Scott Garber
IMPACT INVESTING

Scott Garber

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Managing Partner @ Early Light Ventures

Scott Garber – Communicating how your product is better than the competition

“The market will sort of tell you what works and what doesn’t work, and as soon as you have something that works, you have to really go at it hard, and really put the chips on the table and make those bets.”

ABOUT

Scott has always been an entrepreneur at heart – from beanie babies and Pokemon “businesses” in high school, to two actual startups in college. Puppystock (2005–2007) was an online marketplace with customized pet products that grew to tens of thousands of customers across six continents and was eventually acquired in 2007. FriendTones (2007–2008) disrupted the way content could be shared across nearly any network and device.

Since his ventures, Scott has directed large software development and deployment projects for Government clients (2008–2011), served as a strategy consultant for the deputy director of an intelligence agency (2009–2010), and operated an international family office (2011–2014). More recently, Scott was the deputy head of corporate strategy and corporate development for Serco, a multi-billion government services company (2015–2017) an entrepreneur-in-residence at AARP Foundation, and the operations director for Baltimore Angels.

Scott is currently the Managing Partner at Early Light Ventures, an enterprise software fund that is disrupting the normal venture capital model — and hopefully on it’s way to transforming the way startups are funded in the Mid-Atlantic region.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Scott Garber

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
Scott, I want to thank you very much for joining us today on “Ask Angel”. We’ve conducted 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 interviews and we’re always excited to get the opportunity to speak with investors and people that own and crush it in the investment community. So, we’re excited today to be speaking with you and get to learn a lot more about what you’re looking for from an investment standpoint while learning a little bit about yourself. So, maybe what we can do is we’ll start off by if you can give us a little bit of a background on yourself like where you come from, where you reside, the you know, the nuts and bolts of yourself and then maybe finish it off with one thing about you that nobody would know.

Scott:
Oh, interesting. All right, so my background and most VCs probably say, “Hey, I’ve got a non-traditional background,” but mine is pretty non-traditional. I actually started off way way back when when I was a little kid. I used to sell brownies and baseball cards and pokemon cards and beanie babies and made what was back then a lot of money but to me as a little kid back you know looking back is really not that much money today but sort of got that entrepreneurial streak early on. Founded out my first company in college really was a beer money business. It wasn’t supposed to be that big, we didn’t think it would go anywhere and then two years later it actually did go somewhere and we sold it. And immediately founded a second company, sold out a year later after we’d all graduated my co-founder and I. And then I had an opportunity to go back inside the intelligence community in the us, and work for a director doing you name it all sorts of special projects from on the intelligence side, of the operations side, to everything in between. And learned a ton of different random skill sets which actually pay off pretty well with running a fund today. Then, started angel investing, met a founder, former founder who became a giant angel investor in our region, around D.C. has about 130 angel investments. Ended up working with him on a number of those deals, learned how to actually invest which is something I didn’t necessarily understand when I was running my companies and continued angel invest. Ended up joining a giant company which is actually has a presence in Ontario, it’s called Circo and I was running MNA for them; Trying to figure out what to do with various parts of the company including the Canada business which is an interesting business in its own right. Then I was the entrepreneur in residence at AARP which is a huge non-profit in the US about 2 billion or 3 billion a year and I was dreaming up ideas and trying to figure out companies they should work with from the aging and place perspective to keep seniors in their own homes and out of senior centers and healthier. And then ran Baltimore Angels which is a big angel group in Baltimore about 70 members and that’s our early light ventures which is the fund I run got started. There are about 15 members in Baltimore Angels that came to me and said, “Hey, can I just write you a check? Just to pull money together and you decide where to invest,” and after 15 of them raised their hand said, “Yeah, I actually do want to do this, here’s a check.” We decided to raise this fund and then fast forward 18 months later the fund is actually active with eight companies in the portfolio. It’s b2b software only, it’s primarily preceded to early A, so what that actually translates to is valuations the low end of about 3 million up to the high end being 15, maybe 18 million post money, and we’re looking for companies that generally have revenue. So around 300, 400k in air are up to about two or even three or four in ARR depending on the terms and depending on the sector and we really value founders that are- they’re hustlers, they have a lot of grit, a lot of tenacity, they’re really capital efficient, they know what they want to do, they know what they want to solve, they’re already solving it, and in a lot of cases, they have at least some experience in the sector they’re disrupting. The one thing that sort of stands out as we do back a lot of first-time founders, we do back some second-time founders, but most of them are first-time founders. We actually have the most luck in the most I think, it’s the most exciting to back some that’s doing this for the first time. They sort of have that chip on their shoulder which is something we really value.

Jeffery:
I love it! And one thing that nobody would know about you that you want to share?

Scott:
I don’t know pretty open books, most people know everything about me but one thing most people don’t know about me is I actually chase tornadoes. So I actually, way back in college, I started the storm chasing club at UVA in Charlottesville and I studied meteorology as a minor. I didn’t actually finish that minor but I took a bunch of courses and I forecast the weather for the newspaper the cap daily which is the campus newspaper. And then I went out to the midwest and actually chased tornadoes, so anytime there’s a severe storm, my partner know that who to look through.

Jeffery:
That’s awesome! So any I don’t know, close calls or flying cows that you were like, “Wow, what the hell did that just happen?”

Scott:
No, no flying cows. I was kind of an idiot when I started. I was a, you know, college kid, actually high school kid when I first really started chasing and I thought it was a bright idea to chase at night. A couple times which when you’re chasing a tornado you have to actually be able to see it, if you don’t have good radar which back then you didn’t have radar like mobile radar that was very accurate or it was time delayed. And there were a couple of situations where I was trying to figure out. Look out my window like where is this thing actually coming from and found out once or twice that it was actually coming from about half a mile away and coming toward me. So I had a couple close calls and couple scary moments that are pretty memorable. (Laughs)

Jeffery:
That’s pretty awesome! Well, it creates some excitement and gets the blood flow go