Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Mark Achler was recorded in October 2017.
Mark Achler, Managing Director, MATH Venture Partners, discusses their investment strategy and the industry trends.
Sramana Mitra: Tell us about MATH Ventures. What is the focus of your firm? How big is the fund? What sized investments do you make?
Mark Achler: We’re based in Chicago. We’re a $28 million fund. We’re just launching our second fund as well which will be twice the size. In our first fund, we made investments of $500,000 to a million dollars. Typically, we’re early stage investors. We do some Series A and seed investing.
Our investment thesis is we love companies who understand how to sell. It sounds really easy. Most entrepreneurs are smart. Most entrepreneurs fail. Our joke is, assuming that the unit economics and underlying business model makes sense, nobody ever went out of business because they had too many customers. We go to our sweet spot. They’re either technology or financial experts but very few know how to sell.
Therefore, we love entrepreneurs who deeply and truly understand their customers – the language that their customers speak. I’m not talking about English or Spanish. I’m talking about the language of how they describe their business and their needs. Most importantly, how are you going to reach them?
We look for leverage in a sales model. That’s what’s most important to us. We invest primarily in the United States. Because we’re based in Chicago, we have a Midwest focus. We’ve made 16 investments out of this fund. Six of them have been in the Midwest but the rest of our investments have been all around the country.
Sramana Mitra: We have a meeting of the minds here because our philosophy is entirely customer immersion and focusing on understanding the repeatable sales process. If you look at our curriculum, we have this really evolved online curriculum at this point that has been in the market since 2010. It’s full of selling and customer acquisition.
We have this module which is called Sales 2.0 that is a very popular module that a lot of entrepreneurs use. Can you really dissect the sales process and figure out who the buyer is and how to reach that buyer? We are completely on the same page with you.
Talk a little bit about industry sector as well. What types of businesses do you like to invest in? You’re welcome to talk about the portfolio of 16 that you have invested in to give us a flavor of what’s interesting to you.
Mark Achler: I’ve been a CEO four times. I’ve started four different businesses and have built and scaled several businesses across multiple industries. We are software technology investors, but we’re really interested across multiple sectors. We like cybersecurity. We have a couple of portfolio companies in the cybersecurity world because we feel there’s a great sense of urgency in that marketplace.
We like fin tech. We have a couple of fin tech investments. You may have heard of one company called Acorn, which is doing very well. We have a cybersecurity company called Red Seal. They’re based in the Valley. We’re primarily B2B with 90% of our portfolio in B2B. We have a little bit of B2C. We like marketing tech companies.
We have a healthcare company that’s doing exceptionally well called Apervita. That’s another interesting thing in terms of the sales model. Apervita provides a data and analytics relationship manager for the healthcare industry. If you think of a CRM, a CRM manages customers. This platform manages data and analytics. They just announced a deal with the Joint Commission.
The Joint Commission is the organization that certifies and audits every hospital in the country. They have to go through this joint commission audit process or they’re basically out of business because they’re not eligible for better care reimbursement if they’re not audited. Therefore, this particular company signed a deal with the Joint Commission which is going to provide Apervita to every hospital in the United States that goes through the Joint Commission audit.
Sramana Mitra: Congratulations. That’s a great deal.
Mark Achler: It’s an awesome deal.