Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

116. Introduction to Deep Tech investing

When investing in Deep Tech, remember that technology is just a tool, not an end in itself. Understanding who will use it and why is key to becoming smart money.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • When investing in any business, you must consider these questions:
    • What problem are you solving?
    • Who are you solving it for?
    • Are they willing and able to pay for it?
  • Understand what stage of the innovation cycle the start-up is in. This will help you evaluate risk properly.
    • For example, the first lab grown burgers were unaffordable for most people. The risk at that stage was not whether the product can be made, but whether it can be made at a cost that would allow wide scale sales.
  • Get a technical expert to evaluate the start-up’s invention and help you understand their risk. Take note if no other deep tech investor is involved.
    • This is what happened with Theranos. Prominent biotech VCs passed on the round because they had the expertise to know that what Elizabeth Holmes was...
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115. Commercialising innovation and breaking into Deep Tech

Great technology is not enough to build a successful business. You need customers who understand its benefits, and are willing to pay for them. This is why storytelling is a key part of commercialising innovation.

Lauren Xandra, Head of Marketing at Two Sigma Ventures, a venture capital firm investing in deep tech, talks about her role in building successful tech businesses and how she transitioned career into deep tech.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "Just as important as supporting startups' technical growth is helping them to be understood and able to tell a story that not only resonates with their end users, but also with potential corporate partners and outside investors, who are often less technical," says Lauren.
  • Venture Capital is usually a job that people transition into, rather than start their careers in. 68% of venture capitalists in the US have backgrounds in start-ups, according to research by Diversity VC.
  • "Making a strategic career move requires thinking...
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114. What is Deep Tech?

Companies like Deep Mind fascinate investors and innovators, but what is a deep tech company really and how does it differ from other types of tech firms? Listen to this episode to find out.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Deep Tech is a sub-sector of the technology sector where the emphasis is on tangible engineering innovation or scientific advances and discoveries. It includes artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, advanced material science, photonics and electronics, biotech and quantum computing. 
  • Deep Tech is usually B2B: these companies usually sell their innovations to other businesses, rather than directly to consumers.
  • Deep Tech companies are usually founded by technical founders, and sometimes have non-technical co-founders who help them commercialise the innovation. A good example is biotech tech start-up Vitro Labs, where a scientist teamed up with a fashion industry expert to create laboratory grown leather.
  • The biggest risk to Deep Tech...
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106. What angel investors REALLY need to know about tech

Even the smartest professionals who don’t have backgrounds in digital businesses make the same mistakes when it comes to tech start-ups.

They often want vanity metrics, as opposed to what truly matters, and because they don’t know how a tech product gets made, they don’t know how to properly evaluate an opportunity. 

In this episode you'll learn 3 core tech concepts and how they apply to early stage investing.

Learning notes:

  • There are fundamental differences between software products, that are especially important at the early stages. This is because, when a product is very new, it is still in development mode. This is why understanding product development is vital at the early stages.

    For example, evaluating Airbnb as a listed company focusses on typical investment metrics: revenues, costs, growth etc. These would have been unavailable when Airbnb first launched, so investors must look for other signs.

  • Tech products are always evolving. For example,...
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103. How I got into deep tech investing (with Colin Beirne, Two Sigma Ventures)

“There are things that are much more important about investing in technology companies than technology,” says Colin Beirne, Founder of Two Sigma Ventures. TSV has invested in around 100 start-ups over the last 10 years, and funded 10 unicorns. They’re part of Two Sigma, a hedge fund with more than $60 billion under management.

Colin is surrounded by data scientists and programmers, but doesn’t have a background in programming. Listen to this episode to hear how Colin went from a liberal arts college to becoming one of the world’s leading deep tech investors.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • The winning company is not always the one with the best technology. Tech can be a differentiator, but usually it’s only temporary. The job of a venture capitalist is not to figure out which company has the best tech. It’s to figure out which company has the best business that can ultimately be the biggest impact,” says Colin.
  • Data science...
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72. Break Into Tech: three examples of successful career transitions

The number of technology oriented jobs is predicted to rise to 190 million in 2025, according to Microsoft. But, if you're a non-techie, how do you get in on that?

In this episode, you'll hear how three people transitioned into successful careers and tech, and learn how to apply their tactics to your career transformation.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • To succeed in tech as a non-techie, you need to learn core technology concepts and understand how they translate to business outcomes and user needs. You do not need to retrain as a coder.
  • There are more ways to be part of the tech boom than you think. For example, if you're a marketing expert, you could run a marketing company, which only serves tech clients. 
  • Transitions into tech often have an interim step, like volunteering for a start-up or helping a product team do user feedback. You can use this interim step to build your network, learn about new opportunities and add a tech position to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Listen...
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65. Fundraising For Non-Technical Founders

Many investors view non-technical founders as more risky. Sometimes this is plain silly, but there are legitimate investor concerns that non-techie founders will make costly mistakes that technical founders will not.

The answer is not to learn to build the product with your bare hands, but to know enough about tech to have a product strategy and relate it to business goals. 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • “You can be the ripest juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches,” - Dita von Teese. Some investors don't invest in non-technical founders and they never will. There are plenty of those who do. Spend your time on them.
  • Learn how to connect product metrics to business metrics, for example how does user engagement relate to revenue or fundraising goals?
  • Understand key tech concepts to make the right hires and set the right goals, but you do not have to retrain to become a...
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60. Why the VC market is changing and how to succeed it

More money is entering venture capital today than ever before. This means more career opportunities for investors, and funding options for founders.

In this episode, you'll hear from Check Warner, parter at Ada's Ventures, and co-Founder of Diversity VC. Check talks about her career transition from advertising to VC, how the venture industry is changing and how that affects founders.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Networking is a key part of a VC's job. If this is a career you want, build your network with founders, other VCs and larger funds that invest in venture.
  • To be a successful tech VC, you do need to learn how to speak tech, but you definitely don't need to be a coder yourself.
  • More money is entering the VC market and more funds are being set up. VC funds are often small, unlike other firms in the financing market. 
  • The widening VC market and the growth of no code tools means more opportunities for non-technical founders to succeed. 

 

Say hi to Check...

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52. Introduction to Venture Capital

A robust venture capital industry is one of the pillars of the today's tech boom, because it provides the funding for new companies to grow. But "venture capital is not a job for everyone," says venture investor Dr Itxaso del Palacio in this week's episode.

Itxaso is a leading venture capitalist. She launched Microsoft Ventures in Europe and is Partner at Notion Capital today. She also teaches Entrepreneurial Finance at the MSc Technology Entrepreneurship at University College London.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "Venture capital is mostly transactional. Founders operate the companies, and we can advise and suggest what to do but we don't operate the companies," says Itxaso.
  • Corporate venture arms are very different to VC funds and the incentives within them differ. For example, people in traditional VCs benefit financially if a company they invest in becomes a unicorn. This is often not the case in corporate venture divisions.
  • People do not usually begin...
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41. From tech entrepreneurship to venture capital

Venture capital is usually not somebody's first job. It is a career people transition into, and one of the best ways to prepare is by working in a start-up.

In this episode, you'll hear from VC James Sore, Principal at SuperSeed ventures, about how he transitioned into tech entrepreneurship and then investing. You will also learn about equity crowdfunding and syndicate investing.

If you want to raise money for a start-up or invest in one, this episode is for you.

 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Venture capitalists have three main jobs: sourcing deals and investing, raising capital for their own funds, and helping the start-ups in their portfolio.
  • Early stage investing, like early stage start-ups, is risky. In the early stages, companies are still finding structure and product market fit. This makes them the right environment for some people, but completely wrong for others. Knowing yourself and where you thrive is important to get this right. 
  • Venture...
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