Venture Capital, Immigrant Founders, and American Grit with Manan Mehta, Unshackled Ventures

In this episode, Andrew and I speak with Manan Mehta, Managing Partner from Unshackled Ventures.   Unshackled Ventures is a venture capital firm betting on immigrant founders. Not all the great talent comes from Harvard and Stanford and they don’t all live in New York or the Silicon Valley.  This was one of my favorite conversations as we get into the immigrant mindset as well as the similarities with veterans and the work Manan is doing there.  We talk about the disconnect between VCs and founders and how that impacts technical debt. What the VC model might look like in the future.  What Manan thinks about Hype funding. A term we created about Funding the latest trends and fads.  Then we wrap up with an outlook for 2019.

Episode 10: Venture Capital, Immigrant Founders, and American Grit.

Officially, episode 10! Huge congrats, Skiplist team.

Unshackled Ventures is a venture capital firm betting on immigrant founders. Not all the great talent comes from Harvard and Stanford and they don’t all live in New York or the Silicon Valley. 

Show Notes


Intro to Unshackled Ventures (1:26)

1:26- Intro to Unshackled Ventures

  • What immigrant founders bring to the table.
  • Coalescing around strong value systems is a great way to build foundations for successful businesses.
  • Silicon Valley's definition of talent is developers; too narrow.

How Immigrants Approach Problems Differently (9:21)

9:21- How Immigrants Approach Problems Differently

  • Need orthogonal thinking to solve problems - immigrants have this.
  • American grit and the adversity muscle
  • Veterans also share many of these traits. Unshackled Ventures works with veterans frequently as well. It culminates in a much better understanding of how to get things done.
  • The ways people collaborate abroad vs. in the U.S. are very different and leads to huge differences in the way we work and collaborate.
  • Dan Coyle's work, The Talent Code and The Culture Code
  • Creating environments of trust and safety is the best way to maximize talent

Technical Changes in Start-Up Culture (18:10)

18:10- Technical Changes in Start-Up Culture

  • Open source allows development to move faster.
  • Identify pain points to build the least amount of technology for the highest value.
  • Common to see piles of technical debt that are hard or impossible to pay off.
  • Important for founders to surround themselves with people who think differently.
  • Disconnects between VCs and founders as a funded company moves forward.

    • Artificial milestones that create markups are not helpful to portfolio companies.
  • VC represents only 3%-ish of private market funding.
  • Chamath Palihapitiya's piece on the Ponzi scheme in Silicon Valley.
  • Village Global VC
  • Softbank’s strategies partnering with some of the largest VCs.

Adding Value to Portfolio Companies via Dedicated VC Resources (31:57)

31:57- VCs hiring developer teams etc to support portfolio companies


Hype Funding (33:45)

33:45- Hype funding

  • Blockchain, ICOs, AI, etc.
  • VC is a speculative investment vehicle (thinking 5-10 years out).
  • AI ideas and concepts, for example, need thorough vetting.

Trends for 2019 (39:13)

39:13- Trends for 2019

  • Hard Technology emerging as Application technology phases out.
  • Innovation cycles, especially at U.S. universities, are producing some really interesting research, products, and technologies.

Manan Mehta is a founding partner of Unshackled Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund for immigrant-founded startups in the U.S. The fund has led marquee investments in driverless trucking, AI for water management, edge computing and emotional intelligence. Prior to Unshackled Ventures, Manan ran marketing for ed-tech startup Kno that raised over $90M of funding from top VCs including Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, and Floodgate. The company was acquired by Intel in 2013. Before Kno, Manan was an investment banker at the Royal Bank of Canada, with his most notable deal being the $1.9B acquisition of Skype led by Silver Lake and Andreessen Horowitz in 2009 — later sold to Microsoft for $8.5B.

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