On Nov.20th (GMT+8), We had a fascinating conversation with Mr. Sleem Hasan, who is the Founder and CEO of Privity FZ LLE , talking about his unique work experience in capital industry and deep insights on the development of emerging technologies.
Jokia : How would you describe yourself in three words?
Sleem: PASSIONATE, PERSISTENT & PRUDENT.
Jokia : Can you please share more about your educational and professional background? And we’d love to hear what brought you to capital domain.
Sleem: My formative years were spent growing up in Nigeria where I did my O & A level studies and then proceeded to read Mathematics at Oxford University as an undergraduate and the Part III Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge University for my postgraduate studies. I had wanted to become an academic but when I did not get funding for my PhD I moved to London in search of a job. The Japanese were kind to offer me a job after numerous applications and rejections from potential employers and thus landed in the capital domain when Nikko Europe plc gave me a chance.
Jokia : PE in Asia has been shifting from the traditional firm to single or multifamily offices who do a variety of activities from investing across largely different cheque sizes (from angel to in-house hedge funds), to tax optimization. What is the future of private equity from your perspective?
Sleem: The developed world has gone ex-growth and interest rates bear testimony to this with ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy) & NIRP (Negative Interest rate Policy) running a mock with investors, traditional firms and family offices alike, desperately seeking alpha and looking for returns within private equity & venture capital space. The impact of COVID19 this year has dealt a body blow to the financial authorities globally thereby tying their hands in the short and medium term (2~5 years) to keep rates unchanged The PE & VC asset classes will keep attracting attention by investors going forward.
Jokia : When I first read your profile on LinkedIn, I risk being overwhelmed by the amount of recommendations you have received from your partners/clients. So, my fourth question is basically about the stories behind these testimonials: What’s your benchmark to select the potential early stage venture-focused firms? Could you share 2-3 typical cases you conducted as a good story teller?
Sleem: I am agnostic to geography as I am to industry vertical and focus on the underlying compelling value proposition of the idea. After that it is people, people & people, and serendipity!
Case Study 1: CAREMERGE- I invested in 2013 with a single-Family Office from Switzerland because I knew one of the Co-Founders & CTO who I had met in 1996 and placed him in an E-Learning business I had invested in where he proved his mettle. Years later when he reached out to me and shared his idea, I had no hesitation in backing him in a heartbeat.
Case Study 2: QUOR- I met the founder socially in London at my apartment introduced through a mutual friend. We became good friends and was impressed by his intellectual prowess and his serial entrepreneurial abilities (he founded screen sharing!). In 2012 he told me about his next startup (his 6th!) and I immediately joined forces to help him build. Today this is my first portfolio venture that got the backing and funding of a Tier-1 Silicon Valley corporate VC. It is probably the most innovative and disruptive venture in my portfolio to date.
Case Study 3: VEROFAX- This is my first MENA/GCC/UAE portfolio company that I am backing since Privity’s inception in 2004. I met the founders through a warm referral by in5 based in Dubai on January 20th 2020. I listened to the founders and their journey to date and I could relate and empathize with both of them. Their business proposition was interesting, so I rolled up my sleeves, joined their journey and have not looked back once since then, COVID19 notwithstanding.
Jokia : You have been deeply involved in bringing novel solutions to fruition leveraging expertise in technology innovation. From your experience and perspective, why cool technologies sometimes flop?
Sleem: A variety of reasons and I will list a few below:
a) Bad team members
b) Not listening to the voice of their intended audience (including customers, investors, ecosystem stakeholders)
c) Not keeping a tight control on their costs
d) Lack of passion
e) Communication (or lack thereof with any and all stakeholders)
f) Lacking actual validation from their potential customers about product/market fit
g) Ability to pivot
h) Knowing when to exit
This list is by no means exclusive nor exhaustive but should give a general idea why cool technology sometimes flop
Jokia : From your perspective, what’s unique and game-changing about Blockchain technology?
Sleem: Blockchain is one of the most interesting emerging technologies nowadays, with applications ranging from cryptocurrencies to smart contracts. The building blocks of this technology include hash functions, digital signatures, elliptic curves and Merkle trees, all of which are deep rooted in mathematics. This is what makes blockchain solid, unique and game-changing. As a student of mathematics, it is what I appreciated about it the most despite all the hype and noise in the media that surrounds it.
Jokia : Privity draws upon its unique methodology – 4i, to deliver insightful advisory and consulting services. Could you explain more about it? How prepared is Privity to play a leading role among global Venture-focused advisory firms in next five years?
Sleem: 4i refers to ideas, innovation, invention and intelligence, which are the 4 critical ingredients I look for in any new venture, though I hang my hat on innovation. When you join all the 4 I’s together, it creates a window, the window of business opportunity. I liked it so much, it became the logo of Privity! It’s the way I think.
Jokia : As a global recognized speaker and keynote author, you have been speaking and keynoting to governments, major Universities, top conferences and global businesses and corporations, so what’s your benchmark to select the top-tier conferences?
Sleem: As a matter of fact, I do not have a benchmark as I fundamentally believe in sharing knowledge in a democratized manner. I was inspired by Henry Todd’s book “Die Empty’ and for those who have not read it, I suggest they do