Atman Monthly Update — February 2023
Dear Atman subscribers welcome to our February update.
Atman signed a new investment for its fund in Q1; we expect the investment to be made public in the coming months. We greatly appreciate the trust of both inevitable founders and investors in our quest.
Despite the macro challenges and industry-wide headwinds, true founders will remain resilient and continue building companies that change our lives. We have fertile ground to partner with entrepreneurs and have seen valuations and terms returning to investors’ hands.
There is a disconnect between job creation in America and the labor market in the tech industry. In February, the US labor department announced that the country reached the lowest unemployment rate since 1969, mostly led by the services industry, which means the FED will likely continue its tight monetary policy.
In contrast, the tech industry increased its layoffs by 649% YoY, the highest number since the dot-com bubble. Large tech companies and venture-backed startups let more people go in 2022 than in 2020 and 2021 combined.
US VCs raised $139B in 2022, $3B more than in 2021. That said, US VCs today sit on over $300B in dry powder, most of it not being called due to a combination of LP pressure to rebalance portfolios and a slower pace of investment from funds are the new norm, with few exceptions in the AI and Climate space.
At this point in the cycle, founders who fail to have over 18 months of runway or that lack a plan for profitability will likely continue to raise down rounds or be acquired by larger firms.
We believe that the normalization of the market will happen in Q3 once companies that raised their last round of growth equity financing in the peak of 2021 go out for a fresh round of funding. According to SVB, over 40% of venture-backed tech companies have decreased their net burn, and 50% have 12 months of cash in the bank. As Fred Wilson pointed out, we are going through “The Cleanse.”
Our focus is to partner with founders at the earliest stages, which means that revenue multiples are sometimes nonexistent when we decide to back a startup. Irrespective of that, our fund has a valuation ceiling, minimum ownership targets, and a historical track record from the entrepreneurs.
It is refreshing to see founders resume their focus on product-market fit and unit economics and see greater talent availability. Being laid off is never fun, but founding or joining a startup that makes the world a better place can be. Success has been re-calibrated in what it means to be a category-defining venture-backed startup.
How would you quickly introduce yourself?
I was born in China but grew up in San Diego. I love to fish and spend time in nature — it’s my happy place.
How much have you raised for Aestuary in total?
How many companies have you started?
This is my second. I am still eager to keep doing this :)
What industries do you have expertise in?
Consumer and e-Commerce
Feel free to add any other additional stats you would like to share:
I love to fish. One of the biggest fish I’ve caught is a ~100lb bluefin tuna.
What are you most excited about right now outside of Aestuary?
I’m building a house in Montana and hope to develop some roots there.
What has been one of your biggest lessons so far in business?
One must have to get your mind right to do this.
It’s usually not a matter of if you’ll succeed. It’s a matter of when. Figuring out how to run a marathon and sprint at the same time is key. Similarly, don’t wait for X, Y, and Z before you start living your life. We’re all living our life as we speak. Make that worth living now, not just when you achieve some future milestone.
What book(s) changed/shaped your life?
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. It started my journey of introspection and personal growth.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be with and why?
Obama, as I think he exemplifies class and grace
What do you believe to be true that you cannot prove?
Life can be beautiful and cruel at the same time; therefore, finding meaning in love is what will ultimately matter.