Hi there, James (Jim) Green here with the first of what will become a quarterly mail about business, investing, interesting people, and startup life. I've added you manually from my little black book, which is why this first one is so much about me (more from Oliver and Arjun in future updates, I promise!). If you don't want to be part of this, you can unsubscribe at any time, or just ping me and I'll remove you myself... but I hope you'll stay!
My main reason for writing is to stay in touch with people like you. My family and I just relocated to Stockholm from Singapore. After 8.5 years in Asia, I've left behind a network of amazing individuals, now spread across the globe. I don't want to lose contact. Just as importantly, this is about connecting and helping great people. Nearly 1,000 people received this mail, many of them founders, investors, and successful business people. I hope this might bloom into something bigger. For now, though, it's simply a quarterly mail about making the most of the next decade.
If you want a mention or need help with something, let me know. Everyone on this list is connected to either me, Arjun, or Oliver, and we think we've included only good, kind, interesting people. I've added a "shout-out" section at the bottom, so if you're into something cool, or have an interesting story, startup, or investment thesis (not advice!), drop one of us a WhatsApp, LinkedIn message, or email. You can reach us at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
As many of you will know, in July last year, three friends started DQventures. Those friends are Arjun Singh, Oliver Palmer, and me. DQventures is, we think, the first business of its kind. It's a venture builder / startup accelerator, but different. It focuses 100% on helping experienced professionals to launch a startup without first leaving the financial security of their day job. DQ = don't quit. You can find a more detailed description here.
If you know someone who's at the top of their game, has identified a problem with their industry, and has a good idea how to fix it, we'd love an intro. Most people who fit that description are mid-career, with a salary and cost of living that makes launching a startup a huge risk. DQventures exists to help these people get started without leaving their job. We validate the idea and get the venture up and running, delaying and de-risking their decision to take the plunge.
You can find a summary below of the ventures we've helped launch.
After nearly 10 years of fairly active early-stage investing, I'm starting to feel like my formula is working. My key takeaways are:
No matter how confident founders are that they will exit in 3-to-5 years, it's probably going to be a 10-year journey. If it's shorter, it's probably not good.
There's really only one rule: diversify
Even the most sure-fire deals can come unstuck. I will always aim to have at least 20 companies in my portolio. (In fact I have more than 60, but then I have a problem!)
Following great investors
While in Singapore I was fortunate to meet a fantastic Norwegian called Mikael Krogh. The timing was perfect for me (plus a few others on this mailing list) to invest in Mikael's first Investigate VC fund, whose portfolio includes Antler, Parcel Perform, Cove, and KlikDaily. Thanks to Mikael, my portfolio is looking pretty healthy. He's also raising his next fund, which I'm participating in (see below).
When it comes to markets, I am a bad investor. I find myself torn between value investing and trading - perhaps the worst possible strategy. Luckily, I have friends who are much better than I am.
What does seem obvious to me is that many asset classes are overheated. I'm long early-stage tech, but I'm doing my best to hedge the unthinkable with crypto and commodity stocks.
My friend, Scott Osheroff, is a very strategic thinker, and I value his opinion more than most. We helped Scott set up a fund, so friends and family could invest in his thesis, but for a few reasons this was shelved. Instead, Scott has started a Telegram group, where he shares his views and activities. You can join here.
I won't overdo this section, and the following people have not asked for help. They have given me permission, however, so here are a few people you might like to connect with:
- Co-founder wanted! We're on the lookout for a co-founder to one of our latest ventures. You'll join a truly impressive founder, who in our experience is also extremely good to work with. The right person must be bright, affable, and have that all-essential "never-say-die" grit and staying power. Skills wise we'd consider either technical or sales/marketing-minded individuals. We need someone who can survive unpaid / on a meagre startup wage until a seed round can be secured in 6-9 months. Referrals welcome, so please spread the word.
- I've already mentioned Mikael, who is raising a second Investigate VC fund. I've decided to roll my entire pot from the first fund into the second. This is not least because he's maintaining a significant position in the existing portfolio, which I believe still has massive upside. If you're serious about starting or continuing to invest in early-stage businesses, I'd thoroughly recommend dropping Mikael a line.
- Scott Osheroff, mentioned earlier, wants to grow his personal brand. He's making a killing in energy and minerals, and openly shares his investment strategy among friends and family here. I sat on a call with him last weekend, which was fascinating. There will be more.
- One of my oldest friends, Tom Holliday, is one of thousands of pilots who have spent most of the last 18 months on the ground. He recently started his own drone business doing inspections, aerial photography, and events in the UK. You can find it here.
- A newer friend, but no less precious, is Nikhil Joshi. We spent a year working together at blockchain startup, #dltledgers. He caught the blockhain bug, and is now pursuing opportunities in the digital assets space, ideally in Singapore. He's an ex-banker (no insults please), COO, doer, and great guy. If you know anyone who wants to set up a blockchain business in Singapore, he's your man.
For those who got this far and are interested in what we're doing at DQventures, here's a quick progress report. Despite the upheaval of all three founders moving country in the last year(!), we've helped launch 4 ventures, and have signed $100,000 term sheets to invest in two. These are:
- WeNetwork is a fast-growing recruitment company. Launched by recruitment veteran and friend of DQ, Rob Bryson, the company already has offices in Singapore and Indonesia, and employs 20 staff. Rob and his team play the long game. They believe in helping people, integrity, and doing business by referral. It's working. One year in and they're turning over more than $250,000 per month in fees, with a lot of happy customers and candidates. If you need help finding people/a job, you can reach them here.
- Socioly is a mobile app for everyone and anyone. It's not the kind of business we set out to invest in, but the founder is solid, we love the simplicity of the concept, and it solves a problem we've all suffered from. Socioly organises your phone contacts into different "circles", enabling you to find contacts even if you can't remember their name. You can then use these circles to create either group chats or calendar invitations. There's a new spin on group chats too, where anyone can reply to admin messages, but only admins see the responses. No more "thank you" x20(!). We just agreed to invest $100,000 and look forward to inviting you to try the first version!
- Zenn is an online design platform for anyone who wants to create a new brand. It helps users design a logo, look, and feel, then creates a homologous range of editable promotional materials, such as business cards, brochures, invoices, and online advertisements, automatically. Unlike existing platforms like Canva, which focus on designing specific items, Zenn is about creating a new brand from scratch and creating a whole suite of materials effortlessly. It is positioned as an alternative to using design agencies, and potentially provides designers with a new way of reaching and supporting customers. Zenn was the second venture to receive a $100,000 term sheet from our fund, DQinvestments. Once signed, development will begin on the first iteration of the platform, which will be rolled out to a pre-vetted audience of founders and small business owners.
- Last but not least, Stealth Solutions provides a unique advertising cloaking service. It helps digital marketers improve the targeting and privacy of their online campaigns. The product allows only certain IPs and devices to interact with landing pages, diverting unwanted traffic to a dummy page, and ensuring sensitive information like ad copy, pricing, and special offers are visible only to the intended audience. The product will soon go live to an initial audience of more than 3 million digital marketers.
If you'd be interested in learning more about DQventures, or one of our portfolio companies, we're always open for a chat. There are many ways you could get involved, from being an investor, to mentoring one of our founders, to referring us potential opportunities. We'd always be open to and grateful for any ideas, advice, or introductions you might have for us.
Wishing you a fantastic Q3
On a personal level, the next few months for me involve getting the children settled in their new schools, finding a house (we're currently propping up the AirBnB share price!), and preparing for the Swedish winter (cough). Meanwhile, lockdowns permitting, Oliver and family will move into their new home in northern Sydney, while Arjun tries to convince Singapore's immigration authority to welcome back permanent residents trapped in India.
All the best,
James, Arjun, and Oliver