Jeffery: Welcome to the Supporters Fund Ask An Investor. I’m your host, Jeffery Potvin. And let’s please welcome Tino Reyes. I’m very excited to have you today as our investor. Welcome. It’s been a real pleasure to have you join us, Tino. Thank you for joining us.
Tino: JP, thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here, really excited to get in the weeds here with you.
Jeffery: I love it. Likewise. Well, Tino, we’ve been chatting and working together I guess for the last few months and what I really like about it is, you have this oil banking background that really defines and really drives in nicely into how entrepreneurship works. because when it comes to money, that’s what VCs and investors are looking for and I think you’ve got a lot of that great insight. So, we’re going to dive into that today. But the way we like to start is, maybe you can give us a little bit more on your background, where you’ve come from, the things that you’ve done, where you’re at today and then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Tino: definitely, yeah. So, I have a semi-traditional background coming to VC, having gone through the investment banking side as my path towards the VC side. And yeah, I went to Brown University. I studied business economics and I had the unfortunate experience of graduating during the 2008 financial crisis. And I was really passionate about corporate finance. I’ve always been interested in investing and how companies raised capital and how they really got investors to really buy in and believe in their narratives. So, I was applying to all these investment banking jobs and probably applied to over 100 and I didn’t get any responses that nobody was hiring at all. But luckily enough, oil prices were peaking at this time. So, there was one vertical where I was able to get some traction. So, oil and gas, I was lucky enough to get an interview with. Well, to actually go back, I mean I got a job with Goldman Sachs doing private wealth. Obviously, not corporate finance, not investment banking, but my hypothesis was, if I can get in the door and network and learn enough, I’ll be able to make connections with the people that will open the door for me down the road. And Goldman Sachs was great. They have this thing called Goldman Sachs University which is pretty much like an investment banking training course that junior analysts go through when they join the firm. And even though I wasn’t part of the investment banking group, Goldman Sachs University is something that they open up to the whole employee force. So, I went through all of the investment banking modules, all the junior training programs and figured this has put me in a place where I can go to these interviews comfortably and start networking. So, I was lucky enough to meet an ex-Goldman Sachs banker who had just become the head of Bank of Nova Scotia’s oil and gas practice in Houston. So, like I said, oil and gas prices were through the roof around this time. They were doing a lot of deals. So, they’re building out the team and he liked that he’d taken the initiative to go through all that Goldman Sachs stuff while working on the private wealth side. So, there was a really good fit. And he hired me from Goldman and I joined their team in Houston and I spent some time there around late 2008 to early 2009. During this time period, we started to see the Asian national oil companies, the CNPCS, the Knox of the world, start to really step up their investment in North American assets in Canada and America. So, there was a real need to set up an office in the Asia region to service this new deal flow. So, at the time, the Bank of Nova Scotia only had one MDS in their Singapore office. They didn’t really have any of that infrastructure. the junior analyst associates work that you use, like your financial models, your Facebook templates to go around and do deals. So, they offered me an opportunity to go to Singapore. So, I definitely couldn’t turn it down. I’m actually Filipino so I have a good Asian background. a lot of my family is still there. So, it was great. Singapore is just a hop right over the pond. So, it’s a quick fight and it was a good opportunity to get back to my Asian roots. So, I did that for several years and one of my MDS from Houston at the Bank of Nova Scotia was hired by Standard Chartered Bank to start up their Hong Kong oil and gas practice under the similar hypothesis of Asia expanding. And he saw what I had done in the Bank of Nova Scotia in Singapore and really wanted me to spur that building process in Hong Kong. So, he pulled me aside and I joined the Hong Kong team there. So, yeah, I did that for about two years and then I did my last stop like my little oil and gas tour. I’m from Houston, Singapore and Hong Kong and I finished up in Calgary. Obviously, the heartland of Canadian oil and gas. I spent some time there and finished it up. And yeah, it was around 2013 when I was starting. I’m starting to get a little burned out from the lifestyle. I mean it is to an extent true what they say, your 80 to 90 hour work weeks. Also, I was just never passionate about oil and gas. It’s a great business. It’s a great learning opportunity. But, once you get into that flow of just talking about oil and gas fields with geologists and engineers day in and day out, you’re lacking that passion for it, it’s really hard to motivate yourself to keep on moving forward and moving up which is still ambitious at this stage. I still am now. Anyway, what I saw in 2013 VC capital was starting to get is starting to really pick up. Everyone was into startups. Everyone wanted to build their own startup or work with the startup. And I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I’m really passionate about that. I wanted to be in the startup ecosystem. I wanted to work with them, not even from an investment standpoint. But I just really saw this white space where founders didn’t even have the priority or the resources to hire not only a full-time CFO, but a part-time CFO. That’s not something really considered. you don’t even typically as you would know see a full-time CFO on a bounding team, until probably post series b. But having said that, there’s three to four rounds where a founder could leverage that deal experience running point. It’s almost like a full-time job running a fundraiser. So, I saw an opportunity to leverage my experience there. And it was beautiful because it almost created a negative customer acquisition cost funnel into the fund that my wife and I had started if we wanted to invest in startups as well. So, it was great. I was getting this deal flow where startups were paying me their advisory shares or consulting fees to help them out and then I could also invest in them if I wanted to. So, I’ve been doing that for about eight or nine years now since I left investment banking in 2013. Just continuously, I love talking to founders. I definitely love talking to investors.
Jeffery: taking a page out of your playbook, you seem to be living the dream. looking to one day be at your level hopefully soon. Well, that’s a great story and it’s interesting. But you fell in the place that you probably at least expected yourself to fall into which was oil and gas. And I’m pretty sure that over the journey of your cycle in working with early-stage companies or investing, you will come full circle and you’ll probably end up doing more things in oil and gas and you’ll believe. because I do believe that the things that you start working on early on in your career, they build a comfort level. But they also build a strong knowledge that maybe a lot of people don’t have and you’ll end up going back to that because you see that you can rocket ship a few things and they’ll fall on the plate just the way you expect them later on in your career. So, I think it’s pretty exciting what you’ve gone through before we dive into all of this. one thing about you that nobody would know.
Tino: oh, one thing that nobody knows about me. I am a die-hard Dynasty Fantasy Football junkie. If I’m not talking to founders, if I’m not talking to investors, I’m not with my friends or family, I am doing something related to Dynasty Fantasy Football. Actually, my only other podcast appearance was on a Fantasy Football show. shout out to the High Stakes Fantasy Football Hour.
Jeffery: That was good. I did actually listen in on that. It was some interesting content for sure. So, there are investments.
Tino: Yeah. I’m happy to go into that later if you find it interesting. But there are similarities.
Jeffery: oh, there certainly is. And I’m surprised though that being your Filipino, that you’re not telling me that you’re an NBA fan. So, I’m shocked.
Tino: So, I am an NBA fan. It’s just, yeah, the NBA, Fantasy Football, it’s a different animal from Football when you only have like 16 to 17 games this season. it’s old, but it’s different right? every game counts. whereas having an 82-game season, the calculus changes. But I do love watching the playoffs. I’m definitely not missing a game right now. Well, I’ve been working abroad so my travel schedule and the matches don’t always line up. So, I have caught a few matches but I do know that Filipinos are very heavily hearted towards basketball. Actually, we have an office in the Philippines that has been for 15 years. So, I’ve worked there. I’ve been there probably at least a dozen plus times, maybe more than that. I’m a big fan of the Philippines. So, our office isn’t actually in Cebu. We were in Manila and Cebu but I tend to go there quite a bit. So, big fans shout out to all the Filipinos. They were our rock stars. you have to let me know next time you’re there.
Jeffery: One hundred percent. oh, I certainly will. And in saying that though, I think when you go back to the oil and gas side, looking and diving into that experience that you had, and this is on the financial side, oil and gas actually today as an investment opportunity has taken a real beating on how people want to invest their dollars. The media has driven out that this is bad, electric’s good, trying to really demolish the value of what these companies can actually achieve. But on the other side, there’s been a lot of value coming back into oil and gas because they’re finding ways to be more economical, more efficient and impactful to protect the way that they’re actually taking out oil. So, we’ve been seeing a lot of great startups that have been coming in and changing a lot of the tools and ways that this business operates which is making it a lot cleaner and more efficient in that journey. when you were creating these different companies, one, again you’re obviously utilizing that entrepreneurial spirit which is being very entrepreneurial dropping into Singapore, dropping into Calgary and being able to build up these different entities in Hong Kong, what are some of the experiences that you gained while doing this? because expanding into different regions and being a first time in there and not knowing anyone does take a lot of effort and takes a lot of communication, collaboration skills. is there anything you can share while you were doing this that helped you maneuver through this quicker? because a lot of startups today are getting pressure from their venture firm partners that say, you need to scale, you need to get into different countries. Can you share what that experience was like and ways that you were able to move quicker and maneuver inside of a new country for yourself?
Tino: Yeah. Definitely moving to Singapore while I do have some family in the Philippines, I didn’t have any contacts in Singapore other than the people at Bank of Nova Scotia. And then it was only my managing director at that point. So, what I learned from the experience is that you have to take some risks. It obviously wasn’t something that I was One hundred percent sure would work out, but I knew that it would expand my comfort level. It took me out of my comfort level and it would force me to build out relationships which are hard for me. I’m actually an introvert. So, it forced me to get out of that comfort zone and it taught me that you need to take risks. you need to put yourself out there if you want to continually level up. at the end of the day, if you’re ambitious and you want to go after it. I think that that was the biggest takeaway. Yeah. So, moving to Singapore, I didn’t know anybody but I forced myself to go meet people even outside of oil and gas. just people in all walks of life to understand what Singapore is all about, what the culture is and you really need that understanding before you can even have business conversations with people right. you need to have that personal connection first. you can always jump into a cold call or a warm outreach and have some outcome from a call like that. But it’s not really going to have anything definitive if you don’t build those personal relationships. So, I feel that moving outside of the US was a great opportunity. I probably would have been more of just an introvert if I stayed in the US because that’s my natural inclination and I probably wouldn’t if I didn’t move to Singapore. While I don’t have any Singaporean investments or clients at this stage, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am right now in terms of the network and the deals I’ve worked on if I didn’t really make the effort to take that risk and move to Singapore. So, I encourage anybody who’s in their early 20s or late 20s who has an opportunity to step outside of the country, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and you’ll eat a lot of great food. Well, there’s obviously some pluses with the great food.
Jeffery: I think that when you said you took the risk. And I like the fact that you denote it as a risk. Because really at the end of the day, there is this fear of doing something different or pushing yourself to be in a place that’s unknown or you haven’t done it before. And you mentioned this when you were in Goldman Sachs, that you joined these groups where you got to network internally through these universities, you got to meet a lot of great people, you got educated around things. And what I liked about that is that when I went from entrepreneur to big corporate, I also felt that I needed to draw attention to me, bring people to me because I’m not myself personally. same as you, I’m very introverted, just like to do my own thing and felt well, I gotta get out of my comfort zone. So, the only way I can get out of my comfort zone was to put myself into the mix. So, I would join the rowing team. I felt like I joined the debate team, but they didn’t have a debate team. But they did lunch and learned and I tried to go to everything even if I was just quiet in the background. I got to meet people because they saw me or I saw them and I felt that that really helped me, maybe not in the future, but those were stepping stones to help you get out of that comfort which is just in your own head or doing your own thing. So, it shows that those little steps that you’ve taken along the way opened you up and then got you to take the risk of going into another country and meeting people in that fashion. Now, when you were building this business out and you were driving these areas, how did the trust factor work? How did you balance through? What were the right players? What were the wrong players and was it able to get you to the goal that you needed, which was obviously impressive and help the business that you were there to build, get them interested through the KPIs you were building? How did you figure out through those different means? because again, it’s a whole different country.
Tino: Yeah, definitely. I did play a part in building out those offices, but I definitely don’t want to take all the credit. And I want to give a shout out to JP Chang, my managing director at Scotiabank and Harsh Choda, my VP at Standard Chartered Bank. They really were my first two mentors. They took me under their wing and really showed me what Asia was all about, not just from an oil and gas perspective. But again, like we were talking about just a culture, how to deal with people, it’s a totally different process when you’re dealing with investors and companies there. So, they really took me under their wing and treated me like a little brother and those two people really put me in a place where I am now. So, that’s what I would say is leverage, not only the people you’re superior, who are your superiors, but look for people who have had successful backgrounds in what you’re passionate about and what you want to be involved with and you will find people not everyone will want to mentor you, but you will find some good people out there who will take the time to mentor you and show you the real way to really develop, not only for your career, but as a person. So, people really showed me the way through after I moved to Singapore. And then moving to Hong Kong again, like in Hong Kong, I didn’t know anybody. it’s not the Philippines obviously. a little bit more Filipino people in Hong Kong, but it didn’t really have that network. So, those two people, JP and Harsh, really owe a lot to them to where I am today. And it sounds like any founder or anybody in general that when they’re going to try to do something new, they should always connect in and try to find people. And I’ll use a line that was part of one of our past interviews. And what was interesting is, his name was Luca, and he shared the idea of getting this network or this tribe. And you just mentioned that. And I think it makes a big difference. But I think if you have to really put yourself out there and really try, the network is a support system and then you need to find it. you need to find your tribe and I think that was how Luca phrased it. And it sounds like it’s the same thing that you’re going at, which is really cool. It’s that when you’re in this space, you don’t know who you’re going to be talking to. you’re going to be working through things, find an expert, find someone that really can believe in your passion, your drive, what you’re trying to achieve. And from a founder’s perspective, that’s huge. But then taking this to the next level, it’s also not just getting people that support you and believe in you, but it’s also trying to find people that are going to be there long term. And perhaps, I found this when with my first few mentors, especially when I created the first office in the Philippines. Ben, who was my mentor for my Loblaw’s days, we met in the Philippines. That’s how we put everything together. And it was just amazing because he was older, took me under his wing. We both coded. We both did all these great things together. super techy. call it nerdy stuff, but big fan. He brought me around, taught me everything and even today, when I network with people, the connection I have to Filipinos versus anybody else is completely different because I understand the culture. because I’ve been around them for 20 years with such an intrinsic value of how they work and function in their city, the country, because I’ve been there so many times and it’s just amazing how fast you can connect because you have a connection point.
Jeffery: So, now I think founders really need to figure out their connection point into a business associate or somebody else and hopefully these types of interviews and videos help people relate to that because I think that’s the toughest part of building a company. It’s getting somebody that really believes in you, to mentor but also clients that believe in what you’re doing and maybe you can share a bit about that journey because it sounds like you had to do a lot of that with your two mentors. But you’re building up your own tribe, while you’re in each of these countries.
Tino: Yeah, definitely.
Jeffery: I’m sorry, that was a long-winded question. Did you get the point again? oh, it was long-winded, I was throwing a story in there. But I think that the key is that. or the I gist, the real meat potatoes of this are that when you were going into these cities, you had your mentors helping you. But then as you went into the newer cities, as your second and third time, you probably took a lot of that tailwind yourself and started to drive in. you had more confidence and you were starting to build this up quicker. What were some of the key points that you got out of this in order to network and build people that wanted to be part of the team that you were driving to build your own TRL boat? I guess it’s the best way to call it.
Tino: Yeah. it’s maybe the shift from investment banking to consultancy in terms of building out that tribe. Like I told you, I was never really passionate about oil and gas. So, once I had built up that confidence, once JP and Harsh had got me to a point where I could start to run on my own, I was already at a point where I was starting to like figure out in my head, is this something that I want to be doing for the next 10 to 15 years going into oil and gas? So what I did was, I took the learnings from Singapore, from Hong Kong of having, to put yourself out there and having to make those personal connections and then applied that to how I was going to start the consultancy. because obviously again, I was starting from scratch. no startup connections whatsoever. no founder is going to want to talk to an oil and gas banker just right off the bat. And no investor, no VC investor is going to go to an oil and gas banker for a deal flow. So, again, I took those learnings of just having to put myself out, I mean my comfort zone and trying to go out and meet people. And LinkedIn is a great tool. Upwork was a great tool. It still is a great tool. These platforms are big funnels for me. And like what you said previously about that personal connection, that’s the way I like to guide founders into trying to build these connections with potential investors or advisory board members. it’s not something you want to reach out with your first connection with a person to say I’m raising capital or I want someone to sit on my board. What do you think of this? you need to always lead with the personal element of it. Having left the US and having needed to learn that, that’s what taught me how to go apart building the tribe for the startup consultancy. And it’s really been beneficial. Again, it’s not the same vertical whatsoever. But just taking the learnings and seeing these are just people. if you make a personal connection, you find out how you can relate to them. In some sort of way, you’ve broken down a barrier and then now you can get to a place where you can talk about stuff that impacts each other from a risk perspective or an investment perspective and be able to build that value into the startups by using your background in finance and banking. How has that helped you steer the startup founders? because I probably would say there’s a smaller number of founders that actually really understand the numbers and the real heavy lifting of a business when it comes to that. As you mentioned, you don’t typically bring somebody in until your series b for a full-time CFO. So, now having you come in and being able to operate that, how much faster has that escalated your companies to be able to learn quicker and move through the ecosystem faster? because they’re actually getting a faster understanding from your abilities of working within those spaces and helping them drive out better stronger numbers even in year one versus waiting until year four.
Tino: Yeah. really, it is hard. Obviously, a lot of founders are not going to have financial backgrounds just because of the nature of having diverse backgrounds. So, I’ve been able to help people. I think the biggest question that investors have for founders is not so much walk you through your model or show me your model, but what I believe investors really want to understand is how a founder uses the model to make decisions rather than what are the outputs of the model? saying at this stage as you would know that most of these numbers aren’t based on anything historical. maybe at the series a or b post level, but pre-seed, there hasn’t really been any. Even if you have sales already, there’s no historical precedent to go back and use that to defend your outputs, your projections. So, how I like to frame it is telling them what they’re trying to get out of this. by asking you for the model is seeing how this founder is just making decisions. Yeah, it is numerical. Are they using assumptions? where are they getting those assumptions? Are those assumptions? In fact, have they tested these assumptions and gotten feedback from other people, maybe outside of their own startup? Who is in their industry? just getting all that feedback, if they’re using that to make decisions rather than just blindly walking around in the jungle trying to say, well we’re going to produce this much this year and x and whatnot. So, that’s how I like to guide on that process. And I think it’s been helpful in framing in that way because I think again, it’s going back to when you’re going to be networking with people. Instead of leading, I need investment or I need advisory board members. And with a personal connection. That’s a way for them to show the investors what you are as a founder. It shows them your makeup, right. They’re not all numbers again. Look. good if the numbers look good. That definitely helps. But that’s not the first thing that an investor would be looking for. So, that’s how I try to coach my clients in terms of perspective. And then apart from the financial model, I think helping on the narrative is a big thing that I’ve taken away from the investment banking days. As an investment banking analyst or associate, you’re cranking out hundreds of pitch books a day. As you would know, a startup pitch book is obviously different from a public market pitch deck. But having said that, they all have the same narrative. They all have the same flow and structure. So, just using that and being able to hone that and tighten that, maybe not from a number’s perspective, but just from a details and contents perspective, that’s something I definitely like to be a part of and help with. So, being on the football side and taking the strategy side and the elements that you use inside of where you’re picking the best players, putting together this great team and driving this forward and having a successful season, take some of those learnings, tie that into everything that you’ve constructed with working with startups.
Jeffery: Is there such a crossover where you’re able to help them better understand their team dynamics? you’re obviously helping them with the financial models. So, on the team and the financials and building that narrative, how much of your background do you feel is really playing into how you’re helping these companies succeed? probably not on the founder’s side, because I think Dynasty Fantasy Football, it’s more of an investment game. you’re investing in assets. you’re investing in the players. So, I think some of those takeaways have been better to shed light on investment strategies to other investors, rather than to founders just to go into yes. some detail, just strategy, thoughts just flowing here on non-fantasy football. So, you have your running backs and then you have your wide receivers right and because of the nature of the sport, there are very few premier running backs that dominate the game. whereas wide receivers, because of college football, and this is the progress of pro-style offenses that have been coming up in the college game. There are a lot of pro ready wide receivers that are coming into the game. So, immediately right there right, you see a dichotomy because they’re both different asset classes, but the same investment that you’re making. So, the running backs have that little supply and demand. They’re more like your brand names right. They’re your Apples, your Facebooks, your Netflix’s. Those are the people that you want to spend time investing in even when they might not be that dominant running back right now. Dynasty is not a season-long game where you pick your players. And then at the end of the season, goodbye. Why do I love dynasties? because you can actually make an investment in a person, their rookie year, when they’re not established yet, and you can see that growth. So, that strategy, just like looking at running backs first wide receivers, helped me see in the public markets, not so much for DC, but for public markets because I do trade options on the side. just being able to correlate those running backs with the brand names and then the wide receivers is more like your commodities because there’s so many of them. no one’s going to be investing in some commodity for a long time. It’s a different game. commodities versus the stocks. So, that was like a direct takeaway. I’ve seen from fantasy football that I’ve applied to my trading in the public markets.
Jeffery: That’s very fascinating because I think it carries very well into the way you strategize for investing in early-stage companies. If you think about it, you’ve got the flashy shirt which is your wide receiver. you’ve got your plain black and white shirt and that’s your apple or your long-term play. it’s your go-to all the time. So, when you start to look at the early-stage startup scene, this company scale, can this become a billion-dollar company? Will people want to keep buying into this? And or, is this going to be a flash quick sale where you’ll get three four years out of it? it’ll drive some big dollars, but you’re going to be in and out of this business. And when investors are putting together a portfolio, they’re looking at what these exits look like. Is this a company that’s going to grow and build for a very long time and be a 20-year Netflix or is this going to be a short burst like clubhouse? Maybe the clubhouse is still a success. But I felt like the clubhouse was now skyrocketing and I have a feeling it’s not so big anymore. But don’t quote me on that. But I have a feeling that that’s the direction it went.
Jeffery: So, that’s your wide receiver which has its play. It’s done a great thing but now it’s taken a bit of a beating and now it dropped its value down because it’s not finding its right market. it’s not in the right space. But it did take off really quickly at the beginning because of the success and the drive it had and the problem it was solving. So, there are a lot of short and long term plays that you do in investing. And taking that analogy of the wide and short receiver, I think that that works out just as long as you’re looking into that early stage. Where is this company going to be in 10 years or where is it going to be in five? And you might actually be able to take that analogy and say, if I invest, we have to sell this in five. if I invest, this one’s going to go longer and it’s okay to stay in this past 10 years because it’s going to be another apple.
Tino: Yeah, definitely in there. Yeah, going back to the fantasy football analogy. Well, I related the fantasy to the public markets. They are actually called development leagues where you draft college people. So, that’s like the VC at the VC fantasy football side of it where you’re taking those long-term investments into people. when they haven’t even reached the pro level, so again, yeah, they’re just takeaways and that’s why I love it.
Jeffery: I love the risk reward of it in both investing and fancy football. And the fact that I’m able to take learnings to apply to both, that’s just icing on the cake.
Tino: I agree.
Jeffery: No, it’s phenomenal. And I think it’s a great analogy on how to operate inside of any investment or asset ownership and deciding where this fits as short or long term and value, if it’s going to be a hit or it’s going to be a high rise and a quick fall. So, I think a lot of investors look at that and try to envision where this is going to go and it’s pretty crucial for early-stage investors because they really have to see if this business is going to be here in five years or ten. And if I put my capital into it, is it going to build and grow or am I going to see a spike in the drop off because people will get bored of the product or the service 100%. So, in taking that, and I guess and encompassing all these great things that you’ve built yourself on and being able to build in different countries, focus on early stage companies, are there a couple of things that you can share just in your journey that really stand out on how you like to see and the types of companies that you like to work with and is it the founders? Is it a business? Is it this product? Are there a couple things that really stand out in your mind that you really drive interest into? And then how do you get those founders to really propel those businesses forward? Because you obviously have an interest in them and you like them. So, what are some of the ways that you get those founders to really drive and push their businesses quicker and faster to scale?
Tino: Yeah. In terms of what I’m looking for, again going just back to the human element of it, it’s the people looking into the team as much as possible. you mentioned people and then products and whatnot. At this stage for me, it’s about 70 people in the team and roughly 30 product service ideas when I’m making the investment. I like to know their backgrounds. What previous startups they founded? What previous startups have they worked at? What was their career like before becoming a founder? How do they respond to feedback? How do they respond to setbacks or how did they respond to setbacks in the past? What’s motivating them to do this? What are they passionate about? Why are they doing this? And it’s hard to really glean from those corporate CEOs. you don’t get that at the DC level. I also like to know, obviously as I mentioned, the advisory board. It is really important to me. So, who’s on their advisory board? I believe the advisory board is the second most important investment a founder can make after investing in their founding team. I really believe that. So, that’s a really big trigger for me, having an advisor board with diverse backgrounds and experiences really sticks out to investors. And then also, like what’s on the cap table. What is the background of the people in the cap table who have already invested and what have they done in the past? so all that stuff is really important to me. And then apart from the people stuff, yeah, I’ll look at website traffic, user growth, marketing ROI, and it’s also helpful to look at the whole broadcaster market in general, the vertical look at the competition. how are they growing and performing, what their valuations look like currently if they’re public, or as for their last funding round, and what the recent transactions were like in the vertical. That’s what I’m looking for. And then in terms of how I help those founders, again, it’s with some of the things that I told you about. So, the pitch book financial model, really helping them craft their narrative and the focus. because I’ve seen pitch decks that people would say are nothing sexy about. How did this get funding? at the end of the day, it’s how you deliver that story. So, helping a founder get a lot of pitch reps is something I try to do. And then also helping them build out the advisory board. If there’s anyone I see in my network who can jack up your valuation four to five times, well wouldn’t you make that trade for point one to one percent advisory shares every day of the week? I think you would. if you ask nine out of ten founders that, they would. So, that’s what I look to do. because if I don’t see any way that I can add value, I don’t want to waste your time. So, that’s what I like. I like to leverage the network and focus on the narrative and the fundraise. That’s how I push them to succeed after we get involved.
Jeffery: I love it, and I like the fact that, as you quoted there, that the advisory board is number two after the team. And I think that’s very impactful. And then diving into the data, really analyzing all aspects of the business. So, it’s not just once you’ve gone through the people’s side of it, it’s then understanding the data, the metrics, to make sure that this is fully functional. So, there’s your banking background which is driving into the numbers and the data which I love. And it is huge. It makes a big difference once you understand that because if you’re not diving into it, I think it’s an injustice, to know that the company isn’t driving the likes or the views or having paid views or the conversions. It loses a lot of value from an investment standpoint if you’re just going on a whim and hoping that your gut tells you this is a good company. So, I like that you dive into all of those and help build with that financial model. That’s awesome. Well, we’re going to transition now from taking all that great stuff and we’re going to dive into it like a used case. And if you could share maybe an experience with either one of your founders or just some, I guess storyline around what it takes to be an entrepreneur. And maybe you have a story of either yourself or through any of the founders that you invest in or work with on what it takes to be an investor and what she or he went through to be successful. And maybe they didn’t make it or maybe they came back on the other end and that’s what we’re looking for, just that heartfelt warm story.
Tino: yeah. definitely. I mean a lot. I mean I’m one of the types of people that I learned more from their failures. So, having experienced that, I push founders to not be afraid to fail. don’t be afraid to take risks. And on a personal side, I tried to start to be a founder and failed myself as well. So, before I eventually landed on the consultancy which was a great fit. I was obviously being Filipino. At this time in 2013, when I left banking a lot of the outsourcing companies at this time were moving from India to the Philippines. nothing wrong with India. just because the Philippines, the Filipino people had a less thick of an accent, and obviously the closer ties to American culture, it made sense for Filipinos to be customer service people and perform other outsource roles. So, my initial vision after leaving banking was to start an outsourced company. I mean I felt the relationships in the Philippines. And I felt that I should tell people the next investment banker and I have a family in the Philippines. Well, I’ll figure out some way to make it work and we had some initial. we got some one to two clients. It started looking like maybe this was something we could build. But eventually, at the end of the day, what I realized was nobody wanted to. At least the people I was talking to, they didn’t really want to hire a bunch of Filipinos. They didn’t know. They just wanted to hire me. So, after many conversations, and that was another great part of the experience is, all the feedback I got talking to people trying to pitch this outsourcing idea, it just kept on coming back to not wanting to work there, but we’ll work with you. So, it was that trial and error, that failure. It was the only way I would be able to start the consultancy because if I didn’t, I probably would be still trying to run a small outsourcing company in the Philippines or would be doing something. Maybe I’ve gone back to banking. I don’t know. I probably wouldn’t be here right now if I hadn’t gone through all those feedback interviews with potential clients to realize the actual narrative and what my messaging needed to win clients. But then once that changed, once I realized that, it pivoted. And taking those failures, it really unlocked the growth of the consultancy. It really took off from there on the investment side. Again, failures. It’s all about failures. Everyone in the game has their own list of skills in the bag. my first two investments, two friends and family, around two fraternity brothers from Brown. This is again around 2013 when Medical Cannabis would have just been legalized in Rhode Island. Brown is in Rhode Island. So, that was the connection. So, I invested in a Medical Cannabis Dispensary license that my fraternity brother was applying for. And then the second one was a different fraternity brother who built this like GPS powered Uber Plus Yelp app. at the time, neither really took off obviously. Otherwise, I mean you wouldn’t know about the Cannabis one, but you’d know about the app if it took off. So, none of those really took off. But again, like great learning experiences, just taking failure and learning why didn’t that work out, what did, what can you take from it to move forward and what can you take from it to never do that again. And having gone through those failures, again I wouldn’t have built up the portfolio of companies I’ve invested in now if I didn’t go through those failures on the consultancy side and on the investment side. So, take your failures in stride and learn how to build from them and turn them into constructive outcomes, rather than sitting and wallowing in your grief or your pain and trying to not be constructive. take those failures to grow. And those are some of the personal learnings I’ve learned that I think really helped me and that’s what I try to teach other founders to not be afraid, to take failure because it might not work out, but you might learn something about it that could eventually down the road increase your valuation some way you never know. Like you said, you’ll never know if I might start consulting with oil and gas companies again. you really never know who you might meet or what problem might arise. So, take those failures and turn them into something good.
Jeffery: That’s a great story. And I think it bodes well for founders because I think the fear is going outside of the norm or risking or taking the challenge that you’re not comfortable with. And I think, as you said, if you didn’t take it, you wouldn’t be where you are. But I think the bigger thing is that you can relate now to founders way better than someone who’s never actually tried it. And they never went and saw if they could start a company. And you went through the trial and error, had a few clients and then decided to fold it up. But I think that’s the best learning possible because it drove you into being an investor and it drove you into the spot and space you are today. So, I think that’s a fantastic story.
Tino: Yeah. definitely. And I think if people just focus on it. it’s not that I failed, but later, you can continue writing your story that failure would lead to something else. So, my advice to founders is don’t focus on those parts. focus on what can happen with it.
Jeffery: I love it. Nah, that’s awesome. very insightful. And I think it’s brilliant because it allows you to relate to founders you come across who have never gone through the trenches of a startup world. It’s tough for them. you really understand what’s going on and I think you can put yourself in their place and help them move through those problems quicker and faster. Okay, we’re going to transition now into our one-to-one business personal questions. Are you ready to roll?
Tino: One hundred percent. I’m ready.
Jeffery: All right. pick one or the other. you’re coming in from the business perspective as an investor. So, which one appeals to you the most? founder or co-founder?
Tino: founder definitely.
Jeffery: unicorn or a four-year 10x exit?
Jeffery: tech or CPG as an investor?
Tino: as an investor, probably CPG. I have more experience with CPG and I can add a lot more CPG. But I’d rather choose the other side. But it’s going to have to be CPG. it’s just because of the background in the network.
Jeffery: perfect. NFTs or Web 3.0?
Tino: Web 3.0.
Jeffery: Yeah. Ai or blockchain?
Jeffery: first time founder or second third time founder?
Tino: oh, definitely a second- or third-time founder.
Jeffery: Yeah, you would know.
Tino: Yeah, even my past experience, One hundred percent.
Jeffery: first money in or series a?
Tino: first money in. would let series a because it is already getting to a point where you’re not even seeing some of the returns, you can get anymore at the pre-seed level. So, I’d prefer to be first in money. it’s obviously easier to do series a when you’ve had some institutions come in and it’s easier to follow the smart money. But I’d be first money in.
Jeffery: I love it. Angel or VC?
Tino: as an investor investing into a VC or you mean being an angel or a VC investing into a startup?
Jeffery: correct. Which side would you choose?
Tino: Yeah, angel.
Jeffery: board seat or observer?
Tino: for the advisory board or for the board of directors?
Jeffery: Yeah, where would you come in? Would you prefer to be a board seat or would you prefer to have a board observer role?
Tino: Yeah. I’d have a board of directors. I don’t think I’m at that level yet. I would be flattered if I was invited but I don’t think I’m qualified for that. So, definitely observe. But advisory boards, yeah. I sit on multiple advice reports. happy to take an advisory board.
Jeffery: perfect. safe for convertible note?
Tino: convertible note. you got to get that interest component. But for the founders, I definitely push them to lead with the safe. it’s definitely less restrictive and more founder friendly. So, don’t tell my clients that. But a convertible note if I’m an investor.
Jeffery: I love it. lead or follow?
Jeffery: Well, I would like to lead. I could definitely lead pre-seed seed series a. our check sizes probably can’t lead there, but down the road would like to lead. But I haven’t allowed anything that far but I’m open to looking at lead for precedent.
Jeffery: I like it, setting it up for the future. equity or interest payments?
Jeffery: favorite part of investing?
Tino: the thrill, excitement.
Jeffery: number of companies invested per year?
Tino: In the past, it’s been one to two. And it looks like it’s going to be one to two this year also. But definitely stepping it up. I want to try to hit two to three next year and the year after.
Jeffery: I love it. All right. verticals of focus?
Tino: CPG, athletic apparel, blockchain and fintech are probably the strongest focus. But in terms of the family office, it’s agnostic. we’ll take a look at anything.
Jeffery: Okay. I know we’ve talked about a bunch of these but two qualities that a startup needs in order to stand out to you.
Tino: resiliency. Yeah, resiliency is probably the most important. And relentlessness. I think resiliency and relentlessness. Yeah.
Jeffery: I love it. All right. personal side. book or movie?
Jeffery: Superman or Batman?
Tino: Batman one hundred percent man. I think it’s just while Batman is a billionaire. And a lot of people can’t relate to that. At the end of the day, he’s a human being and goes through human feelings. whereas Superman’s a god. you can’t relate to that. I don’t know what being a god is or what those emotions are like. So, I can’t really relate to Superman on that side. But you say, yeah, One hundred percent Batman.
Jeffery: restaurant or picnic?
Jeffery: five minutes with Bezos or Oprah?
Tino: five minutes with Oprah, probably. I mean obviously I would love five minutes with either of them. But I feel like my weaknesses, Oprah could probably fill that side more than Bezos could fill. I just thought, just their differing backgrounds, I’ve learned a lot more from Oprah’s experience than from Bezos.
Jeffery: At this point, I totally agree. mountain or beach?
Jeffery: bike or run?
Jeffery: Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets?
Tino: That’s a tough one. it’s probably going to be Chicken McNuggets. Yeah, probably Chicken McNuggets. That’s tough though, depending on what day. Everyone will tell you that it depends on what day it is all right.
Jeffery: trophy or money?
Tino: money. Yeah, definitely. Money.
Jeffery: beer or wine?
Jeffery: camera or mobile phone?
Jeffery: king or rich?
Jeffery: concert or amusement park?
Jeffery: fortune cookie or birthday cake?
Tino: birthday cake. Does anyone pick the fortune cookie?
Jeffery: Yeah. someone did. Yes, another interview did.
Tino: really? Wow! I love it. I like it. I’ll take the fortune cookie too man. I like the unknown.
Jeffery: So, you’re really going for the piece of paper. you’re not really talking about eating the cake or the eating the cookie?
Tino: no, man. it’s still either you’re getting a celebration or it’s the unknown message. I like the unknown message. I’m not a celebration guy. But then when it comes to actually eating the cake, I don’t eat either. I don’t like either. So, I just go for the one. It’s either you get a lot of people celebrating around you or you have a fortune cookie where you get to find out with some.
Jeffery: I like that. Ted Talk or book reading?
Tino: What do you mean? What’s a book reading like? after I read a book to someone or what is it that they do book readings that when you launch a book you can go watch the person that wrote it, they can do a reading and you go and get a signed book and everything like that?
Tino: probably books. or you’re the one going to listen to someone else. So, probably I’ll do the Ted Talk. Yeah, probably the talk.
Jeffery: All right. Cool. the most famous person that pops into your mind?
Tino: Rafael Nadal. nice, right.
Jeffery: Yeah. most favorite movie and what character would you play in the movie?
Tino: Well, my most favorite movie again. Yeah, going back to Batman probably, the Dark Knight, I think. So, in terms of character, I don’t really know. I never really spammed yet. Yeah, that’s the cheesy answer. Yeah, I don’t know. Well, yeah whatever. whatever Asian guy was in there. I probably could take his role. I’d be the guy.
Jeffery: I love it. favorite book?
Tino: The Beach by Alex Garland.
Jeffery: Great book. The movie, not so good. The movie didn’t really follow the book’s narrative but the book is for people who have seen the movie and not read the book.
Tino: definitely. check it out. It’s a different animal.
Jeffery: Okay, done. I like it. favorite app you’re using today?
Tino: favorite app I’m using today? probably LinkedIn. Yeah, I’m on LinkedIn right now. It’s definitely a great funnel, a great way to meet. That’s how I met you. So, it’s definitely been paying dividends. I’m definitely excited to work with you outside of this as well.
Jeffery: likewise. All right. last two questions. first brand that pops in your mind?
Tino: First brand that pops into my mind? well at this point McDonald’s because we’ve been talking about the Big Macs and the Chicken McNuggets. Yeah, that’d be the first one.
Jeffery: What is the meaning of success to you?
Tino: What is the meaning of success to me? I think there’s two sides to it there. there’s a quantitative side right. Everybody has their own, as you would say, they’re the number that they have in their head. But what really underpins that qualitative side is I think because every person’s number is different, any number that they would want to be able to say goodbye to the rest of the world. But I think what underpins that number for people is being able to say this is the point where I’m content with everything I have and I’m no longer looking for more or I don’t have the need to just produce more and consume more and they start forgetting about or they start to move that focus of what do I need to do to keep on moving up. And instead, shift that focus to what I have in my life and what is important in my life and how I can spend more time there. So, that’s why I think you have that quantitative side. every person’s number is different. But what really separates that number is at which point are you able to say I’m content with what I have and I’m fine to spend time there and build experiences there. rather than trying to continuously try to reach for more money which might not necessarily give you more happiness.
Jeffery: I love it. some good ways to figure out where you need to be, how you need to get there and doing it in the solace ways so that you don’t hit too many road bumps but at least you got to find balance there. So, Tino I think that’s brilliant. And the very last question I’m going to ask is what is your superpower?
Tino: What is my superpower? Yeah, going back to the advisory board building, that’s the case study that I’ve seen work with some portfolio companies. So, anybody who wants help building out their advisor board, I don’t mean need to sit on your board. But I can help you strategize the people that you need to be thinking about, what’s the best way to approach them and really see how you can use those people to take you to those five to 10x valuation jumps you’re looking for by bringing them on. That’s my superpower.
Jeffery: oh, I like it. I love it. And I love doing that. I don’t have to do it but I continue to engage with founders to do it because I see there’s a big value there and I think it’s still forgotten by some founders in terms of needing to invest in those processes and entities. I love Tino. absolutely brilliant. I appreciate all your time today. I’ve taken a ton of notes and I’m a big fan looking forward to working with you and the way we like to end our show is that we like to give you the last word to share anything you want to founders or to investors. But again, I appreciate all your time today and thank you for sharing.
Tino: JP, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to working with you on several other things. like I said, you got a great platform. you’re living the dream. So, you’re definitely someone who may be up to be my own mentor. Hopefully if you’ll have me. I would love to talk about that. But in terms of what I have to say to investors and founders, just the same messaging that we talked about over the previous hour. don’t be afraid to fail. go and take risks. go find the risks and you never know what may come out of that or who you may need it. It might not succeed. It might not work out the first second or the third time. But you may need someone who ends up being your co-founder or your investor or your advisory board member some time down the road when you’ve opened up your new venture. So, don’t be afraid and go out of your comfort zones. I find that when you go outside your comfort zones, you make the most things. And the last thing I would leave is if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room. So, go find the rooms where there are a lot more people that are smarter than you and more successful and good things will come out of those rooms that you mix and engage with.
Jeffery: well shared. I love it, especially that last point. home run on that one. I’m hitting the red green button but that’s brilliant man. If you’re the smartest one in the room, you need to find a new room. So, you have to keep challenging yourself and get yourself out of your comfort zone and work hard and if you fail just learn and keep moving forward so you don’t have to stop and spend months trying to correct yourself. just move forward. And I appreciate all the nice comments and man I appreciate all your time today Tino.
Tino: Thank you. It was great JP. I’ll talk to you soon buddy.
Jeffery: You bet. Thank you, man. Thank you. All right. see you. have a go on. Okay, Tino, that was awesome. Well, I have to emphasize again because we talked about it quite a few times. don’t be afraid to fail, take the risk, get out of your comfort zone. if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. And I love that. I think it’s always pushing yourself to be better, find more and keep challenging yourself, keep pivoting in your own way to keep growing your business and what you’re doing. So, Tino, thank you very much for that share and all the great things that you’re doing. Thank you and thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed this conversation, please feel free to share with your friends or subscribe to our YouTube channel. follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcast and or Stitcher. Your support and comments are truly appreciated. You can also check us out at supportersfund.com or startup events visit openpeoplenetwork.com. Thank you and have a fantastic day.