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1Mby1M Virtual Accelerator Investor Forum: With Mark Achler of MATH Venture Partners 2021 (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Feb 15th 2021
Profile photo of Mark Achler

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 of MATH Venture Partners was recorded in January 2021.

Mark Achler, MATH Venture Partners, focuses on B2B selling as a key factor in startup success.

Sramana Mitra: You were here a while ago. Let’s talk about what has happened since. Where are you with your fund? What are you seeing? What are you investing in and where do you want to invest in? 

Mark Achler: I always start with gratitude. It was a difficult year for everybody. I’m grateful that our portfolio companies are well and that our families are healthy. I don’t take that for granted. I spend a lot of time talking to CEOs, especially during this last year, about resilience, mental health, and persistence. All in all, things are going well. 

Sramana Mitra: Let’s talk about the fund situation. Which fund are you investing in right now? What is the size of the fund? 

Mark Achler: We are in our second fund. This fund is a $46 million fund. We invest with two types of investments. We will do a MATH 100, where we will put in $100,000 at an early stage just to get to know the company and the founders. We help where we can and see if there is a product-market fit.

The majority of our capital is deployed in the first real round of institutional funding. The first real round of institutional funding is where we write check amounts from $1 million to $5 million across the lifetime of an investment. 

Sramana Mitra: When you write these $100,000 checks, are they public financing or are you looking for something already set up? What triggers the $100,000 check? 

Mark Achler: Typically, the product is already built. It can have minimal revenue, but what we are looking for is some kind of demonstration or the beginnings of a product-market fit. We invest in software technology. We tend to be B2B SaaS. We are 90/10, where 90% of our investments are B2B and 10% in B2C.

Our fundamental investment thesis is around sales and customer acquisition. We are looking for companies who can not only build a great product but also know how to sell it. We think that the greatest product in the world without customers is a great product, but it’s not a business. We are looking for articulation and some form of leverage in customer acquisition. 

Sramana Mitra: You are still investing all over the United States?

Mark Achler: US and Canada. We have made three investments in Canada. We call ourselves Midwest-centric. We are based in Chicago and about a third of our investments are in the Midwest. We also invest all over the country. 

Sramana Mitra: What has been your experience in COVID? Are you investing in companies without meeting the founders in person through Zoom calls?

Mark Achler: We are, and it’s challenging. It’s challenging equally on both sides of the equation. I’ll tell you what I miss as an investor. I miss going to a company and seeing the culture, people, and how they interact with one another. That is hard to do in COVID. It does not stop us from investing, but I miss that personal touch. 

Sramana Mitra: For what we do, it hasn’t changed that much because we do everything virtually any way. We do mostly strategy work and that hasn’t been a problem. For what you do – doing due diligence and getting to know the people at a much deeper level before you write significant checks – it’s much difficult. I would say that the inability to sit across and have a meal together is a disadvantage as an investor. 

Mark Achler: It’s bidirectional as well. For entrepreneurs, it’s important to pick your investors as well. I do recognize that for most entrepreneurs, it’s hard to raise money, but you can raise money. They should be selective on who their investors are and who sits on their board. Those members should have the same values. It’s also hard for the entrepreneur to get a sense of the investor equally. 

Sramana Mitra: You enter into a multi-year relationship – into a five to ten-year relationship – without having human interaction in person. That is tricky. 

Mark Achler: No qualifier necessary, that is hard. It’s hard for both sides. 

This segment is part 1 in the series : 1Mby1M Virtual Accelerator Investor Forum: With Mark Achler of MATH Venture Partners 2021
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