Novice Investor #1 - Accounting Automation, Notion and How to Build an Investor List


2020 was one to remember. On a personal level, it was a story of growth. I moved to London and started a new role as Investment Director at Kennet Partners. Most of my energy is now focused on building a network across the UK and European tech ecosystems to find great SaaS companies and help our portfolio excel.

By now, I was hoping to be out for coffee and dinner with London's tech community building long-lasting relationships. Unfortunately, I am still trying to crack jokes and make friends over Zoom. Instagram and Facebook have been great for making me feel somewhat connected and friendly with the bartender I worked with in Spain during the summer of 2012. However, the ambitious CEO I met for coffee in 2017 seems like a long-lost memory.

My proposed solution? The Novice Investor Newsletter. A short monthly update detailing what I am up to and what I am learning. The goal is to create a way to passively stay in touch with my network, while hopefully providing interesting and useful content in return.

The name of the newsletter ties into one of my core values: maintaining a student mentality and curiosity to learn. If by some miracle I lead a successful fund one day, I like to think I would still see myself as a Novice, forever on the hunt to learn and improve.

Interesting Companies

I had the pleasure of having an in-depth discussion with Robert Kristiansen about all things accounting automation. Semine provide an AI platform for accounting automation with a focus on invoices. While there are many companies using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert invoices or receipts into a digital format, Semine's automation typically starts where other company’s automation ends. They plug digital invoices into their Machine Learning (ML) engine which predicts the correct general ledger, correct tax code etc. for each invoice. They also have a graphical user interface (GUI) workflow builder to allow customers to create their own approval workflows for different types of invoices. What excites me about Semine is that it is a great example of Hyperautomation within the accounting domain. Plus, Robert's ambition to build a $10bn Revenue European tech leader is enough to pique anyone’s interest.

Productivity Tech

I am always on the hunt for new tech to help me work or learn more efficiently. While I probably waste a lot of time trying out the latest and greatest platforms, finding something that makes me more productive or organised makes work more enjoyable.

Notion is not exactly the best kept secret in the tech world. It is worth a mention as it has become my focal point of work over the past 12 months. I use it for tracking to-dos, note taking and use its Airtable-like features to track lists. Plus, the user interface is pleasing to the eye. Out of all the productivity tech I have tried out, this is the winner.

Fundraising Tips

For all the CEOs out there. I will occasionally share my thoughts on how to optimise your fundraising activities from an investor’s perspective.

Do Your Homework

Over the past four years, I have assessed and passed up thousands (not hyperbolic) of inbound outreaches. 98% of the reasons for not pursuing these outreaches have been related to the company not meeting basic mandate requirements. Simple things like seed-stage businesses contacting later stage venture / growth funds or consumer businesses looking for capital from a B2B fund. If you are thinking of fundraising, I would recommend spending a full week doing research on the basic fund mandates in your target geography. Sign up to CrunchBase Pro for $29 a month. Build and download an investor list that matches your needs. CrunchBase is not perfect so double check each investor’s website. Reach out to people familiar with the investment community to enrich your list.

Once you have the list, identify 10 investors that align best to your company’s type, stage and geography. Put the bulk of your resources towards getting warm introductions to these. For the other investors that look promising, sending a teaser deck via email will do the trick.

This is not to save the poor investor’s inbox from overloading, it will drastically improve your response rates and hopefully save you time. If you are ever in need of a warm intro, feel free to ask.

Books & Podcasts

Unfortunately, I am one of those people who love the idea of reading but has never managed to develop a sustainable reading habit. Catch me on holidays smashing through 5 different covers by the pool, but once normal live resumes I am inching through the pages of a single book over the course of 6 months. It is 2021 and here is attempt #57 of trying to weave consistent reading into my life. My aim is to read a book a month and share my thoughts. Here is this month’s cover plus any podcasts I found worthy of a mention:

Getting Things Done - David Allen

Allen’s approach to work feels slightly antiquated, stuck in a paper-based system. This is tough to follow, especially for any millennials out there who have essentially forgotten how to hold a pen.

However, his principles have changed how I work for the better. The core teaching is that if a thought / to-do task is not recorded somewhere, it is causing mental stress and noise. Once everything you must do is down on paper (recorded digitally in my case), your mind is free to work in flow state. I use the principles with Notion’s Kanban feature and Outlook reminders. It has made me considerably more organised and productive. Highly recommend.

The Zoom IPO - Acquired

Acquired podcast episodes feature a deep dive into a company's origins, growth story and ultimate exit. The Zoom IPO is a great example of network effects and a product-led growth go-to-market strategy. I lived out their go-to-market in real life. At a prior job, I signed up to Zoom personally. Soon, other colleagues signed up themselves after a better product experience on my calls. Next thing I knew, we were emailing Zoom for a corporate account, without a single $ spent on advertising to us. Kudos to Zoom.

Best of YouTube

I much prefer obtaining my learning content in video format. When learning about a new sector, technology or how to change my golf swing, I go to YouTube. I will share any videos I find particularly interesting here:

Quibi - The Netflix That Never Was - Cold Fusion

Great and quick overview of Quibi, Hollywood's failed attempt at replicating Netflix. The start-up raised close to $2bn on the back of an idea and zero evidence of product market fit. Management blamed COVID-19, I am not sure I buy it.

One final shout-out to the person who inspired me to start this newsletter, Peter Duffy. After getting endless value from reading his monthly updates over the past couple of years, I decided to start my own. If you take one piece of advice from this email, subscribing to Peter’s newsletter, How Curious, will no doubt be the most beneficial.