With great power comes great responsibility. Jai Malik, founder of Countdown Capital, explained in Episode 132 of The Middle Tech Podcast, how his passion for deep tech led him to being able to bring ethics into the entrepreneur’s product development. Jai studied philosophy and business and political economy at NYU, which is how he began his journey to becoming a venture capitalist. But he did not go through internships or scouting to get there; instead, he developed and amplified his voice to establish himself as an expert ready to run his own VC firm. Jai’s journey and his current mission are great examples of the power of passion and communicating with others about that passion.
Countdown Capital is a $5M deep tech venture fund that takes an active role with the companies it invests in to ensure the products developed using their capital are ethic-conscious. First, what is deep tech; deep tech is many things. Many describe it as non-software technology or capital intensive technology, but Jai describes it as “anything that possesses strong [Intellectual Property] or [Intellectual Property] that is disruptive compared to an existing paradigm or solution framework towards a problem.” So more or less deep tech is anything that has potential to have great impacts on the way humans do things, and that is why Jai puts so much emphasis and effort into integrating ethics into the development of its investments.
Jai explained that, “it can infiltrate every aspect of society. ... . And so the question is always, how do we make products safe for people to use and businesses to use while making sure that they provide a lot of valuable work.” Jai seeks to limit the negative impacts of deep tech by educating the entrepreneurs as to whom, and how, society will be impacted by the product, and then provide possible workarounds or mitigators to possible impacts. Through the management of the venture capital fund and the work with the fund’s entrepreneurs, Jai is able to make massive societal impacts.
Despite the possible societal impact that can be made as a Venture Capitalist, becoming one was not something that many Kentuckians had in mind when they were asked what they wanted to do when they grow up, and that may be because there is so little opportunity to be one in this region. As Venture Capital slowly becomes demystified as it makes its way into middle America, the career path is becoming more and more realistic. And, fortunately for Kentuckians, internships and scouting are not the only way to get there, in fact, they may not even be the best way to get there. As Jai put it, “I think the best thing you can do for yourself is to develop a really, really deep passion for what kind of investing you want to do and whatever you do, do not do what other people are doing.”
Jai was able to raise a $5M Venture Capital fund through extreme hard work, sleeping only about 4 hours a day, and truly becoming a known expert in his community. As he developed his passion for deep tech, ethics, and investing, Jai also “started tweeting about things that I think many VCs talk about pretty much on a daily basis, and I just try to be as engaged as possible. So if people have an interesting perspective and they're engaging, engaging with me ... I'm going to engage with them ... because I want to learn something.” For people trying to get into investing following a path similar to Jai’s, he suggests to “focus on amplifying your own voice ... use Twitter, use social media; be creative about how you get your voice out there and how you interact with your core demographic.”
It is no secret that this region is many years, if not decades away, from high scale involvement from high profile Venture Capital funds found in Silicon Valley and other coastal entrepreneur ecosystems. With that said, the industry is alive and developing here in middle America, especially as remote work has taken the spotlight. Not only are more opportunities arising, there are tons of benefits that can be taken advantage of in the region, many of which the Middle Tech community has heard before. First, as Jai pointed out, middle Americans are down to earth in how they treat others in ways that cannot be found in coastal ecosystems. Second, Jai honed in on the fact that “cost of living is low ... and there's certainly a lot of space that can be bought and commercialized if you're looking to, to build something big here and physical.”
Venture Capital can be highly impactful on society, as Jai and Countdown Capital make clear, and the opportunities to be a Venture Capitalist in middle America are growing. By developing your passions and your engagement with your passion’s demographic, these opportunities can be more plentiful. To learn more about ethics in deep tech and how Jai has been able to leverage his venture capital fund, tune into Episode 132 of the Middle Tech Podcast.