Vik Sasi

Vik Sasi


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Dreamers VC

Vik Sasi – Innovation

“I don’t think you can ever dampen innovation no matter which way the world goes”


Vikram (Vik) Sasi was previously on the investment team at AmFam Ventures. He began his career as an Analyst for the Clinton Foundation’s Health Access Initiative and as a Strategic Advisor to the Haitian Ministry of Health, with additional stints in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and venture capital at Healthbox. Vik is a former state chess champion, FAA Private Pilot and speaks Spanish, French and Haitian Creole. He holds a BA in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.



Vik Sasi

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Well welcome. It’s very exciting to have you here today vik! You’ve got an impeccable background, so i’m excited to dive in and learn a lot more about yourself and share that with our community. But to kind of start it off the best way would be to share a little bit about your background kind of where you’ve come from, where you’re going, where you’ve landed, and then we’ll dive right into it from there.

Yeah right on. So yeah so first off, thanks for having me. Yeah it’s an honor to be here and i know we met sharing that panel way back when during the the height of the pandemic. So it’s good to reconnect. But yeah so Vik Sassi. I grew up in Milwaukee Wisconsin which is now i think currently under like two meters of snow. And i certainly can’t yeah — i’m very grateful for that but glad to be in sunny California but i grew up you know the first generation immigrant family of my heritage Indian. So my mom, dad, brother, and sister were all MD’s, medical doctors. And so luckily i had black sheep i was noticeable actually from a very young age and knew i was you know going to be a little more but i think more of a wayward journey, more of a wayward person. So i did my undergrad down in biology and you know soon after i graduated from college i just i really wanted to have impact in my career, i wanted to be out of my comfort zone. i didn’t want to be a doctor much to my parents dismay and so that basically set me on a path working abroad. So i spent about a year and a half in east and central africa doing work for nonprofits and ngos and i spent three and a half years in haiti working as an analyst for President Clinton’s foundation and then later actually being poached by the government of Haiti to finish our project which was working on the national HIV program after the earthquake. So it was you know radically different than what most VCs you know sort of come into after like a two-year consulting or banking program or something like that. Non-traditional is basically my middle name and after i finished in haiti i knew grad school was the next logical step in my career and business school enables you to totally reinvent yourself and was fortunate to go to university of chicago and their full-time program, was exposed to a number of different sort of hard finance internships and experiences and ultimately joined a fintech and insurtech corporate venture fund straight out of school that did it was backed by a fortune 300 legacy insurance carrier. So i did a lot of you know i became a licensed insurance agent just to sort of speak the language which was, it’s a an interesting endeavor just by itself but specializing in blockchain, crypto, agtech, and then some of the core fintech venture tech parts. And then more recently i spent about two years at that fund and then i’m now coming up on two and a half years at Dreamers which is an early stage generalist fund based here in LA. Most notable aspects
that were co-founded by Will smith and Keisuke Honda a major japanese soccer player. What’s interesting is that we’re not a traditional celebrity fund or an offer to the family office, we’re structured like a two and twenty venture fund and capitalize with all japanese limited partners. So nomura the big investment bank is our anchor and then we have a pretty diverse competition at the rest of our capital base shiseido, mitsubishi, asics, densu, all make up our LP bay. So yeah that’s where i am today and how we got here and happy to delve into you know more about our fund or whatever else i can answer for you or your listeners.

For sure well all very exciting. I love the fact that you decided to diversify from the family background, i’m sure everybody’s pretty happy with the move. You can always go back and be a doctor at 50 or something. So in this process i think what i hear and what i love about your
background is that you’re very diverse and that you got to work in these other countries so maybe talk a little bit about that experience and how that’s actually folded into what you’re doing in this diversity fund because i think that really probably speaks well to why and we can dive in a bit in a bit as well to why will smith and family kind of partner to jump in with you.

Yeah so you know i would say you know one of the biggest things i learned from my experience, experiences, really abroad is — you were so much closer to the end user and whether that means like literally the detritus that comes from western developed countries and like these like old t-shirts, you know super bowl champions that never were and things like that. But also just in terms of like you know all the hand-me-down like those nokia phones that we you know were our first phones are now making their way you know around and sort of just being really you know experiencing going through life and serving that end user actually helped me sort of pitch and it’s like look like i can actually empathize a lot more with you know future consumers especially ones in you know whether it’s emerging markets frontier markets to even just being you know from wisconsin and working at a fund that had midwestern routes. We certainly did a lot of investing on both coasts and clearly the valley in new york and boston are power centers for venture but at the end of the day you know what i tend to found or what i really like to select for with startups was you know which ones can actually cater to that middle market to sort you know to fly over country to the 80 percent of americans that live that whose you know incomes in aggregate are far greater than you know what then like that those small pockets on the coast where the disposal incomes are higher and they have a lot more spend and so that’s always been something that’s that’s driven me whether to you know starting my first job in the democratic republic of congo to even now looking for things that you know everyday consumers can actually enjoy. And really it’s about you know one thing that i think uber really demonstrated was this idea of consumer surplus where the consumer is deriving or getting so much more value than so much more than what they’re willing to pay which i think you know we all find as much as we can you know may complain about surge pricing and all these things like it’s still far better than waiting in a street looking for a cab or you know trying to hail one down or something. So consumer surplus matters a ton to me i’ve seen it in developing countries and i basically apply that same sort of you know framework as to how would this impact the you know the end user even in my day-to-day investing right now.

When you’re working there you’re working in the congo or working for in haiti did a lot of that did you get into the ground side of things where you’re really focused on that end consumer or did you get to see a lot of it just because there’s containers coming in every day trying to help a community build and rebuild and you start looking at this and say you know what there’s got to be other solutions here, there’s got to be startups that can jump in and fill the voids here and fix this and how can we get the startups starting in this country and then hey wait maybe we can invest from our country into these areas and maybe that’s a better way of helping them grow?

Right yeah so you know when i was abroad, i should note that this was very much pre-sort of like my career now in tech so everything we were doing and especially honestly the poorer the country the more low-tech. Your idea or the project or anything likely should be given that they have rolling blackouts you know power is you know can’t be taken for granted. i work for the ministry of health and so you know one thing that like i can remember so fondlyis how the world is dealing with this vaccine roll out because i remember having to maintain a cold chain nothing
to the extent of don’t get me wrong i mean i’m not even putting myself near the shoes of the frontline workers and all the others that are that are getting this out but i just remember it’s like okay like we got to have like specific igloo coolers we can’t have and oh you know when we go to a site it’s like of course they they have no power and their generator is broken and there’s a fight over who should pay for the gas which means the fridges can’t hold anything and so you know a lot of times and so at the time you know we’d see a lot of sort of like tourists come looking for tech solutions like how can we bring like a crm so that you can track all these things and it was like look we’re using computers you know that still run on dos like we can’t instant you know we don’t have reliable internet so it doesn’t even matter if the crm is you know god’s gift to tracking patients you know we don’t have connectivity. So at the time i was actually not not bearish but i just wasn’t as excited about introducing a lot of sort of like things we take for granted in the everyday world today and now having in venture there’s nothing i would love more than to sort of marry the two but it’s it’s really hard to talk to a lot of my friends that are still working in development and you know it’s slower than i think we all would like but it’s like that for a reason because so many so much more dollars have been wasted and burned trying to bring some of the more high-tech solutions to some of these emerging countries and everyone looks at the mobile phone as how africa leapfrogged the landline and went straight to mobile and it was like yes that’s true and we’d love to see that a number of other things, unfortunately i’m not sure anything’s come that close though who knows where we’ll be with granted i guess you know the loon project isn’t it doesn’t exist but if starlink or something comes to fruition really you know empowering connectivity all over i think that can really be a leap frog there’s also some really interesting crypto technologies. But anyway i’ll stop rambling but i still remain as hopeful as ever jus