Featured Investors
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March 1, 2021

Featured Investors | March 2021

By

Meryl Briedbart, Associate at LDV Capital

Meryl Breidbart is a designer and founder-turned-investor now working as an associate at LDV Capital. She began her career as cofounder and creative director of Chirps, one of the first cricket-as-a-food companies. While continuing to work part-time on Chirps, Meryl was also an early employee at Amino Apps and Jopwell. Through these three experiences, in addition to countless freelance projects for other early-stage startups, Meryl decided she may be better suited for a role that served numerous startups instead of sitting internally at just one. After getting her MBA at the Yale School of Management, Meryl joined LDV in early 2020 and has spent the past year honing her investing skills and learning all there is to know about visual technologies and deep tech investing.

EVCA: What is your most contrarian view on an existing or emerging technology trend?

Meryl: Given that this newsletter is read mostly by VCs and not my designer friends, I feel no shame in sharing my most contrarian view: in the next 5-10 years, the role of designer will no longer exist. Or, to put it another way, everyone will be a designer. With tools like Uizard, Stagger, and Parade, just to name a few, it’s already possible for non-designers to spin up the apps or marketing assets they might need. My belief is that before long, using design tools that democratize the entire experience (be it an Instagram post or a full set of brand guidelines with logo options) will be just as common and as familiar to us as using Google docs.

EVCA: Describe a defining moment in your career and how it shaped where you are today.

Meryl:  Halfway through my MBA, one of my Chirps cofounders, who had been CEO since we founded the business as undergrads at Harvard, decided to step back from the business. My other cofounder and I found ourselves with an important decision to make: we could panic or we could seize the opportunity. Seizing the opportunity for us meant making the tough decision to slowly grow our business to profitability (meaning my cofounder, myself, and our new CEO are all part-time) and not continue down the venture capital route.  This may seem ironic for someone who ended up as a VC investor, but this decision, and our understanding at the time of what works and doesn’t work for VC, was key in motivating me to pursue a career in VC full-time to better understand this side of the table.

Calvin Ling, Principal at Prefix Capital

Calvin Ling graduated from Stanford with a Bachelor’s degree in Management Science and Engineering and a minor in Economics. He worked for Honda R&D to help launch the Honda Xcelerator program as part of Honda’s open innovation initiative. After leaving Honda, Calvin joined 415 Investments as an associate, where he worked on investments including Manus Bio, SwiftComply, Lemonaid Health, and Vidrovr. He is now a founding Principal at Prefix Capital. Prefix is an early-stage, deep technology venture capital firm thesis investing across industries and frontier technologies, including biotech/life sciences/healthcare, energy, cybersecurity, infrastructure, automation and robotics, semiconductor, new computing systems, and others.

EVCA: What is your most contrarian view on an existing or emerging technology trend?

My most contrarian view is that Docsend and Calendly links are good and everyone should work 120 hour weeks in Miami.

Kidding. Log out of Twitter.

This is less of a contrarian view on technology trends and more of a wider view of technology investing. I read a lot of arguments about whether valuations matter in early stage investment rounds. To me, valuations really matter in deep tech investing.

Exit opportunities for companies that are commercializing foundational technologies look like a barbell. On one hand, these companies have the potential to change society - a classic venture investor criterion. On the other hand, if a company fails to find product-market fit, the team and technology assets can still be purchased for a multiple of the initial valuation - if the investment price is low enough. With the right team, technology, valuation, and guidance from experienced investors and advisors, early investors and founding teams can still make an attractive return, even when the commercial business isn't a raging success. In fact, our firm has achieved top-decile returns on investments in B2B companies that have never seen any real recurring revenue. Consumer companies are a different ballgame. There is less price sensitivity because of the extraordinarily binary nature of outcomes.

EVCA: Describe a defining moment in your career and how it shaped where you are today.

Preparing and launching Prefix Capital was a major milestone. It felt like a culmination of everything we had worked on previously and a fresh foundation that could serve us for many years to come.The nitty gritty of it was fascinating and valuable. Working with our lawyers on documentation, our accountants on tax strategy, and setting up the back office from scratch taught me how to balance high-level strategy and optionality with critical details and reality. I also developed a new-found respect for top-tier lawyers with a lot of experience in our specific industry. They enable you to achieve your goals by providing boundaries for what is feasible and can guide you away from ideas that sound good but in reality aren't.  Now when I work internally and externally to build processes and execute, I feel I have a much sharper mental framework, a big toolkit, and intuition I never had before.