Chris Wake
IMPACT INVESTING

Chris Wake

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Founding Partner at Atypical

Unlocking funding opportunities – Chris Wake

“The work is the thing. The work is the win and yet we celebrate the fundraising, as kind of the milestone.”

ABOUT

Chris Wake is the Founder of Atypical, an early stage venture fund investing in plausible science fiction. He brings two decades of experience as an operator to his investing, including work on both hardware and software in the fields of aerospace, AI, and cybersecurity.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Chris Wake

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to Impact Investing, brought to you by the Supporters Fund from the city with only the only castle in North America, Toronto, Canada. I’m your host, Jeffrey JP Potvin. Let’s please welcome from the city with over 800 languages spoken. New York City and the United States of America. Chris Wake from Atypical Ventures. Welcome, Chris. It’s a real pleasure having you join us today.

Chris: It’s a pleasure to be here. I now feel deficient in my languages. It’s more to do.

Jeffery: That three, four languages and you got to compete with 800. So it’s pretty impressive. And the whole backbone behind that is English. So I guess in a way we can, we can still say that we’re contributing to, a positive society because we can speak at least one language, which is good. Well, I’m really excited to have you here today, Chris, for many reasons, because we get to dive into a conversation. But the way you’re investing is what really excites me, because you guys are kind of pushing the limit. And the line on how investing works and the direction and the types of companies that you look at. So I’m pretty excited to dive into that. But before we do, we want to learn a bit more about yourself. And the way we like to kick our show off is we want to learn more about you. So going back to your background, from your MBA days all the way through, if you could share a bit about yourself and then one thing about you that nobody would know.

Chris: Sure. so let’s see. I, I’m a long time operator. first time fund manager. So only been on the fun side for about, four years and change going on five years. prior to that, was building and scaling companies. so I had a couple of startups of my own. tried a couple of things, learned pretty quickly. I didn’t like being kind of a solo founder, like the head of something. so much as I liked kind of working on crazy, ambitious things. lo and behold, found myself as first employee and then head of operations at a company building and launching small satellites. So literally shoeboxes satellites. the time, it was three founders, two in a garage, literally. working on satellites and talking about launching things into space. so trying to onboard there spent about three and a half years. We went from zero to space and 12 months with our first three satellites. the first one was literally built on a desk that the CEO and I found on the, you know, sidewalk in San Francisco, brought back to the office and jerry rigged, kind of clean box on top of it. And RF build the satellite. we launched about 65 satellites in three and half years. raised a bunch of money companies since gone public. I got to do a lot of cool things. Like looking out rockets with, you know, Elon and NASA and Roscosmos and Jaxa and everybody else, too, traveling the world with a radio frequency test kit to figure out where to drop antennas to talk to space. Got some cool stories about, airport security and, you know, rooftops in various countries and so forth. And then, once I left that, I kind of bounced around to a number of other, mostly frontier companies, still a little bit with small satellite launch vehicles, some autonomous vehicles, a little bit like computer vision for geospatial data. Internet infrastructure. Buzzword. Buzzword. Buzzword. Ended up at a venture firm in the Bay area. as an entrepreneur in residence, which, you know, got to think big thoughts for a year. spend time with, you know, great people. thinking about starting a company. thought I was going to start a cybersecurity company known to hold my wife and I, near the end of that time, decided that we wanted to move from the Bay to New York. When I got out here, it took about six months of, you know, meeting people and, you know, continuing to test out ideas to find that I was more passionate. Picking up the phone every time some random early technical founder was calling, looking for advice and money. that I was digging into my own cybersecurity ideas. and so realized there was, you know, a ripe opportunity for someone with operating experience and, you know, some capital on the East Coast to focus on, you know, real frontier tech. and I had a passion to do it. so if I could be an advisor full time, I would have done that. lo and behold, you know, didn’t have any capital at the time. So I decided to start a typical raising capital and try to back literal and figurative moonshots. That takes us pretty much to today.

Jeffery: I love it, and one thing about you that nobody would know.

Chris: You have one thing. So, back in the day, one of my early ventures, I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur or kind of. I was entrepreneurial from the start. I manufactured and imported. Jump to conclusions. Doormats. So if you have ever seen a movie Office Space, is this, jump to conclusions? That’s the worst idea ever. a buddy and I decided that we would manufacture these doormats as a novelty item. Lo and behold, I was told someone about this recently, and I think they now have a market because the people really liked office space are now of the age that they would actually buy doormats. But at the time, it was a struggle just to sell the things.

Jeffery: That’s awesome. It’s a good story, but what I like about the story is that you were trying something that didn’t work. That’s common, is that you were finding gaps, which were the novelty item of something that was interesting enough that you thought, hey, I could turn this into a business. That’s really what entrepreneurship is all about.

Chris: Yeah. Pretty cool. And you kind of serve yourself. You want the thing? Make the thing.

Jeffery: Yeah, exactly. Well, to kind of peel back on your story and go back a little bit to your, operational side when you were starting and working inside of these companies. And not every day that you get a lot of operational people that tend to go into the venture side or become, I guess advisors, coaches and all the great things that support. Can you share a little bit about what that experience was like? You were talking about building satellites and moving that pretty fast. So you jumped in to kind of, I would say maybe a smaller subset of what startups do. I know in Israel there’s, a massive space push to do a lot of stuff in that space, but it’s also kind of built around Army, so it’s not as typical, I guess, across North America or Europe. So when you were diving into this space from an operational standpoint, are there a few things that you learned as an operator that you find that maybe is lacking or could be more pushed with companies today?

Chris: sorry. Can you repeat the question that had a slight gap there for sure.

Jeffery: So when you were working in as an operational in operations over the la