Oksana Raym: from a startup to an investor
Oksana Raym is the director of the iClub angel investor club. iClub members invest in technology startups from Europe and the US. The club was launched by the TA Ventures venture fund, a distinctive feature of the club is that its members are offered for investment only those companies in which TA Ventures already invests.
At the Digital Bridge forum, Oksana was a speaker at the panel session “Venture Market: What Investors Will Look At in 2022”. We talked with Oksana about trends in IT startups and the role of women in the world of venture capital investments.
- First of all, please tell us about yourself and iClub.
- In fact, I am the country manager of our club in Kazakhstan. iClub is a private investment club of angels who co-invest in venture capital deals with TA Ventures. I am in charge of all the operational activities of our club in Kazakhstan. Our club is represented in 7 different locations in the world: Kyiv, Minsk, London, Monaco, Dubai, Almaty and Cyprus, 5 more locations will be added next year. The club has been operating since 2018, and we opened in Almaty in February this year.
- Can we say that you unite investors all over the world?
- Yes, absolutely right, our mission is “Learn.Invest.Connect”, and we are pursuing these 3 goals. We educate investors, open doors to this world for them, provide them with deals in which we invest ourselves, they can invest with us and connect investors from different locations for communication and work.
- What is the right age for you to start investing?
- In fact, it seems to me that the issue of age is becoming less and less relevant over time. We see that startups are already organized by founders who are 14-16 years old. Investments are always investments in advanced technologies, in something that does not yet exist in the world. This is the history of the avant-garde, when you see how something is born that only tomorrow will become part of our life. Of course, it is easier for young people to evaluate some opportunities, but one cannot write off the experience that comes with age. I know a lot of investors who are in adulthood, but are among the top in the world. Therefore, I think that age has little to do with it. Venture is a style of thinking and evaluating information, openness to the world, the ability to evaluate talent, to find this very diamond.
- Why do you think it is profitable to invest in IT today?
- Because IT projects are the most scalable business in the world. If you want to start a pizza chain, for example, it will require a lot of preparatory work and a lot of capital to open in another city. The IT market does not have these boundaries, it can scale very quickly. This is why venture capital has become popular with investors - because it offers business growth rates and earnings for venture investors that are not possible in a traditional offline operating business. Therefore, of course, IT companies are attractive from the investment point of view.
- What should be a startup to interest an investor?
- If we are talking about early-stage startups that have just appeared in the information field, there may not even be a minimum product yet. From this side, it is important to assess the team's capabilities, to implement the idea that it wants to implement. It must be an idea that is timely, that this world needs, and it must be confirmed by some research, data, observations from outside. The team must have the ability and skills to achieve this task and goal.
- What is your opinion about Astana Hub programs? How useful are they for novice investors?
- I think that Astana Hub is doing a great job, and we are a partner of the technopark with great pleasure. General Director Magzhan Madiev is one of the first who heard about us and supported us, for which we are very grateful. We believe that thanks to Astana Hub, the most important turn in the movement is taking place, in the momentum of the development of the entire market. A lot of effort is invested here in the development of startups, which are absolutely necessary for our market and investors, as well as a lot of resources in investor education. We are very glad that there are partners who put this in their priorities.
- What is it like to be a woman in the world of venture investments? How did you come to this?
- In fact, I came to the venture capital market from a startup story, and now I myself help investors evaluate startups in a quality manner. I spend a lot of my personal time doing mentoring and tracking projects. I see a great need for local startups in this and I am happy to help them. Regarding the fact that I am a woman - in fact, I have never encountered any special treatment in my professional life. The investor communicates with me in exactly the same way as with any other venture partner and I do not feel any difference in communication. It seems to me that in the professional field, and especially in Kazakhstan, professional sexism does not exist. I believe that women are in an absolutely equal position with men, including in business.
Recall that Astana Hub holds a school for a novice investor VC School. The educational course allows you to gain skills to invest in technology startups and increase your capital. During the course, students gain knowledge about what venture capital investments are, how find a balance between profitability and risk, what are the stages of startup development, at what stages you can start investing, how the approach to investments of a business angel differs from the approach of a venture fund, how a venture fund works, what is an investment strategy: the main risks and the formation of a balanced portfolio.