On the road to 8 Roads

Team SaaSEAD’s interview with Asheque Shams at 8 Roads Capital Advisors

After a race against time from Brussels to London, we made it in time for our meeting with Asheque Shams at 8 Roads Capital Advisors. As team SaaSEAD walked towards the meeting room, we couldn’t help but notice the slick and minimal design of the office. Open working spaces where you could visibly see the teams working on exciting deals…

With teams in China, India, Europe, Japan, and the USA, 8 Roads is a VC that co-invests in various industries such as healthcare, Fintech, and Business services to name a few… Given the large scale of the VC SaaSEAD’s focus was its Europe fund based in London.

***How did you career in VC start?

Asheque’s passion for the tech industry started while studying at Cambridge University. After working for Jan Hammer and various start-ups, he got the opportunity to apply to fidelity, a limited partner of 8 Roads, which eventually led him to 8 Roads.

***Getting into VC?

VC has become a career recently… Currently it is not a career you follow as a fresh graduate. On average the industry looks for people with 2-3 years of consulting, tech, or investment banking experience.

***Any specific business model and start-up selection process? 

There is no specific model or process used in order of finding the product market fit. It is easy to find the red flags when valuing a potential investment, however, it takes a really good investor to figure out the green flags, the stuff that will be a success. After reviewing 10,000 pitch decks and meeting with 3,000 founders the intuition starts building. As a general high-level rule, he looks at three aspects of a potential investment: Business Model, Access to the Market, and the Team.

***How would you describe an ideal founder? 

An ideal founder would be someone that lives and breathes his/her company. Someone with the vision and ability to execute while knowing his/her strengths and limitations and hiring people to fill the latter. From a venture capitalist standpoint, an investment in a founder is like a 7 year marriage, you really need to get along.

***What it takes to be a VC? 

“It’s all in the quality, VC is not a head count game”

A VC’s job is not to run the company its investing in. A VC’s role is helping in assessing, valuing, and aid in running the Saas. VC’s should be pragmatic in knowing when they could help and when they simply can’t, 8 Roads culture is all about being pragmatic. In addition, a good VC would also have subject experts and Entrepreneurs in Residence, these guys would be of immense value to founders as well. We are very clear about the fact that we don’t know more than the founder about running the start-up.

**Building a VC network? 

It’s important to build relationships rather than a network. Relationships are what lead to good investments… It’s important to have a network of close relationships.

*** Latest investment and why? 

Fuse universal, a technology company helping enterprise, education and public sector organizations revolutionize online learning, knowledge sharing and communication in the workplace.

The reason why was mainly because there is an increasing trend in corporates spending on outsourcing employee training. In addition, corporates are spending more on employee training as a method of retention. What is interesting about the start-up is that it has evolved the method of learning as opposed to the more traditional employee training methods. The learning concepts are more bite size, video based, mobile enabled, and tailored to the employees rather than standardized. Interestingly employee engaged was 27% compared to the 1% when using other traditional training apps.

***Tell us more about your first investment?

Yeah it went bust….. It was a small investment, you learn with time to take a closer look at unit economics, negative gross margins…..You get better with time!!

***What books are you currently reading?

There are 3 different sets of books:

1) Market intelligence books and articles, these build awareness of who is doing what, such as tech crunch and tech news subscriptions. There are also inhouse colleagues that post the latest news on a common slack page.

2) Books and Blogs that develop investing skills, these help in building intuition and analysis, such as redpoint ventures.

3) Leadership books which are usually longer to read and prefers to read them over the summer. These are autobiographies such as Peter Thiel’s Zero to one, Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog, and Richard Branson.

***A typical day in your shoes?

I start-off my day really early, 5:30 AM early. I start by looking at new investments and finishing desk work. After that I focus on due diligence and related work and proceed with my board responsibilities, meeting/calls, and spending time with investors. I usually have board meetings every 2 weeks which require me to travel between Berlin, Stockholm, and London. VC is integrated into my life-style.

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