Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Semyon Dukach, One Way Ventures was recorded in January 2018.
Semyon Dukach is the Managing Partner at One Way Ventures, a firm that is 100% focused on immigrant entrepreneurs.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to you. Tell us about your investing focus. How big is the fund? What sized investments do you make? What kind of investments do you make?
Semyon Dukach: We’re a seed fund based in Boston. We focus on backing great immigrant entrepreneurs. These are founders that have gone through a personal immigration experience and one that was formative to who they are.
Sramana Mitra: How big is the fund?
Semyon Dukach: We’re targeting $50 million for the first fund.
Sramana Mitra: Have you already started making investments?
Semyon Dukach: We’ve made several investments already.
Sramana Mitra: What sized investments do you make?
Semyon Dukach: We typically start with a $300,000 check right now.
Sramana Mitra: How do you peg the stage in which you like to invest? Let’s be quite precise here. Right now, we’re facing a seed stage investment climate where there are some 500 or 600 microVCs that are investing through the entire spectrum from pre-seed, seed, post-seed to pre-Series A. Where in that continuum do you fit?
Semyon Dukach: We tend to lead pre-seed and, often, pre-launch. We are also following other VCs where there are immigrants anywhere in the world. Those can be seed, A and even some Series B.
Sramana Mitra: What about industry sector? Where is the expertise? What’s the sweet spot of the fund?
Semyon Dukach: It’s broadly technology investing.
Sramana Mitra: So B2B and B2C everything.
Semyon Dukach: Yes. Prior to starting the fund, my partner and I ran the Techstars accelerator in Boston. Our portfolio has been quite broad. It’s one of the more general programs in Techstars as opposed to their vertically focused programs. Prior to that, I had about 15 years of full-time angel experience. Based on that, we’ve decided on immigrant founders and not on a particular vertical.
Sramana Mitra: You said you’ve already made a bunch of investments from this fund. Can you talk about some of the highlights of what you’ve invested in? In particular as you call out companies, could you also talk through what is it about that particular investment that convinced you? What we’re trying to do here is understand how you think about investments.
Semyon Dukach: It’s probably a little early for us to talk about investments out of this fund. In particular, the ones we are leading haven’t yet announced those rounds. There are some that we participated in. I can certainly point out companies from my angel portfolio. There’s been a number of interesting businesses that we funded. In fact, I would say that before we had this immigrant focus, over half of our investments have still been to immigrants. Seven out of my eight top angel portfolio companies had immigrant founders.
Sramana Mitra: I’m trying to understand a bit more of your thinking in terms of what kinds of other parameters kick in gear in your investment evaluation besides immigrant founders.
Semyon Dukach: There are many other parameters and all of them have to do with the founders. Aside from being immigrants, we’re looking for the same stuff that most VCs look for. These are strong decision makers – bold people with a big vision who are persistent and analytical. They must be able to inspire others to follow them and build what they want to build. These are people who listen. It’s all about the team for us.
There’re certainly areas we understand better than others. I would say that in our investment so far, there has been a lot of machine learning. There’s been some IoTs. There are certain themes that do come up but we’re looking for the best possible founders.
Sramana Mitra: Are you looking to invest in unicorns?
Semyon Dukach: The specific concept is a little exaggerated, but we are looking to end up with investments in large disruptive businesses that make a big impact on the world. We’re not one of these small funds that is trying to come in at lower valuations and have smaller exits. Like most funds, we are looking for companies that will be worth billions of dollars.