A song from the Disney film Frozen is blaring in the background. Vinnie Lauria and I are speaking about the nuts and bolts of investment, and his four-year-old daughter Elsa has decided to join the conversation. His gentle tones and humour-filled asides to her belie the fact that this is a man with the power to make or break dozens of companies.
In its work with 25 startups across seven countries, Golden Gate Ventures has helped propel its portfolio companies to new levels—even unicorn status. This is not a fund you want to be turned down by.
Lauria clearly spends a lot of time making the decision about whether to take a relationship further. “For me, the number one part of my job is spending a lot of time with the CEOs,” he says, over Elsa’s dulcet tones. “I always ask about background, and why they are doing this: I always spend about half an hour on that topic alone. Mostly I want to know what makes you unique—I try to get to the heart of that—and then work out if they have a longer-term drive."
Here's what Lauria considers when weighing up whether to invest or to pass on an opportunity.
1. A Good Partnership
Lauria likes companies that have more than one founder. Ideally, one “geeky tech founder” and one business-savvy whizz-kid.
“To me that’s a really great pairing,” he says. “In a perfect world, you’d add someone really creative as well, as that adds real magic. But mostly you need someone a little crazy and techy, who sees opportunities before their times, and a classic entrepreneur. Often I find the people who come up with the incredible ideas are like artists—they need another person to buy into their idea and make it a business. As a financial investor, I need to know that there is someone else willing to go on their journey with them. I’m not wild about having an old-school CEO who makes all the decisions; I like partnerships and businesses that are dynamic and progressive.”