Khalig Howard is a Principal at Clear Ventures, where he helps early-stage founders build and scale innovative deep technology companies in AI/ML applications, performant IT Infrastructure, Enterprise SaaS, and Digital Health Transformation. At Clear, Khalig leads investments, manages the portfolio services function, spearheads the venture fellows program, and serves as a board observer for several startups, such as Concentric.ai and Wherobots. Clear is a $335 AUM investment firm that leverages an AI and data-driven approach in pioneering a new way for VCs to support founders and identify investment opportunities.
Khalig received a BA in Global Commerce from Denison University, where he focused on Economics, Data Analytics, and German Language and was a member of the Lacrosse team. He also studied Economics at the University of Virginia, and internationally at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany. He has previously worked in foreign direct investment for the government of Northern Ireland, at IgniteXL Ventures, and multiple technology startups in business development and strategy roles. Through these experiences, he has gained valuable insights and skills in entrepreneurship, startup evaluation, sales development, and GTM strategy.
As an avid Tennis, Soccer, Squash, and Lacrosse player, he spends much of his free time competing in sports, biking, reading, and hiking with his Dachshund Clementine.
EVCA: Describe a defining moment in your career and how it shaped where you are today.
Khalig: I had to take a non-traditional route into the VC career path. At one point, I was working 3 jobs, taking a class, and participating in a fellowship to gain enough relevant experience and build my network to facilitate a move into Venture Capital.
Having the opportunity to work alongside Claire Chang at IgniteXL Ventures opened a lot of doors and was a breakthrough moment for me. Claire is an incredible investor and taught me so much about the importance of going above and beyond to bring value to the management teams of her portfolio companies. Having the chance to interact with founders reaffirmed my love of entrepreneurship and the constant ‘David’ vs. ‘Goliath’ battle fledgling company builders take on in getting their businesses off the ground. I was doing work that made me feel fulfilled and gave me the platform to help others.
EVCA: What is an emerging technology trend that will have a significant impact on the world in the next decade?
Khalig: In recent years the Clear team has maniacally focused on founders building at the convergence of AI and deep domain or functional expertise. We have been thoughtful in building out programs like Clear Edge and the Clear Researcher-in-Residence (Venture Fellowship) to support research-based founders who want a streamlined way to productize and supercharge go-to-market plans for their IP. We call this AI + X, or AI applied to a specific industry or function, leveraging the breakthrough research taking place at universities seen as crucibles of innovation (Stanford and Berkeley in our backyard are good examples of this).
We believe there will be a proliferation in the trend of individuals with deep vertical or functional area expertise starting companies targeting legacy sectors (chemical manufacturing, food processing, tax, and audit, and government). These areas are ripe for digital transformation due to a surplus of mundane manual business processes associated with how they've traditionally conducted commerce.
A good example of this is Clear portfolio company Kognitos, which just announced a $20M Series A. Kognitos solves very simple first-order problems around human capital constraints and business process inefficiencies. Kognitos gives finance and back-office professionals superpowers by being a force multiplier on their time, enabling them to create sophisticated workflow automation with simple English.
Every day, we meet with founders leaving their comfortable, well-paid jobs with the goal of building big businesses in these spaces. They share the same conviction we do, that we are living amid a once-in-a-generation opportunity to start a vertical AI business. This is a truly transformative time; while much of the productivity gains associated with AI are ahead of us, this technology and the builders behind it will have a profound impact on the way we work, play, communicate, and learn.