There is no playbook. That’s the sober observation of Shamin Rostami Walsh in this age of COVID-19. No matter who you are or what your experience is, there’s little that can prepare you for a full-blown global pandemic.
The same might be said for starting a business from scratch. Sure, there is a myriad of resources you can tap into for entrepreneurial advice, but at the end of the day, true innovation requires whole new ways of thinking. You’re writing the playbook as you go.
As managing director of BAM Ventures with close to 15 years of active investor experience and tons of successful startups under her belt, Shamin has seen her fair share of great ideas. We interviewed her to find out what advice she has for those who truly want to build something that matters.
LA Startups (LAS): What was the one big problem you knew you had to solve today when you got out of bed? And what did you do?
Shamin Rostami Walsh (SRW): We’re navigating such uncertain times with COVID-19, where no one, no matter what experience they’ve had or what they’ve been through, knows the exact playbook. It’s so easy to feel isolated that I stay up at night thinking about how we can make our founders feel supported and motivated. I personally regularly check in with each of our founders and also created a Slack group for them to connect with each other, so they know they are not going through this alone.
LAS: What is your VC Firm providing that is unique to market and to new businesses?
SRW: Our team has built billion-dollar businesses across the verticals that we invest in, and we remain active in continuing to incubate and develop new ideas that have helped us resonate with and remain relevant to our founders. We’ve been there before, so I think founders feel like they can be more transparent and communicate freely with us because we are cognizant that the journey is not vertically linear. I also think it helps that we stay so active developing and incubating ideas, because the tactical approaches that worked in scaling a business 10 or 20 years ago may not translate as effectively in today’s environment.
LAS: Tell us why you are so passionate about providing this service to startups?
SRW: Our mantra is that we have to love the founder and not hate the idea. For us, ideas by themselves don’t get a company off the ground. So, if we’re going to be in this professional game of venture investing, we really owe it to our founders and our shareholders to make sure that we can help them accelerate the learning curve and solidify their competitive advantage to build something truly relevant.
LAS: What Big Hairy Audacious Goals do you have moving forward?
SRW: We want to build a legacy for Los Angeles and make sure we continue excelling so that there is a BAM Ventures Fund 10 years from now. While we are geographically agnostic, LA is our hometown so our goal is to make sure we don’t miss any great companies being built here — and that we continue our reputation supporting founders so that we can sustain the growth.
LAS: Tell us a good story about how you personally started – maybe one of your early struggles and how you overcame that challenge?
SRW: I had a great experience at the prior fund I worked with, but we had different investment focuses and areas of interest. So, when it came time to raise for our second fund, it was a struggle to decide whether I wanted to leave that security to pursue something else. Leaving behind the known to dive into the unknown is a hard question any entrepreneur grapples with.
Once I made the decision to start on a new path, I zeroed in on starting an early-stage, consumer-focused firm, and that drew interest. The next question was whether to pursue that solo or partner with others. I had known and co-invested with Rich and Brian for years, and I can say I’ve never been happier with the decision to join them as an equal partner. There are a lot of great solo founders and investors out there, but for me, partnering with a group of folks who share my mission and values but also have varied experiences and perspectives on business was the right balance between autonomy and collaboration that I needed.
LAS: What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs who are looking for investment, either private investors or through VC’s?
SRW: Finding the right investor is like a marriage, so just like dating, you should expect a lot of rejection. Take every “no” as an opportunity to learn—and then concentrate on the folks who your vision does resonate with. Do this instead of spending your energy trying to turn every “no” into a “yes.” You should preach to the choir rather than convert an audience.
It’s like that expression: You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.
LAS: If I go to your website right now, what will I find?
SRW: You will get an even fuller sense of our philosophy, team, and portfolio approach. You’ll also see a new content series we’ve created called BAM Voices—essentially a platform to amplify our founders’ voices, so people can hear the good, bad, and ugly of building a business straight from the source.
LAS: Some highlighted companies in the BAM Ventures Portfolio include:
- Honey: Honey searches the Internet for the best prices, and recently was acquired by PayPal for a reported $4 billion.
- NerdWallet: This company helps ‘the rest of us’ make the right money decisions, and was started by entrepreneur Tim Chen for a mere $800. Today, it is worth $500M+.
- Away: Away has turned boring luggage into a swank fashion accessory. After raising $100M in 2019, the company is now worth a reported $1.4 billion. With a B.