Ehsan Mirdamadi
IMPACT INVESTING

Ehsan Mirdamadi

#24

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Angel Investor & Tech Entrepreneur

Walking On Firm Ground – Ehsan Mirdamadi

“Validate every single assumption in your business. Whether it may be about the product that you’re trying to build, whether it may be about the market that you’re going after, the user behavior expectations, whatever it may be… make sure you validate every single assumption in your strategy”

ABOUT

Experienced managing director with demonstrated record of accomplishments in cloud computing, IOT and IT infrastructure industries. Skilled in managing teams, strategy building, technology development, venture development, and (high tech) start-up coaching. Strong technology background with a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) in Computer Science from York University.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Ehsan Mirdamadi

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
Welcome, everybody! Today we are running, I think it’s- we’ll just say it’s our 30th “Ask An Angel Interview,” and today we’re with Ehsan and I’m super excited to chat with you because we’ve known each other for a few years. I’ve seen you in action, in our screening meetings, and I’m really excited to learn more a bit about, I guess your whole philosophy around investing and all the things you’ve been up to. But why don’t we start off by getting a bit of a understanding of your background, so where you came from, what you’ve been up to? Kind of where you got to today and then we can dive into some questions and comments from there.

Ehsan:
Sure. Well, thanks for having me. So, my background, my educational background is actually in computer Science. I immigrated to Canada when I was 18 and I got into school to York University actually when I was 19, and same year I started my very first Company. That company was actually the one of the very first and one of the largest cloud computing companies in Canada. We were offering very much, you know, the same type of services, very much like what Amazon, and Microsoft, and Google are offering today. And so I ran that company for about 14 years as the CTO and the CEO, and ended up selling the company, and exited from that company. So at that point I wasn’t entirely sure what I was gonna do. I met with a few friends in San Francisco, Silicon Valley ecosystem and they were some world renowned scholars at Stanford University in Biotech and DNA sequencing space. And if you may ask, what is the relationship between the computer science and biotech? Well, the answer is everything just beyond where when you sequence the data is just computer science. So it’s data, It’s you know, interpretation of the data and extraction of information from that. So did that for a couple of years, was a CEO and one of the investors in that company and learned the whole process of you know, starting with an idea and taking it through many stages and steps, funding it through the ecosystem through the financial institutions are actually [ inaudible 2:43 ] and you know, such you know, those type of companies, and then ended up again leaving that company within about a couple of years. And really the reason was that I wanted to come back to Canada because me staying there wasn’t very much possible at that time. Came back started doing mentorship, volunteered with a lot of the institutions at the ecosystems of York University, University of Waterloo, Master York and Ryerson, and also UFC, and so I ended up connecting a lot of Startups, mentoring and advising their companies, and helping them out to raise capital, coached it, you know the founders mentored the founders in many different ways and kind of try to you know, support the ecosystem really in my own way. And through those engagements, I kind of learned about the angel investment, got connected with a few folks at GTAN and ended up sitting on the selection committee for a few years. You know, bringing in you know companies, interesting companies that came across helping them out, grooming them for the- to pitch in front of our selection committee, and then somewhat got an understanding of what angel investment was really all about.

Jeffery:
Well, that’s awesome! I- you mentioned something that I thought we could dive into is that in the companies that you work for, you were raising funds as well. So did that happen in both companies that you went into the markets and raised or was it just in the latter company that you invested in and you were participating in?

Ehsan:
So, the very first company that I built, we actually bootstrapped the entire thing. We organically grew the company to about 100, 000 clients over 14 years, and later by just observing what was happening in our ecosystem, I realized the potential of such type of businesses, but obviously had another type of realization, that you know, you cannot get to the potentials of you know, your company, if you’re no aggressively raising capital and growing the company to you know, to really get to the you know, what would be the typical company in those spaces grow to. I mean sorry just probably have to repeat that answer again for you.

Jeffery:
No, that was great! So, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. It’s you know, people always ask this hard-hitting question, “Should I raise funds?” And you know, my response is that because I never raise funds for the companies that I created but at the same time, if you’re looking for high growth, and to own a sector, and drive in the big space in a big fast way, then you need capital to do that.

Ehsan:
Exactly.

Jeffery:
And down the only way to do it, if you’re looking to just grow over time and have 20, 30 growth year over year and just maintain it and be able to support it, that’s different. You’re not looking for high growth and I think 100 to your point is that if you’re looking for that high growth, you have to look for capital. So, in the last business that you’re in and you were raising capital, how did you- was there a structure that you went after? And the reason I asked is, I think this will benefit the startups because you’re pretty methodical, you’re a computer science guy, you understand how moving pieces all work especially, I the the realm of analytics and data, was there something that you did and said, “You know what, I’m going after 400 investors, I’m going to close 20 of them, and that’s going to help me start my business,” was there some sort of process that you went after that you thought really benefited you in your approach to going after angels and vcs throughout the time you were building that company?

Ehsan:
Right. Well, to be honest I did not have a strategy. I’ve- at that point, you know, I never had the exposure that I needed to be able to raise the capital. So, what I did was starting you know, asking for a lot of feedbacks on my pitch- take on the idea on how to raise capital from so many you know, people that were connected, what we were connected to in our club you know, so-called family friends and so forth. From that point on I had an understanding that you know there are certain things, answers, and that the investors are looking for. So kind of started with my first version of the pitch take and in each and every conversation we were having with the investors, there were some blind spots that we didn’t even realize we had. And so, we reiterated on that pitch take and ended up before raising the round. Ended up you know, pitching to about 88 Institutions, and really having about 40 iterations of our- on our pitch deck. So, I had to learn the process.

Jeffery:
Well, it’s a good learning. And when you take a lot of companies through this process but