Investor, Family Office, LP, Entrepreneur
Vishal H | Investor, Family Office, LP, Entrepreneur

"But that's the life of an entrepreneur. It’s not about who's going to let me. It’s about who's going to stop me. That’s the mindset that you got to have. you've got to take rejection every day of the week, from customers, from your investors, and employees. So, you have to have thick skin as an entrepreneur."

- Vishal H. Kewalramani

Vishal on Honesty with investors.

Talk Takeaways

Vishal H., Investor, Family Office, LP, Entrepreneur, shared his humble beginnings from winning a lottery ticket to founding a single-family office in New York, London, Singapore, and Hong Kong. He talked about his heart for entrepreneurship highlighting the values he learned from his experiences. He also made mentioned impact investing. He specifically shared his concern about consumer-driven problems like fast fashion and how he wanted to see innovation in the aspect of creating solutions for environmental concerns. Aside from this, he also emphasized the need to establish a common vision for a team to create faith in the potential of a business. Finally, he discussed growth capital and how he was more than willing to back startups.

About

A seasoned entrepreneur and owner of The Valkin Group. Founder of Elite Models in London.

The Valkin group is a family office and trading company that has global interests in media, fashion, real estate, private equity, philanthropy, films and trading.

We finance and invest in growing businesses in developed markets. We look for businesses with established track records and strong management teams.

Investment Criteria:

– Companies with annual revenue of US$1 to US$80 Million
– Good credit history (No startups under 2 years)
– Located in Developed markets (US, UK, EU, AU, NZ, CA, etc)
– Companies dealing in Physical products, hardware, consumer goods. (No Software or services)

Industries preferred: E-commerce retail, Tech Hardware, Fashion & Clothing, Consumer household goods, Apparel & Accessories, Home Décor, etc. (Low preference for software, services or Real estate currently)

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the Supporters Fund Ask An Angel. I’m your host, Jeffery Potvin. And, today let’s welcome Vishal Harris Chandra. Thank you very much for joining us today.
Vishal: My pleasure to be here.
Jeffery: we’re very excited to have you on especially because you’re in one of my favorite countries which is Singapore. And, you can’t go wrong with Singapore. It’s the hub of all of Asia, or at least I find it is. It connects so many great things that are going on in Asia today. With that excitement, we want to dive right into it. And, we’d love to learn a bit more about your background. I know there’s a lot of great things that you’ve done, especially in the family, office and the venture firm space. So, perhaps you can give us a little bit of a background on yourself and then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Vishal: Sure. happy to be here. Thank you for having me. always a pleasure to take time out and talk to founders and entrepreneurs. So, we’re a single-family office in New York, London, Singapore and Hong Kong. So, usually I’m in London, most of the time. but I get to travel quite a bit. serial entrepreneur, built and sold for businesses. I’ve been lucky in my life. It is in private equity fashion. real estate these days, we get to spend time investing in founders, mostly venture debt. We do quite a bit of hardware consumer goods, and developed markets are always looking for young ambitious founders to begin support. And, what was that thing you mentioned, one thing about you nobody would know. Well, some people would know this. but I mean the first company I ever started was when I was 23 years old. That was on the back of a lottery ticket which I won when I was 23. it was in the press back in the day. but that was about 20 years ago. So, not a lot of people would know that now.
Jeffery: So, you use the funding to do that? or what do you mean by it was on the back of a lottery ticket?
Vishal: I was on the back of a lottery ticket. I actually won a car and I sold the car. And, I got forty thousand dollars for it. I started my business.
Jeffery: wow. That’s amazing. And, where were you at the time when this occurred? Was it in Singapore or London? Which city or country?
Vishal: I was in Dubai at the time.
Jeffery: Wow, that’s pretty cool. I’ve never heard a story where someone had a nice little win and then turned it into a bigger win. So, that’s pretty cool.
Vishal: yeah. It was a win by default. it was more arbitrary. I did that on purpose. And, it was when you’re young and you’re poor and you’re hungry, you’ve got nothing to lose. You sort of try all the angles and you work the numbers and it pays off.
Jeffery: so, wow. That’s brilliant. And, maybe you can talk about a little bit on that side, because what I find really fascinating is that some of the really strong family offices, VCs, investors, have a background in entrepreneurship. And, you obviously attacked it by winning, selling and building a company. What kind of got you interested in that side of things? and why did you jump into entrepreneurship right away and not take a corporate job? What was the push or pull that got you into that space?
Vishal: Well I don’t know. I’m inherently unemployable. I think that’s the best way to put it. my first job out of college, I was getting paid 500 bucks a month. It didn’t seem like a lot of fun. And, I was at entertainment events. I was in exhibitions at that time in Dubai. They used to have a shopping festival where every day you could win a car. you go into a store, you buy something for 10 to 20 bucks, and you can win a car. So, back as a poor kid, I went to the gas station. back in those days, you would have prepaid credit for your mobile phone. So, I would go and buy the credit. I got the raffle ticket with me. I sold the credit, got my money back and I still had the ticket with me. So, I said okay, that’s a great business. So, I could do that infinitely. So, every day after work, I would buy thousands of hours of credit. And, then I would go door to door to the retailers to sell the credit, get my money back so I would put in 50 to 500 coupons a day. And, on the 27th day, I actually won the car. And, then I sold that and started the first business. entrepreneurship has always been in my DNA. And, as they say, you have to be in it to win it. So, if you don’t start somewhere, you’re never going to get there.
Jeffery: And, it kind of sounds like the whole component to this was that you wanted to find ways to make money or pay back the money that you spent to get something, some value out of something. So, which is kind of how entrepreneurs work, which is solving a problem, finding out that there’s a fit and getting the value and exchanging value for currency. And, in your case, you were going in and found a way that if I take these tickets and resell them, I can get my money back and still have an opportunity to have a gain. And, that gain is going to be that I may win a car. If I do this long enough, maybe the odds will be stacked for me because I’ll have enough tickets that will open up my odds of winning. It’s fair to say exactly.
Jeffery: Yeah, that’s a fair way to put it. I mean back in those days. there wasn’t much venture capital around. Nobody would give me any money to start a business. So, I figured I had to go do this myself. well a lot of people probably look at that and say the same thing. but they don’t actually do it. And, you took the job of moving forward and actually going after it and that I think in itself you’re breaking the fear, the stigma of how hard it is to build a company. And, you found a workaround and made it happen. So, kudos because you wouldn’t be sitting here I guess, if you didn’t do all of these. I guess hustle to figure out how to solve that problem, make money because you could have just stayed in a corporate job. like you said, you weren’t having fun. but it wasn’t also hitting the means of what you were looking for.
Vishal: Yeah. But that’s the life of an entrepreneur. It’s not about who’s going to let me. It’s about who’s going to stop me. That’s the mindset that you have to have. you’ve got to take rejection every day of the week, from customers, from your investors, and employees. So, you have to have thick skin as an entrepreneur.
Jeffery: That’s a fantastic line. I’m actually writing that down, not who’s going to let me, it’s who’s going to stop me. And, I think that Vishal is huge because that really 100% denotes what it takes to be an entrepreneur. I think a lot of us have a fear and we don’t look at what entrepreneurship can bring to us. We look at the hustle as being hard, scared that I’m going to change how things have been going. I get a steady paycheck. I can fit in somewhere. And, if I go and start my own thing, it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be hard on me. I don’t know if I can handle it but that is the entrepreneur mindset. I don’t care about that. I’m going to change the world. And, if I’m going to change it, someone’s going to try and stop me. And, I’m going to plow through that as well. So, I love that. That’s fantastic. It’s really about taking rejection. I mean, another thing that people probably, I’m sure every entrepreneur has this, but you fail more than you succeed. but nobody hears about the failures. We all hear about the wins. Maybe in that case, I would love to explore that side because you’re 100% true, that in anything from venture capital, all the way across you tend to always stack the things that are pretty and look great. And, you forget the stack of things that show your learnings on why you’re able to get to that success. Maybe we can explore a couple of things in the processes that you were going through to build your companies and build the family office that you have. What were a couple of things that really stood out that maybe you would look back and say yeah, that was something that caused the problem? or that really was your learning lesson? it doesn’t always have to be a failed company. it has to be something that allowed you to step forward and that you were able to see, make that mistake and move forward. is there something that sticks out in your mind that you were like, I made an investment in this company, I knew I shouldn’t have. This caused this and I learned a great deal from that experience. or I started this company and it was not in the right space, the right time. but I solved it by learning how to not do this next time. Is there something like that pops into your mind?
Vishal: Yeah. I mean it’s more about the lessons that you learn as an entrepreneur that are similar to what you learn as an investor. So, for me as an investor, I’m always looking at the character of the entrepreneur. So, you’re looking for someone who’s motivated, driven, intelligent but above all has character. So, that’s Warren Buffett’s thing. you want him because he is intelligent, hard working with a great character. If he doesn’t have character, then you don’t want him to be smart and hard-working. you actually want a dumb and lazy. but yeah, it drives that character for you.
Jeffery: what makes you find that character and what does a character define you? Because everybody would look at being smart, charismatic, hard working. we can see that on the surface but maybe behind the scenes, they’re lazy and slow like you said. And, they’re not executing. And, I think execution is probably key to all of this. but what is that character that you’re looking for? is it a character flaw that you avoid? or how does that look? I mean in a word, I would say it’s honesty. Like a lot of people, when they have problems with the business or whatever, you should always just own it. investors are okay with you failing all the time. it doesn’t matter as long as you pick up the phone and you face the music. It takes a real person to do that and anybody that does and everybody knows it’s a hard job. So, I’ve always seen this with every one of my investors or entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with and people that have invested in me as well. If things go wrong, you just pick up the phone and say listen, we messed up. This is what happened. more often than not, you’d be surprised how people will give you a pass. but it’s when you start dodging their calls, or you start playing it loose and fast with the numbers or fudging the accounts. That’s a no-no. Now you start to dig the hole even deeper. And, instead of looking at the broader side of it in the community that you’ve built around you, there’s a lot of opportunity to get that help that you didn’t think was there by sharing and communicating out what was happening or what’s been going on so that people could actually figure out how they can get behind you or at least which point you a different direction that might help you overcome the space that you’re currently sitting in.
Vishal: absolutely, if you’re an entrepreneur and you call one of your investors and you tell them the problem and you actually ask for advice, you’d be surprised how helpful they could be. And, that actually, that’s one thing to remember. people that are on your camp table, they’re actually in your corner. they’re there to help you. So, the best thing that you can do is be transparent.
Jeffery: agreed. And, how much of this, when you take the four companies that you built, sold? How much of the learning did you take? And is this the reason why you got into being a family office in venture capital? Was that the shift that you saw the successes that you had, the learnings that you kind of grew and decided this was the next step for you? and what were those learnings that really kind of drove you to where you are today?
Vishal: Well, I mean at heart, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I always will be. So, I invest now because I also think it’s important to give back. but the learnings have always been that. because when you’re an entrepreneur, it’s always feast or famine. you’ve got liquidity events. when you sell a business, and you’re liquid, you’re highly liquid, or there’s sometimes when you don’t pay yourself a salary for years, and then you slog it out. And, while you’re building something, I’ve been through both. So, you learn a few things along the way. I can live on Mac and cheese, burgers and pizzas for a long time. I remember the first business I did. I didn’t take a vacation for seven years and I think at one point my budget for a meal was a dollar a meal. And, I couldn’t spend more than that if I wanted to. And, even then, I was down to 50 bucks in my bank account. So, yeah, you see the highs and the lows. well you understand how to balance things and the struggle. So, you kind of prepare yourself for that on the next venture as you keep working through them.
Jeffery: I’m sure it allows you to kind of see into what’s the best way to run it. but I think that’s also super valuable for another entrepreneur to hear and learn from you because you didn’t just drop in as a golden nugget with tons of money building your first company and just kept doing that. you had to start from scratch, you had to go through the learnings, you had to go through the product fit, market fit or not fitting. you had to go through a lot of these things and I think that brings a lot of value back to the entrepreneurs that you’re investing in. Are there a couple of pieces in there that really stand out that you mentioned? Obviously, character being one of them. Are there other things that stand out in a business that you look for that maybe others don’t see right away at the beginning?
Vishal: Yeah, I mean, I do a lot of impact investing now. impact investing has a lot of angles. This can be socio-economic, gender diversity. I mean you can. The list goes on and on. It could be education, health care. And, I was on a panel the other week as well for impact investing, and we were having this conversation. And, I like the fact that businesses these days, a lot of startups have impact sort of hard-coded into their DNA as a startup. So, it’s much easier as you grow that business to have an outlook. It’s always not purpose versus profit. you don’t have to pick one or the other. You can do both if you’re a legacy business. And, now you’re highly polluting or you’re highly consumer-driven. you can allocate a part of your profits towards an ESG program, a CSR program. but it’s never the same. as if it’s built into your DNA. That’s what I try and look for in businesses, either from a founder perspective. If they’re underfunded or then, or if they have a common goal. I like healthcare. I like education. I love education, but yeah, there are a lot of battles out there. So, I’m always happy to support businesses that have that angle to it.
Jeffery: You mentioned a common goal. Does this mean that you’re looking for founders that are co-founders in the business? or you’re just looking at that they’ve been able to build out a strategy within the business that meets the common elements of being an impact business. or being in that environment, well it doesn’t even have to be an impact investment or impact business, if it’s great, like there’s nothing wrong, building a business that employs 10,000 people, because now 10,000 families have livelihood, so there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. And, you can own it and say, listen, I have no impact in the world, but the only thing I’m doing is creating jobs and employment which in itself is a good thing to do. So, you can be upfront about that with your investors. For sure, we did a panel. maybe about three or four months ago. And, one of the panels was on impact CPG, on the whole impact side of CPG branding. And, it was interesting because a lot of the people in the panel almost took insult to injury that people were trying to perceive or push and say that you can pay for offset credits. you can do all these things when they are saying no, we built our business with that in mind first. So, we wanted to make sure that we’re not the best. we’re not saying that the whole thing from day one is going to be sustainable. but what we are going to make sure of is that everything we do is working towards that degree of separation. So, when you look at our business today, ten years from now, it will be a hundred percent renewable and sustainable. all of those great things. but today, we’ve started with these three major elements which shift and change and make us way different than everybody else. but we can’t build a company without billions of dollars to be 100%. So, we’re going to be 70. we’re going to work our way towards this. we’re going to ensure that everybody knows that this is what we stand behind. So, I do agree that there is a different way to create an impact. but as long as the founders have that mindset, it’s not smoke and mirrors. And, that they’re making it up, but they’re literally standing behind what they believe in. And, investors can get behind that. At the same time, I think there’s a great way for a lot of companies to start to make that shift. or at least to grow in that capacity. And, because I’m a skeptical cynic at heart, I’m always looking at the angle. because a lot of guys use that impact word just to splash it on the VC fund, splash it on their business, and then raise capital in the name of impact. but for me, I’m looking at measurability. What sort of impact are you having? and I mean, give me the numbers. And, so that again, it’s about transparency.
Jeffery: agreed. You mentioned your background in retail earlier. Do you focus on any of that type of impact investing as well? you can cut that into a million verticals but retail is pretty big. They do a lot of different things that are old school based. Is that something that you kind of push startups into? and trying to call it, ‘revolutionize the way retail is working’, is that something that you take to heart when you’re working with these types of companies?
Vishal: Well, my background is in fashion media. So, now we talk about barrel clothing. That’s a 1.5 trillion-dollar business. And, in this day of fast fashion, with consumerism, you can buy a dress for 10 bucks. you use it a few times. And, throw it away. That’s sort of fast fashion. And, it is the second most polluting industry after coal and oil in the world. So, I would like to see more businesses that do sustainable but good quality products at a price which lasts longer, or any other angle efficiency in the supply chain. I mean there’s nothing wrong with making products at a price point which benefit emerging markets. at the same time, help customers in developed markets access goods at a cheaper price. you’re doing the world a service there because suddenly you’ve got a factory worker in Bangladesh that can now provide for his family. At the same time, you got a guy in Sweden that can buy socks for 25 cents. That’s a win-win. all the way around the world prospers. but it shouldn’t amount to mass consumerism where you buy it and this whole disposable economy. I have a fundamental problem with that.
Jeffery: I totally agree. And, I know that, especially in the fast fashion world, that they’ve got warehouses all over the world with billions and tons of excess cotton wool just sitting there. And, they don’t even know what to do with it. And, it’s just keeping the market down so badly and tampered down. And, then you’ve got all the chemicals that are riding into to make the clothes, etc. So, I do feel that there is certainly an opportunity for startups to kind of change the way this is working. And, you’re starting to see a lot of emerging startup companies come into the space that are trying to change the way the distribution supply chain works. at the end of the day, it’s still overly consumed because that was the way that they could sell. It was fast fashion. So, that 10 dresses that you’re going to wear three times and throw away, they can’t even keep up with it. And, over the years, they were sending products to third world company countries. And, even that hasn’t been failing because of the amount of access. So, it is something that does seem like there could be a really big effort that could be put in by a couple of startups. that could change the way that works. I was talking to one of the VC funds. We were having drinks the other day and one of their portfolio companies does the biodegradable straws where they actually throw it in your garden and it decomposes in a year. That’s huge again. one thing I keep wondering about is the pandemic, disposable face masks. How many hundreds of millions of masks are we using in a day? I don’t even know where these masks go at the end of the day. It’s crazy. It’s a good point when the pandemic started. There were a lot of shortages because this was something that they didn’t actually look at or anybody looked at as being an issue in the world. And, then they had to ramp up all of that. but right now, you’re stuck with oceans filled with them, floating with the rest of the plastics in the world. And, I think the disposable side of everything we do, people forget that it has to go somewhere. And, I mean perhaps the change that needs to happen is in the environment. it isn’t so much of needing to find out where we can renew everything, but maybe it’s taking care of your own garbage. Now, what if you have to dispose of all your recycling. Now, it’s being put on you. Now, will that change your eating habits? Will that change your one-time consumption? because at the end of the day, you can’t stick it on the corner. you have to drive it somewhere or you have to put it somewhere where it is going to get action. And, maybe you have to pay directly out of your pocket. Does that change consumerism for the rest of the world? Because today, I’ll drop it and go. And, I think that we’re so used to that format that we’re forgetting about the rest of the world because it’s someone else’s problem.
Jeffery: Yeah, absolutely well said. really well said.
Vishal: I would like to see more innovation there because out of sight is out of mind. but it isn’t just in a different part of the world. And, building up, you take back to the day when this was only a few years ago where Canadians would ship all of their garbage and recycling to China. And, then the day that they shut that down and said, we’re not taking your garbage anymore. pandemonium occurred. everybody was like, oh my god, what are we going to do with this stuff? and because that was never in the foresight of thinking, maybe one day we’re going to have to manage our own problem. So, it’s fascinating how much we try to push our stuff on everybody else and one of the biggest investment vehicles that’s been going on in the last five years, I would say four or five years, is impact investing. but I’m wondering now, just based on this, how much impact investing is really occurring? because maybe we’re not looking deep enough and we’re surface level investing. Again, we’re not really solving the problem. we’re seeing who’s going to pick it up and who can we dish this issue off to next.
Jeffery: Absolutely, I see business proposals every day. And, there’s nothing sexy about garbage disposal. So, maybe that’s why nobody pitches it. but I would love to see more in that aspect because I think biodegradability, the environment, that’s a big one. And, I don’t see a lot of innovation. I don’t know. Are you seeing a lot of startups in that space?
Vishal: no, some of the things we’ve seen in maybe I’d say a year ago. I saw one where it was a camera based on a garbage pickup to ensure that they were able to connect with the big bins faster and easier with more direct AI based camera systems. another one where a garbage bin gets to a certain level, it would deploy the trucks so the trucks would only map out. So, these are kind of more supply chain areas versus focusing on the actual problem. And, again, the problem comes back to the consumer. we’re not educating ourselves on the over usage. And, I think a startup needs to start looking at these things. we’re looking at automation. And, in the next 10 years, automation should be the biggest vehicle that’s going to change the world right now, from robotics, etc. So, how much of that is going to focus on the garbage problem? you see Four Oceans which is a non-for-profit that runs globally. They’ve built ai-based scraping machines to clean beaches. It’s all about picking up that garbage. but the garbage shouldn’t be there in the first place which means that it goes back to the consumer again. How do you start to educate that consumer to stop dropping and moving everything from their problem to somebody else’s?
Jeffery: Yeah, absolutely.
Vishal: Yeah it really is a consumer-driven problem. I’ve seen when you order from an online shopping cart, it comes in bags and bags of plastic bags. I’m like this doesn’t need to be this way.
Jeffery: agreed. Totally. So, now to shift a little bit in the Vulcan group, what are some of the areas that you’re 100% focusing on that you really love on the investment side? And then maybe one, two or three criteria on what startups can look for if they reach out to you? What are three things that they should keep in mind when they’re presenting to you that really are important for them to close a deal or to at least get talking to you? maybe you can share two or three points of value that they should be ensuring that they’re sharing in front of you.
Vishal: Sure, I mean what for us. I mean we look at venture debt more than straight equity. So, any startup that comes to us, I like bootstrapped entrepreneurs. I like real entrepreneurs that don’t want to sell a part of their baby because everybody thinks I’m going to go out there and raise a metric ton of capital. And, because there is so much liquidity out there, but if you really believe in your business, you shouldn’t be out there selling equity. Anyway, you should be out there getting some sort because most businesses at least the ones that I like, the ones that are in hardware in consumer goods, medical devices, iot devices drones, anything physical, they have a huge capital intensive business that requires a long trade cycle in terms of manufacturing injection molds, production shipping, [Music] customs clearance. then you’ve got to market it. you gotta sell it. get it out to the consumer. So, we do a lot of non-diluted financing. So, I do mostly venture debt lines of credit inventory finance, supply chain finance, trade finance, purchase order finance. The kind of entrepreneurs that I look for are those that come and tell me, ‘Listen Vishal, I got a million dollar purchase order from Apple or Walmart or Costco. I need help to fill the purchase order.’ That is something. capital is always available. I’m always happy to back an entrepreneur that way. or if he tells me, we’ve got customers that want the product, we’ve done the teething. Now, we’re looking to scale and we need growth capital. That’s what we love. someone makes it, sells it, approves the concept and comes back. people come to me with ideas and projections. we’re not early stage investors. we don’t do that. I like to do later stage businesses, above million dollars revenue that really know what they’re doing. they’ve been through their teething issues so that would get you a conversation.
Jeffery: I love it. Yeah, and that’s a great position to be in where companies come in, they’re stable. they’ve got a purchase order. they’ve got some movement. they can grow and you guys can help scale them with that. with that extra debt capital, I think that’s brilliant.
Vishal: Yeah they don’t need to sell a part of their business to do it.
Jeffery: Well, we’re going to kind of shift a little bit now into one of the areas that I really like to dive into. It is storytelling. Through your almost 20 years working on the debt side, is there a story that kind of really emphasized what it takes to be an entrepreneur? it could be she or he was working and you didn’t think it was going to make it. they were on their last legs, and then boom. they were able to pivot change and now they’ve got this successful growing business you could have invested in them or not. but really the idea is just to share what it really takes to hustle to be an entrepreneur. I think sometimes in the world, we forget what that hard work looks like. or how things work or sometimes things fail. And, it’s how we pick ourselves up and go after the next venture. Do you have a kind of a story in mind that jumps to you?
Vishal: in terms of the people that we’ve invested in or my personal experiences, failure is your best friend. you embrace it. And, there’s always been circumstances where I’ve tried one business after the other. nothing worked. And, this is maybe, I don’t know 10 to 20 years ago, back in the recession as well. We really took a beating in real estate. We took a beating everywhere. And, all your biggest customers suddenly slashed their marketing budgets which were our biggest customers, Samsung and Nokia. And, at that time, they were doing well. And, Hp and some businesses survived. some businesses don’t. but for us, it’s all about sticking around long enough and then cutting your overheads to make it lean and mean. And, I can always tell you one thing. one business I had, I remember at one point, we weren’t able to make payroll. And, I pulled everybody into the office and said, listen, I can’t afford to pay anybody for three months, if you guys want to leave. And, I felt bad, because I know they have rent to pay. they’ve got their own families to support. or I fire 30 of the staff. That’s my option. either at five or 30 percent or everybody goes without a paycheck for a couple of months. And, we took a vote on it. I said it’s your choice. you tell me. And, then, as a democracy, they all agreed actually not to take a paycheck for a couple of months. they didn’t want it. The guy on the left or the guy on the right getting fired was nobody’s fault. It was just that diamond day. And, yeah, it’s ironic. I honestly thought they would have gone the other way. So, it’s an amazing story because it’s not so much on the, I guess, the temperament of the values of where everybody is at the time. It’s how much they believed in the founder and how much they believed in where the business could go that they were willing to take the risk to continue to support because they could see the vision of where you guys were going.
Jeffery: And, I think the best thing about what you shared there, and what you shared earlier when we first started talking, was all about communication. that when you communicated to the investors, there was help there. when you communicated to your employees or your team members, there was help there. So, it sounds like the real learning behind anything that you’re going to do is the more you communicate, the more you share, and make it truthful, which is again the honesty side that you mentioned, you’ve got a better chance of moving into the right direction than you do. when you hide it, it gets stuck in a position where you don’t share and now everybody is leaving. but they’re leaving for all the wrong reasons because you didn’t open the door to kind of keep people on side.
Vishal: Yeah, absolutely. transparency is the best thing you can do and be brutal about it. in fact you always go the other way and be more conservative than you have to because if you tell an investor, I’m going to hit. I’m going to do x and I do y. they’re always pleased. but if I say I’ll do y and I do a half of it, nobody’s happy. So, under-delivered. I mean under promise, over deliver. That’s your key.
Jeffery: I love it. I’ll hardly agree with that. set the expectations and go after it. And, I would probably throw one out, another element into that which is execution. It’s key to anything you do. And, if you can’t execute, you’re going to always have problems on the communication side because you can’t update people if you’re not executed.
Vishal: no, yeah absolutely. as I was listening to somebody, a speech by Warren Buffett, and he was saying that a marriage is built to last. what do you look for in a partner? is it looks? is it brains? No, you’re looking for low expectations. That’s a marriage. That’s built to last. Yep, and you just build on it and continue to grow.
Jeffery: Yeah, I love it. Absolutely. Well, a great story. we’re going to jump into our rapid fire questions. And, so the way this works is, you pick one or the other. Ready?
Vishal: Yeah. go for it.
Jeffery: alright. founder or co-founder?
Vishal: as in, in what context?
Jeffery: Yeah. Investing. you’re going to go for a founder or a co-founder?
Vishal: a founder.
Jeffery: unicorn or four-year10x exit?
Vishal: four-year 10x exit.
Jeffery: tech or CPG?
Vishal: tech brand.
Jeffery: ai or blockchain?
Vishal: ai.
Jeffery: first time founder or second or third time founder?
Vishal: oh, second or third time any day.
Jeffery: Seriously, angel or VC?
Vishal: VC.
Jeffery: board seat or observer? safe or convertible note?
Vishal: safe.
Jeffery: lead or follow?
Vishal: follow.
Jeffery: equity or interest payments?
Vishal: interest payments.
Jeffery: Okay, favorite part of investing?
Vishal: the founders.
Jeffery: number of companies invested per year?
Vishal: seven to eight.
Jeffery: awesome. preferred venture debt verticals of focus?
Vishal: consumer goods and hardware.
Jeffery: two things that make a startup stand out?
Vishal: focus on customers, and the founding team. I should say obsession over customers.
Jeffery: agreed. I love it. Okay, now we’re going to go into the more personal side. Superman or batman?
Vishal: superman.
Jeffery: pizza pop or ice cream bar?
Vishal: ice cream bar.
Jeffery: five minutes with Bezos or Oprah?
Vishal: Bezos.
Jeffery: Arsenal or Manchester United?
Vishal: Manchester United.
Jeffery: I’ve only found two Arsenal fans. I’m working on it. Bike or rollerblades?
Vishal: Bike.
Jeffery: big mac or chicken McNuggets?
Vishal: oh, big mac.
Jeffery: trophy or money?
Vishal: trophy.
Jeffery: beer or wine?
Vishal: wine.
Jeffery: alarm clock or mobile phone?
Vishal: mobile.
Jeffery: hotel or hostel?
Vishal: hotel.
Jeffery: king or rich?
Vishal: king.
Jeffery: concert or amusement park?
Vishal: concert.
Jeffery: fortune cookie or birthday cake?
Vishal: birthday cake.
Jeffery: TED Talk or book reading?
Vishal: TED Talk.
Jeffery: Is life boring without trump?
Vishal: no. [Laughter] he does create conversation.
Jeffery: Yeah, I’ll say that. Alright. favorite movie and what character would you play in the movie?
Vishal: oh, Gladiator. Russell Crowe. I love Gladiator.
Jeffery: That’s a great movie. favorite sports team? [Music] Vishal: That’s a tough one. Which sport?
Jeffery: any sport.
Vishal: any sport? I don’t even watch a lot of sports. It’s not my thing.
Jeffery: That’s not a bad thing either. Alright. favorite book or the last book you read?
Vishal: “It’s been so long” and “Written Fountainhead.”
Jeffery: What’s it called? Fountainhead?
Vishal: fountainhead.
Jeffery: I don’t think I’ve read that.
Vishal: It’s about doing what you love.
Jeffery: alright. Okay. the first brand that pops into your mind?
Vishal: Oh sorry to be so cliché. but Apple.
Jeffery: You are not cliché. It’s amazing to see this but I will say that 95% of people pick Apple. the most famous person that pops into your mind? [Music] Vishal: Julius Caesar.
Jeffery: nice. I love it. That’s great. Alright. last question. What is your superpower? [Music] Vishal: I would say I have a good sense of character, a good judge of character. That has always been my thing.
Jeffery: I love it. That is a good quality to have and I would think that that is a great quality to have and support when you are making investments through equity or debt into anybody when you’re presenting and moving forward in the world of capitalism.
Vishal: Yeah, probably. It makes a big difference. Yeah, it’s human capital. That’s the most expensive capital.
Jeffery: I know. I totally agree with you Vishal. I want to say thank you very much for all your time today. It was great to get to learn more about you. As always, I take lots of notes. i got a whole page full of great stuff, great lines. I just love the way you look at a business. And, it is always different when you come into it from investing through debt versus equity. There are different ways to view a business but when you put it all together, at the end, it always goes back to the two things that you said, which is about a great team and an awesome founder that has character and honesty. So, thank you very much again for sharing. And, the way we like to end our show is we like to give you the last word. So, anything that you want to share to an investor or to a startup, I turn it over to you. but Vishal, thank you very much again for joining us and sharing everything you have today.
Vishal: no, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. With regards to founders, if you run a business, doing above a million dollars in hardware, you’re looking for growth capital. Give me a call. There’s always help available. If it’s not me, it’s somebody I know. If you’re an investor family office, you’re looking to help other founders. We love co-investing. We have a Fintech portfolio company. We were put together specially to help the founders. I am always happy to chat.
Jeffery: Awesome. Well Vishal, thank you very much again. awesome advice. awesome feedback. And, thank you for all your time. Alright, you have a great week. Thank you.
Vishal: thank you sir.
Jeffery: Okay, that was a great conversation with Vishal out of the Singapore family office. Fantastic. I loved a couple of his lines. Man, it really knocked at home with those, ‘it’s not who’s going to let me, it’s who’s going to stop me.’ and I think that one really summarizes what it takes to be an entrepreneur. you fail more than you succeed. own it. If you fall, share and update. be a better new person. And, what it really comes down to when it’s diving into businesses, it’s the team and it’s how that founder communicates, and who they really are – so that character side. but overall fantastic. I really enjoyed the conversation. Again, thank you very much for that Vishal. So, thank you everybody for joining us today. If you enjoyed the conversation, please subscribe to our YouTube channel or follow us on Spotify, Apple podcast and or Stitcher. You can also check us out at supportersfund.com or for startup events visit opn.ninja. Have a great day.
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