369 Growth Partners (known as 369GP) is a syndicate funding, venture capital and advisory firm in Houston, Texas and Silicon Valley, California, our focus is on ground-breaking startups that offer capital efficient business models, clear path to revenue and to profitability. We are stage agnostic; we invest in seed to late-stage startup companies.
Over 20 years of experience as a growth leader, Chief Information Officer, Chief Technology Officer, management consultant, CEO advisor and startup company board member with extensive background in business & technology management, strategy, transformation, product development, and global operations. Recently, he was VP of global advisory services at Gartner. Currently, the General Partner at 369GP venture capital & advisory firm and strategic advisor to B Capital.
In this episode
Vik Dixit of 369 Growth Partners provided the sobering statistic that while over $612B in venture capital was invested globally in 2021, 97% of startups fail with merely 1.5% returning your principle, 1% or less returning your principle with modest growth and the remaining 0.5% or less becoming the next unicorn. In Vik’s experience, new investors struggle to get access to good companies to invest in, how to structure the investment, and how to conduct due diligence. Vik recommends that new investors should partner with experienced investors, entrepreneurs, or angel investors to diversify their investments. Vik offers a 5 step process for successfully investing in startups.
A glimpse of what you'll hear
3:20 The odds are stacked against an individual who invests in start-up companies.
4:53 The mistakes new investors make when starting to invest in emerging companies.
6:40 The importance of diversification.
9:38 Investors need to think 10 steps ahead to make it easy for future investors to come in.
12:34 How principal investors should enter the start-up space.
14:45 The benefits from partnering compared to going in alone as an investor.
20:00 Five steps to successfully invest in startups.
25:07 Learn about Vik. Email Vik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: this was transcribed using transcription software and may not reflect the exact words used in the podcast.)
Welcome to the best kept secret videocast and podcast from Centricity. If you're a B2B service professional, use our five step process to go from the grind of chasing every sale. to keeping your pipeline full with prospects knocking on your door to buy from you. We give you the freedom of time and a life outside of your business. Each episode features an executive from a B2B services company sharing their provocative perspective on an opportunity that many of their clients are missing out on. It's how we teach our clients to get executive decision makers to buy without being salesy or spammy. Here's our host, the Co-Founder and CEO of Centricity, Jay Kingley.
Jay Kingley 0:42
I'm Jay Kingley, co founder and CEO of Centricity. Welcome to our show, where our guests share their provocative perspective on what their target market is missing out on. I'm happy to welcome to the show Vik Dixit general partner of 369 Growth Partners. 369 GP is a syndicate funding venture capital and advisory firm, Vik is based in Houston, Houston, Texas, with a secondary presence in Silicon Valley, also known as the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Welcome to the show, Vik.
Vik Dixit 1:19
Thank you, Dave, thanks for having me. Oh, looking forward to a great discussion.
Jay Kingley 1:23
Vik one of the things that people love to talk about and listen to and read about is what it's like to be an entrepreneur, what it's like to do your own startup, be that founder, achieve glory, achieve riches, all that mythology around the life of an entrepreneur. But what gets much less attention is what about the people that provide the capital, the people who invest in those entrepreneurs and give them the financial backing, they need to have a legitimate shot at turning their idea in their dreams and passion into a thriving business. So I want to focus a little bit on the investor side. Now in particular, I'm not talking about what it's like to work for, as an employee for a major private equity firm, or venture capital firm. I'm talking about that solo investor, somebody who as part of their investment portfolio, would like to do some principle investing in new ventures in entrepreneurs. And of course, one of the challenges of this is it is an illiquid market. For the most part, you don't look up online, the latest valuation of a private company the way you would a publicly traded company, and information is a lot harder to come by. So Vic is somebody who really focuses on the investment side, I would love to get your take on what does a new principal investor who's going to do this on their own, maybe as a side investment activity, maybe they're now retiring from their day job and fancy that they can become a full time investor? What is it that they need to be careful of? What is it that you see them make in terms of mistakes?
Vik Dixit 3:27
I think it's important that we talk about the venture capital world a little bit, so that we sort of set the stage in this discussion. So last year, almost $612 billion, were invested globally, by the venture capital firm, which is an increase of almost 108%. Year over year, a lot of investment went into a private market. Now, even after all that investments, 97% of startups fail, nearly 1.5% of those startups actually return your principal, little over 1% would return, you know, your principal for some, you know, you know, some growth on that. And then less than half a percent is what you call the unicorns, you know, and that, to that, to that to the complexities around these companies that you invest in, how does an average investor really able to pick these battles? How is the average investor, figure out how to invest in these companies and pick the right startup? And that's the challenge that most of the people face. So it's important to understand that if a new investor was an average investor understands the basic part of the market, whether it's technology or the business sector, they have basic understanding They really like to, you know, become a part of this future.
Jay Kingley 5:04
Well, Vik before, before you get into what they should do, talk a bit about the mistakes that you see these new principal investors make when they get into this world.
Vik Dixit 5:18
The hardest part for an average investor is to figure out what to invest in. And then the second hardest part with that is how to invest in that. There are lots of startup accelerators out there, there is lots of crowdfunding websites out there, people are looking for your money for seed capital, people are looking for precede people are reaching out and asking you to invest in series A Series B, what happened? How do you really understand these companies are private? How do you really understand how their performance? How do you really know what they are doing what they are not doing? You know, so it's a pretty risky play for any an average investor, A, they don't have the vehicle to get to these deals, and B, they don't have the know how, or the due diligence needed to be able to understand the complexities of these companies. So it is not as simple as the stock market does, if it makes sense, right? When you are making investments or bond market commodities or real estate, you have enough information shared with you, that's not the case, when it comes to startup, it's all private, in all, you know, and some of these seed companies have great ideas, but they don't have a product, you know, so. So that's where the challenges with most of the most of the investing when it comes to solid
Jay Kingley 6:35
And Vik anything based on what you said earlier, which is, if you're not familiar with the space, I think the success rates are shockingly low. I would imagine a lot of principal investors aren't diversifying. They're gonna place, you know, 3 4 6 investments into their portfolio. And yet not nearly enough, I would think, given the success rates, that you see how much of an issue is they are too concentrated and not diversifying their investments?
Vik Dixit 7:12
That's a good point. So one of the things that that that is critical, you know, if you look at an average investor, you know, people like all of us if, in fact, we have a 401 K, we invest in stock markets, we invest in commodities, we invest in real estate, money markets, and the likes of those that's typical, what everybody does in a normal average investor, when it comes to startup market, it is it is very difficult to understand the complexities of that markets. And then it is not it is equally important that you diversify in the startup world as well. You just not to be always technology focused. You could be food focused, you could be cryptocurrencies focused, there is a lot going on with the technology world and in the world of startups. So you have to remain diversified, not only from the perspective of where your investments are made, as an average basis, but also when you're making investments in startups. What should you invest in? What is the next stage, we're going to be? You know, everybody asked the question. So you have to be able to understand the Diversified aspect of, of perspective, this business as well, not only from the perspective of your overall investment, but also from the diversification of startups.
Jay Kingley 8:25
Not so long ago, I was talking to a very established venture capital investor, who typically comes in, in them if we can say the middle rounds, so they're not seed are friends and family, not even necessarily a series eight, but definitely a series B, and onwards. And one of the things that they said was that how those early investors how those investments are structured, in the agreements, make it either an easy company to invest in or love, the idea may love the management, but the way the investments are structured, makes it really difficult for a later stage, more sophisticated investor to come in. And unlike the stock market, where everything is standardized, you're not writing unique custom agreements to in you know, to buy shares in Apple, it's it's all off the shelf and all that is taken care of in the private investment market, how you structure the terms and conditions of your investment, that protections, which share class shareholder rights, liquidation preferences, I could go on and then on to getting that not only favorable for you for this round, but understanding how the lifecycle of other investors are going to come in and how the terms and can conditions that you are demanding, could very well influence the willingness of later stage investors come in has always struck me as being very complex, I would think that that is another area where a new principal investor may struggle to understand what to do and how to do it.
Vik Dixit 10:20
That is a multifold challenge when it comes to a startup company, a startup company is an idea of few people, they are building something together. Do they have an accounting practice in place? Do they have processes in place? Do we have a CFO in place, those things do not exist in stock right to begin with, they have, they have great idea and they are trying to build something unique. That's their primary objective and focus. And they have looking to either Bootstrap or you know, look for money from people, investors, like like ourselves collectively, and then they are looking for, for building that company using that, that capital, every startup is tend to be inflated, right in terms of their valuation. So understanding the real valuation of stock understanding the terms and conditions of understanding what you're getting, as a result of that deal that you're making with them. Are you getting units? Are you getting shares? What is the cost of the equity, your share price, or stock price they're offering you? Is it a preferred share? Is it a common share? There are multiple multiple very elements when it comes to you know, negotiating or understanding that that portion of the of the world, and it requires not only legal understanding, but financial astuteness, as well. And I think there is another challenge when it comes to some place, if I may summarize, if you're looking at an idea that that's unique, and you really liked that idea, and you want to invest in the idea. So how do you get to that investment? How do you reach out to the founder of startups, and how you really invest in them? Once you have that connection there? The second question comes is what's the terms and conditions around it? You know, how do I how do I make sure that I'm getting the best deal on the third is, many of these startups are looking for a certain amount to be able to get in these terms, we call that pro rata, right? Typical product could be $25,000, or $250,000 of investment needed to be able to get on their product basically means being on the cap table, have your own clear clarity on their cap table. All those variables, when it comes to startups are complex. And it requires understanding and experience to be able to navigate through that, and not an average investor understand it very, very different from a typical startup. So you know, stock market or commodity market or money market, if you like I said it's pretty standard. They're here. It's not standard. Everybody demands their own terms and conditions. So how do you really navigate that is the biggest challenge that most of these newer investors face.
Jay Kingley 12:56
So that's a great segue into the next thing I want to talk about. On one hand, we just spend some time talking about how daunting it is. But there are ways that you can successfully navigate all of this. So let's talk at a strategic level. What do you recommend principal investors, including some who may be getting in for the first time, what is the right way for them to play in this space?
Vik Dixit 13:27
What is really needed when it comes to an average investor is first and foremost, having the interest and the willingness and the the passion to be able to get into startups, please understand startups with a higher risk and higher return. Sometimes you lose all your money. So startups is that risky, as I already stated before 97% of startups fail, you know, so So having the having the mindset to be able to make investments is the first thing that you need. The second thing that you that you need, is willing to play a long game. You know, if you're looking for a quick return, you know, return within a month or two or a couple years, I would not invest into stocks, I would focus on something else, you know, other asset classes. But if you talk about startup, you're willing to play the long game. The second thing you need. The third thing that you need to think about is how do I partner with astute investors, people who have done this before angel investors, entrepreneurs, people who have been operators in this business and and have a good sense around all the things that we just talked about, you know, the complexities around investing in startups. And when you when you work together or partner together with folks like those pharma group perhaps you know, and when you when you partner with such a group or become a part of the group, your ability to negotiate a better deal for you is also there. Keep that in mind, you know, so startups are looking for quality investors and they are most of the startups are these days, not just looking for money. There are So looking for expertise, so think about the concept of, you know, astute investors into startup, people who have experience, think about angel investors, we've been doing this forever, think about entrepreneurs who are operators who can help, you know, will be startups, I think. So you need to figure out those three things. When you are trying to get into this work.
Jay Kingley 15:21
Let's say I'm going to go do those three things. Talk to me about, you know how, as an investor, I'm likely to do better by following that advice, particularly given those very low success rates, that you talked about the very beginning of our discussion. So what are those benefits that an investor the tangible benefits, they would see?
Vik Dixit 15:43
It's all about the numbers, you know, at the end of the day, you have to see the proof is in the pudding, you know, like, like the thought of one day by a group of investors in this case, think about strengthen numbers, you know, that's the mindset that we have, are anywhere from 14 to 23%, more likely to survive, you know, between one and three years, and grow the employment by 40%. I mean, these are stats that's out there, you know, so that's clearly out there, I'm talking about a group of investors, which includes angel investors, you know, astute investors into startups, as well as entrepreneurs. And of course, your average investor average, Joe's willing to bring their intellect in the mix as well. These groups can write checks of $250,000, you know, so it's a pretty decent number in terms of what they're able to bring in. Like I say, the typical pro rata for every startup is different, you know, when, you know, in average pro rata investment in a startup is considered around $25 million, where they are looking for you to get it, you know, and I'm talking about seed of series A players, you know, and it varies depending on that. And these kinds of investment can go in seed companies, which which, you know, you have to play a long game, as I explained before, our Series A, again, you're playing somewhat a long game as well, you know, depending on the trajectory of a startup, if you think about venture capital on the other side, yeah, 99% of the deals that they review, they, they just walk away from that they will be the 1% because they are quest is that unicorn, they want that unicorn, they are hitting that unicorn, they bring in big capital, they bring in big value chain, because that's their focus there. Unlike the group of investors that that I am discussing what we're discussing here, a syndication, if you will, a partnership, an accelerator, a collaborative exercise, if you will, you know, these people invest up to 30% of the startup review, that's the state, that's the status, if you will, almost 30% of the startups they invest. Unlike a VC, which is only investing in 1%, I'm looking for a unicorn, a group of investors typically invest in 30% of the startup review. And they are looking anywhere from 20 to 25%, their ROI as compared to venture capital, which is looking for multifold, you know, multifold returns. But with all that said, Jay, it's important to understand that the success rate in startup, the failure rate is product perhaps is very high. So by becoming a part of a group, reviewing the deals, investing into the deals that will let you know that typical VCs walk away from you know, they, they have more potentials every 30%. And expecting a return of anywhere from 20 to 25%, typically three to five to 7x is the play how some of these operators are playing some of these collaborative groups are doing. And that's where the success lies for how you approach this, rather than just looking for that one unicorn, which is very difficult to find. And imagine if you invest a lot of money in that unicorn and lose it all, as compared to spreading, spreading the intelligence here in 30% of the deals on average. If you look at 100 startups, if a VC invest in one, you will invest in average of 20 to 25 times. So here your odds are better and how you work with that odds.
Jay Kingley 19:32
The game of investing is at the end all about numbers, but I just want to throw a thought or two about the non number side. I mean, I think it's certainly very appealing, very sexy, if I can use that term, when you're at the cocktail party to talk about how you're investing in all these cool startups and most people who are in a position to start to invest as a principal in startups have been successful professionally, in whatever it is that they have done. And they are used to being viewed as very successful. And I think you've pointed out, this is a very different world. And the thing you've got to be really careful about is that you're used to being the smartest person in the room. But you walk into this room, and you think you're smart, but everyone else is looking at you. Like, there's the newbie, there's the person who doesn't really understand, if you go down the wrong path, if they don't do what you suggest, then they are going to have to come to grips with, they couldn't be successful in this area. And they're going to have that opposite reaction of that feeling of failure, that feeling of embarrassment. And that's not something they're used to. So I think the approach that you're advocating, you know, works not just on the number side, but it also works on the emotional side. Now, let me just move on. And you've put forward I think, this very compelling way to look at it, let's get a little bit more tactical. I'm all in on what you're recommending. But talk to me about what are the steps I need to do to implement this approach?
Vik Dixit 21:17
Knowing that there is a risk of loss of some of the seed investment up to 66%. And pre IPO investment of 21%, pretty high numbers today. You know, you need to follow rigorous effort in terms of how you approach it, and I think already talked about first and foremost, understanding the risk associated with soft startups, it's High Risk High Return very clearly. So keep that in mind to begin with, you know, become a part of a semi formal network, something that's not formal, become a part of a semi formal network or a syndication, there are lots of syndications out there, you can become a part of that includes a lot of investors, people who have a lot of experience in investing entrepreneurs, like I said, operators, and angel investors, you know, become a part of a semi formal network. So that could be one, you know, recommendation, learn from their experience, learn and grow from their experience, you know, because at the end of the day, you have to be able to learn and understand this world, but also not grow from their experience, you know, and sort of use the knowledge that these guys are imparting, to understand how this world works, how you know, how the deal flow, perhaps work in a startup world? Or angel investing world? How do you go about doing the due diligence and understanding all the terms and conditions of the financials that we talked about, you know, they will not be perfect. As you can imagine, these are bootstrapping companies, you know, what to expect from them. Understanding the legality associated with that, and understanding the segment of market these startups are focused on so the idea here is to learn and grow from the people that you're associated with, become a part of the investment decision making process, which is extremely important. Why should we invest in this? Why should we not invest in it, look at the pros and cons of your investment, I think it's important for you to do that, as well pull your funds together, there is a cost associated with due diligence with these types. How do you really approach that when you pull your funds together with these, you know, astute investors, you are able to now do the due diligence properly, which ensures your investor and your investment is is a good one, rather than not a good one? Correct? Because due diligence is critical, understanding the the elements of what's needed. And last, but not the least, you know, Jay is monitoring your portfolio. You have invested in five startups how are these companies doing? Go look at CrunchBase go look at PitchBook you know, try to see what is going on Google them for God's sake, you know, just go there and Google them say hey, what's going on with this company? The city's a city's BD however, raising funds, are they doing good? You know, are they fighting too many people are they you know, you know, having some PR issues. So all these things are out there, you have to find you have to be able to monitor your investments, ask questions, reach out to the to the group of investors and let them reach out, you know, collectively reach out to the startup founders and say, Hey, what's going on and give us more insights into it. So, the idea would be that is to put together these few things together in your in your becomes more capable for you or give you the car capability. If you if I may say that, to be able to understand this and think about over the course of several months or years if you will, you will become smart enough to understand the world better than you are today.
Jay Kingley 24:44
If you are at a stage of life, where you have built up enough net worth that from an overall portfolio point of view, you can begin to think about principle investing in the startup community, I think that one of the things that you've made clear, there is a way to do it that will maximize your success, particularly when you're first getting involved, versus being the lone wolf. And when you're the lone wolf, then odds that you're gonna get this right are slim to none as like they say, and Slim is just left out. Thank you for that, we're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to learn a bit more about Vic.
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Jay Kingley 26:29
Welcome back. We're talking to Vic fix it of 369 GP. Let's find out a bit more about Vic. Vic, what I'd like to start is talk about the investors that you work with, what are the pain points that you're solving? And why do they need you to get rid of the pain?
Vik Dixit 26:49
When you talk about investing, we already spent a lot of time discussing the challenges and the risks and opportunities around with startups and the challenges that comes along with it. In our world, we focus more on the exits, not just the investments, you know, so we critically focus on what the exit could look like. What is the potential of this particular startup or energy or particular sector that it's focused on? Or technology it's focused on? Or what's the need for the world of the stock? So we always look for those critical elements to decide, decide, does it make sense for us to make those investments? You know, we always sort of scan through the technology world and the business world to understand where the market is heading? What's the next new thing? That's where the investment will make more sense. So like I said, we focus on the exit, not just the investment, investment is the is not the easy part. But it's perhaps not the most important part. So that's one for sure. We also focus on groundbreaking ideas, like I said, we look for groundbreaking ideas, you know, and we also look at is it capital efficient? Is the efficiency there with particular startup? Are they bleeding money, like we know, we don't want to be in the business where this is pie in the sky, and they're bleeding money in also, we don't focus on that. We also focus a lot on, you know, investor education. So we make sure our investors are constantly educated as to why we are doing something. What's the target market? Who are the key players in it? What's the competitive competition looks like in that market? Who's already there? Who's already not? You know, what market are we disrupting? So we focus on that. We also focus on providing hands on assistance, and and you know, entrepreneurial help, if you will, because some of us are operator as well, to the startups in the founders because we are invested in their success, because in their success, life, our success, that's the idea of what we do there. So again, summarizing it, focus on just not investment, focus on, you know, the portfolio and how the portfolio is designed. What do we already have in our portfolio, it's the right setup to invest in starting strong investor education, you know, hands on, you know, entrepreneurial help to the founders. And last but not the least, finding that next disruption in the marketplace.
Jay Kingley 29:20
There's a lot of investors out there, there are a lot of people that run investor syndicates focused at the startup market. So, Vic, what I'd like to understand is what makes you great at what it is that you do,
Vik Dixit 29:35
I will be the first one to accept that there are 1000s of accelerators out there millions of you know, operators out there, you know, they put together these angel investment groups, you know, syndicate funding groups go out AngelList look for that. There are people who are doing crowdfunding, so the market is saturated to a large extent, you know, and my saying that I'm so unique that nobody else is like We is I think is an overkill. I don't want to do that. So there is definitely a lot of players out there. But what we do differently is we focus on exits rather than investment, which I highlighted it very clearly that that's our focus. Not everybody out there is focusing on exits, they find the next shiny object and they invest in it. We are not looking for shiny object, we are not interested in the quantity, we are invested in the quality. So we look for quality of what is this market? Are we in? So we don't want to go and invest in two startups in the same market segment? You know, because it necessarily doesn't give the bang for the buck, who is the leader? And on perhaps who's the second leader, right? We always pick those those points there. Like I said, we we look for capital efficiency, if we invest X, what are we getting in return? Are they efficiently using the capital? are they performing to where they need to perform? Do they have clear business models, if you will, they have a clear path to revenue. And to profitability, we look for those elements. Even if it's it's a seed investment for us, we look for those elements like we always do. The other thing that our highlight that we have is we have a combined diversified experience of people, people who have been operators, people who have been executed people who have been on the technology side, people who have been on the business side finance, side oil and gas to high tech direct, we look look for all those variables. And we do have a team of few people that are clearly bringing diversified sort of experience. So diversification in our experience set is critical. We also focus on a constant monitoring of our portfolio. And I highlighted that previously, we look for hands on assistance, and entrepreneurial help to the startups. So we get involved, we believe in we believe in investing where we can bring value. And I believe these days, the startups are looking for value investors rather than investors, there is a difference between the two big investors who are bringing value to their company, is what they are looking for investor because money, there's a lot of money out there. The question is what value a particular investor could potentially bring into the startup, which helps the the value of the startup and helps your exit make bigger, and I
Jay Kingley 32:22
encourage everybody to go to LinkedIn, look up thick. On LinkedIn, you get a sense for his track record his background, and what has prepared him to do what he's doing. Which brings me back to the last real question I have for you today, which is what has happened to you in your life, be it professional or personal, that would most explain why you do what you do today.
Vik Dixit 32:47
You know, so Jay, I have been a passionate startup investor for the last 12 years. And as an angel I've invested in over 100 startups, I encourage you to go look at angel list and find me there. I've invested almost 100 startups got around 16 or so exits already. And I can say I will be the first one to accept that I have learned a lot, aka are learning if you will, from my failures, you know, people learn from their failures. And I've learned from my failures, being an angel investor, because when I started, I didn't know anything. I just went about investing into startups that I really thought is great. I'm a technology guy. So I always looked at technology stuff. I went into crowdfunding world and I invested to crowdfunding, I invest in direct investments, and some of my investments obviously went kaput. And some of the other investments certainly are looking very promising as well. So for me, I learned over the last 12 years, that that that and understood and have experienced in this world of startups, you know, from from understanding the deal flow, doing the due diligence, understanding the financials, understanding the legality, I mean, I went about doing contract law so that I can understand and read the contracts as well. So after doing all that, I realized that I need to join hands very much what I'm recommending to to my viewers here, that I joined hands with other people who are a student investors, angel investors, operators, and entrepreneurs and put together a group of people so that we can invest together. That was the idea of the firm that before we are less than two years old. And we have invested in over 25 startups. The combined valuation of those startups including some of the big names, I'm sure you will go and see and website is close to 100 billion dollars, which is phenomenal. And we have already knocked before exits, very good for four years, you know, two years, two year old company, and we are hovering at Little over 2x in terms of our return, you know, return investment. So we're not doing that, that, you know, we can do better. That's the idea. But going back to the to summarizing your point, Jay is, for me, it's about trying to scale what I did. And I did as an angel investor. And the only way I could scale that is putting together a group of investors together, or operators or entrepreneurs, like I said, in a form where we make investments together, we have the skin in the game with you, rather than sitting on the sidelines, and just making money on the carrier. Right? That's not the typical idea that we have. Our idea is we invest with you. We invest together, you are part of the decision making process. And and we all enjoy the fruits of the labor, as they call that the objective that
Jay Kingley 35:48
I'm sure we've got people out there that are thinking of principle investing. Sure they want to reach out, continue that conversation. What's the best way for people to contact you
Vik Dixit 35:57
reach out to us go look, look us up? At 360? Line? growth.com? Definitely, you know, reach out to me on my email. There are different ways to reach out to the website as well. So
Jay Kingley 36:10
I will put that in the show notes make it easy for people to contact you, Vic, I want to thank you for being such a great guests with a really, I think insightful way to approach this idea of how do you do principal investing in privately held startup companies. So thank you again, to my audience. Let's continue to crush it. Until next time,