Abhishek Maran

Early-stage investor at Rampersand, an Australian seed stage focused generalist venture capital firm and actively hunting for Australia’s next unicorn
VC Investor

What was your journey to joining your current company?

Growing up, I continued to play around with computers and other gadgets, dabbled in a little bit of coding (before giving up!) and tried my hand at building small internet businesses. Through this I also learnt about the world of investing and venture capital. However, I was still in high school and in 2012/2013, the current iteration of startups and VC investing was just starting in Australia so I didn’t really know much about what was happening here and instead followed the US market.

After graduating with a finance degree in 2018, I followed the traditional corporate pathway and took up a role as an investment consultant at Cambridge Associates. During this time, I saw the growing venture capital scene in Australia first hand and met with many of the current partners at funds such as Blackbird, Carthona and King River.

This experience gave me renewed optimism for the startup scene in Australia and so for a solid 2 years I applied to every VC role that I could find and got rejected from each one until the end of 2020, when I was finally able to get an interview at Folklore Ventures. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a role at Folklore initially, but this spurred me on to quit my corporate role and find an internship through cold Linkedin DMs at an early-stage VC-backed Fintech called Upstreet. At Upstreet, I was the first BizOps/Product employee hired and I worked directly under one of the co-founders to help on a multitude of tasks including revamping the product and building out a roadmap, B2B sales and growth. 

On the side, I also continued to ‘replicate’ the role of a VC, by joining the Afterwork Ventures community which allowed me to learn from other talented investors and operators. I also made sure to maintain my relationship with the Folklore team, and fortunately for me, they ended up needing someone junior to join the team and I jumped at the opportunity. 

My 1.5 years at Folklore was an awesome experience where I was able to live through the highs of the 2021 bull market as well as the lows of the 2022 bear market. Through this period I also started writing my fortnightly substack called Superfluid, which is my way of compounding and showcasing the world what I’m learning about at any given time. 

Now, I work at Rampersand, a generalist Seed focused fund that started in 2013. We invest in AI/data, B2B, SaaS and marketplaces primarily, but also have been doing work across the investment team to build our conviction in emerging thematics such as Climate, Techbio, Quantum and Health.

What about it makes it your dream company?

As I mentioned, being a VC investor had been a dream and goal of mine for a long time - doing that with the best people in the world makes it an even better experience. I’ve only been a part of the team for a couple months but in that time, everyone has been so supportive and very keen to hear my thoughts on how the business should be run, or what they can do to make internal processes world class. The freedom in which I can operate as an investor is a huge privilege and is only possible within a team like Rampersand’s.

What stands out the most about the culture? 

At Rampersand, we mainly operate in a remote environment as our team is split between Melbourne and Sydney. This gives us excellent coverage in two of the largest cities in Australia, but it means that we have to make an effort to make sure that our internal relationships are strong. 

When I first joined Rampersand, I had to do a DISC profile assessment which was then shared internally amongst the team so that they all had an insight into my personality and ways of working. I’d done this exercise at previous workplaces and usually it ends up being ignored, but at Rampersand I’ve been incredibly impressed with how much people internalised this assessment. Everyone on the team is self aware of their own strengths and weaknesses as well as everyone else's. This allows us to be incredibly effective in communicating and understanding each other. 

How would you describe your role to a 5 year old?

There are some people who have a lot of money, and they want to help other people who are really smart and have big dreams. These smart people want to create a special kind of business that uses technology that everyone in the world will use. So, the people with money give it to us, to give to the smart people with big dreams. We get to pick which smart person gets the money. 

When we give the money to the smart people, they can create an amazing business that helps a lot of people. And then if the business makes a lot of money, everyone gets to share it. 

What does your day-to-day look like? 

I feel like everyone says this, but no two days are the same as a VC. The core of the role is finding the most promising founders in Australia. This means we need everyone to know who we are, and what we’re looking for. We also need to develop and maintain relationships with other investors who we invest alongside.

This boils down into the following activities:

  1. Finding new startups and talking to founders about their goals and ambition
  2. Diving deep into different sectors and forming theses that can be used to find new startups for Rampersand to invest in
  3. Working with current portfolio company founders and providing them with support wherever possible
  4. Going to events, writing content and general personal brand related work that will hopefully give me the right to invest in the best companies in Australia

Some days can be a mix of all of these activities, others days might just be 1 or 2 of these things. I am a borderline introvert and so I try to balance the number of meetings and events I go to, with deep work activities so that I'm able to maintain a healthy balance. 

What does career progression/promotion look like for you?

Career progression in a VC fund is pretty well laid out. The goal is effectively to get to Partner. However, given that most VC firms are small businesses, the benchmarks to getting there aren’t as transparent. 

In short, the goal for every junior investor is to shepard a deal from origination to exit. This means that the investor is capable of doing the following:

  1. Sourced the deal 
  2. Met the founders and got to know them and their business
  3. Write an investment memo detailing the opportunity
  4. Created and issued a Term Sheet/made a commitment to a funding round
  5. Negotiated through legal documents and understood the future implications of certain terms. 
  6. Once the deal is completed, supporting the portfolio company on their future strategy, fundraising and whatever else they need. It also means supporting and advising the founders for many years. 

Once you’ve done this you get a good understanding of all parts of the investment process. The next step is just repeating this process and building up the requisite muscles of investing. Venture is a long term game and feedback cycles are very long. You can expect it to take 7+ years to move up from Analyst to Partner.

For someone considering joining your company, what are 3 things they can expect?

  1. An awesome team culture from Day 1 where everyone welcomes you with open arms
  2. Responsibility from the start - we’re a small team, so everyone is empowered to contribute wherever possible
  3. Working in VC is a huge privilege and what you put in is what you get out. It can be a 24/7 type role where there is always something to be doing or reading, so it’s really important to take breaks and pace yourself. The Rampersand team do an incredible job of keeping things in perspective, pushing hard when things need to get done and managing workloads so that no one is under unreasonable pressure

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