The Common Denominator Among Our 25 Startup Investments

This past week, I took a look at the 25 investments that GAN Ventures has made so far. Mostly, I was just checking to see who I’ve followed up with lately and who else I should reach out to so that I could say hello and see how things were going.

But while looking over the list, I started to wonder if there might be any common denominators across the group. Meaning, I started to ask myself, “Is there any similar trait or feature that each of the companies in the GAN Ventures portfolio share?”

Obviously, the answer should always be “yes,” only because we look for a few specific traits in companies we choose:

  1. We look for very high-growth companies. Meaning, companies that are poised for returns you’d expect in a venture fund.
  2. We look for incredibly authentic and self-aware leaders.
  3. And, we look for founding teams with a clear mission (a guiding “North Star”) and a path they’re marching toward.

But, there’s one thing that really stood out when I looked back over our list of investments to date and it’s the fourth trait we look for when considering companies—

A deep-seated passion for what they’re building.

They all joyfully know more about their product than any person might think is “normal” for anyone to know about anything and they all get a ton of joy from continuing to learn about it.

Take Ambit Analytics. It’s a company whose product helps managers understand the impression their voice has on others. The team at Ambit is obsessed with understanding how our intonation affects other people around us.

Take Western Rise. It’s a performance clothing company. Their founder, Will, is a third-generation “thread master.” He’s obsessed with understanding the materials that make up our clothes. He won’t stop (and probably can’t stop) building great clothes. It’s in his blood.

Or take the team over at Ganaz. Hannah, their founder, is building a company that’s helping farmworkers be connected to farms in a way that’s efficient for both the farmer and the worker. She has a deep-seated passion for helping people who rarely get help in a really difficult job (i.e. farmworkers). Because of that, she was determined to help farmworkers build really great employee/employer relationships.

Or Atomos. They’re building a system to transport satellites to different parts of space—once they’re already in orbit. Their founder, Vanessa, is obsessed with space transportation and knows that, in the long run, we’re going to be shipping things all over space. So, she’s passionate about building technologies that support the next frontier.

Or DEV/CON Detect. Their founder, Maggie, saw how much ad money was being taken from publishers online so she and her team created a way to track where ad money goes—and then ensures it ends up in the hands of the publishers who produced it. She believes in the power of the content creator and publisher and how important they are to our societies—and won’t stop fighting for this cause.

Why This Matters

I’m not saying all of this as shameless self-promotion of GAN Ventures or our portfolio companies themselves.

I’m saying this because I want you to know who most often gets investment from us—founders who are truly passionate about what they do.

I’ll repeat it again—because Reilly and I (my GAN Ventures Co-Founder and Managing Partner) repeat it all the time: “These founding teams joyfully know more about their market than most people would think is normal to know about anything.”

They aren’t just doing what they’re doing because they think they’ll make a lot of money or that it’s the “cool” next thing to do.

They’re doing it because they’re basically obsessed with finding solutions to problems they see in the world. Maggie saw how much ad revenue was actually going to bad players. Will saw how many clothes were made of subpar materials. Atamos believes that we can actually have a better way of moving goods in space. Ganaz belives farm workers can actually have better working conditions. And Ambit believes that we can change our voices so that they positively impact others.

They each have an incredible passion for each of their individual products and services.

So, I’d ask any other company the same thing. Not just the founders asking for investment, but everyone who’s spending their late hours, weekends, extra time, blood, sweat, and tears growing a company—

Do you have a real passion for your company? If so, why? If not, why not?

Because I believe that passion translates into a lot of good benefits for all of us, including the founder. Passion helps:

  • Our spirits, when times are hard—because we see the bigger picture of what we’re building.
  • Our long-term focus—because we’re not concerned about short-term success, celebrity, or profits.
  • Our marketing efforts—because passion easily translates into stories that people want to hear and are attracted to.
  • Our company’s culture—because our teams see that passion and it’s infectious.
  • And, our actual products—because we’re focused on something that we know the world needs and we want to build solid products and services that help solve them.