On this episode of L.A. Venture, meet Vik Sasi, a partner at Dreamers VC, a $55 million fund co-founded by actor and musician Will Smith. This is an especially relevant episode for startups who might be thinking of working with influencers.
Vik explains the world of influencers, talent fees, production fees, and how warrants are effective when working with influencers.
Working with influencers and celebrity-led funds can greatly increase a company's brand awareness and reach communities that would otherwise be difficult to reach.
"The Smith family is north of 150 million unique followers, and they can also help reach a lot of underrepresented demographics that don't necessarily respond as well to traditional channels that startups are using to advertise," Vik says.
But, unlike most other VCs, Vik does not aim to be a founder's first call at 2 a.m. when something goes wrong.
"In the back of the founders mind, ... they should always have this sort of ratio of 'what is this investors' likely value add to check size'," he says. "because at the end of the day, most influencer funds, they're not leading deals."
Vik offers insights on the celebrity world, including the difference between influencers and creators, what to keep in mind about how celebrities invest and why, and how warrants can be a good tool for holding influencers accountable.
Vik also offers some thoughts into the increasingly overlapping worlds of venture capital and celebrity investors in L.A. In particular, he sees an influx of successful founders who "still couldn't find a date on Bumble or Hinge" moving from the Bay Area to run into celebrities who have global reach but realize they're making much less than many VCs — and so pick up investing.
"And so," he says, "I think that's maybe spawned some of the overlap between Silicon Valley and Hollywood."
Vik Sasi a partner at Dreamers VC, a venture fund co-founded by actor and musician Will Smith.
On this episode of L.A. Venture, we talk to Gil Elbaz, one of my partners and the co-founder of TenOneTen Ventures.
Gil is one of the most iconic founders in L.A. He talks about his years building what would eventually become Google's AdSense while he was at Applied Semantics, his experience founding Factual, and explains why founders should mentally commit 10 years to their startup before beginning.
"I enjoy working with people who are addicted enough to solving a particular problem that they can't really imagine stopping — regardless of the kind of roadblock that they hit," he says. "I think that the entrepreneur has to go in assuming that it's going to take years before the market appreciates this incredible vision, that actually it's going to be a full 10 years until you get through the entire cycle of finding product-market fit."
- Gil's sale of Applied Semantics to Google was one of the earliest and most significant venture-backed startup sales in Southern California
- Applied Semantics's product, AdSense, is now iconic and tens of billions of dollars in revenue
- Gil then went on to lead Google's L.A. office for a number of years before leaving Google to start his second L.A.-based startup, Factual.
- Factual had a big employee base and presence in Century City before merging with Foursquare
- Gil was a trustee at Caltech and has been on the board at XPrize for 15 years
"Follow your values, give it a decent effort. Don't kill yourself. Just give it a decent effort. Don't act like, 'this conversation isn't important'. Take it seriously. Just do the right thing — A hundred thousand times in a row." — Gil Elbaz
Gil Elbaz is the co-founder of TenOneTen Ventures, a Los Angeles-based, early-stage venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs who apply data and technology to disrupt existing industries, or create new categories entirely.
On this week's episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, meet Scott Lenet, the co-founder and president of Touchdown Ventures — a firm that helps corporations run professional venture capital programs. Before creating Touchdown, Lenet was a managing partner at DFJ Frontier and has two decades of experience as a venture capitalist.
Touchdown Ventures helps corporate funds manage their venture outreach and streamline their investment program. Lenet says Touchdown is working with companies in health care, media, consumer products, agriculture, security enterprise software and has its foot in the door with two different banks.
Despite being a new company, Lenet says every time Touchdown adds an account, they expand their team. He describes the company as a "growing beast" that's "a corporate venture capital and innovation firm first" and a "recruiting and training firm" second. The firm is hiring right now, which is unusual in the venture world.
Education is a very important part of Lenet's work. He wants to upend the "secretive" venture industry by prioritizing training the next generation of venture capitalists and "demystify what this the industry is about." In addition to his work at Touchdown, Lenet teaches the "How to Be a Venture Capitalist" class at USC and "Corporate Innovation" at UCLA for their respective MBA programs.
Lenet is unique among venture capitalists in many ways, but notably in that he believes business needs more regulation. Within his own company, his view is that venture capitalists need to let entrepreneurs manage their businesses, and help their companies thrive from board positions.
"It's my job to keep you safe," He argues. "I think that that should apply to what our entrepreneurs do with their businesses, and our job to protect them as well as their junior people. And this is a business where we're professional fiduciaries for other people's money. Most of the money that VCs invest is not ours, right?"
Tune in to hear more from Scott Lenet on how he runs Touchdown Ventures, tips from his business classes, why he prioritizes training, and how he wants to use venture funds to create positive social impact.
"So I think that probably to me, one of the biggest myths that are still sitting out there is this idea that you have to choose between being strategic and being financial. And I would say it's like a false Sophie's choice. You should not pick one or the other. You should figure out how to maximize both." — Scott Lenet
Scott Lenet is the co-founder and president of Touchdown Ventures.
dot.LA Engagement Intern Colleen Tufts contributed to this post.
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