A Testament to Timeless Genius: “Nightfall and Other Stories” by Isaac Asimov

As someone who has always been fascinated by the intersection of technology, futurism, and human ingenuity, discovering Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall and Other Stories” was a revelation. Having long admired Asimov’s renowned Foundation series, I was surprised to find myself unacquainted with his short stories. This collection, however, quickly proved itself a treasure trove of prescient insights and timeless narratives which I found even more impressive as the stories were written between 1941 and 1967!

Asimov’s ability to foresee technological and societal developments is nothing short of prophetic. In “The Last Question,” for instance, he explores the concept of a supercomputer grappling with the entropy of the universe, a narrative that resonates deeply in today’s age of advanced artificial intelligence and existential inquiries about the future of the cosmos. It’s a vivid illustration of the perennial quest for understanding in the face of the unknown.

In “Nobody Here But –”, Asimov imagines a self-aware computer system that may very well “have a desire to more machines until there were millions of them all over the earth, fighting with human beings for control” thus setting the stage for countless stories from The Terminator to The Matrix. The topic is also incredibly timely as we seem to be nearing the ability to create Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

Another gem, “Franchise,” remarkably anticipates the rise of data-driven decision-making and the potential for AI in governance, a topic of immense relevance in our current era of big data and algorithmic predictions. Asimov’s foresight in envisioning a world where a single voter, selected by a computer, represents the will of the populace, speaks to the core of contemporary debates around democracy and technology.

“Nightfall,” the titular story, is a masterclass in building tension and exploring the psychological impact of astronomical events on a civilization. Its depiction of a society unprepared for a cataclysmic event echoes current concerns about global challenges and our collective response to impending crises. The story’s exploration of fear, science, and ignorance is as pertinent today as it was when written.

What strikes me most about Asimov’s writing is his ability to blend scientific curiosity with deep philosophical questions. His stories are not just forecasts of future technologies but are also profound inquiries into the human condition. They challenge us to consider the moral and ethical dimensions of our scientific endeavors.

“Nightfall and Other Stories” is not just a collection of science fiction narratives; it is a compilation of visionary ideas that transcend their era. Asimov’s work is a testament to the enduring power of the human imagination, and this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the confluence of technology, society, and the future.

Zero to Billions Techstars Alumni conversation with Alejandro Garcia-Amaya

I was invited to share my journey with the Techstars alumni community. Here are the questions that we covered.

You began your entrepreneurial journey in 1998, Having co-founded and been CEO of several successful ventures like Aucland, Zingy, and OLX.

  • What inspired the creation of each business, and how did your vision for them evolve over time?
  • Did you have to pivot from the initial idea at any time?
  • Did you have a methodology/process for finding product market fit? 
  • When did you know it was the right go-to-market time? 

These three ventures have reached great heights! Aucland evolved into one of the largest auction sites in Europe. Zingy raked in an impressive $200 million in annual revenues within just four years. And of course, OLX, a household name worldwide, operates in a whopping 30 countries with a massive team of over 10,000 employees. Quite the journey, right?

  • What specific strategies or initiatives were key drivers in the growth of those companies?
  • Did you identify common practices, like strategic partnerships or customer retention initiatives, that consistently contributed to the success of each venture?
  • What were the biggest challenges you faced in scaling each one of them?
  • For startup founders looking to build and scale online marketplaces, what advice would you give to ensure sustainable growth and the creation of a strong network effect?

Navigating Global Markets:

Having successfully transposed and adapted these business ideas across the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Latin America, 

  • What strategies have you found most effective in navigating and thriving in diverse global markets?
  • If a founder is about to enter into a new region (EU), what are some questions or pitfalls they should be aware of? 

Transition to Venture Capital:

Fast-forwarding to your role as Founding Partner at FJ Labs, you’ve invested in over 1100 companies over time, including major players like Alibaba and Coupang. Having over 900 active investments now. 

  • What factors influenced your transition from hands-on entrepreneurship to venture capitalism?
  • How does your entrepreneurial background influence your investment decisions at FJ Labs?
  • What principles or philosophies guide your approach to angel investing, and how have these principles evolved over time?

Angel Investing:

Angel investors typically get involved with startups during their early stages, and you were recognized as the #1 Angel Investor globally by Forbes.

  • What excites you the most about early-stage investing, and what challenges do you find most rewarding to tackle at this phase?
  • What criteria do you prioritize when selecting startups to invest in, particularly in the dynamic realm of online marketplaces and network effects?

Advice to Founders:

  • What advice would you give to startup founders seeking angel investment, and what key factors do you believe contribute to a successful pitch?

Balancing Risk and Innovation:

Angel investing involves a level of risk. 

  • How do you strike a balance between taking calculated risks and ensuring potential rewards for both yourself and the startups you invest in?

Supporting Portfolio Startups:

  • Beyond financial investment, how actively do you engage with and support the startups in your portfolio? Are there specific ways you contribute to their growth and success?

Networking and Deal Sourcing:

Building a strong network is crucial in the world of angel investing and also in the world of founding and growing a startup. 

  • How do you approach networking, and what strategies do you use to source promising investment opportunities?

Learning from Investments:

  • With such a vast portfolio, are there particular investments or experiences that stand out as valuable learning opportunities for you as an angel investor?
  • As an angel investor, what key lessons have you learned that you believe founders should pay attention to?
  • Given your global investment activities, how do you stay informed about emerging trends and opportunities in various regions?

Future Predictions:

  • Looking ahead, what do you predict will be the next big wave or innovation in tech, and how can entrepreneurs position themselves to ride that wave?

Work-Life Integration:

You have a blog, where you talk about your professional and personal life.

  • How do you manage your time effectively to ensure a balance between professional commitments and personal interests like travel, kitesurfing, and tennis?
  • Do you find that these activities influence your leadership approach?
  • How does this creativity translate into your leadership style, and how do you encourage a creative environment within your professional endeavors?

If you prefer, you can listen to the podcast.

Here is a transcript of the conversation for your reading pleasure.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: Today, we are honored to have Fabrice Grinda, founding partner at FJ Labs. Joining us, Fabrice, welcome.

Fabrice Grinda: Thank you for having me.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: All right. So, sit back for a second. I’m going to give a little bit of a background on you and then we’ll jump right into a number of the questions. So, Fabrice is a prominent internet entrepreneur and investor with a notable track record of 300 exits and 1,100 angel investments via his role as founding partner at FJ labs, a venture capital firm.

Before becoming an investor, Fabrice launched a number of successful companies such as OLX. The largest classifieds site in India, Brazil, Pakistan, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Portugal, and many other emerging markets operating in 50 countries and has over 3000 employees. Before OLX, Fabrice founded and led Zingy, one of the largest wireless media companies in the Americas. Fabrice initiated his entrepreneurial journey in 1998 with the creation of Aucland, which evolved into one of Europe’s largest auction sites. Beyond his ventures, Fabrice worked as a management consultant for McKinsey and company, holding a BA in economics from Princeton University. He engages in global travel, kite surfing, which looks intense, tennis and shares insights on his personal and professional life through blogging at fabricegrinda.com, that’s GRINDA.com.

So, thank you. Welcome. I heard a number of tales from your journeys, and I can’t wait to jump into a number of them here. So, you began your entrepreneurial journey in 1998 and having co-founded and you’re a CEO on a number of successful ventures, like I mentioned in Aucland, Zingy and OLX. I’m going to cover a few anecdotes I heard from building each company and ask you for a lesson or lessons learned from each respective company. So, let’s jump into this.

You left McKinsey to start Aucland. So, after college, you went McKinsey, worked there, and then you left McKinsey, start Aucland, the eBay for France in your early twenties.

A couple of years or so into building Aucland, you could have sold it to eBay for, I believe the offer is 20 million, but you wanted to continue growing it. You were able to eventually raise 50-60+ million. At the end, you sold your stake to a private investor. What were some lessons learned from your experience? Cause that is fascinating, creating a company at fairly quickly already having a certain type of offer and declining it and then growing it. So, I’m sure there’s a million things that you learned, but what are some that come to mind?

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah. So, I knew I wanted to be a tech founder, by the way, before I even went to college or McKinsey, McKinsey was like business school, except they pay you.

And when I created my company, you know, I actually liked creating something out of nothing, I wanted to be a founder.  And I guess when you’re 23 at the time, I didn’t realize how much money like 20 million dollars was. When you have, you know, I had nothing, but somehow it didn’t feel meaningful in any way, shape, or form.

I’m like, nah, I want to build something massive. I’m going to change the world. And 20 million is nothing, you know, there’ll be opportunity to make it to the future. I’ll build something much bigger and if it fails, whatever. And I didn’t realize how. Life changing and meaningful than the amount of money was.

And so, I just missed it without even considering it, honestly. I was like, meh, nah. And in a way it was the correct choice because like maybe I raised the capital, we grew dramatically, and then later got a 300 million buyout offer from eBay. So, yes, we’ve taken the dilution. Instead of owning 75 percent of the company, I now own 40 percent of the company, but 40 percent of 300 million is 120 million.

It’s still worth a lot more than the 75/20. The problem, that said, in hindsight, knowing how hard it is to make money and how life changing it is and the fact that it can that it can make it easier for you to fund your next startups, et cetera. Probably should have taken the 20 to begin with.

Number two, that said. Once the 300 came, I could not convince my VCs to take the offer. So, that was another big lesson there in the sense that I’ve never raised money before, so I never negotiated a stock purchase agreement before. I didn’t have a drag along so I could not force a sale. I didn’t have all the core rights that I would have been expected to. Now, of course, this is in a time period where these rights, you know, safe dose didn’t exist, standard set of docs didn’t exist. And I’ve never done these things before. So, I didn’t know. I relied on my lawyer who’s supposed to have known better and didn’t negotiate the right, right.

So couldn’t force a sale. Ultimately, we merged with a publicly traded company.  Notionally for a lot more, but that stock promptly fell 99.98%. And I was telling the VC, this is not a good company. The eBay offers way better, but I can’t convince them, and many lessons learned. So, (A) 20 million is a lot of money. (B) Make sure you have like standard set of rights. Like, you know, drag rights, or at least piggyback and preemptive rights. And (C), pick a VC who’s aligned with you. Like I raised money at the highest valuation for the person who invested the most. But ultimately, it was not a normal VC. It was a very rich French person who wanted to show the world that they understood the Internet, but they weren’t in it to build successful companies. They were it to like to appear in the press to be strategic. And so, when the time came to exit, they didn’t care about exiting. I mean, the problem with someone who’s worth a hundred billion. I mean, at that time, I think it was only 20 billion is making a couple hundred million more makes no difference to them.

And so even though it was my recommendation we should exit, they were like, “Nah, I’m not exiting”. And I couldn’t change that. And they were in control, even though it was my company. And so, a number of mistakes in terms of raising money from the wrong VC to negotiating the wrong rights to not realizing how much money 20 million dollars was at the beginning.

So yeah, a lot of interesting life lessons. Then again, if I’d made 120 million at like 25. So, this was like two years later. When the eBay offer came, I probably would have been an arrogant and insufferable asshole. And so, you know, the eating a piece of humble pie, going from zero to hero, you know, and cover every magazine, et cetera, back to zero again.

It was probably a very valuable life lesson that I needed to learn.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: I love that. That’s very reflective and life changing. That’s incredible. Let’s move on to the next venture. So Zingy.

For this second venture, I heard you originally were thinking of an idea that you could bootstrap instead of finding venture capital for it. What made you think this way? And I know that eventually you also had to fundraise, but it was a very hard journey. Much harder than your first experience. Can you cover some of that?

Fabrice Grinda: Well, when you’re raising money in the bubbles. In the 1998, with a pedigree, I could say, top of my class at Princeton.  McKinsey, one of the first to ever be promoted directly to associate whatever, like people were throwing money at me.

In 2001, I knew the world would change and it was obvious that capital was going to be either impossible to raise or extraordinarily difficult. And, by the way, I thought the Internet was not going to be this big thing.

I’m like, you know what it’s not going to be the revolution I expected it to be. It’s not gonna be big. It’s not gonna be big a way to make money. But like, I’m not doing this because I want to make money. I’m doing this because I’d like the zero to one. I’d like to be a tech founder. I would like to be mission-driven, but because my core mission right now is to be a founder, I’m willing to sacrifice the idea to just do something that I think I can build profitably with very little capital.

And so, it was more a reflection of the macro circumstances in which we found ourselves. Which is like the winter of tech, basically. It was like, even though it was not a global recession, it was a tech recession. It was very, very deep.

So in 2001, I’m like, okay, I’m going to do ringtones. Not because I liked ringtones. I thought it was silly. Uh, but I thought I could build it pretty cost effectively in the US, because it had been successful in Europe and in Asia.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: So, focusing on ring tones, because you’re thinking about how quickly, in terms of go to market, you can sell this and already start generating revenue or profit.

But even before, even when you pick that idea, did you try to fundraise or you did, and it was because it was such a gloomy market that it just didn’t work out or what was the case?

Fabrice Grinda: Oh no, I actually try to fundraise. In in fact, the first two years were painful. I invested every last penny I had.

I borrowed a hundred thousand of my credit card. I slept on the couch at the office. I lived in New York, $2 a day. I mean, I couldn’t even afford coffee. I could only eat ramen noodles, missed payroll 27 times. I talked to every VC, but I think by the time. I think my first sentence that happened when I’m telling them I’m doing BTC telecom, when every BTC company in the world from Webvan and Pets.com, I’d gone under. Every telco company, like MCI Worldcom had gone under, I don’t think I’d finished the sentence. They’d hung up, right? Like there was no traction. I never even got a meeting to raise capital. So, you know, I try to raise capital. It would have like saved a lot of hair loss. But it was impossible.

And here’s the irony is once we became profitable, because so this company was built the old-fashioned way on profits. You know, we went from a million revenues in 02, to 5 in 03 to 15 in 04 to 200 in 05. But like we became profitable.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: Hold on. So, a million, when did you get a million, in how long?

Fabrice Grinda: Revenues in 2002.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: And how long had the company been operating for?

Fabrice Grinda: I created the company July 2, 2001, and we launched a couple months after that, basically. So, we did million revenue first year.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: Wow! Okay. So, I mean, a million in a year or 12 months, or a bit less. That’s still fairly impressive!

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah, it was okay.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: So even with that million, you’re trying to fundraise and, no one would pick up the phone. Wow!

Fabrice Grinda: No VCs. I know. I raised 1.4 million, but I raised 1.4 million in 5 to 10k increments. Any person I would meet, I’ve been like, ah, this amazing startup, please invest.

And I did raise 1.4 million, but literally in 10, the biggest check I was getting was like 10k. And at some point, I ran out of friends and family that I could beg and grovel for money, which is why I ended up missing payroll so many times. And, of course, every time we tell the employees, I don’t understand what went wrong. The banks didn’t process the wiring the payroll properly this month. Of course, I didn’t have any money. That’s why it wasn’t processed. Then I would find some guy to give me 5k, then poof, make payroll!

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: That’s weird that you have to check the banks. Oh my God, that is wild. I love that. I love hearing that journey. There are so many of us founders have gone through that or are going through that.

So, this is really helpful to be able to hear that.

Fabrice Grinda: By the way, the most meaningful day of my tribunal journey, to date, is August 15, 2003. The day we became cashflow positive, not EBITDA positive, cashflow positive. We were EBITDA positive for three or four months already because then we were masters of own destiny.

We knew we were not gonna die, and I was able to pay back, my hundred thousand credit card debt and all the things I haven’t paid, and the back payroll, et cetera. That was, to date, the most important date of my life.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: That was three years. Three years into it, something like that.

Fabrice Grinda: Two years and two months

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: Wow! That’s incredible. Even more than you mentioned in the fourth year, you already generating 200 million. You ended up, well, I always love asking this question to every one of our special unicorn founders in this show. Do you remember what your first sale? To whom it was and how did you get it going?

How did you sign that first customer? I know with Zingy, you were selling to enterprise.

Fabrice Grinda: Eventually. Yeah. So, I wanted to sell the enterprise. I wanted to run the, the mobile content platforms for the operators. But in 2001 in the US, it was the dark ages. There was no, there was no text messaging.

You could not text message within an operator, let alone cross operator. They didn’t think they needed this content, even though it was huge in Europe and Asia. And I was not, they were not picking up my phone calls either. So, I launched direct to consumer just as a proof of concept. I even, I had to hack my way into the delivery networks and gateways of AT&T and Cingular, et cetera, to be able to deliver.

I didn’t have a contract with them. I just like found a way to deliver through their gateways that were open. I started selling, charging via credit card. And I had the consumer to have to pick their network and phone. It was like the most archaic way of delivering it.

And that’s why I didn’t really scale at the beginning. But the point was showing up at all the conferences, being a CTIA. Proving my staying power and I kept knocking the door of the carriers. Eventually MSN at that time was like desperate for revenues. So, I essentially bribed them. I gave them like, I don’t know 100k or 50k to become their official partner that led a press release, which lends us to some credibility, even though it didn’t really beat any revenues. Then randomly, at that time, Motorola was running the NEXcell content portal. They reach out randomly and they said, hey, we saw you video Microsoft. Do you want to discuss doing something with us?

So, we started running it for them. And then NEXcell reached out to me and said, hey, well, you know, this is working pretty well. Can we do it directly? And then the first real contract in my life is Sprint. But I’ve been knocking the doors for two years and a half, and it’s just little by little, beat through staying power and presence of showing we’re not this flash in the pan startup. Got the contract once sprinted it, everyone else wanted to do it.

So, then it became, you know, they’re all lemmings. So once Sprint had done it, it was successful. We got a call from everyone from AT&T to singular to Verizon, and then we went from like dying for revenues to being overworked, especially with no money to build connectivity and partnerships with all these people.

And also, they sent me like three, you know, these are ginormous companies. They sent me like 300-page RFPs. I filled in the RFPs myself. I just promised to do everything. I just said, yeah, we’ll do everything.

Once we had signed the contract, I obviously didn’t deliver. And at 20th of what I’d promised, but it didn’t matter. That’s when they were pregnant, and they didn’t have a choice. So, I focused on the core. I’m like, you know what? I promised all these other things, but you know. Let’s do this to get going. And then we’ll work on the rest later.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: And they kept with it! And they’re like sure.

Fabrice Grinda: And they kept with it and it’s too late. We were coding and we were live, and it worked extraordinarily well.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: When you were going directly to the consumer, even though it wasn’t scalable, what was the time period? And what type of numbers or what type of key indicators were you looking at that allowed you to say, you know what, like, we really are up to something. I know this, like, we got to keep knocking on these doors. We got to keep doing this. Like, what was the shining light for you there?

Fabrice Grinda: It was not our numbers. Our numbers were de minimis and irrelevant. It was the fact that in Japan, this was a multibillion-dollar category and profitable.

In Korea, it was a multibillion-dollar category and profitable. In Europe, there were multiple players that were like doing hundreds of millions of sales and profitable. And so, if humans globally are very similar, if something works somewhere, it’s going to work somewhere else because at our core, we want to communicate. We want to socialize.

We want to have a sense of purpose. We want to be entertained. And if there’s something works somewhere, it’s going to work elsewhere. Now it’s going to be, you need to adapt that it’s not a carbon copy, but fundamentally the ideas are pretty similar. And that’s what it works so well in the rest of the world.

I’m like, it’s going to work in the US. It’s just a question of time. And I need to be there when the market opens up with all the building blocks in place. Now, if it had taken two more years, I probably would have been dead. So fortunately, it happens before I ran out of like complete semen, cash, et cetera.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: As you were signing up these enterprises, so sprint and all the other enterprises that came along, for in terms of team and talent, was there a moment where you said, we need to bring some individuals with enterprise level experience when it came for sales, so you already had that.

Fabrice Grinda: No. I couldn’t afford salespeople anyway.

In fact, the main issue is we want, at some point I stopped being able to. After I signed the Sprint deal and we signed everyone else. I didn’t have any cash until Sprint paid us. So, we signed Sprint, we went live April 1, 2003, but they paid quarterly plus 45, the check arrived August 15, 2003, but once they went live, everyone else wanted to sign.

But I didn’t pay my, my staff from April 1 to August 15. So, we went from 27 people to seven. Cause you know, when you stop paying people, they stop showing up for work for some reason. I don’t get that. And so, all of a sudden, we were massively overworked with everyone wanting to sign us and we had, we had no more staff.

So, I just start coding again. I was project manager slash front end developer slash head of sales, slash you name it.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: Customer success.

Fabrice Grinda: Fortunately, we saw the core, the CTO and the core back up office team that could help with the integrations. But, yeah, we went live and finally we’re profitable and then we scaled.

And I sold the company a year later for 80 million cash.

So, this time for cash, not equity. And I sold it over half of it, but that was not the most meaningful day in my life. Because, at that point, we were on a rocket ship. We went, you know, as I said, we did five million revenues, 50-200, we’re hiring people right and left. We’re growing like crazy. I was so busy.

My reward of myself for selling the company was like, I think I bought an Xbox, a TV and a tennis racket. And I’m like, you know, I still lived in my studio apartment for like multiple more years because I was too busy. And you know, I didn’t do this for the money anyway. Like, I thought this was an interesting thing to do and build.

Even though I didn’t like the mission of like selling ringtones and mobile contents, and I wanted other mission. 

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: When it comes to lessons learned with Zingi, I love to also learn about the scaling. The fast growth, bringing in talent and making sure everyone’s in the same page. Is there a particular lesson, any particular pitfalls? Anything that you can share for founders out there right now that are going through that, right?

They found product market fit. Now they’re, they’re growing at a pretty fast clip. And what are things that they should keep an eye on or the questions they should be asking themselves?

Fabrice Grinda: The good news for us is our core team, you know, the CTO, me, et cetera, we’re like in place and it was really execution on existing contracts.

So, it didn’t really require fundamental new senior hires. I think the only thing I would change differently is like, regardless of the talent of someone, which I since implemented as a no asshole policy. Regardless of your IQ ability to deliver whatever, if you’re not a good person to other people and you don’t treat people well, you have no place here.

It took me too long to realize that. But other than that, not really. I made more hiring mistakes in the first company because my VCs were pushing me to hire like, you know, gray-haired, experienced people. And they were just not a cultural fit for the company. Like in tech startups is better to make the wrong decision but learn from it and pivot. Then like to try to get consensus to find the perfect answer, which never exists.

And so, people with your culture may make a lot of sense.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: You mentioned that you ended up selling for 80 million cash offer. What are, are there some lessons there? I remember hearing you mention about investment that you brought in an investment bank and that that was actually very helpful being able to do that.

Can you share a little bit more about that?

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah. So, I kept getting buyout offers. We want you to be profitable for like 8 million, 10 million, 12 million. And then I’ve said like, I’m not selling. And then this buyer came in, offered 40. And I’m like, okay, this is now I’ve realized how much money that is.

And it is life changing. And I own half the company and I’ve been so close to zero so many times. I’m like, let’s definitely consider it. I hired a banker to run an auction and they looked at like 10 different potential buyers and they increased the price, but frankly, just because they run an auction from 40 to 80.

So, that was helpful. That’s number one. And number two, just as importantly during the negotiation of the stock purchase agreement, et cetera, they could play the role of bad cop. Because obviously if the buyer, you want to have a good relationship with the buyer, you’re going to be there for a while. They’re going to lock you up.

And, I stayed there for 18 months. So, you can’t be the one negotiating every little detail in your, in the sales contract. And so, the natural division of labor is the bankers, the bad cops, you’re the good cop. Meaning that I will tell them like, look, I want to work with you, but my bankers are telling me what you’re offering is on market.

And that’d be silly to accept that. I just don’t want to look silly in front of them but give me something I can work with that seems reasonable. Obviously, I’m the one actually telling them what I wanted. So, I’m the one driving, like from the optics perspective, you appear to be the compromising nice guy and the bankers are the evil people that are negotiating so aggressively.

And so, with that good cop bad up routine. It is very effective. So, the bankers I hired were worth every penny. They play the role of the bad cop. They doubled the price. We got what we needed, and it was amazing.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: I love that! Let’s move into the last of the three big ventures here. OLX. For this third venture, I heard you originally want to improve Craigslist, but that did not work out.

So, you created OLX. You decided to launch it in a hundred countries in investing 50k per country. Where did that idea come from? This go-to market, of exactly what I mentioned, all these countries dedicating a slice for each one and seeing what sticks. How did that come about?

Fabrice Grinda: So, I loved marketplaces. I studied market design in college. My first startup I received, which is an eBay of Europe and I helped build an eBay Latin America where marketplaces. I love the acid light nature, the winner takes most from nature, the fact they bring liquidity and otherwise opaque markets. This is what I really wanted to build.

So had I not been resource constrained, I would not have built Zingy. I would have built something like OLX earlier. In fact, I own the OLX domain. I bought it in 98. So, it’s something I’ve been meaning to buy. And build for a long time.

And in hindsight, I should have built a classified site to begin with, not an auction site, but perhaps people would not have funded it because they didn’t believe in the business model.

It didn’t exist until later. So, 2005, I knew I wanted to exit Zingy was in the company I was meant to be building. And I didn’t like the people I sold it to. They were a Japanese company. We had massive cultural misunderstandings. I had the opportunity to buy Shazam for like a million dollars.

And they said, no. I mean, there are a lot of things we could have done. And I’m like, look, they would take all my profits, send them to Japan. I’m like, look, if you want someone like me, it’s to go build a billionaire company. Let me conquer the world. If not, you don’t need me, you know. Like, it’s just to maximize profits, you know, let me go do my own thing.

So, after 18 months, I left. And Craigslist has already started becoming a cultural phenomenon in the US in terms of liquidity, but I felt that they were doing a disservice to the community because they were not moderating the content, they had an old UX UI. So, I went to Craig and Jim and I’m like, look, I’ll do it for free.

Like, not because I want to make money out of this, but because I think you’re not helping the humanity by having the spam, the scam, this prostitution, murderers, et cetera. Like we could do a much better job here, but you have liquidity. So, let’s take advantage of that. And they said no, so then I try to buy them out.

They also said no. So, I’m like, okay, let’s go build it. Now to answer your question directly. Why try to launch in a hundred countries. Once someone has network effects in marketplaces is very hard to break. And there are already in common players in the U. S. like Craigslist or in France that had network effects. And it would take tens of millions in these countries and that type of capital was still not available. Now, the VCs that had not funded me in my last company, all of a sudden were throwing themselves at me because I’ve been very successful in the last company. So, now I have capital. At 10 million I go to launch. But I didn’t feel that was enough to go and like take Craigslist head on.

And I realized there’s a certain amount of serendipity in these marketplace side businesses as to what takes off when, where, et cetera. And I knew how to build supply. When you build a marketplace, you typically started the supply because the sellers are financially motivated to be in the platform.

You can go to them, tell them, Hey, look. I don’t currently have any buyers, but I’m free. So, it costs you nothing to be here. Why don’t you list? And people typically are willing to list. So, I did that, you know, and the core categories of like, sale goods, real estate, cars, in a hundred countries.

Again, 50k. Back of the day, there was much less competition in general. Many countries had no in common players. I could buy a long tail marketing on Google for like a penny a cluck, especially in these secondary countries and, and all the content led SEO. Every single listing is an ad that could be indexed.

So, we launched, not sure if I’d seen this done anywhere else, but I don’t know. I’ve seen serendipity happen in marketplaces before. And so, we launched, and it really took off in four places. So, focus on these four, close down all the other countries and then use the profits for these.

So, it really really really worked in Portugal and Pakistan. But obviously these are not large markets. It kind of worked, reasonably well, in Brazil and India. So, we’re like, Hey, this, this is where we’re going to focus. So, we focused on these four, once we became very successful and profitable in Brazil, then we use the profits from there to then go and expand to the other countries and ultimately ended up with 350 million units a month in 30 countries with over 10,000 employees,

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: Geez! I love that you went after all these countries. Was it helpful that because of this scale, you had much you had better clarity of what the numbers indicated, right? Like, you could clearly see the difference in intake from Brazil and all that. Whereas if you might have done it in fewer countries, you might not have gotten, or was that not something.

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah, but you need to remember I built two auction sites before, right? Mercadolibre and Aucland. I knew that a marketplace that sells goods as liquidity, if the probability of you selling is about, if you list something, it’s about 20, 25%. That’s when you start getting liquidity. And yes, I did have an AB test across all these 100 countries.

And some clearly emerge as dominant, but I knew what metrics I was looking for. Net new listing per capita per thousand capita in the country. I had a very, very clear KPIs or AKRs of what I was looking for. And yes, having these different countries helped compare between them. Then, as I said, I mean, we went from a hundred down to four and then re-expanded eventually once we’d won these to 30, where OLX kind of is today.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: Having marketplaces be your sweet spot, what would you say are some vital customer acquisition lessons when it comes to building a marketplace? And you mentioned a couple of things, but if we could go a little bit deeper into that.

Fabrice Grinda: So, I typically started the supply because the supply is financially motivated in the platform, but you highly curate your supply.

And the biggest single mistake founders can make in marketplaces is put an infinite supply in the platform. And the problem is if you do that is there’s no buyers for it. So, the sellers are not engaged. They’re going to churn and maybe even if there’s a buyer, they won’t reply because they haven’t been engaged before.

And so, you find very select high quality sellers. You make sure they’re happy and motivated. Then you find demand for them. And once you have liquidity at that level, it could be national. It could be zip code. Whatever. It doesn’t matter what it is. Once you have liquidity, then you still supply a bit more than you bring them in and you keep scaling in parallel, making sure that you keep liquidity metrics, liquidity throughout and that both your sellers and buyers are happy.

And that’s when eventually you start seeing the network effects kick in. Your businesses really have that work effects once you see your cash go down, right? So, as you scale. Many companies see their cost of acquisitions increase, then they’re not network effect businesses. They’re still driven by whatever paid acquisition channel or sales team they’re using.

Network effect businesses really with scale, you actually start seeing lower and lower CACs. In the early days, in fact, your CACs could be very high because you’re injecting liquidity in the market. And that’s okay as long as you keep a very clear track of whether or not you have liquidity and things are working.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: That’s so interesting that you start with the supply versus the demand. My initial reaction, and I haven’t done a marketplace, but my initial reaction would be make sure that you actually have someone that actually cares to buy this thing, and versus providing something, but in your case, you’re saying make sure that the quality is there in the supply, and then that should attract the demand.

Fabrice Grinda: The demand is harder to get. Let’s start there. And people have many options to buy something. And so, getting demand is expensive and unless you have something for them, you’re not going to come to you. And so, getting them is not that super useful. As I said, the reason I started supply is because it’s easy or easier, right?

If you’re a real estate broker and tell them, Hey, let’s all your, you can put your properties here for free. They’ll do it. Or if you’ve got a car, I use car sales, whether it’s like, Hey, let’s your cars here for free. They’ll do it. Yeah. So, I start there because it’s actually something that I can get that has a certain amount of value that I can then bring to buyers to convince them to convert.

So, I started with the easy side and then I go to the hard side.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: Was there a particular sector that you focus in on a niche first? And what was that sector and how did you decide to then pick what the next sector would be?

Fabrice Grinda: Yes. So many of the countries we were in didn’t have functioning payment systems and didn’t have functioning delivery mechanism. There’s no post office. And so, classifieds are more powerful in these types of countries because there’s no Amazon. There’s no eBay. There’s no alternative. And I thought long and hard what category we should focus on. And we started on used goods, especially things like electronics, cell phones, because the in used goods, people transact multiple times a month, right?

So, I knew that the very valuable categories are cars and real estate, but cars and real estate people transact once every 5-10 years. And so, it does not lead to recurring organic traffic. But in used goods, if you’re buying and selling video games and, and cell phones and computer parts, et cetera, actually do get your users engaged.

And so, that allowed us to have the cheapest form of traffic. And so ultimately, we had organic traffic. Most of the vast majority of our traffic is organic coming on average, two times a month to transact. And then you could use that traffic to go and win cars and real estate. And so, using the used goods, which is a high recurrence category to then fund extension and to the high value by low recurrence categories made the most sense.

And that was a big difference with our competitors and allowed us essentially to add compete because our customer acquisition costs were lower. You know, we’d acquire someone for very cheap to come and whatever. Buy a video game for $10 or $5. And then eventually they’d buy a car.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: How did you structure, let’s say when you moved into Brazil or you moved into India and you said all focus, all energy, all resources go this direction. How did you structure the team? And they go to market within, cause they’re so different. You know, there’s so different places, but maybe they’re not like what you said, right?

Fabrice Grinda: They’re not, what are the core categories in India and Brazil? They’re the same cars, real estate, cell phones, video games, computer parts, furniture. I mean. They’re the same categories everywhere that the same needs. The same concerns on preventing scams and spam and phishing and prostitution and stuff like that. And the same types of sellers, right? Like we would go to car dealers and real estate brokers or agencies to get listings.

And so, the approach was same. And in fact, for the longest time, we didn’t have anyone on the ground in any of those countries. I centralized all operations in Buenos Aires. Because Deremate was built in Buenos Aires so when I was leaving Deremate I took over the entire team and it was the same thing.

And so, it’s basically I followed the exact same strategy, I’ve followed my auction site in terms of starting a supply, centralizing the tech platform. And because Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan city where you have people from all around the world, we had the customer care team for Russia, for Brazil, for India, et cetera, in Buenos Aires.

Eventually we opened local operations, but for the longest time, we were all centralized in Buenos Aires. Same categories and obviously slightly different categories and obviously you needed the geographic make out of these countries to be different. But pretty funnily, yeah, everything’s centralized and it worked really, really well.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: That’s incredible. And I wanted to just spend a little bit of time and delve deeper into the marketplace. So, thanks for sharing that. Mostly because as when we fast forward to your role now as founding partner at FG Labs, when you’ve invested over 1,100 companies, including major players like Alibaba and Coupang, having over 900 active investments, all that, your investment thesis falls with marketplaces, right? Isn’t that still very much where you place your emphasis on, or is that one of the things and there’s more?

Fabrice Grinda: Well, I’m an accidental VC, first of all. So, I never set out to be a VC. It just so happens that while I was running all these companies, I was very visible to consumers and to the public.

And so other founders said, hey, can you invest? And I thought long and hard, should I be an investor while I’m a CEO? Is it a distraction from my core mandate? But I’m like, look, if I can articulate lessons learned to others. It makes me a better founder. If I can keep my fingers on the pulse of the market, it makes me a better founder.

So, as long as I find a way to invest very quickly. It doesn’t take more than one hour to decide if I invest or not, it’s okay. So, by 2013, when I sold OLX, I made 175 investments, like dozens of exit was doing really well. So, I’m like, you know what? With my partner Jose, who co-founded Deremate with me, I’m like, let’s create a family office, keep investing.

And then people started saying, Hey, we would like, to invest with you. And so, we created a first VC fund in 2016. But frankly, what we do is angel investing adventure scale. We behave like angels. I still invest in a two, one-hour meetings. We decide if we invest or not, et cetera.

Now, the reason it’s marketplaces, of course, I’ve been focusing and building and investing marketplaces for the last 25 years. And I actually even studied market design in college. And I still like network-effect businesses writ large. And so, my definition of marketplace is rather broad. It’s an intermediary between a buyer, something a seller or something, you know. So, if FinTech company that’s lending capital is usually a marketplace because there’s a provider capital and buyer capital, for instance.

So, it’s a broad definition. And these days we’re mostly doing B2B marketplaces. It is our bread and butter. The reason it’s not the sole focus is we do have a philosophy that if you’ve done right by us, we will invest, we’ll back you no matter what you do the second time around. And at this point, we’ve backed 2000 founders, 300 exits, 150 of them we made money on.

We lost money on the 150, then 150 we made money on. That’s about 300 founders. So, these 300 founders are coming back and they’re like, Hey, I’m building a new company, regardless of what they’re doing. They get a check from us.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: That’s an incredible amount of exits. That ratio is insane.

Fabrice Grinda: Oh yeah. And also, a credible amount of success, right? Making money in half the deals we’re invested in. So, we treat follow ons as though we were not an existing investor. So, we don’t always follow on and, and we often sell on the way up. We sell our winners. It’s like the anti VC strategy. When we feel something is overvalued, we’ll still have our position.

And so, in 2021, when everyone else was going crazy. I wrote a blog post entitled Welcome to the Everything Bubble, where I articulated why I thought that every asset class from real estate, bonds to public equities to crypto to SPACs to NFTs to privates, especially late-stage drivers, were valued and why people should be selling as much as they could.

Now, of course, It’s a private market, so you, we only sold a fraction of what we wanted to, but nonetheless, we had a fair amount of exits because there was a moment where other VCs would buy you in secondaries. We typically would sell 50% of our position and, and many of the companies in the up rounds.

By the way, the founders would be happy for it. They’d ask us to sell because they didn’t wanna get too diluted by the new primary equity coming in the company. By these 300 founders. Let me give you an example. We, we backed a founder called Brett Adcock, who built a company called Vettery.

It was a labor marketplace. We sold it to Odeco for a hundred million. We made like 8.5 extra money pretty quickly. And then he decided he was going to build an electric flying taxi company. Self-flying taxi cabby called Archer. So, we didn’t even take a call. We’re like, here’s our check. We did, we didn’t negotiate.

And then he sold that or took it public or whatever. And then he decided to build a humanoid robot, electric company, electric robots that are humanoid to replace humans and picking packing warehouses, we also sent her a check. Also, it didn’t really take a call, you know. So, as there are now 300 of these founders running around, that is becoming an increasingly large portion of the portfolio.

That said, we still do marketplaces because network effect businesses are beautiful, right? As I said, customer acquisition costs decrease as they scale their winner takes most their capital efficient. Yeah, once you have liquidity, it doesn’t take that much capital to win.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: What criteria do you prioritize when you’re selecting startups to invest in?

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah, so we have four criteria and they’re very explicit and, and we require all four to invest. So, some VCs will tell you, I only invest in extraordinary founders and that’s it. That’s the only criteria. That’s not true for us. We want extraordinary founders, which for us as a definition, but I’ll explain that.

So, I want an amazing team, a good business meeting good time and unit economics fair deal terms. Nothing’s cheap in fact, but fair and that matches our thesis of where the world is heading and that is making the world a better place addressing either an equality of opportunity or climate change or the mental, and physical well-being crisis.

And so let me double click and all for it. Number one team, we want people that are extraordinarily eloquent because people that are very eloquent or in a better position to raise capital to attract better teams, to do better BD, better PR, et cetera, and know how to execute. And the way I tease out at a one-hour call, if they know how to execute is the way they describe number two, which is how attractive the businesses and I care deeply about union economics.

Now we’re mostly seed and A, that’s for bread and butter. But we will do some pre-seed. Even pre-seed, I want the founder to be able to articulate what do you think’s estimated customer acquisition costs looks like based on landing page analysis, density, keyword analysis, conversion rate from the landing page signups to what he thinks purchases will be based on what the industry averages are.

And he better be able to articulate what the margin structure of the businesses like this is the AOV. And I expect them to give me an AOV that’s in line with the industry. And this is their margin structure. And even, and the unit economics I look for is one where you recoup your fully loaded CAC on a contribution margin two basis after six months and the three exit after 18 months.

And who knows what your LTB to CAC is because A, you haven’t been live for more than 18 months and B, you know, ideally you have negative churn. And so ultimately, it’s 10 to 1, 20 to 1, whatever. And if you’re not there, I want to know why you’re going to get there with scale, without needing every star in the multiverse together.

Number three, I want to deal terms to be fair. We invest in 200 companies a year. So, we know where the median valuation is. And we want to invest in something that’s fair. And so right now, you know, it’s like a seed round. You’re raising your, if you’re a marketplace where you do 150K in GMV or maybe 30K in net revenues, and you’re raising three at 10 pre, seed. Pre-seed you’re maybe raising one at five. And an A round, you’re doing five, 600K in GMV or maybe a hundred, 100-150K in net revenues or MRR and you’re raising seven at 23 pre.

And the mean is higher. And of course, if you’re a second time founder, the valuation might be higher. But that’s where really the market is today. And the B’s right now, you’re doing two and a half million in GMV a month that were the 15 percent take rate, or maybe 500, 600, 700 K and MRR.

And you’re raising 15 and 50 pre. If you’re way off of that. We may pass on some price and it’s okay. Well, maybe we’ll revisit the next round if you grow into the valuation. And number four, as I said, very clear theses on the future of work, the future of food, the future of real estate, the future automotive, the future of mobility.

We want things that fall in line with that future. And we need all four criteria to be collectively true. Even an amazing team, if we don’t like the rest, we’re not doing it.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: I love that. Well, that’s thank you for that breakdown. Super clear. When it comes to, I remember you hearing and this will be, there’s 2 more questions. This is 1 of them. And I’m very appreciative of your time.

You’ve mentioned about, we’re talking about the future. And where your investments are now, what investments get you super excited. I heard you talk about, like B2B services and improving within a number of industries, how things get done really?

Can you a little bit into that? You’re discussing, what was it like in the manufacturing sector?

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah. So, I’d say B2B marketplaces are bread and butter right now. There’re five subsites but let me take a step back. So, if you look at your consumer life, you have an amazing experience. Amazon, you can order anything and get it a day or two or DoorDash for food or Uber for cars or Airbnb or booking.com. And 25 percent of your online, of your purchases has basically been digitized as a consumer. But if you’re a business. You’re still in the dark ages with like sub 1 percent penetration in most categories.

So, imagine you want to buy petrochemicals. There’s no online catalog. There’s no connectivity to the factory to see availability. There’s no pricing. There’s no online ordering. There’s no online payments. There’s a tracking of your order. There’s no insurance, and there’s no financing, and all these could be different companies.

And this needs to happen in every major vertical. So, number one, digitizing B2B supply chains of inputs. So, petrochemicals, that’s Knowde. Or steel, it’s like Metaloop or Reibus. Or gravel and a company called Schuttflix and made every major input category. Number two, digitizing SMBs. Anyone they love the category, you know. You started a pizzeria because you like cooking pizzas and chit chatting with your customers.

You did not start a pizzeria because you’re like, I am excited to be building a website, entering comments with Google and Yelp, negotiating with suppliers, doing a deal with Uber and DoorDash, getting a POS, doing accounting. No! And so, we’re investing in companies that do all the grunt work. So, it kind of falls in future of work and SMB enablement for them.

So, we’re investors in Slice for pizzerias. Cents for dry cleaners and Odeko for coffee shops. And Chipper in Columbia for bodegas, and Fresha for barbershops, you know. And some of these at real scale, I mean, Fresha, I think 70,000 barbershops, billions in payment volume going through the platform. It really transforms the lives of these SMB owners.

Number three, moving supply chains out of China into friendly countries, especially India. So French shoring, I guess would be the core thesis in these massive tailwinds but if you’re, and this kind of falls in the second category as well, if you’re a little manufacturer in India, you own a factory, all you want to do is manufacture, what you don’t want to be doing is entering RFQs, doing prototyping, dealing with like exports and customs and invoicing and getting paid by these big companies in Europe or in the U.S. And so, we’re investors in marketplaces for apparel, for ceramics, for rugs, for linen, et cetera, that are helping these SMB manufacturers in India scale and sell to the West. But for the buyers, it’s fundamental because they’re also moving their supply chains out of China, which is a massive geopolitical risk, regardless.

Number four. Labor marketplaces that have support all these things. So, we’re investors in WorkRise, which is a labor marketplace for oil services workers or, or people doing solar installations, et cetera. And we’re investors in Trusted Health, which is nurses. Hundreds of millions of GMV were investors in Job&Talent which is a blue-collar worker marketplace in Spain and Southern Europe.

And I guess number five. The infrastructure layer to support all these B2B marketplaces. So, we’re investors in Flexport, which is a digital freight forwarder. ShipBob, which is a last mile picking, packing, delivery platform, and many, many, many others like payment companies like Rapyd or Stripe, that are supporting these different types of companies.

And so that’s really the bread and butter today, but we ended up doing a lot of fun, interesting things because of like the intravenous network we have, but also where curiosity takes us.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: I know that you mentioned that twice a year or so, that you meet up with a number of individuals and you talk about the future and different industries that excite you.

Is there any content from that you do share, whether it’s through your personal blog or like a white paper on something, anything that you love that you do have and you love for people to go to and check out.

Fabrice Grinda: So, yeah, so twice a year we do these conferences where I bring LPs, other VC partners and founders to talk about like the future of humanity, what doesn’t exist, should exist, how to make the world a better place.

Nothing explicit comes out of it except that we come up with ideas and then we go look for founders to either build them or we invest in them. Okay. So, it becomes part of like things we build in or invest in the year or two to come. But yes, I do write a lot on my blog. About trends, theses, where we’re at, where we’re going, and I write about everything and anything like, macroeconomics, crypto, whatever crosses my mind, but it usually has, or there is a pretty big overlay of where we are in AI, what is the state of entrepreneurship? And so, it is a way for me to structure my thoughts and, and create a conversation with the community at large.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: We’ll make sure to, when we share our talk, to have your personal blog link there as well. Anything that we didn’t cover that you’d love to share anything else that you love to share with the community.

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah, I guess my one analysis is I’m profoundly optimistic about where we are. And we’re still at the very beginning of the tech revolution. We are about to digitize the entire BDB world. That’s a trend that’s going to take 10, 20 years. It’s massively deflationary. Because it’s deflationary, it’s inclusionary and will increase people’s purchasing power and quality of life where on the verge of a massive revolution in climate tech, where we’re seeing now that deflationary power of tech through batteries and solar becoming so much cheaper than everything else that we’re going to completely transition or, or energy creation to a carbon free system to the point that I suspect that the marginal cost of electricity within 30, 20, 40 years will be 0, which will actually lead another revolution. And we’re going to be able to, like, grow crops in the desert, desalinate salt water.

I mean, there is so much positive things that are coming, uh, that if you take a step back that the trends are so optimistic and an AI itself will probably lead to a massive productivity revolution, which will transform our lives for the better. Now, we are at the top of the hype cycle, so probably in the next few years is going to disappoint and it’s going to take a while before it’s incorporated in government and in large enterprise where it will really impact productivity, but in 10 years, 20 years, it will probably completely transform the life we live for the better. And so.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: I’m super excited as well.

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah, I am so excited. We’re on the verge of building a better world of tomorrow, which will be a world of equality of opportunity of plenty, and it’ll be environmentally sustainable. So, I’m excited to be part of helping to build this world and you should be too.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: Yes. Well, thank you so much for the time. Thank you, Fabrice. Enjoy the rest of your day! Thank you.

Fabrice Grinda: Thank you. Take care.

Alejandro Garcia-Amaya: Take care.

3i Member Spotlight Interview

I was recently featured on the 3i Members Founder Spotlight podcast, where I spoke with Eric Rosen and shared my philosophy on angel investing, offering tips for future founders, and discussing my insights on cryptocurrency, marketplaces, and more.

3i Members is a membership network for accomplished private investors who source opportunities, share expertise, and build value for one another that goes far beyond the deal. 

In addition to the above YouTube video, you can also listen to the podcast on iTunes and Spotify.



Here is a transcript of the conversation for your reading pleasure.

Founder Spotlight: Lessons from Forbes #1 Angel Investor Fabrice Grinda

Eric Rosen: Hello. My name is Eric Rosen. Welcome to the joint podcast of 3i and the Rosen Report and the Founder Series. Today, I am honored to have our guest, Fabrice Grinda. Welcome, Fabrice. How are you today?

Fabrice Grinda: I’m doing very well. Thank you for having me.

Eric Rosen: Great. We’re very excited you’re here. So, you have had an amazing career and Forbes actually called you the number one angel investor in the world. How’d you get there?

Fabrice Grinda: I’d say happened since I never meant to be an angel investor. I was a tech founder and other because I was so visible from the public, other founders came and asked me to invest in them and thought long and hard whether I should do it. And I started doing it and it took life on its own.

Eric Rosen: So, what made you a public figure? What was the company that you founded? And how did that come about?

Fabrice Grinda: So back in 1998, when I was 23, I built an eBay-equivalent of Europe and I was trying to bring the internet to Europe. And I guess the story was super compelling. It was you know, top of my class at Princeton, the French guy had gone to the US; learned the internet and the ropes and it was bringing it to Europe.

And so, you know, it was on the cover of a magazine the equivalent cover of like whatever, Forbes, fortune, et cetera, and maybe very public. And so other founders started asking if I can invest with them. And look, I really hesitated for a long time because I’m like, is it a deviation from my mandate as a founder to be investing in other people?

Ultimately, I decided that if I can articulate lessons learned to others, it made me a better founder. And if I could meet other founders and keep my fingers on the pulse of the market would make me a better founder, especially running a multi category site, understanding what’s happening in each categories. And therefore I started doing it.

And you know, the reason I became so prolific is I think there’s so many problems to solve in the world and I want to solve all of them. And so, you know, when you think of something like climate change, it’s not one problem, thousands of little sub problems. And I want to back all the people trying to address every one of them individually.

Eric Rosen: So, to be the most prolific angel investor, how many angel investments have you made?

Fabrice Grinda: I’ve made 1100 angel investments to date, and I see about 300 deals a week.

Eric Rosen: 300 deals a week. Wow!

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah. And these days I’m making 200-300 investments per year.

Eric Rosen: Geez, that’s amazing. And what are the most successful angel investments you’ve made?

Fabrice Grinda: Well, it was an early investor in Alibaba. I was at the beginning of Delivery Hero, which is like a door dash of Europe and Southeast Asia. I invested in Uber, Airbnb, Flexport, Slice. I mean you name it. My specialty is marketplaces and network-effect businesses. And these days they’re less well known because they’re mostly B2B. But in the early days that were all the consumer facing ones I mentioned.

Eric Rosen: And is it always angel round? Is it, is it the seed? Is it the A, B, C? Where do you generally come in on those?

Fabrice Grinda: I’m stage agnostic. But most of what I do, my bread and butter, I’d say it would be a seed and A. I rarely do pre seed because I don’t invest in competitors, and I don’t want to be locking me out of a category before I’ve seen all the different players and see what the emergent winner is.

And I sometimes do B onwards because sometimes it takes that long for the winning player to emerge, but seed and A is really by bread and butter, but it’s about 70% seed and A, 20% B onwards, 10% pre seed. And then we’re also 55% U.S. and Canada, 25% Western Europe, and 10% Brazil and India, and 10% rest of the world, and really rest of the world, like India, Philippines Chile, Nigeria, whatever.

Eric Rosen: Wow. So, to look at 300 deals a week, make 11 or 1200 investments in a year. How big is your team at FJ Labs?

Fabrice Grinda: That’s 200 to 300 investments a year. The investment team is 11 people. The full team now is 33 people, given the huge back office. And so it’s kind of turned from what was really an Angel investing family office time approach to a venture capital firm, except we behave like angel investors.

I said, what we do is angel investing at venture scale, because we take two one-hour meetings in the course of a week and we decide if we invest or not. So, we don’t take board seats. We don’t lead, we don’t price. We’re really the founder, former founders or founder-friendly, decide quickly with full transparency and we’re there to help you.

Eric Rosen: Wow! That’s pretty quick turnaround. So, if you’re turning around that quickly, you must have a formula with things that are must haves or can’t haves. So, what are the three or four main traits that you need to make an investment? And what are the few things that are a non-starter, if they do this or don’t do this, that they’re out?

Fabrice Grinda: So, I want four things and they are all required. So, one, I need to like the founders. Two, I need to like the business. Three, I need like the deal terms and four, I need to like the thesis and the problem that they’re solving. And what we’re looking for for each of them is thus follows. So, I want founders who are both visionary, extraordinary, eloquent spokespeople, but can also execute.

So, the event diagram intersection of people that are extremely eloquent and visionary, but can execute is actually rather small. But you need both because someone who can. It’s very eloquent, is going to be able to raise money at a higher valuation, attract better people, is going to get more PR, better BD deals.

But if you don’t have the execution skills, maybe you end up with, whatever, Theranos. And if you have someone who knows how to execute, but can’t speak, they’re not going to be able to raise, and they might build a small, profitable business. Number two. And I care about all four. I care about the time and the unit economics and even pre-launch, even someone pre seed needs to be able to articulate what the estimated unit economics will look like based on having done landing page analysis, customer acquisition costs estimates based on the CPCs and the conversion rate to purchase.

They need to know the average order value of the industry. And the contribution margin and they better be expecting to be in line with the industry averages and people don’t know that, you know, to me, speaks to the fact they probably can’t execute. Number three, the deal terms need to be fair, not nothing in tech is cheap. But is it fair, in light of the round, the traction team and the option that they’re, that they’re doing, and we see so many deals, we really know what the median C round, A round, B round, et cetera, is that. And number four, you know, we were purpose driven. First of all, we want to solve, inequality of opportunity, climate change, and the mental and physical well-being crisis.

And in each of these, we have clear theses on the future of work, the future of food, the future of real estate. Are you in line with this thesis? And are you solving a problem we care about? And we want all four to be true. And then based on pattern recognition, because of course, at this point, we’ve invested in 1,100 companies. We’ve seen so many companies, and we invested about 1% of the companies we see were able to make very quick decisions.

Eric Rosen: Wow. And so, you told us the four traits that are kind of the must haves. If one or two things that if you see you’re like, I’m out right off the bat, obviously if you don’t like the founder, but I’m saying apart from that, are there terms or things that are just nonstarters for you?

Fabrice Grinda: They’re kind of all related to this, right? Like, so if you don’t know your business model maybe some of these companies. So, look, the five-year survival rate of a startup is about 5%. But if you at launch don’t know your business model, probably it’s 0.1%. And so, we’re already talking like a 500 S.

Yeah. And there are great businesses that started with no business model. Google and Facebook are examples of that, but it wouldn’t be the type of things I do because I, not trying to play Moneyball, I’m playing Powerball. I won most of my companies to make money. And by the way, the greatest to be the most prolific angel investor of the world is very easy, to be the most successful angel in the world, meaning you actually have exits and we’ve had 300 exits. We’ve been compounding at 39% IR for 24-25 years. That’s way harder to be the best you need to have exits. And we’ve made money in half the investments we’ve made.

Eric Rosen: Wow.

Fabrice Grinda:  Frankly, because of these four heuristics. So, we really want you to have a business model.

We really want you to focus on your burn and your unit economics, which no one cared about in 2021. But finally, in 2023, as become normal. And we care about valuation. There’s some VCs who are like, well, the company’s gonna win the category. It doesn’t matter what price you get it; matters that you get it.

And we don’t feel that’s true. If you get in at five and you sell for 50, you, you’re gonna do okay. But if you enter at 50 and, and you sell for 50, you, you get your money back. And, and if they sell for less than that, you don’t. And the reason we’ve made money in over half of our investments because we’ve been disciplined on price.

Eric Rosen: Well, I can tell you this, I am definitely not going to be confused with the most prolific angel investor of all time. I’ve made about 30 out of my PA and I can tell you that I have lost money on a lot more than half of my investments. So, it sounds like I should be giving you my money. So, I want to ask this question in two ways. One, what are the biggest investments mistakes that you see others make? And two, what are the biggest mistakes that startups, you know, the founders make?

Fabrice Grinda: Well, different types of mistakes. I think what I didn’t like as a founder, when I was talking to investors, read large, frankly, is just the lack of transparency, people not getting back to me.

People not respecting my time, showing up late on calls. And frankly I do a call with a VC or an angel. I would think it would go very well. And then they’d go straight instead of ghosting me, just actually give me, if you don’t want to invest, that’s fine. Just tell me why not, what I would need to change if I need to change it and do that.

Now it’s more of a behavior towards angels in terms of like creating your credibility towards founders and just creating your creativity. They’re both mistakes of omission and commission, right? Like, so there are companies you probably should invest in that you don’t. And we’ve all made those for a variety of reasons.

And then there’s companies you probably should not invest in that you do invest in and what leads you astray. Look, we stick to a neat knitting, right? When you’re a very smart, successful person, you have a tendency to believe, you know, everything and you can do anything. And the reality is that’s not the case.

And we sound like we’re very prolific, but the reality is we do have a specialization. I’ve, I studied market design in college. I’ve been building marketplaces. The biggest marketplace I built is a company called OLX. It’s 11,000 employees in 30 countries. It’s the most successful classified site in the world.

It’s what Craigslist should be if it was read properly with like mobile first, integrated payments and shipping, pre moderated content, female- friendly, no scam, no spam, and it’s the leading marketplace in all the emerging markets like Brazil, Latin, Ukraine, Russia, Eastern Europe, et cetera. And as a result, because I’ve been running marketplaces, I focus on building and investing in marketplaces and network effect businesses.

I don’t go and do biotech and green tech and hardware, et cetera. So, I think many people are led astray by their own success and do things where they don’t have expertise.

Eric Rosen:  Yeah, I like to say that, you know, I ran a billion-dollar hedge fund and mandate creep knowing what you’re good at.

And I think what happens in periods of time that are euphoric and it’s hard to find stuff, you start going astray and trying to do something that’s not a core competency. And I would say 99 out of a hundred times it ends in tears. And so, you know, when I was in my fund, we did what we did and we didn’t.

You know, look where we weren’t an expert. So, I think that’s a really, really good point.

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah. I mean, you look at it in life, right? Like there’s very successful neurosurgeons or whatever heart surgeons. And because they’re so good at what they do, they’re like, Oh, I’m going to be great investing and then they lose all of their savings.

And so, know what you’re good at. And it doesn’t make you good at everything else. There’s mastery. Now to answer the second question is what are the biggest mistakes founders make? So, what kills companies the most in the top three-four is one, not finding product market fit, but that’s not a mistake.

Number two, a much bigger mistake is fighting with your co-founders. If you do, if you can’t agree, it’ll tear the company down. Now, what’s interesting is companies with co-founders on average do better than companies without co-founders, but when the co-founders fight, it kills the companies. It’s two or three is the right number, not more, not less.

And number three, actually raising too much money at too high a price. There is a fair valuation for your company, but there are moments where a company gets hot and frothy. And of course, if you’re a founder and someone tells you, hey, I’ll invest 50 at 150 pre, 200 posts, 25% dilution. It sounds more compelling that I’ll invest whatever 10 at pre, but if your company is really worth 10- 30 pre, 40 posts, same dilution in one case, you raise 50, the other case you raise 40.

And you’re like, wait a minute. Why would I not take the 50? The issue is if you do not grow into your valuation, it will kill your company. Because if you have to do a down round, there’s anti-dilution provision, which reprices the prior round. And most often will kill the company. So, it’s a huge mistake many people made in 2021 where now they have to do either down rounds, or they have to do structured rounds. And maybe the example I gave from a valuation perspective is drastic. But if you don’t grow the valuation, it’s a big, big deal. So ,you really should think through what is the correct amount of capital you need because at the end of the day, by the way, the valuation in which you raise is a vanity metric.

The valuation that matters is the valuation in which you exit in the end; and you need to set yourself up for success.

Eric Rosen: You’re the expert and I’m definitely, clearly my, my venture track record does not look like 39 percent compounding for 30 years. So, but the one thing I’d say as I’ve sat on boards of startups, the consistent theme I see as one of the big mistakes is they don’t raise enough money because they don’t think,I sat on a board of a company like, oh, we’re only going to need X.

I go, that’s going to last you six months. You can’t do that. You need like 10 X. Like, so I think I find that a lot of founders think they’re going to do it so quickly and with so little money and it ends up taking more. So, I thought it was interesting. I understand why you said what you said, that raising too much and antidilution for the down rounds and everything.

Fabrice Grinda: It’s not raising too much, really raising it too high a price.

You can raise a lot as long as you don’t spend it. The problem is when people raise too much, they spend it. Like we push all of our founders raise at least 18 months to two years of cash and for them for the most part, I don’t see them deviating from that, especially today. I mean, but frankly, even in 2021 everyone raised two years’ worth of cash. So, I don’t see that as being too big a problem. I think people trying to raise too much at too high a price and then not getting their teeth kicked in when the market says no, especially today is a much bigger problem.

Eric Rosen: Okay. So, I want to wrap up that this section, but on one last question, and that is, as you make investments, you gave us your four must haves, do you look at the ownership structure of the co-founders, how much they own and is there a percentage of its two or three founders and it’s now the seed round, do you know, as an investor, I don’t want them to have too little because I don’t want them to be diluted, you know, down to nothing. And then they’re not incentivized.

So, is there a number that you look for them to have?

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah. I mean, the cap table construction matters a lot. The founders, especially at seed need to have collectively, whatever, 70-80 percent of the company. You know, the pre seed probably they raised one at four or five pre. So, these angel investors have like 20%, maybe they have a few advisors by the end plus the employees. Yeah, they should have 60 to 70 percent of the company at that stage. And if for whatever reason, it doesn’t look like that. And someone else’s 50 percent of the company that, you know, then we would not invest because of the cap table construction. We weren’t the founders would be incentivized properly.

Now the split between the founders is less relevant to some extent. Let’s say you’re three in your 100% pool wouldn’t be shocking if the CEO is 50%, the COO is 30% and the CTO of 20%. And then it depends, right? If you’re building an AI company, the CTO is a lot more. If you’re building a multi sided marketplace, maybe the CTO is 10 or 15, but sometimes they split equally. That matter is somewhat lost, actually.

Eric Rosen: Okay. Thank you for clarifying that. So, a lot of pain has been taken in crypto markets and you and I’ve had crypto discussions before. What do you think about them today? Who are the ultimate winners? And is it going to look like, if you invested in Bitcoin you’re going to, you’re going to prevail over the next five years in light of the crazy money and inflation and concerns.

Fabrice Grinda: I’m not particularly interested in Bitcoin just because it’s kind of like digital gold. It doesn’t really have a use case. I like assets that generate cash flows, right? Like for me, assets where it’s discounting present value of future cash flows. It’s something I can wrap my head around. So, I’m way more interested in applications on the Ethereum blockchain because if you want Ethereum is whatever AWS, but decentralized on which people are building applications. And there’s a whole bunch of really cool products there from in the DeFi world, like the Uniswap of the world or the AAVE and the Maker DAOs to all the different types of applications or Render.

Render is a really cool product where it’s decentralized GPUs, allowing people to run AI or graphic intensive applications instead of like buying massive server farms of like NVIDIA graphic cards. And so, things like that are really cool. It feels to me like we’re turning a corner, meaning now that the Bitcoin ETFs are being approved or likely to be approved and are coming to the market that liquidity conditions have improved and that some of the overhangs, like people were worried that finance might blow up, that tether might be a fraud or like seemingly dissipating. I suspect things will look better. Definitely in 25. I’m not sure about 24 just yet because I’m so worried about the macro. But there are clear use cases. In fact, I’m building a yield bearing stable coin in crypto right now to try to replace USDC and USDT. So, I’m still bullish on the category.

And by the way, it’s true, both of crypto and the web writ large, everyone’s been bearish because people have a tendency to be pro cyclical. These are the very best moments to be investing. Now. All of the posers are gone. The people that were in it for the quick buck. If people that are true believers and they’re now union economic focus. They’re making sure they’re not burning too much capital.

They’re being sensible with the capital that they’re raising. They’re keeping capital for two, three years and, and, and growing in a sensible way. There’s way less competition. And yes, entry multiples are lower and exit multiples will probably be lower. But if you win the category, you’re going to win the very best investments.

But the 2010s were made in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. I mean, Uber, Airbnb, Instagram, WhatsApp, were all built and invested in in those time periods. For me, the most interesting investments of the 2020s will have been made in 22, 23, 24. And that’s true both in crypto and in the web writ large.

Eric Rosen: That’s amazing. I, I do remember reading a story that I wanna say it was 2009 or 10.

The founder of Airbnb tried to raise a $150,000 for 10 percent of the company. And he had all these notes, like it’s a horrible idea. He had all these emails from major VCs that basically told them to pound sand. So, you know, I think you’d have done pretty well buying spending $150,000. That was clearly one that I did not see.

So, on that same topic, smart contracts, when will we see them really become more prevalent? And when you buy a house, you know, there’s all these nightmare stories about people steal the title of your house or when you’re buying anything of value, car, art, house, boat. When will we see the proliferation of smart contracts come to the market?

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah. So, you’re talking about smart contracts in the context of real-world assets, which I think is actually a mega trend and is coming, but I don’t think it’s going to come, especially for these types of assets where frankly, title for a house works reasonably well in the, in the US it’s really well.

And there’s a process that works well. I suspect that it’s mostly going to come for traditional finance. And so, the use case that we’re currently building, for instance, is creating a stable coin backed by U.S. treasury bills. And so, once you send me U.S. dollars, U.S.D.C., I actually go and buy T bills and then I give you S T U S E, which is your representation of those T bills, which you can then interact in DeFi with.

And so, I think these things will be more compelling because settlement is faster. The costs are cheaper. I mean, think of the traditional financial world where if you want to sell the stock, it goes through a custodian to a broker at a bank. It takes two days or three days to settle. It makes absolutely no sense that you can’t send it from you to me directly.

And so, I suspect that the real-world asset, you know, smart contract adoption will come through traditional assets first with T bills, then with bonds and ultimately probably with stocks and, others. And I think everything else will come way, way later. And the year where this will start becoming common, it’ll start in 24. It’ll be more common in 25 onwards, but starting T bills, which are frankly, the main use case.

Eric Rosen: Amazing. What do you make of the AI craze and on that same vein, the founder of OpenAI, not honing any shares.

Fabrice Grinda: There’s been many crazes, right? The smartphone craze, there was there were three craze for a while.

They were there. The social number craze, the search engine craze. As ever, I suspect that there are hype cycles where in the short term we overestimate how impactful they’re going to be. And yet in the long term, we underestimate the impact they have at societal level. And right now, we’re probably just past the peak of the hype cycle where everyone was investing.

I mean, even though tech writ large was in a recession, AI was like where capital was pouring. If you had the AI word in your startup, you could get crazy validations. I think a lot of these are going to end in tears because people invested in non-differentiated AI companies with no moats, no business model, I didn’t say in prices that said for society where they’re building is going to be extraordinarily valuable.

What I make of it, most of these companies will being that have been built or probably not super compelling yet from a business perspective. And I’m being they’ll lead to great investments, but they will little by little improve productivity in the economy. We are going to see a productivity revolution.

I mean, we see it in our startups, which, of course, are early adopters of AI, where they’re using it to help program, to do customer care, etcetera. And ultimately, it’ll seep into larger enterprise. But by when will, whatever, a large insurance company use it to process some medical claims? You know, that’s a decade away, right?

We need to deal with that hallucination, et cetera. When it does happen, it’ll lead to a real productivity revolution, but it’ll take a long time. So, it’s real, it’s happening, it’s been overhyped. There’s probably going to be the Valley of Despair, et cetera. And ultimately, it’s going to be transformational, but it’ll take whatever, 5-10 years to get there.

And I would only invest in it if you get in at reasonable valuations in a vertical application that has differentiated data and is doing something, you know, if you’re using OpenAI as your back end, and you’re giving you an open source, all of your data, you have no moat. Someone will go and kill you, possibly OpenAI.

So, I wouldn’t do it that way at all. In terms of who owns, what shares, et cetera, the look different ways to fund these things and cap structures that you, that you can use you can open source. You don’t need to open source. I mean, there are different business models, right? Like think of what happened with Linux and then the companies were built on top of Linux. So, that’s a choice in terms of how to build the community and get developers. But you can build the business model on top.

Also, if you’re wealthy enough and you don’t necessarily care, you’re like, I don’t do this for the money. I do this to really better the world. And I think that the political system is structurally incapable of addressing the challenges of our time which are typically beyond borders, you know, climate change, equality of opportunity, et cetera. That’s why I’m using the deflationary power of technology and its ability to improve user experiences to address these problems.

The reason I’m doing it in a for profit way is it’s scalable, sustainable, and you actually have a metric and make sure that you’re doing the right thing. But you know, I don’t need to work. I could have retired 20 years ago.

Eric Rosen: Well, that’s a, that’s a great answer. You, you talked about the quality of deal flow; being so much better today, and you said the good deals were done in 2008, 9, 10, and these in this section will be 22, 23, 24. Can you tell me a couple of the deals that you’ve done in the last year or two that you’re the most excited about that you think has the most trajectory on the upside?

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah. I’ll start by the thesis.

So, if we’re not, if we’ve not been investing in AI, like everyone else in the last few years, the time to invest in AI would have been five years ago. What we’ve been doing instead is thinking, digitizing the business world. So, if you think of these crazy, amazing, beautiful user experiences you have in the consumer world, Amazon, DoorDash, Uber, Airbnb, and the business world, you have none of that, right?

If you want to buy petrochemicals, there is no site where you can see what’s available, what’s the manufacturing capacity, what’s the pricing and then track payment, pay for it, get insurance, track the delivery, et cetera. And so, we’ve been, we have five theses in B2B marketplaces. One is writ large, bringing the discovery of inputs, petrochemicals, steel, gravel, et cetera, online with full transparency.

And by the way, when I described like putting the catalog, putting the pricing, getting a connection of manufacturing capacity, ERP integrations, payments, I mean, these could be different companies on one. And so, we’re investors in Knowde, which is a petrochemicals marketplace. Schüttflix, which is a European marketplace for gravel, or Metaloop, which is a marketplace for steal in Europe as well.

Number two, B2B enablement, right? Imagine you are a small business owner. You’re a Luigi and you’re building your pizzeria. You never got into those because you’d like to create a website and answer comments on Yelp and deal with accounting and negotiate with Uber and pick up the phone and create a delivery source.

You’d like to cook pizza, you’d like to talk to your customers and now you need to do all these things in order to compete with Domino’s. And so, our thesis is both helping the SMBs compete with the large chains and B, Helping them do the things they love and doing everything else for them. So, we’re investors in a company called Slice, which is basically helping pizzerias do all the things they don’t like, pick up the phone, create the website, provide them with a POS, et cetera.

We do the same thing in the cafe category with a company called Odeko. Which helps the coffee shop owners, they just want to be baristas. They don’t want to be dealing with like inventory management. And so, what’s amazing with the Odeko is they have a purchasing power of hundreds of millions of dollars, so they get better prices on coffee.

They have the keys to the coffee shop. So, they go at night, replenish your inventory, not bother you and give you better pricing. So very high NPS. We do it the same for Fresha for hairdressers. We do the same with Jobox for locksmith. I mean, and list goes on to do it for bodega is helping them source, et cetera.

Number three. As you know, many companies are intelligently moving the supply chains out of China. So French shoring is a mega trend. And so, we’re helping or we’re investing in companies that are moving supply chains from China to India to then export to the West. And again, it also falls in the SMB enablement because these are mostly mom and pop factory owners in India, who what they want to do is manufacture. They want to be answering RFQs and dealing with payments and tracking, discovering clients and creating prototypes, etc. So, these marketplaces do that for them. And so, we’re investors in a ZYOD, an apparel marketplace. Doocan, a rug and linen marketplace and Xim Kart, which is a ceramics marketplace.

And you think of the category, we’re investing in it. Number four, we’re investors in labor marketplaces to support this. So, Trusted Health, a nurse’s marketplace that is doing hundreds of millions of bookings and traveling nurses or Rig Up, it’s now called Workrise, which is helping oil services workers work on oil platforms, or Jobandtalent helping blue collar workers work for Uber, Amazon in Europe. I mean, the list goes on. And last but not least, we’re investors in the companies that are supporting all of us. So, for this to work, you need global transportation, companies like Flexport which is an amazing international online freight forwarder company or ShipBob, which is helping offline retailers compete with Amazon by doing picking and packing, shipping, and maybe even same day delivery.

And the list goes on. I’m giving you a lot of companies. Many of these are already billion-dollar companies, even though no one’s heard of them, and they are absolutely crushing it. And I’m excited to see when digital penetration in B2B goes from 1 percent where it is today to like 20%, these are going to be 10, 20 plus billion-dollar companies.

So, it’s very, very exciting. It’s slow. It’s boring, but it’s amazing.

Eric Rosen: So, you think a B2B is, is where the puck is heading there? 

Fabrice Grinda: Absolutely.

Eric Rosen: Okay. So, there was a New York times article maybe almost 10 years ago that talked about you giving up all your possessions and it got down to 50 items. And I want to say, if the, if I remember right.

A pair of socks was two items, I think, in that article.

Fabrice Grinda: No, a pair of socks was one item.

Eric Rosen: What, a pair of socks was one item?

Fabrice Grinda: Yeah, yeah.

Eric Rosen: Okay. How’d you get there? How long did that last? I would last like a day. So how did that happen?

Fabrice Grinda: No, it lasted for four years.

Eric Rosen: Oh my God.

Fabrice Grinda: So everything I own fit in my carry on, because of course I don’t want to, I didn’t want to check anything.

My tennis bag, because of course I still need to play tennis and padel, and my backpack, which I have my computer and Kindle.

The logic for it was twofold. One is, as we get older, I found that the quality of my friendships was framed. In the sense that, when you’re a kid and, you’re in college, you’re remaking the world, you’re seeing your friends all 24/7, you’re daydreaming about the future and all of a sudden people get busy with work, with wife, with kids, with husband, and instead of seeing them weekly, you start seeing them every 6 weeks and when you meet them, it’s no longer, let’s remake the world!

It’s a biographical update in the last six weeks, since I last saw you, this is what happened at work, my kids, et cetera. And it’s okay, but it’s not the reason we became friends to begin with. And so, I decided, you know what? I just sold my company. That was in 2013. I sold OLX and I now have the flexibility and freedom to invest in those friendships.

I want two things go back to A. to first principles. If you have an apartment, you go there. If you live in a city, you go there. If I have nothing, every day I can ask myself, where do I want to be? What do I want to do? Who do I want to see?

And then, by having no obligations, I can try to go and rebuild proper relationships with my friends and family, considering that I’ve been working 100 hours a week, 7 days a week, for the last 20 years.

And so, I tried a few approaches. I went couch surfing first, for my friends’ couches. Which was actually not a winning strategy because ultimately embedding myself in their life when they themselves were still busy with kids and work, et cetera, it didn’t work. So, I iterated a lot of that model. So, within six months, I decided, okay, that didn’t work.

I lived in Airbnb. So actually, I lived in Airbnb in New York, which was amazing. There were this, all these billionaires that had like these 20-50 million apartments that were empty. And so, I could be in every neighborhood like for a month. And these beautiful places and host amazing events, et cetera.

And so that distributed living and beautiful Airbnb around the world. I absolutely loved and I found a way to rekindle with my friends, not by living in their couches, but actually bringing them together at places where it was easy for them to go to during school vacations where there were activities for their kids.

And so, I did it around my birthday in August and every Christmas and New Year’s to the point that now I fly 50-60 people every year to my place in Turks and for Christmas my family and my extended family. So, my last name is Grinda, we call ourselves the Grindaverse. And its super fun and it’s been an amazing way to reconnect with friends and family.

The reason my acid light living ended is twofold. First, New York passed an anti-Airbnb laws. And so, all this inventory disappeared in 2015, all the high-end inventory. And then number two, I more recently started having kids and now I have a son who’s two years old. I have a daughter who’s going to be born in February and I have a five-month-old puppy.

And those three things are not acid light. Let me tell you that I can have 50 items, but I think my son personally has 5,000 items and no longer is compatible with acid light living.

Eric Rosen: Well, that’s a great story. I hadn’t realized, you know, the extent of why you did it and that’s fantastic to hear. In a similar vein, I retired early, my dad died when I was five and I don’t remember anything about my dad and I wanted to give my kids something I’d never had, which was a present father and I, for the last seven or eight years have been with them, you know, full time, which has been great.

Now I’m at a different stage, they’re 17 and 16. Dad isn’t nearly as cool as he was a few years ago, so I need to go find something else to do now.

So, you know, you live an interesting life with a lot of hobbies other than tennis, which you highlighted. What are a couple of things that you like to do when you’re not couch surfing on your friend’s couches?

I kite surf, I heli-ski, I play padel, which is a tennis derivative which is big in Hispanic countries. And I do adventure travel. For instance, earlier this year, I walked to the South pole, you know pulling my hundred pounds flood and negative 50 temperature, 2 weeks fully disconnected.

Fabrice Grinda: And, and I’ve done things like that where I’ve crossed Costa Rica on foot from, and bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific with just my tents and sleeping bag.

Eric Rosen: Okay. You lost it. I’m not doing either of those. That’s not happening.

Fabrice Grinda: I do a lot of these things. And then and, and non-athletic hobbies, I read 50 to a hundred books a year. I write a blog on whatever crosses my mind from macro to tech trends, to book reviews, to whatever. I love writing. And yeah, that’s basically it. Then I’m trying to being a cool father because to a two-year-old, you’re still very cool.

Eric Rosen: Yeah. Well enjoy it until it lasts, Fabrice! Cause let me just tell you that coolness don’t last forever. It’s 17. You’re not that you’re not going to be that cool. So, it’s been great. Let’s end it with what’s your favorite part of being a 3i member.

Fabrice Grinda: The community, I’ve been meeting amazing people. Like we’re playing at poker tournaments that I host or join. Actually, we’ve got a lot of investors in my fund out of 3i and seeing amazing opportunities. So, it’s been fun. I love Mark and what he’s built. I’ve loved and known him for forever. And I’m very happy to be a part of 3i.

Eric Rosen: Well, we’re very happy to have you. This has been a very enlightening conversation.

I know all those who have the chance to watch, we’ll learn a lot from. So, thanks for taking the time with us Fabrice. And I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Fabrice Grinda: Thank you for having me.

Eric Rosen: Thank you.