Our team recently invested in the Apex.AI Series A, and we are extremely excited to work with Jan Becker and the Apex.AI team to make autonomous driving software safer and better.
We first met Jan over a year ago, but we missed investing in the company’s seed round. Although we did not invest at that time, we stayed in touch with Jan and met several times over the course of a year before ultimately investing in the next round. In hindsight, I am glad we both put in the effort to stay in touch for a number of reasons:
Develop a relationship
Investment rounds move fast, and the process can become transactional. We often have just a couple weeks to get to know a team and make an investment decision. We try to gather information through references and meetings, but there is a lot of guesswork involved. Spending a year getting to know each other is completely different. We don’t have to guess because we already know what it’s like to work together. This works on both sides; it can be hard to tell investors apart when you don’t have the time to get to know them.
Build credibility with investors
Founders make a lot of promises when they pitch, and part of their job is to paint a compelling picture of what they will accomplish in the future. They naturally want investors to believe their companies will be wildly successful. But making something out of nothing is hard, and quite often milestones end up taking longer than expected. When we hear a pitch, we are getting just a single snapshot of the plan, and it is hard to tell what the actual pace of progress will be. If we have the chance to track a founder over time, though, we can fairly quickly see if they live up to their projections and milestones. We watched Apex consistently hit these over time, which did a great deal to build our conviction that they are a team worth betting on.
Get free help
As a not-yet-investor, I am extremely motivated to provide value. I am trying to reserve a seat in a future round, and I will put in effort to make this happen. While it’s hard to prove the value we can provide in a matter of weeks (though we try to do this), over the course of a year, the help provided (or lack thereof) should speak for itself. You certainly don’t want to take advantage of investors, but a little help can be a win-win. On my end, I can also say that I learned a lot from spending time with Apex. The time was well spent in and of itself.
Avoid a “fire drill”
By the time the Apex Series A came together, a number of decisions needed to be made on a very short timeline. We had to make a fast investment decision, and they had to decide whether to fit us in the round when allocation got tight. If we hadn’t built a strong foundation, the process would have felt very rushed, and the outcome might have been different (for example, we are not experts in autonomous driving and the extra time to get comfortable was a big help). We also were able to get an extra Affiliate into the round at the 11th hour because we had built up credit with Jan over time.
I am glad that we stayed in touch—and built a relationship—rather than waiting for the next opportunity for a transaction!
More about Apex:
Apex.AI was founded in 2017 in Palo Alto to build robust, reliable, safe, secure, and certified software for autonomous mobility systems.
Apex.OS is a runtime software environment, which is built on ROS 2 (Robot Operating System) and provides a production-grade safety-certified realtime framework for developing safe and secure applications.
Apex.Autonomy provides functional building blocks for autonomous vehicles on top of Apex.OS, such as libraries for 3D perception, localization and planning.