From Startup Failure to Venture Capital Success - Azriel Nicdao’s Journey
Azriel Nicdao otherwise known as (A.Z.) who is a junior investor in the Venture Capital industry. A.Z. believes that entrepreneurship empowers economies, connects communities, and empowers individuals to do the unthinkable.
A.Z. is a previous founder in the financial technology space and has a trackrecord of supporting founders even at the earliest stages. He is wrapping up his undergraduate studies at Sacramento State studying Management Information Systems, he’ll graduate in Spring 2023. He hopes to find a fulltime position in venture capital after graduation.
He currently serves as a Venture Partner at Mech Ventures where they invest in the future of pop culture. Their fund is industry agnostic with a focus on consumer companies building in: musictech, the creator economy, gaming/esports, automation, Web3, mobile/social, and more.
Thank you so much for joining us!
How did you break into tech investing?
I was a failed founder who made all the mistakes someone could when trying to scale a startup. After that, I was left to my own devices to figure out how I could still stay involved in the startup space.
After some self reflection I realized that Venture Capital would allow me to support founders and help bring their visions to life. It was a vehicle that allowed me to walk through the fire with founders while allowing myself to experience the financial upside of a successful startup.
After relentlessly cold emailing and applying for different internships I was able to spend the Summer of 2022 learning the fundamentals of VC with Impact Venture Capital and Mech Ventures’ internship programs. After the work that I did with Mech Ventures, they decided to keep me on the team part-time while I finish my studies.
What is it that excites you about investing?
The most exciting thing about investing is the chase of finding the smartest and most talented builders in the world. The deep connection of founder & investor varies across the board, but I truly believe that once investors invest into a founder they form a commitment to help bring their vision to fruition, that is by far the most exciting feeling.
Alongside with this excitement for supporting founders, venture capital is a game of constant learning and self study. This drives me everyday to dive into rabbit holes to equip myself with knowledge that is helpful to my team, but especially when working with founders.
What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to finding the “right deals”?
Not having the right connections or relationships can be the biggest challenge when trying to find the “right deals”. I learned this pretty quickly as someone who was tasked with sourcing deals in my first internship. I’ve come to learn that most investors and funds have created outbound and inbound systems to attract deal flow. The next step in this journey of breaking into venture fulltime will be focusing on creating outbound systems to build connections for deal flow and to create useful content for founders and investors alike to provide an inbound strategy for deal flow.
This was frustrating at first, but I’ve come to understand that it’s all apart of the game and that there will always be the “right deals” out there, you just have to equip yourself with the right systems to receive the right quantity and quality of deals. Additionally, you need the right “spidey-sense” to understand which deals are right for you and which ones aren’t.
What major trends do you expect to see in technology innovation over the next 5 years that excites you?
Some major trends that I see in the next five years is the explosion of founders continuing to build in generative technology. Whether this is the further proliferation of text to image, text to video, and etc. (which is already here) or the explosion of new applications like text to sound for generating songs/ melodies for artists and text to product companies that allow users to create fully functional products generated through AI.
I believe that this space similar to Web3 will have lots of players but only a handful of winners.
Additionally, I still stand firm on decentralization and Web3’s vision for what the world could look like, but I see blockchain technology being applied first in environments that don’t include exposure to risk for the end user compared to the giant blunders that have occurred so far in the space.
As we’ve seen with recent Web3 disasters, consumers won’t change their skepticism until Web3 education to the consumer improves and Web3 products feel frictionless and outshine their existing alternatives. In the next 5 years, I believe that due to Web3 sentiment being at an all time low, founders will be allowed to” put their heads down” and build products that will shift perceptions and unlock the vision of a more decentralized society.
If you had to share, “words of wisdom,” with a Founder who’s about to start their own startup, what would they be?
My words of wisdom are to build something that people truly want/ need. Business models can be adjusted and code can be added/ changed.
But if no one wants what you’re building, then why build it?
Run lean and test your assumptions before committing to building something. As Steve Blank famously said, “ There are no facts inside the building so get the hell outside.”
Validate your assumptions by engaging with your users but note that you should balance that with trusting your long term vision. Startups are hard, but that’s what makes them awesome.
This was very insightful. Thank you so much for joining us!