers on Twitter and just announced that they will be dropping free NFTs from the game to all Aurory holders, which was a cool community development move and not something I’ve seen before.

I’m also tracking some of the generative art projects like Rox, Abstratica and Frakt to see which ones have a community form around them and ship innovative work.

Marketplaces and Tools

All the marketplace are fairly new and have their fair share of teething issues. I imagine there will be a lot of improvement on all these platforms over the next few months (addition of bidding, UX improvements etc)

  • Solanart: Probably best marketplace on Solana for NFTs right now. They curate and verify the projects so it’s a “safer” place to get started and buy some NFTs. You can buy Degenerate Apes and Aurorys here.
  • Digital Eyes: Digital eyes has a wider variety of projects than Solanart and worth browsing to see the breadth of projects in the ecosytem.
  • Solanalysis: This is a great tool to visualize price and volume movements for NFTs across the ecosystem. They even have a section for upcoming drops which is handy if you want to mint anything.
  • Metaplex: Metaplex is building the “Shopify for NFTs” on Solana and allows creators to host their own storefront and mint NFTs etc on their site.

The Future

I’m going to continue to track the new projects on Solana and am particularly excited about projects that unlock new use cases that were previously impossible or prohibitive without the speed and cost effectiveness of Solana. A few areas in no particular order:

  • Global payment rails: There is a lot of whitespace for simplifying the UX and accessibility for global payments. On and off ramps into crypto as well as regulatory landscape are still the biggest barriers to entry this, but Solana seems like a viable place for more innovation here.
  • New financial products: Many financial products require real time execution (or low cost) or multiple dependencies to be viable like call/put options, derivatives or auctions e.g. Zeta Markets and Soleon.
  • New mental models in gaming: I think gaming will bring in an entirely new audience into crypto (and much larger than the collectibles wave). NFTs which are composable, tradeable and have utility are going to change the way we think of gaming completely. Star Atlas is an exciting project with a credible team and nice concept art, but we still have to wait and see if the game is fun. Axie Infinity is a great case study of innovation in “play to earn” on Ethereum and Ronin as well (podcast episode on Colossus).
  • Empowering creators: We’re moving to a world where creators are becoming more empowered and will have a more direct relationship with their audience and can capture more of the value that they create vs. giving a large portion to platforms, agencies and investors. I expect a lot of innovation in this area.

Overall, we’re still at the start of everything and it’s going to be a lot of fun to have a front row seat on this ride. 🍿


Note: As usual, nothing in this post is financial advice. Please do your own research.

Angel Investing Areas

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

Emerging Markets

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.

Africa

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.

Amazing People

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).

Welcome Note to Founders

As a small Angel Investor I aim to be a “friend to the founders” and an loyal supporter of the company throughout it’s growth.

Here is the note that I typically send to founders after making an investment in their company to share how I like to collaborate. I’ve gotten some good feedback on it, so thought I’d share it publicly.


Dear XXX,

It’s a privilege to partner with you – thank you for including me in your funding round. I’m excited to be on this journey with you and look forward to all you will accomplish.


Here is a short summary about how I hope to collaborate:

  • Push, not Pull: I’m rarely going to ask you for anything unless I’ve not heard from you for a long time. If you need anything from me, please reach out to me over email or WhatsApp and I’ll do my very best to help you.
  • Communication: It would be great to receive regular updates about the company. My preference is quarterly, as enough time has passed to show meaningful progress but many folks like a monthly cadence as well. I wrote a short post with a template that you can use as a starting point, if you like but if you already have one, please don’t change it for me. I recommend a short email with numbers, highlights, lowlights with any asks from investors.
  • Part-time: I invest part-time, mostly because I care about supporting early-stage entrepreneurs across the globe. I will try and help, but if I don’t have the relevant expertise, connections, or I’m especially time-constrained I may be unable.
  • Founder Community: I created a group for portfolio company founders to help each other out and for me to send stuff that I think might be useful. Please let me know if you or your cofounders would like to be on the list (although I’ve not been great at using it recently).
  • Development: Some of the best company builders are continuous learners and read a lot (e.g. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg). Great books can incredibly useful, especially when I have a specific problem to solve or know that I have a development area. I read a lot (20192020) and listen to a lot of podcasts. Please let me know if there is a specific area of interest, as I’d love to recommend and buy you a book.
  • Logo: Please send me a copy of your logo with a transparent background so I can add it to my website. 

I’m looking forward to getting to know you much better (and learning from you) over the years and being in your corner through the ups and downs.

I’ll leave you with two of my favorite frameworks for over a decade – Manage your Energy, not your Time, and Maker and Managers Schedule (Paul Graham)


My very best,

Aadil 

Reflections on Angel Investing

This month marks my 10th year of angel investing so I synthesized a few learnings as a complement to the more tactical “Angel Investing Learnings” post from last year.

This post is broken up into three parts; dissecting the why behind angel investing, understanding your asymmetric advantage and how to apply this advantage in the investing process.

Why Angel Invest?

I don’t think that you should angel invest if you care most about compounding capital — there are probably better ways to achieve this goal with lower time commitment. Angel investing has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my career, and has the following benefits many of which are not tangible or easy to measure:

  • Relationships: You will meet amazing people along the way; entrepreneurs, co-investors, and limited partners. Each of these connections has a chance of becoming a meaningful professional and personal relationship — collaborating with more people gives you the chance to both expand and deepen your network and relationships.
  • Learning: You will get an insider’s view into the positioning and evolution of a wider range of businesses that are successes and failures. You get to talk to founders making hard decisions and learn during the investing process and throughout years of partnership — this can help you become a better operator and / or investor through pattern recognition.
  • Paying it forward: You get the opportunity to support former colleagues, friends and folks earlier in their career or with less access to capital. It’s a wonderful way to leverage your own learnings, relationships and capital to help pay it forward.
  • Compounding capital: Your money will typically be tied up for a long period of time (illiquid) unless the company does well and has some sort of outcome (sale, IPO, secondary transaction). By definition this makes you a long only, value investor as you are forced to compound your capital without “messing with it” like you can with liquid investments especially as an angel.

If you’re going to make just a few investments then accept that you will likely lose it all, but if you are going to make 15+ investments then take a portfolio approach and expect at least one company to “return the fund”. Your choice here will depend on your personal situation and risk tolerance.


Asymmetric advantage

Angel investing is all about leveraging your asymmetric advantage — you need to know something that the market does not know better than the market in order to make good investments. I think of asymmetric advantage in three buckets:

  • People: You know the people involved in the business better than the market – for example you personally know the founders (ideally you’ve worked with them) and/or know some of the other co-investors well. If you’ve known and collaborated deeply with these folks then you have data that is hard for other investors to easily replicate. Abe Othman (AngelList) refers to these as “credible deals”.
  • Industry: You know the business model or the industry really well. If you’ve been an operator in the space you’ll have a good understanding of what it takes to build a successful business. I’ve made the mistake of knowing the pitfalls of an industry “too well” and not being able to see past these risks for some good investments that I’ve missed, but mostly more industry knowledge has served me well.
  • Market: You know the market/geography (e.g. I invest in Kenya because I grew up there) better than the other investors. If you understand cultural, economic and political nuance about investing in the market you will make better decisions. This is why many venture capital firms are “local”.

I’ll occasionally make small investments in companies where I have no asymmetric advantage but I try and make these as small as possible and with founders that I have a strong connection with and feel like I will learn from them throughout their journey.


Where can you leverage your advantage?

As an angel investor you should try to leverage any asymmetria advantage across the investing process, which I think of in the following buckets:

  • Seeing: If you have great deal flow and see a lot of quality companies through your personal brand, network, writings/media or your affiliations (e.g. where you work) it helps you pick from a larger sample set. Being in the “flow” of quality deals is very important to be a successful angel as you have more to pick from.
  • Picking: Picking is very hard and often separates the great angels from the good angels. This ultimately comes down to judgment, repetitions and a long time horizon built from successes/failures and great mentors. I still write memos (and post mortems) for every investment that I make, even if no one will ever read them but me as it helps me get better at picking.
  • Closing: Once you’ve picked a company to invest in, you need to “sell yourself” to get into the round which is now getting harder and harder for quality companies as more capital and angel investors flood the market. This is often a function of your connection with the founders, your personal brand or affiliations or very specific knowledge you can bring to the company.
  • Building: Once you’ve invested, how can you help the company? Are you an expert in a particular area, have specific biz dev or fundraising connections, or could you ultimately even join the company to help them scale? I’ve been most effective at helping build with very specific point in time asks such as specific intros or meeting a senior potential hire.

Angel investing is multifaceted craft that will likely take many lifetimes to master and involves a healthy dose of luck. I find it intellectually stimulating and personally fulfilling and I expect it will continue to be an important part of my life 🙂

A Purposeful Career

I’m starting to find more purpose in my career, and invest more time, energy and capital into activities that further this purpose (my 2021 goals here). There was a period in my life where I thought I only wanted to work on problems in emerging markets (particularly Africa) and although I still care deeply about this area, I realize that’s more narrow than where I actually enjoy spending my time and resources.

I’d like to build a career in service of entrepreneurs and creators.

  • Making software allows me to build tools that support entrepreneurs and creators at at the earliest stages and at scale.
  • Angel investing allows me to compound capital, relationships, and learning and ultimately make better software.
  • Investing and operating allows me to build both broad and deep relationships with people over a very long time horizon.
  • Investing and operating let’s me learn and writing helps me share my learnings with others which in turn refines these learnings.

Making Software

I’ve been working in software development for over 15 years. I’ve helped build products for consumers, enterprises, and small businesses. I’ve found the most fulfillment in building utility software to help entrepreneurs run their companies and help people collaborate.

I’m particularly drawn to building software that is ‘Free to Start’ as this allows users to get value even at the smallest scale. World class software can be used by people starting new projects without paywalls that prevents folks who are not well capitalized from participating.

I’m also interested in Open Source projects (e.g. WordPress) as they have all the benefits of ‘Free to Start’ but also allow users to contribute to the development and customize it for their own (possibly esoteric) requirements which is often necessary in emerging markets or emerging use cases.

Finally, I’m really excited about software that helps us collaborate better as humans especially as the way we collaborate evolves into cloud based and distributed work. I’m looking forward to spending my own time innovating in this area. I wrote more about this area in another post “A More Open World“.

My hope is these products can be helpful to entrepreneurs and creators.

Angel Investing

I’ve been angel investing for over a decade – I enjoy it and have learned a lot. Angel investing allows me to develop and cultivate new relationships with people I would not ordinarily meet, stay close to cutting edge innovation and compound capital over a very long time in a way that is very aligned with entrepreneurs.

I enjoy meeting entrepreneurs who are passionate about the problems they are solving and have a really strong ‘Why’ story. As a very small investor my role is a friend to the founder and cheerleader for the business and don’t have the same baggage that institutional investors need to consider (round dynamics, ownership targets etc).

I’ve found it helpful as an operator at scale to stay close to innovation in adjacent industries and adjacent business models. It helps me generate new ideas, recognize patterns across companies and ultimately makes me a better operator.

My hope is that these small investments can be helpful to entrepreneurs.

Building Relationships

Investing and operating has allowed me to build both broad and deep relationships with entrepreneurs and co-investors and colleagues.

I’ve found that more repetitions (over a concrete thing) with the same people or group builds lasting trust and rapport especially when I don’t have a formal relationship such working at the same company. If you are actively collaborating on a project together or evaluating an investment together over many cycles you can build deep, trusting relationships.

I’ve been spending time collaborating with a very small group of co-investors – many who I’ve known for 20+ years. In this strange time of physical distance I’ve tried to be more structured and disciplined in my approach to collaboration (more writing, more sharing) and it’s helped me build stronger relationships as an operator and investor.

I’ve found that broad relationships are very helpful for making connections / introductions which are important. The smaller set of deeper relationships are very helpful for refining synthesis and judgment (as these folks are much more direct and honest).

My hope is that these relationships can be helpful to entrepreneurs either directly or indirectly.

Learning and Sharing

I’ve been trying to compound my learning as much as possible – through operating, investing, and consuming content (mainly audio books and podcasts). The intersection of all of these activities helps me develop a perspective on the world that is unique to my set of experiences, which has the potential to have a lot of depth.

I’ve been trying to write and share more of this with others (in this public blog – now over 80 posts!) and some of the idas are ‘stubs’ and others are areas where I feel more confident in the subject matter.

Writing helps me synthesize and crystalize my point of view and also allows my thinking to be shareable at scale. I’d like to experiment with a newsletter next, even to a small private group as I think this could help me synthesize across a series of topics in a way that could be useful to a particular audience.

My hope is that this shared learning can be useful to entrepreneurs.


All this thinking may evolve, but it’s been consistently true over many years so I wanted to document it openly. I hope I can come back to this post in ten or twenty years and feel like I’ve had a career in service of entrepreneurs and creators.

Crypto Investment Strategy

Bitcoin has increased by 300% in the last three months from $10k (Oct 3) to $33k per $BTC (Jan 3). Ethereum has also increased by 270% in the same period from $350 (Oct 3) to $950 (Jan 3) per $ETH.

I started buying Cryptocurrency in early 2013 ($BTC mainly) mainly because I thought it was an interesting concept at ~$50 a coin. I ‘lost’ most of these coins as part of the Mt Gox Bankruptcy in 2014. I’m hopeful that 10-15% of our holdings may be returned soon, after seven years of waiting.

The US government has printed more than 20% of the total USD in circulation in 2020 alone (over $USD 9 Trillion) and many people have no idea we just got a lot poorer. Given this is happening globally (across governments) I’m starting to think that I should have a more significant percentage of my savings in $BTC and cryptocurrency in general over fiat ($USD). There are also lots of other benefits/value of cryptocurrency beyond inflation protection but I won’t cover them here.

Ultimately, I’d like to allocate 10%+ in Crypto, 20% in technology companies (private), 30% in real estate and 40% in public equities (mostly in tax advantaged retirement and non liquid accounts) but this will take many years and a good amount of luck, too 🙂

Given these observations, here is how I’ll modify my strategy going forward.

Crypto Strategy

  • Focus on $BTC and $ETH: Most of my $BTC is locked up in Mt. Gox (stuck in bankruptcy proceedings), and this counts towards my overall allocation. I assume around 15% of coins returned at some point as $BTC (not fiat). My next largest position is ETH which I’ve had for years. I plan to hold BTC/ETH/All Altcoins in a 50/35/15 ratio in terms of USD fiat value.
  • Regular Purchase: I started taking 15% of my paycheck (2x per month) and purchasing $BTC and $ETC in an equal ratio (50/50) as I am over indexed in $BTC. The goal here is to remove emotion from the decision and dollar cost average over the next few years.
  • Crypto Savings Account: I moved all my extra money to BlockFi and now Celsius (referral links). I have kept some $BTC and $USDC (USD stablecoin) in BlockFi the last year and would rather make 5-8% interest vs. 0.5% interest in traditional finance alternatives. Note that BlockFi is not risk free (they are lending like banks do) but they do have strong security measures to protect your collateral.
  • (optional) DeFi: I have positions in all the stuff powering Decentralized Finance (DeFi) on the Ethereum network, which started for fun but now is more significant (which is how $BTC started for me anyway). I play around with staking, liquidity pools and lending but beware the gas fees (I got burned). My largest position outside of ETH is in this DeFi Pulse Index (https://defipulse.com/blog/defi-pulse-index/) which is a weighted index of all the tokens powering DeFi.

I also hold small amounts of other Altcoins like Stellar Lumens ($XLM), Polkadot ($DOT), Ripple ($XRP), Filecoin ($FIL bought in the 2017 SAFT), Arweave ($AR), UNI ($UNI), Sushi ($SUSHI), Cosmos ($ATOM), Solana ($SOL) as well as about a dozen others, but those are more out of interest than part of an actual strategy. I also added NFTX as an index for collectibles to the mix.

All of this is still very experimental, and I wrote this up to share more easily and get feedback. Despite dabbling for eight years, I still feel like a n00b most of the time in the crypto world.

Creating Liquidity in Private Markets

Two of the most significant issues with private market investing are their inherent illiquidity and the unpredictable nature of exits. It means that you need to ‘invest and forget’ when investing in private markets, and is particularly true for angel investing. This problem also applies to equity based compensation for employees at startups, where employees are unable to realize value even when the business has increased in value.

I believed this problem will be solved over the next few years. There will be a number of new options for liquidity in the private markets and early stage investing is going to become even more attractive to even more people. I also think that the US government will make further relaxations to the accreditation rules that restrict investors from making certain investments based on their net worth or income (originally intended for their protection).

For late stage (pre-IPO) private companies there are a number of platforms (e.g. Forge, EquityZen) working on the liquidity problem, but very little is automated. Typically ‘blocks’ of equity become available either in secondary offerings (existing holders, like an early employee selling their stake) or when early investors have pro rata rights to a future fundraising round and can’t fill it themselves. I’ve used these platforms from a buyer’s perspective (and explored as a seller) and it’s all fairly manual right now, and the products are mostly a nice user interface. There are also more traditional alternatives like Setter Capital who don’t claim to be a technology platform.

In real estate, companies like Cadre are both providing access to large real estate projects to small investors (breaking up allocations into smaller chunks), and providing “windows” where investors on the platform can sell portions of their positions (every 6 months or so). This both increases the number of investors who can invest in the asset class (lower minimums) and improves the exit options for investors who would typically have to hold their equity position for 5-10 years.

In the future, I expect platforms like Carta and AngelList to lead the way in creating a true ‘marketplace’ for private securities. Carta just announced their new liquidity platform CartaX, a private stock exchange which is an awesome innovation launching in January 2021. It’s a natural extension of their business model, and I’m excited to try it out. Angellist will also continue to innovate, especially because of their SPV and fund offerings, as they hold a lot of private company stock (and have access to a lot of data).

There are some problems that need to be solved such as restrictions on employee stock, rights of first refusal and companies at the early stages desiring control of their cap table. I think these are all surmountable, and most of the trading will start with late stage private companies first, where these concerns are less relevant.

Overall, these developments make me even more excited to continue angel investing; as private company stock becomes more liquid, it’s value will increase (in addition to normal value creation through growth). Ultimately, it means that more investors will invest in private companies and they can have more of their capital ‘working’ (and need less of a cash buffer) because they know that there will be a liquid market in case they need the capital.

Democratizing VC Investing in Africa

Most people don’t have access to investment opportunities in either emerging markets or private markets. Access to early-stage investing (venture capital), in particular, requires prohibitively high minimum amounts of capital, and emerging markets investing requires specific knowledge and access. While it would be rational (both for diversification and long term gain) for many investors to have part of their capital allocated to these segments, most investors are over-exposed to both traditional asset classes (public equities/bonds) and their home markets and lose out on the benefits of diversification. This needs to change. 

I strongly believe that there is a tremendous market opportunity in African entrepreneurship and technology over the next decade. I’ve been an active angel investor in Africa for six years (and a global angel investor for ten years). I’ve set up a rolling fund focused on Africa to offer more investors in my extended network access to early stage investing in Africa. 

This new fund is my small contribution towards democratizing access to global, private markets which have long been difficult to access. It has some additional benefits, including over 10x lower minimum commitment amounts and 10x lower management fees, and I am personally one of the largest investors, which is all atypical in the industry. 

Access to private and global investments

Over the last decade, technology has enabled many notable trends towards democratization and decentralization — in publishing (blogging), television (YouTube), and radio (podcasting) to name a few. As platforms and tools continue to evolve, I believe this trend will extend to more industries (including private investing), and I’m excited to contribute towards this movement.

Access to private investments is becoming increasingly relevant and important; public equities are now more concentrated than ever, and actively managed public funds have been replaced by ETFs. This Morgan Stanley report summarizes the increased capital allocations over the last decade towards private investments driven by technology investing — and these investments have historically been impossible to access for all but the very wealthy, or large institutions (pension funds, endowments, etc).

Source: Morgan Stanley

Most individual investors have access to more limited set of assets that they can access and they are therefore excluded. This results in individuals being overexposed to the most liquid, tradable assets (e.g. public equities in the USA). 

In addition, individual investors are typically over concentrated in their home markets (real estate, stocks, etc) relative to their net worth – foreign markets are harder to understand, and can be legally complex. 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) versus trying to build their companies in entrepreneurial hubs like Silicon Valley and USA. Over 40% of Y Combinator founders are now international, and the vast majority want to build their businesses in their home markets. This trend has been accelerated by Covid 19, and the rise of distributed work which allows for much better labor mobility regardless of physical location. 

Source: Vanguard for public equities 

AngelList (Rolling Funds) have built tools for angels to accept small amounts of capital from external investors, and invest this capital globally, which was previously difficult and expensive previously. My rolling fund was developed to democratize access to investing in private markets (venture capital) in Africa. I will provide further details on this in the next section. 


Investing in VC in Africa

There is significant market potential in 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 (e.g. Nairobi, Cape Town, Lagos).

This year we finally saw the start of technology company exists, where seed investors realized over 30x their capital. Stripe bought Paystack ($200M), WorldRemit bought SendWave ($500M) and GoDaddy bought Over.

I am passionate about advancing the technology ecosystem in Africa. I was born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya where my family has lived for five generations. I have a strong network of co-investors and local entrepreneurs, several of whom are investors in this fund. I’m a Kenyan, a product manager, and an entrepreneur, and my experience (including building technology products in Africa as an operator) allows me to have empathy for founders on their journey. 

I’ve been personally investing in technology companies in Africa since 2014 through Musha Ventures, and am now excited to allow others to participate in these deals. Over the last six years I have backed 35+ African companies in 8 countries with an IRR of over 36% (based on future fundraising rounds) and MOI of 1.7x. The portfolio includes companies like Flutterwave, mPharma, Sokowatch, Branch, Twiga and Kobo360.

Here are some of key details:

  • 10x+ Lower Investment Minimums: Investors are able to invest in this fund with as little as $2.5k per quarter whereas most VC funds have a $250k+ minimums for LPs. Investors will need to meet US-Accredited Investor requirements to participate.
  • 10x Lower Management Fees: The fund has a management fee of 0.2%, to cover basic running costs, which is 10x lower than the industry standard. This further helps to align incentives; I earn carry when investors make positive returns. 
  • Alignment of Incentives: I’m personally one of the largest investors in the rolling fund, as this is an extension of my existing angel investing. This is not funded through deferred management fees, it is capital that I wire into the fund just like every other investor.
  • Consistent Investment: I intend to invest conservatively and consistently into companies across Africa over many years. It’s very hard to ‘time the market’ and so we will instead focus on factors we can control like amazing entrepreneurs, evidence of traction, product quality and delighted customers.
  • Investing in B2B: We are focused mainly on startups that serve other businesses — particularly fintech, marketplaces and software as a service technology companies. We may make the occasional consumer investment, but business is the initial foundation.
  • African Entrepreneurs’ Fund: For entrepreneurs building businesses focused on Africa (and particularly portfolio company CEOs), they are able to invest in the fund with no fees or carry. This is my attempt to pay it forward, and also to get even better deal flow from my network due to further aligned incentives.

I believe in the power of being transparent, which I hope will allow me to build new relationships and deepen my current relationships – it’s why I’m publishing this openly. 


Want to learn more? 

If you’d like to get in touch please fill out this short form and I’ll reach out to you so we can get to know each other better. 

If you’d like to see more detail on the fund (market opportunity, detailed investment history and fund terms) please check out the rolling fund page (https://angel.co/v/back/musha-ventures). 

Evolution of Megacities

I live in New York City, and have been thinking about how I think large, densely populated cities (in developed markets) will evolve after Covid-19. I don’t think the soul of the city will change, and reading Here is New York (by E.B. White) from the 1940’s affirms this, but I do think the city will go through an evolution over the near to medium term.

New York City has gotten more and more expensive which has resulted in it shrinking (net population loss). The growth of the suburbs continues to be good (across the US) particularly from immigrants who tend to have less disposable income and seek better value for money. This podcast episode with Alex Danco and David Perell also is a fun discussion on the subject that is worth checking out if you’re interested in the subject.

The continued rise of eCommerce/delivery, distributed work and autonomous vehicles, are all shifts that are likely going to accelerate changes in megacities (some of which were catalyzed by physical distancing).

Fully distributed or partially distributed is a particularly powerful trend as many technology and finance jobs may no longer require living in places like NYC as a prerequisite but can still pay the same wages.

Here are a few of my predictions:

  • Offices centered around collaboration, not individual contribution: Office in the future will look different. I imagine they will have more meeting space, and more collaboration space versus single person desks designed for individuals. These collaboration spaces will be shared, and only a portion of the company will be in the office on any given day.
  • Less office space, more (and larger) residential spaces: Individual contribution work will happen outside the office, and much of it from home or other flexible work spaces (coffee shops, shared office space). Office space will be repurposed into residential space or other gathering (e.g. bars or restaurants) or ‘multipurpose’ spaces. Homes will be larger to accommodate flexible working spaces or dedicated offices.
  • More young people, more old people and fewer families: Young people love densely populated places, and so do healthy empty nesters. Megacities will have more of them particularly as empty nesters are fitter and healthier for longer. The food, culture and nightlife scene will become even more vibrant.
  • Growth of the suburbs around megacities for families: Families all move outside the city epicenter, where dual-income parents can still easily go to their offices for occasional collaboration sessions (e.g. 1-2 times a week) but spend most of the time working from their home. The quality and comfort of these homes becomes even more important for families. The transport from homes to offices becomes even easier and faster because of driverless cars (5-10 years away).
  • More pedestrianized, car free zones, and even more delivery: Purchase of ‘staples’ happens more and more via delivery vs. in person and ares of the city (e.g. Flatiron) become fully pedestrianized and cycle zones with delivery permitted during certain windows.

I don’t have any real unique insight into this topic, beyond personal interest. I’ve spoken to a number of business owners who are not extending their office lease, and also a number of friends (particularly with families) who are leaving the city for the suburbs.

I would personally not invest in real estate in Manhattan over the next few years until we see how it’s going to shake out. I think that investing in the city suburbs, and in ‘up and coming’ cities with net population growth, growing income/capital and with great culture but lower cost of living is likely still a solid call.