We are the Champions Of The Underdog
It goes without saying that venture investing is a long game and you never know how good you are until years down the line. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved with companies founded by incredible people; companies like Careem, Property Finder, Kitopi, SWVL, Fresha, MaxAB, Marti, Bayzat, Proximie, and so many more.
I had my break into venture capital in 2005. I was just 23. I had barely any work experience (I had been a software engineer for just over a year) and didn’t even know what venture capital was. How did that happen? I was lucky. I had a mentor who gave first; he saw something in me that I didn’t see, and he believed in me when very few did. That moment and that mentor changed my life and my future forever. It’s this impetus that drives me each day with every entrepreneur I meet, and I’ve been investing and partnering with founders ever since.
Recently, after leaving BECO, I’ve spent time pondering the question: if I had to recreate another VC, what would it look like? What would it stand for? How would it operate? All questions that have taken me on journeys of discovery and built a new level of conviction for my next venture. I believe to be a good VC you must start by knowing yourself. Unless you really know yourself — your motivations, biases, predispositions, ego drivers — it’s difficult to be the best adviser and supporter of your founders. And with that, the philosophy of the Champions Of The Underdog (COTU Ventures) was born.
Being a Champion Of The Underdog is a common expression, yet to us being a Champion Of The Underdog is a behavior; a philosophy that encompasses values and principles that we believe allow you to truly be a better partner to entrepreneurs (more on that later), a better contributor to the world, and a role model for the next generation. This is about being at the service of others; stripping out the ego and knowing that we are all on our own life journeys that when combined together, form part of a bigger mission; a higher purpose. This can only happen when we trust in ourselves and the people around us.
Between an investor and a founder, this can manifest itself in many ways, some of them include:
…allowing for safe conversations without judgment, shaming or blaming
…being honest and candid even when that’s the hardest thing to do
…giving first and trusting first, encouraging them to be open and transparent with their ideas, fears, failures
…challenging them through thoughtful and often difficult questions around themselves, their business and its future
…being present and practicing active listening
…pushing them to be better and believing in them at the face of fear and uncertainty
…having tough conversations that matter
…respecting them as equal partners and respecting the journey that they are on
…being empathetic and seeing them for their true selves
We are convinced that this philosophy will not only create more alignment and a more valued relationship, but it will also generate better financial and emotional outcomes for all, while touching other people’s lives for the better.
It sounds simple, but this only happens when you let go of your pride and you believe in these daring entrepreneurs at the earliest, loneliest, and most challenging stages of their lives. For it is the Underdog that makes the biggest change in the world, and they often get overlooked. They are the most courageous, determined, and persistent and we need to recognize them and support them in their journeys in any way we can.
Let’s also not forget about our region, the Middle East. One that has gone through decades of war and conflict, having its borders remapped countless of times. One that has a young population of curious, determined, driven and courageous minds looking for a better life for themselves and their families, and one that is now at the cusp of a major transformational change. The Middle East is an Underdog in itself, where people and nations are skeptical of its potential and want to see it fail, where most people are disbelieving that change will come, and where politics and manipulation are ever-present. But, our time is now. Let those naysayers be our driving force for change. Because change will happen. With patience and persistence, it will happen. With openness, unity and opportunity, it will happen.
We all need to believe in those that very few people do, and we need to participate in this transformation for our future generations to have the opportunity for a better life and a brighter future ahead.
We all need to become Champions Of The Underdog.