Introducing Nova Ventures: Building the global future of the year 2030

We are excited to announce a new type of seed stage venture firm and startup studio based in NYC dedicated to one core belief:

Building high-impact technology businesses to solve the world’s toughest problems for a better future.

Here’s our manifesto:

I was lucky enough to grow up as a kid in the 90s. In those days, I was completely mesmerized by space and all it represented, a challenging pursuit that pushed the boundaries of innovating technologies, how it attracted superhuman minds of the highest order to be fearless in solving absolutely insane problems. In many ways, one can argue it was the golden age for space exploration and innovation.

Growing up in the 90s, I considered myself fortunate to grow up with boy bands, pokemon, and witness Michael Jordan’s epic career come to a close. Although I considered them heroes, the people and events that truly inspired me and kept my mind occupied during those days were astronauts Norm Thagard and Shannon Lucid, the Mars Pathfinder and the development of the international space station all before I was 10 years old.

What compelled me so much in each of these missions was the united interest from what seemed like everyone in the world, tuning into radio and television sets to watch what a team of the smartest people were doing next and the type of impact they could have.

I thought to myself even then that I wanted to be able to create that type of impact for the world and inspire others to work on ambitious problems that not only have a meaning for our future, but actually build the future we want to live in.

Setting the stage

We are living in a truly unprecedented time in a highly dynamic world of swirling market forces we’ve never seen before. As we go through them make no mistake, these market forces are not US centric. These market forces are components of a global phenomenon.

1. Rapid Urbanization rates

Cities are the actual centers of economic development. In the last decade, high urbanization rates are adding a million people to cities every week, which over time puts tremendous strain on the resources of cities when it comes to the supply and demand of resources, how businesses and people interact with and consume products and services and utilize assets, how people are educated, find opportunities, and live.

  • Within countries and globally, cities are the biggest contributor to GDP, and today, the 300 largest cities in the world are responsible for roughly half of global GDP.
  • 2/3 of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050
  • Each 20% increase in a country’s urbanization rate will double the income per person.

Urbanization drives higher productivity and innovation as urban settings benefit from economies of scale by bringing together factors of production, reducing transaction costs, and attracting skilled workers.

2. Global Digital Economies are growing at unprecedented rates

  • 3.2 Billion global internet users
  • 2 Billion of global internet users are from growth markets

The increase in internet penetration and the proliferation of low-cost smartphones creates a seismic shift in the way citizens in growth markets consume content. This has fueled an enormous acceleration potential across e-commerce, digital health, fintech and B2B software.

3. Growth Markets are shaped by a young and aspirational population

Growth markets are home to:

  • 90% of the world’s population under 30
  • Carrying a median age of 27

When it comes to disruptive technologies, the millennial generation is entrepreneurial, adaptable and is paving the way for new consumption trends.

Deriving core investment themes

Here at Nova, we don’t believe in investing and building products in sectors, but rather in themes. We’ve identified problems and issues we care about that need solving and are ready and willing to allocate our financial and human capital to execute on them.

We believe in the need to define the future from the future’s perspective to dictate today’s path forward.

Naturally, the questions we asked ourselves are:

  • What will the world look like in the year 2030?
  • What will cities look like?
  • How will cities operate?
  • How will people live?
  • How will people consume products and services?
  • How will businesses and governments attempt to meet the staggering growth of people within cities?
  • What technologies will be necessary to serve this heightened demand, in a unilaterally efficient and systematic way?
Given these thoughts what technology businesses can we help build today to manifest that vision?

Our investment and building themes

  • Sharing economies: As a society, inefficiencies in capacity and asset utilization will be disrupted to near perfect optimization through software and internet. This has been seen in the consumer side like AirBnB, Uber, Lyft, but is still relatively nascent on the enterprise side.
  • Large B2C and B2B marketplaces yet to be built: There will be a marketplace for every vertical of buyers and sellers both on the B2C side and on the B2B side globally.
  • Personalized medicine and biotechnology: Information technology will facilitate healthcare and biotechnology to become increasingly tailored to individual patients.
  • Empowering Manufacturing and supply chains: Machine learning and artificial intelligence will empower the manufacturing sector to produce at an order of magnitude faster, leaner and smarter to meet the demands of a highly urbanized and growing consumer base.
  • Energy and water: Growing urbanization rates will put the highest strain on energy consumption in global history, priming opportunities for innovation in energy storage and distribution, smart ecosystems of real time data analytics, to near-perfect supply and demand dynamics.
  • Transportation and Logistics: Transportation and logistics technology will form the bedrock for a city’s capacity to sustain a population, thrive and grow. But will also democratize and provide fluidity for a growing transient society.
  • Space Technology Innovation: Space technology innovation costs have dramatically decreased catalyzed in large part to new era space companies making it cheaper to send payloads up to space. Space technology will empower us to learn more about our world than ever before and deliver internet and content to the masses in a way government infrastructure never could.
  • Virtual Reality: We strongly believe VR will be the next platform for content consumption. We even have our own HTC Vive in our office which we play with from time to time. We’re very excited about VR’s application in the enterprise, particularly in the form of tools that empower “crea and builders” to rapidly prototype and involve stakeholders in an immersive experience i.e. architecture, industrial design, urban planning, real estate.

Our Portfolio

We are humbled to have an amazing collection of startups in our portfolio with some of the most ambitious founders I’ve ever met at their helms. Very excited to be backing:

Astranis:

Astranis is building small, low-cost telecommunications satellites for telecom. Internet is the world’s greatest unilateral equalizer. It gives billions access to information and education. Their mission is to help bring the 4 billion people online who live without internet. And to pull it off they are reinventing 30 GHz radios in space using SDRs.

Very excited and proud to be investors alongside our friends at Lux Capital, the BoxGroup, AME Cloud Ventures, Felicis Ventures, CrunchFund, Liquid2Ventures, Rising Tide Fund, Zal Bilimoria from Andreessen Horowitz, Fifty Years VC, and many other great angel investors.

Astranis are hiring! Got it what it takes to join them on their mission? They are hiring aerospace, mechanical, and electrical engineers! No prior space experience needed, you just need to enjoy getting your hands dirty with real hardware and be ok with struggling to do things that seem impossibly hard.

Flow Labs:

Flow labs is focused on building a true smart water grid. In the status quo, property managers or owners are aware of how much water is consumed on a macro level, but have no idea what their water consumption is on a micro level (per shower, per sink, per toilet, etc). With water costs rapidly rising, global fresh water supply decreasing, property managers are weary to keep a close eye on costs. More importantly, in the frequent events of pipe breaks and leaks, property managers most of the time aren’t even aware when there is one… and don’t end up identifying these leaks until weeks later when large amounts of water has already been lost and property damage realized. In fact, insurance companies’ 2nd largest cost are payouts for water damage which Flow Labs is addressing through real-time analytics via their smart meters. We are very excited to be supporting their mission, and what their success means for the world — a conscious data driven change of water consumption behavior across properties, saving money for every stakeholder involved.

We are stoked to be investors alongside our friends at Social Capital, Cyan Banister at Founders Fund, jason Calacanis, along with a myriad of deeply passionate angel investors.

Skedaddle:

Skedaddle is applying the sharing economy to busses by crowdsourcing demand to a very fragmented bus industry. Doing so, Skedaddle has built a dynamic transportation system to meet the needs of urban mass transit more specifically applicable for mid-to-long distances. As we think about the future of cities, and how we can provide logistics for masses of people in the most customized but efficient way, we’re very excited about Skedaddle’s role in building the underlying foundation.

Skedaddle is hiring! Looking for a rockstar customer experience manager that can also wear a product manager’s hat based in their Boston office.

EquipmentShare:

We love getting involved in large industries that haven’t been touched by technology in a very long time, and EquipmentShare definetely fits that mold. EquipmentShare is a B2B sharing economy for construction equipment (AirBnB for construction equipment). The construction equipment rental industry is massive (a $40B a year industry). On the supply side, equipment fleet managers own droves of assets that are underutilized. On the demand side, developers and construction managers would often times spend lots of time and money buying new equipment or dealing with the offline, rudimentary, and opaque process of renting from contractors. Why go through this when you can just share, thus allowing renters vetted access to quality equipment while generating revenue streams for the equipment owner. The entire experience is seamless as EquipmentShare handles the logistics of moving around the equipment as it switches hands. The idea of leveraging collaborative consumption to foster a new way of creating fluidity and optimization of asset utilization is instrumental of building the smart cities of the world.

Very excited to be supporting this company with Romulus Capital, Ashton Kutcher, Y Combinator, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Steelhead Ventures,

Why Nova Ventures

Over the last few years, it seems the tech community has dropped the ball somewhat. We’re seeing incremental innovations rather than inspiring leap frogs. Focusing on problems for the 1% or on delivering brownies to your door a little bit faster instead of fearlessly tackling ambitious problems. It’s been disappointing to see superstar people lend their minds and work ethic to “copycat” businesses that offer only slight incremental value over the market when they could be doing the world, its industries, and its people a huge service by focusing on impact.

Impact is our north star and it is what we stand for. We believe that you don’t have to choose between impact and financial success. We fundamentally believe one can achieve both. We’re on a journey to prove it.

Nova Ventures:

Just like how a star, like our sun, provides a consistent stream of energy for the planets in its solar system — we view Nova Ventures as the center of energy and resources operating 24/7 to seed, support, and grow our portfolio companies and the companies we build.

Average check size per deal: $25k-$100K

We look to be making 20 more investments over the next 2 years.

Nova Labs

Nova Labs, a subsidiary of Nova Ventures, is our startup studio where we’ll be taking full advantage of our collective product development experiences and international understanding and relationships. We identify large problems that need solving in growth markets around the world where we have experience and relationships in, involve stakeholders early and often, be very user-focused and test-driven in our product development process, all in the effort to build large companies with large impacts.

Who

Our team is made up of scrappy, hard-working, hustlers and builders with a deep passion to solve big problems and have a large impact on the world. We have humble beginnings, a consistent demonstrated ability to get stuff done, and a set of unique experiences that facilitate cognitive diversity in the way we think about problems, solutions and the world.

David Sun: Co-Founder and Managing Partner

David grew up with modest means in a small village in Northern mainland China. After graduating from college, David went from starting his career in the tire manufacturing industry at the renowned Triangle Group doing back-breaking work moving cargo in assembly lines to founding his own vertically integrated tire company called Aufine based in China. Under his innovative leadership as CEO, Aufine is one of the largest suppliers of tires globally (exporting to over 120 countries around the world) and generates over $120M in annual revenue.

Rayyan Islam: Co-Founder and Managing Partner

My name is Rayyan and I’m a 25-year-old US born first-generation Pakistani and Bengali Muslim American. I started my career as an entrepreneur helping build a consumer electronics startup in the tobacco space to over $12M in annual revenue. I had spent time in the emerging markets practice at Deloitte Consulting helping scale companies in the Middle East and Africa before executing multi-million M&A deals in the technology, manufacturing, and infrastructure industries during my time in investment banking at Deloitte Corporate Finance. After feeling like I lost my soul in the corporate world, I went back to what I loved doing most, building product. I worked as a lead product manager at startups like Beacon, Spotify, Digitz, and Pose. Prior to Nova, I was fortunate to have worked as a Venture Capital Associate at Romulus Capital helping source and work with companies like EquipmentShare, Placester, Cohealo, Beacon and ClassPass under two of the best partners and mentors I could have ever had in Krishna Gupta and Neil Chedda. Before Romulus, I worked at 406 Ventures helping make Series A and Series B investments in early stage enterprise software companies under Graham Brooks, a fantastic partner whose been a great mentor to me.

Our team:

Everyone on our team is a product-focused person: founders, product managers, and engineers with a wide array of backgrounds and experiences and waves of thinking. We prize cognitive diversity and empathy in our people and the people we work with. We assign value to results not pedigree. We question ideas not people, nor their motives. Our passion and joy comes from the creative, strategic, and intellectual process of building products that solve problems to building companies that have a large and lasting positive impact on the world. Special shout outs and gratitude to Drew Thomas and Matt Henderson for joining us on our journey.

We’d love to hear from you.

If this resonates with you, please reach out and shoot us a note. We look forward to hearing from you.

Email: rayyan@novaventures.io