Five Things That Wowed Me at CES 2019

By Stephen Forte,
8k TVs everywhere

Last week myself and 200,000 of my closest friends made our annual visit to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. As usual it was a crowded, hectic, sensory stimulating, and informative event.

Catching up with some of my CES veteran friends on the last day of the event, they said to me: “CES was lame this year. There was nothing here to WOW me.” My friends were looking at CES with purely a consumer eye: the major announcements were just bigger and higher resolution TVs and cool concept cars. Incremental changes at best over last year for sure.

I told them that this CES was one of my most inspiring for what I saw from my Venture Capital eye. As a VC, I saw five things that did WOW me. Here they are.

AI was everywhere- VR was nowhere

An AI Powered Batting Cage

Two years ago, Virtual Reality was everywhere. Rows and rows of VR booths everywhere you looked. Samsung had a major exhibit where 25 people would use the Samsung VR headset at the same time and ride a virtual roller coaster. At the same time, AI was nowhere two years ago. One or two booths may have had a “powered by Machine Learning” label on it, but that was about it.

Oh how times have changed. AI was everywhere from self driving cars to AI powered batting cages. VR was nowhere.

AI has definitely gone “mainstream.” While a lot of booths had AI in there mostly to take advantage of the hype, the overwhelming majority of the AI at CES was super practical. Smart refrigerators using AI to figure out the right grocery list, smart fitness and nutrition recommendations, and automated farming equipment (which was stunning) augmented the steady stream of AI powered drones, self-driving cars, and industrial robotics.

From my experience at CES, once a technology makes it up from the startup alley to the Samsung and Sony exhibits, its here to stay.

The Trump Effect: Chinese participation was way down

Having lived and worked in China, I have a lot of friends and colleagues from China visit CES. In years past, my WeChat use to light up with requests to meet. In addition, large Chinese companies as well as hundreds, if not thousands, of small companies would exhibit.

Not this year. Very few Chinese nationals were at the event, my WeChat was silent, and most of the Chinese companies skipped the show. Ironically, except for Huawei, who did not send any executives but had a large booth.

Its on: Alexa vs Google Home

Google was by far the largest vendor and sponsor. The Las Vegas monorail was branded all by Google and they had a massive pavilion (not a booth) that even had an amusement park ride. Amazon had a big booth as well and they had stands all over the place where they handed out bananas to the attendees.

A Huge Alexa

Both companies had a massive push for their digital voice assistants: Alexa and Google Home. There were partners all over the place and just about every major product featured one or both of the players. Forget iOS v Android, the new battle is Alexa vs Google Home.

Last Mile Urban Mobility is the next big thing

While the automotive section has grown over the past 4 or 5 years to be as big as a major auto show and automatous vehicles were a major theme this year, solving for the last mile in major cities was a dominating theme.

Last Mile Package Delivery Solution

Everything from scooters, bikes, electronic bikes, concept 5–7 person autonomous “people moves”, food and package delivery, and delivery drones were on display. A friend of mine who studied urban planning said that we are still a ways out from implementing these solutions due to the fragmentation of the market and the speed and budgets of major cities, however, it is pretty exciting to see how this problem will get solved. All the pieces were on display at CES this year.

Sleep Tech is taking off

Fitness tech has been a big deal at CES for the past decade. Wearables and all kinds of cool stuff (like the AI powered batting cage) are on display.

What was amazing this year was how sleep tech has taken over the fitness tech area this year. Sleep tech is anything that ranges from connected devices that monitor your sleep to smart mattresses, smart underwear/pajamas, to countless “calm” apps. Sleep tech was well over 50% of the fitness section. A section that was once dominated by Fitbit and Peloton. Keep an eye on this space as last year sleep tech was just a handful of booths.

So while the bigger 8k TVs did not wow my friends, the above five trends blew me away. Looking forward to CES 2020. 😉


Five Things That Wowed Me at CES 2019 was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The 1+8 Things You Need to Know About Edtech in China

By Furuzonfar,

The shift to doing good, creating a holistic education program and 8 nuggets about Edtech in China

Earlier this month, Beijing hosted one of the largest education technology conferences in the world. This time last year, the GET Summit brought together 6,000 attendees – they doubled this year. 12,000 attendees from all over the world landed in smoggy Beijing to wheel-and-deal, greet-and-meet and educate themselves (pun intended).

To truly understand Beijing, there are 2 things you must experience: pollution and long queues.

This is a summary of thoughts and observations from the summit. It will be split into 2 segments: the plenary session’s keynotes and everything else.

A plenary session is basically the stage-of-stages. It’s where all the main guests present; in Beijing, where all the reporters and government officials (and everything in between) gather. It was kicked off by from Tencent.

Tencent went from powerhouse that could do no wrong, to being criticized by the Ministry of Education of China for addictive non-productive games. It lost $160 billion in value, roughly a Netflix equivalent, due to the backlash. This set up for an interesting keynote by Daosheng Tang, Vice President. The VP delivered a speech at GETSummit that in short, summarised Tencent as a socially responsible tech company. No longer was the focus to attract users to it’s entertainment ecosystem (it owns Clash Royale, Clash of Clans, League of Legends, Wangzhe Rongyao, and 42 percent of China’s gaming market; equivalent to almost half of Tencent’s profits). Mr Tang’s speech had zero mention of entertainment, but lots of mentions of helping underprivileged communities, and helping said community members upgrade their skills, etc. The 180 degree change was made crystal clear to everyone watching, and now Tencent is going to do everything to leverage their wide reach (e.g. WeChat is used by 83% of Chinese smartphone users) for the greater good of the Chinese people.

Once you have the biggest player fall into line, typically others follow suit. Ensuing Tencent’s socially responsible tech company speech — TAL Education Group was up next.

Last year’s summit, STEM education was all the rave. The conversation revolved around getting more STEM in the classroom, in the tutor groups, and into homes. That sentiment no longer held up. Songye Zhou, General Manager at TAL, talked about how home/family education is critical but it must be founded on love, morality and spirituality. The focus should be less on “hard” education (read: standardised test) and focus on “soft” education.

As the plenary session progressed, it was clear that all the companies got Beijing’s memo. You must focus on being good and doing the right thing. DadaABC, Netease, and the remaining Chinese education firms echoed the same sentiment as their larger peers.

Contrast this to what has been happening with the largest companies in the US, such as Facebook and Amazon. This just shows how companies react to regulatory pressure, what goes through the senior managements’ thoughts, and ultimately how that trickles down to the users.

On other nuggets from the conference, we will do a quick hitting point-by-point summary:

When in China, use Chinese lucky numbers — we are capping the nuggets at 8.

The following 8 nuggets did not come from the above panel.
  1. WeChat still runs supreme. It’s on the local’s tongue, mind and (most importantly) phones. Very few non-Chinese truly understand WeChat and its reach/power. This is shocking, given it’s been huge for more than half a decade now.
  2. On a similar note, KOLs (aka influencers) are big. KOLs in China are bigger. Mom KOLs in China are the biggest. The best way to spread the word amongst Chinese Edtech consumers is through KOL Moms.
    Side-only-in-China-note: one of the keynotes was given by a private tutor —Kaiwen He. Key nugget is this private tutor has 6.6 million followers on Weibo (Kobe Bryant has 9 million Instagram followers).
  3. Beijing’s de-emphasis of standardised exams, combined with change of wind sweeping “hard” education away. Beijing is aware that the population needs to be more creative, holistic and value-add; precisely what they are addressing.
  4. Saying a lot by not saying anything: Not a single mention of the ongoing trade-war. Even though the event had almost 1,000 non-Chinese attendees.
  5. B2B businesses, especially in Education are still in the early stages of their development. Most of the successful Education businesses in China are in B2C space. The conference reflected that, where most of the “market entry” strategy workshops were focused on how to get the parent/family/ student to buy in, rather than the school/university/corporate.
  6. There is a growing positive sentiment amongst Chinese Edtech to sell to markets such as Turkey, Russia and other markets shunned by the US/European players. Chinese Education companies feel the consumer behavior is closer to their own, compared to US/European markets.
  7. Pricing is critical in China. The more ways you can price your product, the better off you are. Group buying, term/yearly discounts, rebates on social shares — and everything in between. The more ideas you have on your pricing, the better chances you can sell, and ultimately succeed.
  8. Valuations are cooling down. Cooling down is a relative term, but going from crazy to not crazy is still cooling down. Long term everyone is better off; short term, founders will have a slightly harder time fundraising.

The global ecosystem goes in waves of increased and decreased volatility. This isn’t a new concept, but what is clear that each wave requires ever fresher approaches and ideas. Therefore, companies and individuals that are more adaptable and creative will flourish. Beijing knows that.


The 1+8 Things You Need to Know About Edtech in China was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Business Lessons from the Music of Queen

By Allison Baum,

Like millions of other Americans this weekend, I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody, the recently released biopic about Queen. The movie was so bad, I melted into uncontrollable giggles at its most serious moments. After two and a half long hours, I was fed up by overdramatic montages, a meandering plotline, and undisciplined editing, so I walked out before the completion of the film. As it turns out, so did the Director — which explains a lot about why it was so terrible.

What it does not explain is why I have been nonstop, obsessively thinking about Queen ever since. The more I read about them, the more I listen to their albums, the more I watch their performances, the more memories come flooding back to me.

The first time I heard “Bohemian Rhapsody”, it was the early nineties and my Grandma brought over a copy of Wayne’s World. You might find this odd, since I was somewhere around five years old at the time, but she insisted we would like it since it was based in the glorious town of Aurora, Illinois, only a few miles from where we lived.

I do not remember when she realized I was way too young to be watching Wayne’s World. What I do remember is re-enacting that opening scene for years afterward, belting “Galileo!” at the top of my lungs, packed into the backseat of shitty cars all over the Midwest. I remember stomping my feet to“We Will Rock You” before my high school basketball games, and “We Are the Champions” after we had won. I remember debating in an ethics class at Harvard whether or not it was okay that Vanilla Ice had stolen the opening riff of “Under Pressure” for “Ice Ice Baby”. I remember watching countless newly married couples dancing to “You’re My Best Friend.”

How could Queen have somehow woven themselves into the fabric of my entire life without me even realizing it? You might not think about them very much either, but Queen is actually everywhere. They have sold over 300 million albums worldwide. They have spent more time on the British charts than The Beatles. They have been featured in over 375 films.

The Quiet Genius of a Very Loud Band

As romantic as music can be, it is a business. A band is a company. The members are a team. Instruments are features. Songs are products. Concerts are experiences. In either case, music is the heart and soul.

Just like the record labels, venture capital is notorious for constantly being on the hunt for the next big hit. However, we are not looking for one hit wonders. We are looking for generation defining technologies; the companies that change the shape of our lives without us even realizing it; the experiences that find their way into the deepest crevices of our memories that we don’t even know they’re there. Basically, we are looking for the nerd’s equivalent of Queen.

So what can we learn from Queen? What makes them so special that they’ve been able to transcend time, genre, and space? Why does it matter if you’re not a musician? Whether you are in the music, technology, venture, or any human business, here is what we can all learn from Queen.

1. Team is everything — diversity is required.

Queen consisted of four musicians with very unique strengths: Freddie Mercury (vocalist, background in design), Brian May (guitarist, PhD in astrophysics), Roger Taylor (drummer, tried dentistry but got a BSc in Biology) and John Deacon (bass, background in electronics). Though he was often the face of the band, Freddie Mercury once famously said in an interview, “I’m not the leader of the band, I’m the lead singer.” He recognized he was nothing without his team.

In fact, Queen’s greatest hits were written by all members of the band. Freddie wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Brian May wrote “We Will Rock You”, Roger Taylor wrote “Radio Ga Ga”, and John Deacon wrote “Another One Bites the Dust” and “I Want to Break Free”.

A truly remarkable team requires members with unique strengths, diverse backgrounds, and a shared commitment to making music. When a team like this comes together, individual intelligence transforms into collective magic.

2. Innovation requires commitment and constant experimentation.

Queen was formed in 1970, but they didn’t release their first album until 1973. They hustled their way into the only slot available at a friend’s recording studio, which required them to record from 3–6am. This is ultimately how they got noticed — they were very loud at a very quiet time.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was recorded in 1975, though Freddie Mercury had been writing versions of the song (initially called “The Cowboy Song” for the opening line) for nearly ten years before the band ultimately recorded the hit. Once they did record it, the track notoriously took three grueling weeks to lay, with sessions ranging from ten to twelve hours per day. In some sections, it featured 180 separate overdubs. Yes, the final product was epic, but it took years of imagination, hard work, iteration, and experimentation.

Whether you are a band or a business, nothing world-changing is built overnight. It’s not about what you want — everyone wants massive success — it’s about what you’re willing to give up to get there.

3. Find your audience — sing to them, love them, engage them, and empower them.

In 1970, Queen started by playing to college audiences because it is what they knew and where they were accepted. After all, they were students themselves. As they grew and evolved, their audience grew with them — their fans graduated from college just as Queen was graduating to real concert venues. They got married and had kids as Queen continued to pump out hits, and it was these same fans that brought their kids to concerts when the band started playing in stadiums all over the world. It was Mike Myers, who had listened to Queen growing up, that threatened to walk off the set if “Bohemian Rhapsody” was not included in Wayne’s World, ultimately leading to the song’s second run at the top of music charts nearly twenty years after its initial release.

Queen had staying power because they were incredible at engaging audiences — not just figuratively through their lyrics, but quite literally in the performance of their music. Whether it was the stomp-stomp clap of “We Will Rock You”, the “Ey Oh” call at the beginning of “Under Pressure”, Freddie Mercury’s unforgettable exchange singing “Radio Gaga” with an audience of over 70,000 people at LiveAid in 1985, Queen rarely sang alone.

Though their power fans were small in the beginning, Queen serves as a reminder that if the most powerful companies speak directly to their users. If you can unify, engage, and empower customers, you will be filling stadiums for generations.

Live Aid Concert — Wembley Stadium, 1986

4. Don’t let your past define you.

Freddie Mercury was not born a British rock star. He was born in Zanzibar (now Tanzania) as Farrokh Bulsara. His family was originally from India and he spent his formative years in Mumbai until his family ultimately fled Africa for England in the late 1960’s. Given the constraints of coming from a traditional Parsi household and his conflicted identity as a gay man in a conservative society, he created Freddie Mercury as a way of liberating himself from where he came from.

Throughout my own life as a very American American who somehow found her way into the business of building global companies, I have learned that you are not defined by where you came from — you are defined by your choices, your mindset, and what you create. Most great filmmakers agree (if you need some good references, look for this theme in The Last Jedi and Bladerunner 2049).

Whether it is in the world of music, technology, or business, innovators are not constrained by their origins. The only way to find out what you truly can do is by letting go of what you were and what others tell you that you are. Farrokh Bulsara did just that, and thus Queen was born.

5. Embrace contradiction — turn ‘buts’ into ‘ands’.

So, what is it that makes Queen so fascinating that they have hijacked my ears and my mind not only this week, but arguably since I was five? How are they so subtly relevant today? Why are they everywhere and nowhere? Who else can possibly make grown men cry, and young women scream in the way that they do? What is it about them that seeps its way into our lives, no matter where we are or what kind of music we like?

Freddie Mercury and his beloved cats

Freddie Mercury was painfully shy, but somehow one of the best performers of all time. All the members of Queen were all highly intellectual, but also made head banging rock songs. Their lead singer was gay, but the love of his life was a woman. All four band members asserted they hated each other, but they also insisted they were family. A lot of Queen’s lyrics are gibberish, but their music is rich with meaning. Freddie Mercury died in 1991, but he sang alongside a captivated audience at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London.

The answer to these questions, and the essence of Queen’s genius, is captured in a hotly contested scene in the movie about the release of Bohemian Rhapsody, in which Mike Myers (aka Wayne from Wayne’s World) insists that the song can never be a hit single because ‘it’s opera but it’s rock’, because it’s ‘six minutes long, but has no chorus’.

Once it was released, the length and unusual nature of the song forced Queen to market the song with a video — which is widely credited as the invention of the music video, seven years before MTV went on air.

What is it that made this level of innovation, depth, creativity, and longevity possible? Queen embraced their contradictions. They defied definition, they refused to be categorized — and thus created something truly new and meaningful. They worked really fucking hard in the process, and ultimately they turned ‘buts’ into ‘ands’. They are a rock band and they sing opera. Their lead singer was Farrokh Bulsara and Freddie Mercury. They possessed a rare level of intelligence, and they made universally accessible music. Freddie died of AIDS, and left his entire fortune to a woman (and cats).

Whether you are a musician, an entrepreneur, or just a regular person on the street, you can only innovate by embracing and exploring your inherent and inevitable contradictions. It’s not easy, and it’s the only way to change the world.


5 Business Lessons from the Music of Queen was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Why I have a portfolio career, as a Venture Capitalist

By Fusion by Fresco Capital,

By Eriko Suzuki, Partner at Fresco Capital

I am a portfolio worker and a Venture Capitalist.

I am both Partner at Fresco Capital, a mission focused global early stage startup investor and Director at Mistletoe’s Investment Group, a social impact investor founded by Taizo Son, the younger brother of Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son.

As we all know, new ways of work have been evolving. The financial crisis which occurred exactly 10 years ago, propelled employers to look for lower cost labor and employees to think more flexibly, and their needs were matched and enabled through the development of digital platforms. Today, we not only see freelancers who work from project to project, but also parallel workers or portfolio workers who take on multiple tasks and roles simultaneously. Such ways of work are now more proactively embraced by millennials and generation z cohorts who value work flexibility.

Yet, even in the US and Silicon Valley, I have not come across a fellow portfolio worker or “contributor” type Venture Capitalist.

How did I get here?

I personally “strumbled” (a combination of struggling, hustling and stumbling) into this portfolio worker career, through my journey to find meaningful work whilst also raising a family.

I started my career in investment banking as I wanted to acquire business skills to one day build a socially impactful enterprise. I also had my first child and worked banking hours whilst raising him, but eventually decided to join a large global luxury retail company for more manageable hours. However, the 9–5 arrangement put me on a “mommy track”, and I felt unable to gain the deep operational experience to one day launch that social enterprise. So I jumped on the opportunity to bring a US drone startup to Japan as country manager.

Then, as the startup pivoted and I searched for my next “gig”, I stumbled upon Mistletoe, a social impact VC at which I could combine my skills in finance and technology to support socially impactful businesses.

It was finally finding this ideal job, that gave me the impetus or a no more excuses attitude, to make things work. At the time of my joining, Mistletoe did not have any employees working flexible hours etc., but I set about to make such a culture.

This experience lead me to write my book, “How we live will be how we work” (Daiwashobo, 2018), in which one of the key message is to find work that you are passionate about, and make work work.

Soon after, I also joined Fresco, to further pursue all of my passions, and become a portfolio worker VC. At Fresco, I am able to support mission driven global minded entrepreneurs through a more traditional VC investing model and also help bring about large scale change by helping our investors which are large corporations better embrace technology and innovation.

Why portfolio working is the future

I am truly grateful that Fresco and Mistletoe appreciate me for walking the walk as an investor in future of work trends, and I personally swear by this portfolio worker VC career.

It was on a recent panel at a Tech in Asia conference, that I became even more convinced.

The panel was on “Japan’s startup ecosystem” and as we were joined by the Chief Strategy Officer of a large VC firm and early investor of Mercari, a flea market platform which recently went public only 5 years after its establishment with a $3.6bn market cap, we had all anticipated to talk about “hot” investment trends or latest exits, etc.

Instead, we spent 30 minutes talking about people and one of the key points of the panel was that “winners” like Mercari is increasingly hiring portfolio workers. The best people are often already hired, but can be convinced to join other projects on a part time basis, and such people contribute significant value even in a this part time capacity.

In fact, attracting such multitalented polymaths through attractive work environments, is the key to growth and success, even for all of Japan’s innovation ecosystem.

Companies or projects which do not allow their employees to work flexibly and do not hire portfolio workers will see their demise as they will further and further be disabled to hire and attract talent.

We are in a world where the winners-take-all the best talent.

(Our lively panel at Tech in Asia Tokyo)

I also thought this can be true for the ones being hired as well.

Recently, I have been contemplating taking on yet another portfolio work, particularly in the crypto/blockchain space which I am also passionate about.

Very luckily, I have received several offers to join exciting teams and projects even in my part time capacity. Extrapolating from my lucky scenario, I wondered if we are entering an era in which a few highly qualified individuals will hold multiple portfolio roles at multiple organizations, while others may not even be able to get a single role.

Multi-hired individuals will enjoy a network effect of sorts, because through their multiple roles, they can accumulate more networks, connections, and information which will also enable them to be more sensitive to the winds of the market and acquire the best and most updated know-how and skills.

On the contrary, individuals working on only one role might have less opportunities to update their skills and thus can more easily become irrelevant or outdated.

The hired get more hired.

A winners-take-all-jobs world.

(My image of a winner takes all world of talent and of jobs)

Of course, there is a finite number of portfolio work one person can take on, at least with the current state of human augmentation tech. Nevertheless, while we shun the giant Amazons and Facebooks today (and hence my fascination with blockchain decentralized technologies which help to disintermediate such forces), we may indeed enter the era of GAFA of people instead.

Whilst I prefer to see a world in which almost everyone is involved in several projects across the globe which are most fitting to them, which are relatively evenly disperesed and equitably decentralized, we may indeed see “superpeople” who become contributors to multiple projects and even run companies, foundations, build products, designing, etc. all at the same time all to themselves.

How to be a portfolio worker

So what should we do?

The message is simple.

Start flexing your portfolio worker muscles sooner rather than later.

Start small, as indeed juggling multiple roles is not easy and context switching requires focus and self-discipline. One could even start for probono projects or by working on small moonlighting hobby passion projects

I am also still learning and iterating these processes.

However, I believe one of the most important skills are open and active communication.

I personally strive to have open and real time communication on job descriptions and KPIs.

Open and transparent communication is also important in clarifying access to information. In lieu of bureaucratic red tape and overzealous firewalls, we can cultivate a culture for respecting security and confidentiality. For my personal case, I openly communicate to our portfolio companies that I work for more than one VC and that should they feel any conflicts or concerns, I will seek their guidance and thoughts.

One might also think that heavy self promotion and branding is necessary for portfolio work.

Though it may be true, I am an introvert and often feel very uncomfortable doing such things, so instead I try to be hyper-authentic. I openly express both perhaps my strengths but also my weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and luckily, I have found that this has lead to building more sincere networks and long-lasting relationships.

Finally again, I am still learning, and am bound to make mistakes.

However, I also try to embrace this fact. We are all pioneers in this new way of work.

And as I say “we”, I hope to connect to more people in this way of work.

If you are a closeted portfolio worker VC please reach out.

Additionally, we at Fresco invest globally in the future of work, so if you find such platforms for the future, which I would imagine will be decentralized and equitable platforms which highlight each individual’s unique skillsets and experiences and connect them to projects globally, please also reach out!

(Ending with my book. Cover artwork by Tomoko Yamashita.

An image of an opening inviting to another space, or is it a guiding minaret?)


Why I have a portfolio career, as a Venture Capitalist was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

  Category: decentralized, Medium
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Venture Capital: A Lady’s Job?

By Allison Baum,
Badass NASA scientists Dr. Mary H. Johnston, Ann F. Whitaker and Carolyn S. Griner, and crew chief, Doris Chandler at Marshall Space Flight Centers General Purpose Laboratory in 1974.

Today, I ate my breakfast at General Assembly San Francisco, listening to Claire L. Evans talk about the untold history of badass women in technology as featured in her book Broadband.

Her key point was that, in spite of the fact it is indeed a male dominated industry, technology is not an inherently masculine endeavor. There was a time when it was actually dominated by women, probably because the core mission of technology has fundamentally female qualities. Since their origin, computers and the internet have been about building unexpected connections, democratizing access to information, and creating unprecedented opportunities. Isn’t that what women are naturally the best at? So then, why and how did technology become such a boy’s club?

In spite of spending the last six years building tech businesses across borders, this is my first time living in “the Silicon Valley” and I have spent the past few months seeing it with an outsider’s eyes. There is no doubt in my mind that the Bay Area is truly the quintessential American hotbed of entrepreneurship, the land of opportunity for wealth creation, and the birthplace of our generation’s most transformative and impactful companies. We, as venture capitalists, are meant to be the fuel for that fire.

We all know the VC industry has been under attack for being a shameless old boy’s club filled with hypocrites; an impenetrable network tasked with finding and knighting the changemakers of tomorrow, yet it still looks more like a picture of the past (read: old, male, and white). I am fully committed to changing that reality, but it will take time. In the meantime, I am wondering — how did this come to be?

After all, venture capital is about finding and empowering innovators. It is about seeing value where others do not. It is about aligning yourself with people who are smarter than you, better than you, and more determined than you. It is about putting your ego aside and working tirelessly with others to help them succeed at all costs. VC is all about nurturing deep and meaningful relationships, but it is also about ruthlessly prioritizing. It is not about the spotlight. We are not the actors on stage, we are the producers cheering them on and making shit happen behind the scenes.

Aren’t these things that come most naturally to us as women? Have we not been playing these roles for centuries in our personal lives as mothers, wives, daughters and friends? Could it be possible that venture capital is actually, inherently, a lady’s job?

I’d like to think so. But, either way, there’s no reason why it should be dominated by men. Or anyone, for that matter. This is certainly one corner of the world where it should be an asset to be different.


Venture Capital: A Lady’s Job? was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Blended Capital: The Future of Social Impact Investing

By Stephen Forte,

Over the past year there has been a lot of focus in the financial services community on social impact investing. Investors who have not traditionally been in the social impact space are now making changes to their investment charter to include mission driven, for profit companies. Venture Capital and Private Equity firms that have been ignoring social impact have jumped in as well.

The presence of the PE/VC crowd is changing the ecosystem and some traditional social impact investors are now taking a different approach. NGOs, foundations, and banks have always been in the game, but are starting to behave differently as well. Each of these players think that they have the right blueprint for social impact investing: They are all wrong.

Blended Capital

Social impact companies and investors can benefit greatly from something called Blended Capital. Blended Capital is the mix of government or non-profit grants, equity investments, and bank loans put into a startup. The salient point is how the capital is sequenced:

  1. Foundations, governments, and NGOs go in first and grant non-equity taking, non debt capital to a social entrepreneur with an idea. This gets the founder out of the garage and gives them the ability to hire a small team, build a product, and attract initial customers. This de-risks the investment for the next stage, but adds a lot of impact, accomplishing the foundation’s goal.
  2. Next VCs and Social Impact funds come in and make equity investments, typically getting the company past the initial stages of product-market fit and into a growth mode. This helps the company scale in ways a grant would not allow and de-risks the investment for the next stage.
  3. A lot of times the company will need to finance inventory, equipment, or the expansion into a new market. This makes more sense to finance by bank loans rather than dilutive capital. The banks get to lend to the company at commercial rates as the company has been de-risked by the previous two sources of capital.

Blended capital only works if all three parties (non-profit grant agencies, equity investors, and lenders) work together. A blended capital deal does not make sense to any one player if the other two are not involved, creating more opportunities for social entrepreneurs. For example most foundations “spend $1 to buy $1 of impact, but that $1 goes away forever.” Now those foundations, governments, and NGOs can get a better return on that $1 if they work with equity and bank finances on deals, creating sustainable, lasting companies that not only provide a return on investment for their investors, but a longer return on impact for their grant-givers. Now a foundation can spend $1 and get $10 or more of impact.

In the past these players worked independent of each other, creating misalignment and inefficiency, reducing the amount of impact and opportunity. For example, I watched a social entrepreneur try to finance inventory of their portable solar lights to send to Puerto Rico after the hurricane. No bank would finance the operation, despite several customers (in need!) lined up.

If that company had been allowed to take advantage of blended capital, the sequencing of the grants and equity financing first would have made the startup attractive to market/commercial lending rates for any bank. Because blended capital was not available at the time, the founder had to turn to expensive equity financing for that inventory. (VCs typically don’t finance inventory.) Because of dilution and the expense, only a fraction of the original inventory was financed, bringing the company far less revenue (and profit) and impacting far less people in need.

An alliance of philanthropic and for profit investors is needed to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Experts estimate that the opportunity is measured in the multi-trillion dollar range. Its time for all the social impact players to stop working in silos and work together.


Blended Capital: The Future of Social Impact Investing was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

15 Zen Hacks for Startups to Survive and Thrive with Corporate Investors

By Tytus Michalski,

Fundraising is never easy. When dealing with corporate investors, there can be extra layers of confusion during the process. At Fresco Capital, we’ve been able to interact with a wide range of corporate investors from all around the world. Based on the thousands of hours of direct experience plus feedback from our network over that time, here are some hacks for everyone involved to have more zen and less confusion in the process.

1. Be wary of the quick “yes”

Fundraising from corporates can be time consuming, and so a quick “yes” in the first meeting seems like a good thing. The key is follow through. We have seen a corporate go from “yes, we’re investing $5M” in the first meeting, to “we want to invest $500k”, to “by the way, here is a 10 page list of special demands we would like.” It’s easy to reject offers like this when you have other options. Don’t make any assumptions until the deal closes, especially with a quick “yes”.

2. Review stock prices, 10-Ks, and investor relations materials for public companies

Publicly listed companies provide detailed disclosure about their business. For example, you can head over to the investor section of Microsoft and see a wealth of information. In addition to annual and quarterly results, there is a set of updated materials about the company’s recent acquisition of Github. You can also review the company’s stock price as a check on market sentiment about the company’s strategy and execution. In the case of Microsoft, the market has clearly been impressed by the changes during the last several years.

3. Visit their offices and look around

Online research can only go so far. An under-appreciated way to learn about a company’s culture is visiting their offices. If things are extremely quiet with everyone busy at their cubicles and you have a team that is always talking loudly and enjoys skateboarding in the office for fun, it’s worth noting this difference. If the company has an expensive art collection and yet is trying to scrape out small $ from you in negotiation, that’s cognitive dissonance. You can learn a lot just by walking around an office.

4. Don’t use fake deadlines, use real ones

Startups tend to feel that working with large corporates is slow, and on a relative basis this is absolutely true. One week for a startup can be the equivalent of one quarter for a larger organization. Some people suggest using fake deadlines to add urgency but the problem is that in many cases the large company simply can’t move quickly enough and the deal will fall apart. It’s much better to run a process where you have multiple options, even if one of the options is simply going alone, because at least then you have a real deadline to move things forward instead of being held in a holding pattern.

5. Learn about their key competition

Most corporates have specific companies that they view as direct competitors. When engaging with a corporate, it’s important to understand both how they perceive their competition and also to have your own view. If a corporate believes it is dominating the market but you feel that they are in a high risk situation, there are several things to consider. Will you simply accept this difference of opinion? Will you bring up the issue in the hope of a strategy change? Should you even be engaging with this corporate?

6. Spend time with junior people

A common piece of advice for startups is to focus on decision makers. If you know everything, that makes sense. What if you only know 50% of the context? 20%? Most decision makers will prefer to share things on a “need to know” basis with you. Junior team members will tend be more open and will appreciate the chance to share their opinions. They will also be more motivated to close a deal with a startup as a way of proving themselves internally.

7. Having a diverse team gives you more options

As a diverse team ourselves, we’ve experienced all sorts of combinations between our team and other investors. The historical default that people tend to prefer commonality is still true in many cases. However, we’re also increasingly seeing that corporate investors value diversity and inclusion because that also gives them a differentiation vs. competition. Having a diverse team isin’t just about doing good, it’s good for your fundraising.

8. Provide updates, don’t just chase

As you wait for feedback from a large company, what’s the ideal way to engage? Rather than sending reminders that say “have you seen the message I sent yesterday”, which may backfire, it’s worth sharing new updates about your progress. This gives new reasons for investment and also serves as a soft follow up. You should absolutely pay attention to the responses to these updates — if you send 5 updates over three weeks and get zero replies, that’s a sign that something is not right and at that point it’s worth being more direct.

9. Find an internal champion

Why is finding an internal champion at a large corporate key to making progress? Things get lost — there will be emails that drop, fuzzy memories about conversations, and competing priorities which take up scarce attention. You simply won’t know enough about the internal dynamics to take care of all these details. Your ideal internal champion is passionate on a personal level and highly aligned from a business outcome to push on your behalf — make your success their success.

10. Don’t rely on a single internal champion

While a single internal champion is better than none, the ideal situation is to have several touch points at the company. You will receive feedback from multiple perspectives — the legal team, finance team, and marketing team will all have their own business targets. Meeting with additional stakeholders is especially important to identify potential obstacles before it’s too late.

11. Watch out for internal rivalries

When working with large corporates, be careful about internal politics and rivalries. We have come across corporate investors where the internal teams do not co-operate internally to support their startups and are instead in competition with one another. In addition to being confusing, that can be a waste of everyone’s time and energy. Better to be aware of these issues, ideally before getting into a formal business relationship. This can be accomplished by having trusted relationships with 3rd parties (like your existing investors, for example) who know the reality of each corporate investor.

12. Demystify constraints

It’s understandable that investors will have internal constraints. Take the time to find out why constraints exist. If a corporate investor says “we can’t be a lead investor,” it’s worth understanding why that may be the case. Is it because of a previous bad experience as a lead investor? Is it because they have never been a lead investor? Is it because their investment team is too busy with existing investments? Each of those reasons would lead to a different set of follow up questions and possibly a solution.

13. Hang out with lawyers

Lawyers don’t get much attention beyond legal work. I’ve had a chance to become friends with many lawyers and the successful ones are knowledgable on all sorts of issues. They’re helpful in making introductions, reference checks, and even feedback on fundraising pitches. They’re obviously not going to reveal any confidential information, so don’t even try going there. Instead, take them out for a coffee to have a casual chat.

14. Be prepared for last minute changes

Large corporates will typically have an impressive in-house legal team and some of the sharpest external legal advice that money can buy. So when it comes to negotiating deals, they will have a tendency to push hard even until the last minute. That’s what they’re paid to do. If you have a realistic option of walking away from a deal, be prepared to do so mentally even until the very last minute. This will put you in the right frame of mind to make the right decision even under high time pressure.

15. Maintain the relationship even after a “no”

Sometimes the timing is wrong or there are other specific reasons why a corporate investment won’t be a good fit. It’s still worth maintaining a relationship over time in case the situation changes. This doesn’t mean giving detailed weekly updates. It does mean that in 6 months or even 18 months if there is something which you feel is specifically relevant, it’s worth sharing an update. The answer could still be “no” from that investor but they might have another introduction for you which they are now comfortable making because you have made progress over time.

Success between corporates and startups is hard work. But it’s possible.

We’ve found in our own work bridging the corporate and startup world that communication is key. Yes, that means a few extra calls and meetings need to happen, sometimes at odd hours of the day or night. Yes, that means repeating assumptions to ensure alignment. Yes, that means using multiple methods because some people love email, others are always on WeChat, and some will only open up in person.

In the end, it’s worth the effort because the upside from successful corporate and startup partnership can be massive for everyone involved.


15 Zen Hacks for Startups to Survive and Thrive with Corporate Investors was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

What a VC Learned by Visiting Congress

By Stephen Forte,

Last week, the Fresco team visited Washington DC and participated in a dialog with members of the US Congress. It was organized by a trade organization we are members of: ACT, the App Association.

ACT represents more than 5,000 tech companies in the United States. They advocate to the US government for a competitive environment that inspires and rewards innovation. Some of the issues ACT has prioritized this year involve law enforcement’s lawful access to data, cybersecurity, broadband, Net Neutrality and STEM education. ACT publishes an annual “State of the App economy” report that outlines broadband access and the number of tech jobs and Computer Science graduates.

The Cloud Makes Things….Complicated

We were the only VCs at the event, so you may ask, why should we care about policy in Washington DC?

To give you an example, Fresco invested in a SaaS startup based in Europe with customers all around the world. They also have several employees and a physical office in the United States. Their data is stored on Amazon’s AWS servers globally.

If one of those customers is accused of a crime and law enforcement demands the customer’s data, the startup has some legal problems. If they just hand over the data, they may be in violation of their local and EU laws. If they don’t hand over the data, they may be in violation of US or the accused’s country laws.

Very quickly a small startup may need lawyers in three or four different countries in order to solve the issue. That can get expensive, real fast.

The CLOUD Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act) helps to solve this problem. Passed this year in the US Congress with the help of ACT, it states that law enforcement’s request for data housed in the United States must follow the due process for the country of the accused person’s citizenship. While it is not perfect and there are still many issues to iron out, by clarifying the rules, it will have immediate benefit to tech companies worldwide, drastically reducing the burden on startups.

“Sarbanes Oxley” for Data Privacy

The members of Congress and their staff are up to speed on most of the tech issues, however, they struggle to prioritize the issues important to our industry against the zillion of other things in front of them. That’s why we went to Washington DC to have a dialog. We visited several offices and had very deep conversations on the CLOUD act, cyber security, consumer privacy, broadband, and quantum computing (in regards to encryption). We were able to link the issues to the economy, national security, and most importantly-their districts.

With the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) about to go into effect there is a bill in front of Congress today that would take GDPR and push it one step further in the United States. It is basically “Sarbanes Oxley” for data privacy, creating a ton of new regulations, reporting, and legal requirements that would drastically increase the cost of doing a SaaS or consumer business. In addition, it would be illegal to store several types of data which could effectively kill the business models of Facebook, Google, and hundreds of other companies.

We were able to describe to members how this would effect the business of the companies in our portfolio as well as drastically reduce our future deal flow. We stressed how this would stifle innovation and the members clearly got the message. Several offices have already followed up with me and other members of the delegation. When this bill is up for debate, it will take into account all the concerns we brought up and the final bill will be very different-in part because of our dialog.

Our Responsibility

As a VC, it is our job to stay on top of all the new technology, demographic, and macroeconomic trends in order to to spot opportunities and invest in the best companies. We also have to be up to speed on everything in the startup ecosystem in order to give our portfolio companies the best advice. (Like advice on crypto and ICOs, for example.) Understanding the current regulatory and policy environment is now something we have to be up to speed on in order to best serve our investors and companies. I never thought going to Washington DC would be part of the job description of being a VC, however, it clearly is.


What a VC Learned by Visiting Congress was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Education is eating the world

By Allison Baum,

Five years ago, when we first started talking about investing in and building a truly global edtech ecosystem, a lot of people thought we were crazy. Though I had brought General Assembly from New York to Asia, we had made several cross-border edtech investments from our first fund at Fresco Capital, and we helped those investments make their first international footprints, many potential investors insisted that education was an inherently localized problem. Edtech lacks scale, liquidity, and cross-border appeal, they insisted.

At the time, there was no argument the edtech ecosystem was in its early stages. But having spent time on the ground as operators, founders, and investors, we could see where it was going. So, we started evangelizing. We collected data points, distilled them into trends, published articles, outlined the key ingredients for a global edtech ecosystem, and spoke to hundreds of startup founders and corporate LPs about the value of an international strategy in edtech. We talked to anyone that would listen, and in the process, we launched two funds comprised of some of the most forward thinking corporate LPs interested in edtech and the future of work. Then, we built a portfolio of 60 companies from all around the world, and now have 7 successful exits from that portfolio.

In 2017, I outlined two major predictions for the following year, which were a pick up in cross-border M&A, and edtech going mainstream. Indeed, with three major exits announced these past few weeks — NetDragon buying Edmodo for US$137.5 million, Adecco buying General Assembly for $413 million, and finally Pluralsight filing for their IPO — this marks an exciting milestone for the evolution of an ecosystem we’ve so passionately played a role in building. So, I figured this would be a good time to pause, summarize what we’ve learned so far, and speculate on where we might be going next.

Here are 3 key lessons we’ve learned so far:

1. Investing early makes a big difference

I’ve talked to a lot of corporates and investors who believe that edtech is risky, so instead of investing in a portfolio of early stage companies, they’d rather make direct investments in later stage startups that have “proven” their business model. However, what recent exits have made clear is that the stage and the terms at which you invest make a big difference for your returns.

To quote one of the greatest hockey players of all time, Wayne Gretzky, “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Especially when it comes to edtech, the market is rapidly growing and also rapidly evolving. That means investing in the right team at the early stage pays off.

For example, General Assembly’s Series A post-money valuation was US$20 million. For us early stakeholders, a US$413 million exit is a huge win. However, later stage investors are facing much less impressive returns. Yes, investing early is risky and the total capital deployed is smaller, but the return profile is significantly better.

2. A cross-border strategy pays off

All three of these companies had international strategies that directly contributed to their growth as well as their exit profiles.

Pluralsight expanded aggressively internationally, beating competitors to the punch by localizing their offerings and selling courses in places like India. This helped diversify their revenue base, solidify a larger overall market size, and create a stickier brand. Surely this led to their options for liquidity and contributed to their recent S-1 filing.

Similarly, General Assembly expanded early on into London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Sydney. Not only did this contribute to a strong, global brand that differentiated versus competitors, but also led to the development of strategic, international corporate relationships with customers and partners like Switzerland-based Adecco.

Edmodo had boots on the ground in Asia from very early on, and welcomed investors from Singapore and Japan into their later rounds of funding. NetDragon, based in China, ultimately acquired them, so there is little doubt that their presence in Asia had an impact on their ultimate exit.

3. Cross-sector partnerships are the most fruitful

Many edtech founders believe that their ideal partners are traditional education companies. Similarly, many traditional education companies are only looking to invest in and partner with startups in edtech. We have always been of the view that creativity is a key ingredient for scale, and the isolation of the edtech sector will only hinder its growth.

Indeed, through our experience as entrepreneurs, operators, and VCs, it is clear that the most productive partnerships are cross-industry. If you work with a partner not in the traditional education business, you are creating new possibilities for both of you. This means you are not competing for the same customer base, but instead opening up new customer segments for both parties. Consequently you are more like to have an open, collaborative partnership. It also means the multiples on your acquisition are likely going to be higher, as they represent completely new revenue streams and business lines for your new partner.

NetDragon is a China-based gaming company, and though Edmodo’s ultimate acquisition price may seem low compared to their later rounds of funding, the multiple on their revenue base is remarkable. Similarly for General Assembly, Adecco is a Switzerland-based HR/staffing firm, and not a traditional education business. At first glance, these aren’t the most logical partnerships, but they certainly have proven to be rewarding.

So, now that edtech is going cross-border, and cross-sector, you might be asking yourself… what’s next? Here’s what I think.

Here’s why education is eating the world

In 2011, Marc Andreessen made a splash by declaring that “software is eating the world.” In 2018, as a direct result of that assertion, education is eating the world. Back in the early days of the internet, and even when Marc first published his post, technology companies were considered to be a separate sector. This was largely due to the fact that barriers to integrating technology into your core business were high. However, as technology became cheaper and more advanced, billions of people came online via their mobile phones, demand for online services exploded, and software made its way into every business model. Today, no matter what your core product is — healthcare, financial, utilities, energy — there is a technology component. Every company, in some form, is a technology company.

Similar to the evolution of the technology sector, there will be a day in the near future when education is no longer a separate sector, but instead a layer that sits on top of every type of business. You see, every company is a technology company, and therefore every business is becoming a technology business. As a direct result, every job is a technology job. Technology is evolving at an exponential rate. Jobs and businesses have not only been transformed, but they are continuing to change at a rate faster than ever before. This requires companies to create a process for constant adaptation in order to remain competitive, productive, and profitable. (And this is precisely why Adecco, an HR/staffing firm, sees value in acquiring a business like General Assembly.) Every company must, in some form, become an education company.

At an individual level, since jobs are evolving so quickly, regular retraining is necessary. As a result, education can no longer remain a distinct portion of our early years. Instead, it must be integrated across all aspects of our lives and over the course of an entire lifetime. Day in and day out, we must constantly be learning if we are to remain competitive and productive members of society. Hell, given the recent scandals with cybersecurity and data privacy, we have to constantly be learning if we want to simply avoid being manipulated or hacked.

Given our education system has been largely unchanged for hundreds of years, the decentralization and globalization of education is a significant cultural shift that will take time to play out. I still meet people who assume “education” means K-12. However, there are early signs that this perception is changing. We’re already seeing cracks in the demand for tertiary degrees, increasing acceptance of vocational training programs, and a more informed, globally mobile student base. Instead of continuing to question whether or not edtech is a sizable opportunity, let’s seek to understand how technology is transforming businesses, jobs, and individuals’ lives worldwide, and what that means for how we will all need to adapt to that reality.

That’s what edtech is really about, and that’s why at Fresco, we’re putting our money toward investing in technology not just for education, but also the future of work, and healthcare. If we embrace a constant state of learning, then we will not only be able to keep up with how technology is inevitably disrupting every aspect of our lives, but we can also empower the next generation of innovative solutions to the world’s biggest problems.


Education is eating the world was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Look What I Found in Siberia

By Stephen Forte,
Presenting in Yakutsk

Last weekend I traveled about 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Siberia to the city of to Yakutsk. Yakutsk is a city of about 250,000 people and is pretty remote; it is about a 7 hour flight from Moscow, mostly over thousands of miles of snow and ice. Typically it gets to -40C and is usually in the news for being the coldest place on Earth (or Mars). Not the place you would expect to find a thriving startup ecosystem.

Fresco came to Siberia to visit the local startup and tech ecosystem. The local Venture Company and government invited Fresco Capital to host a hackathon, startup pitch event, and an ecosystem lecture series. We spent a lot of time in the local ecosystem and learned a lot of amazing things.

Ministry of Investment and Enterprise

Our first stop was a meeting with Anton Safronov, Minister of Investment and Enterprise for the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) where Yakutsk is the capital city. Anton was an impressive guy, in his mid 30s, international (undergrad at Harvard, masters at MIT), and motivated to bring the digital economy to Siberia. The province is the size of India, has only 1 million people, but has tremendous natural resources like diamonds, gold, natural gas, and oil. They don’t need any help in those industries and if you want a mining or construction job, Yakutia is your place.

The challenge is to diversify and build the tech ecosystem. Anton is the right person for that job as he is the one who got the original ecosystem players to attend the MIT REAP program where they all met me last year. Anton also came to the opening of the hackathon.

The Hackathon

Siberia Hackathon

The hackathon was themed “Think Global” and had over 100 people participate. We had great diversity with 25% of the participants being women (and two all-female teams) with some people flying in from all over the region to participate.

The results were amazing. A total of 13 teams presented for the judges (going for the $1000 prize) and most played to the strengths of the Yakutia region while looking for a global appeal. The winner was a blockchain based distributed messenger service as Telegram has been in a dispute with the Russian government. Most projects were ambitious and some standouts were social media tools to manage comments on large sites, social media projects around engagement, travel, VR, and EdTech. As the largest tech employer in town is a very successful gaming company, there were a few impressive game teams as well.

Local Startups

Alexey Ushnisky, CEO of MyTona

Speaking of games, the largest and most successful tech company in town is MyTona, a mobile gaming company. MyTona was founded in 2012 by twin brothers Alexey and Afanasey Ushnisky. MyTona’s top games The Secret Society and Seekers Notes have more than 50 million downloads and are consistently in the top 20 grossing iOS games worldwide. We visited their office and they have over 300 employees building the games right in the middle of Siberia! MyTona could not find enough game developers in Siberia, so they train them after hiring them. A supporter of the local ecosystem, it also tells you that you can build a high performing startup anywhere.

We also visited the offices InDriver, a peer to peer ride sharing app also based in Yakutsk. Different than Uber insofar as most drivers are everyday drivers looking to pick up someone to carpool and make a little extra money. They compete head on with the big players in Russia and Central Asia and serve over 10 million rides a day. They too have about 300 employees in Yakutsk and recently closed a Series A.

We also had a startup pitch event where we met 10 local startups as well as visited Technopark, the IT park, co-work space, and incubator all rolled into one. All of the successful local startups we saw were ones that played to the strengths of Yakutsk but were focused globally. A lot of bio-tech (many unique plants and animals are nearby), export (tea and legal Mammoth bones), and cool things like vertical farming and fishing, as well as cooking flour made from fish bone. The startups are all early stage, but most have a clear path to try to get to the level of success of MyTona and InDriver.

We rounded out our time by visiting several ecosystem partners including a local bank (doing some innovative stuff), the Arctic Innovation Center, and the Higher School of Innovation Management (a corporate training center and host of several of our events.)

Fun

Castle Black

Of course we couldn’t go to Siberia and not have a little fun in the ice and snow. The organizers took us out to the Lena Pillars Nature Park, or the place the Game of Thrones producers got inspiration for “The Wall.” To get there we had to drive for about 3 hours on a winter ice road on a frozen river. After we arrived we hiked up about an hour to the top and took in the scenery. Of course it was about -25C/-13F and snowing. But it was worth it.

Our trip to Siberia was full of surprises. There is a lot going on in ecosystems around the world and Siberia is no different. The tech ecosystem in Yakutsk is proof that you can build great global startups anywhere.


Look What I Found in Siberia was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.