#8 questions with Vibranium.VC Founder and GP Zamir Shukho
Let’s talk about inspiration, leadership, luck, and hard work. These are basic elements of every entrepreneur. And we know what we are talking about. We appreciate that our fund has two sides — venture and entrepreneurial, which help us build strong communication not only with our portfolio companies but also with other startups in the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem.
#1. Could you share more about your journey as a serial entrepreneur and how it has influenced your approach to venture capital and investments at Vibranium.VC?
Being an entrepreneur is a very challenging task. On one hand, you have the freedom to work for yourself, but on the other hand, you work all the time, and your work-life balance suffers because when it’s your business, you’re always in the state of being the CEO 24/7. So, I had to learn along the way how to balance things out and make sure I develop myself as a professional not only as a CEO or business owner. This balanced approach helped me to identify operational issues in early-stage startups. Having the experience of building companies myself, I can really relate to what founders are going through, especially when they’re looking for product-market fit.
Being this kind of friendly VC sets the stage for a successful collaboration with founders, especially when they have a choice in selecting an investor for their cap table.
#2. What inspired you to establish Vibranium.VC, and what specific areas or industries are you passionate about when it comes to investing in startups?
For many years, I’ve built accelerators, worked with early-stage companies and large enterprises and their potential customers. I’ve witnessed their journey of product development, piloting those products, and helping them scale within these big companies. I soon realized that I wanted to do more because I was engaged and surrounded by so many talented people. Building a venture fund was the next gradual step, providing additional resources and funding to support startups growth. While the short-term strategy involved creating accelerators for large customers and working with them, the long-term strategy was to invest in potential champions and thrive together with them.
#3. What are the key areas or industries that Vibranium.VC is currently focused on for investment, and how do you see this evolving in the future?
We invest in early-stage SaaS companies, focusing on four key verticals. Firstly, productivity software, whether it’s designed for enterprise-grade solutions or SMBs, anything that can help businesses become more efficient, reduce costs, and better engage with their customers through tools like sales and marketing. The second significant vertical is fintech, where there’s a growing need for more secure, efficient, and quick solutions in the financial sector. The growth potential there is remarkable. The third major area is media and entertainment, particularly in content creation. This is especially true with the advent of new generative AI technologies that are fundamentally changing the way things are created. We find these three areas to be particularly interesting, and our focus is on investing in software companies within these fields.
#4. What specific qualities and skills do you look for in candidates who are applying for roles at Vibranium.VC?
When it comes to the qualities and skills that we seek in describing our current team, I can say that, first of all, devotion is key. People and their desire to help and support startups are vital. This job is not just about finding the right companies and investing money into them; it’s a long-term journey that we will undertake together with our portfolio companies. We want to ensure that the values we share and the vision for the future are also embraced by the startups we work with. So, when it comes to the team, we are looking for individuals with knowledge and experience in working with early-stage companies. Simultaneously, we seek those with a desire to support these companies beyond just the investment stage and work with them on a long-term basis.
#5. With over 1,250 startups having participated in various programs under your leadership, what key lessons or insights have you gained about the startup ecosystem, and how have they shaped your investment strategy?
Working with numerous startups, I’ve observed a common misconception that the notion of 97% of startups failing is not entirely accurate. In our accelerators, we’ve successfully aided founders in pivoting and discovering better models than they initially envisioned. This has resulted in a 60–70% survival rate among these companies, with around 30% of them securing funding immediately after the accelerator.
We’ve come to realize that it’s entirely possible to alter this dynamic by guiding founders to employ proper methodologies such as customer development, Lean Startup principles, and other essential tools.
This proactive approach prevents the unnecessary depletion of resources and enables founders to identify the genuine needs in the market or the right pain points of the customer, facilitating the creation of a product that aligns with those needs.
Through structured programs with methodologies, we’ve witnessed a significant increase in the success rate of these companies. This involves helping founders better engage with their customer base and the market to discover the elusive product-market fit. This learning has substantially contributed to a more successful startup ecosystem.
Transitioning to our investment strategy, it has empowered us to develop a process within our fund. This process enables us to identify potential risks comprehensively, assessing whether founders possess the necessary skill sets and understand how to achieve product-market fit and effectively run their business, beyond merely building the product.
#6. Could you share any specific success stories or standout achievements of startups that Vibranium.VC has supported?
I think it might be a bit premature to make any “loud” statements since we only began investing in the summer of 2022. However, what I can already note is that two of our portfolio companies that received investment last year are now progressing towards their pre-series A and series A rounds.
Despite the economic downturn, most of our portfolio companies continue to grow and demonstrate positive results.
We believe that a some of them definitely will become champions in the future.
As we move forward, we’re starting to witness interesting deals entering the pipeline, and we will announce some investments in the nearest future. We like to talk about our achievements when they really happen, so I’d suggest giving it a bit more time (smiles).
#7. What do you believe sets Vibranium.VC apart from other venture capital firms, and what unique value do you and your team bring to the startups you support?
I believe what sets us apart is, first of all, that we are still entrepreneurs. I’ve had businesses before, so when we communicate with founders, we speak the same language. We understand their hardships and what they’re going through. Our job is not only to invest but also to help them become more investable. Throughout our due diligence process, we assist and consult with them. We explain things and provide honest feedback about what they need to fix, add, or change for investors or VCs to be interested in supporting them with their money.
When it comes to the first stage of the process and going forward, we have this approach where we are a friendly investor always by your side.
We won’t impose our opinion or push our agenda inside the company; instead, we’ll be there when founders need us. If they need our mentorship, advice, or access to our network, we’ll be available. Whenever we see an opportunity for one or a few of our portfolio companies, we’ll proactively send these opportunities their way. This could include other customers, participation in events, free perks, or pitch competitions. We also offer perks from our partners or introduce them to solid investors that we believe could benefit their current fundraising. We actively help by sending contacts and opportunities their way.
Vibranium.VC joined National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) in October 2023, this will give us an opportunity together with other VCs shape industry-influencing policies and regulations, fostering a more favorable environment for venture capital investment and entrepreneurship.
#8. How do you envision the future of Vibranium.VC in terms of growth and the impact it can make on the startup landscape, both locally and globally?
So, we definitely believe in the long term when it comes to venture strategy and our actions. We’ve been in this business for many years, and we want to keep growing as a fund and as a team. We aim to engage with more partners, build programs like SoftLanding program, and help more founders relocate their companies to the United States, specifically to Silicon Valley, to raise money and build global unicorns.
I think our main role here is to be the right cheerleader for startups; they are the main actors on the scene. We see ourselves as coaches, here to support and help them. By having more resources and growing our second fund soon, fundraising, and building stronger teams and networks, we believe we can provide the right support for our champions.
The goal is to find more common ground, all working for the benefit of the companies, which ultimately benefits customers, the general public, and people globally.
Another personal goal of mine is to bring closer together the positions of VCs and startups. I aim to create a better, smoother dialogue between these two groups, helping them engage better and building bridges between them.