Getting in early is what drives Kamran Ansari, a venture capitalist and board partner at Greycroft, who led the firm’s early investment in Venmo.
Working with a great founder and helping the team build from the ground up are among the criteria required to receive an investment from Ansari and his team at Greycroft. To be involved in a company that goes from a handful of employees to multiple hundred of workers and offices is what investing is all about for the investor.
Ansari has always been interested in technology and investing. Upon graduating with an MBA from Stanford University, his first job was with at a venture fund. He consulted My Yearbook, a social networking company that reconnects high school students and helped rebrand the company Meet Me and take it public. He joined Greycroft in 2012 and in the past seven years has led the fund’s investments in Azimo, Boxed Wholesale, Fortumo, and Recurly. He has also driven Greycroft’s seed investments in Bread, Highlight, Cord and Dasher.
His biggest claim to fame is being an early investor in Venmo, the peer-to-peer payment app that was acquired by Braintree and subsequently sold to PayPal. That investment drove the firm to bet on more digital payment startups including Azimo, Fortuno and more recently Acorns, the mobile trading app. He is now setting his sights in other areas of the fintech market, telling Benzinga in a recent podcast that the mortgage industry is one area that hasn’t seen much in the way of innovation yet. He pointed to the mortgage application as one example. It still remains complicated and is an area that is ripe for disruption. “That's a space that I'm excited about and looking for interesting concepts and have met with a few companies in that domain,” he said in the podcast.
But acting as an investor isn’t Ansari’s only day-to-day role. In addition to Greycrof, he leads corporate development at Pinterest, the image shopping app that recently went public.
When it comes to finding new startups to invest in, Ansari said he wants to work with companies that have raised funding and want him to be involved in the decision making. He doesn’t want to write a $100,000 check and interact with the company only on a quarterly or annual basis.
He’s also looking for companies that have CEOs who have relevant experience in the industry it is trying to serve. After all the ones in the trenches can accurately identify the pain points and how to solve them. He also wants to work with the CEOs who can maintain an entrepreneurial spirit even if the company is commanding a billion-dollar valuation. “I think the best companies have managed to maintain a scrappy entrepreneurial nature even if they've scaled, which enables the smartest and best people to feel like they can actually have an impact as opposed to feeling held back,” Ansari said in the podcast.