Featured Investors
September 5, 2023

Featured Investors | September 2023 - Matt Wanlass of LFX Venture Partners and Ting Ting Liu of Builders VC

Isaac Snitkoff
EVCA Fellow

Matt Wanlass, Associate at LFX Ventures

Matt Wanlass is an associate at LFX Venture Partners (previously known as Fung Capital before it recently took on outside investors and institutionalized), a global supply chain, logistics, and retail tech fund that leads or participates in Series A – C financing rounds of companies. Prior to joining LFX, Matt was an Associate at Peterson Partners, a Utah-based investment fund with both venture capital and private equity strategies, and worked for an AI technology startup called Airin. Matt holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from Brigham Young University. Lastly, whether sprinting through the streets of SF or battling it out on a basketball, tennis, or pickleball court, you'll always find him on the move.

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

Matt: During my time at a start-up called Airin, the unpredictability of COVID-19 struck, leading my CEO to freeze my summer pay while assuring me of my role's continuity in the fall. This unexpected shift prompted me to explore other avenues, leading me to secure a position with Peterson during my senior summer of college, which later transitioned into a full-time role. Transitioning from the operator side in a start-up to the investing side was daunting, but it proved to be a pivotal shift in my career trajectory; while I may still be young, this experience taught me the importance of adaptability and seizing opportunities amid change.

EVCA: What is an emerging technology trend that will have a significant impact on the world in the next decade?

Matt: The supply chain industry, despite its vast reach and daily impact on our lives, remains largely antiquated with numerous sub-verticals ripe for innovation. With the increasing adoption of AI, I anticipate substantial disruption within this sector, given the plethora of data available for automation – from AI inventory forecasting (optimization) and the digitalization of trade to the product data infrastructure layer. This technological transformation promises to revolutionize not only how goods move globally in the next decade but also how they are created, designed, paid for (by all parties, suppliers to consumers), and delivered.

Ting Ting Liu, Principal at Builders VC

Ting Ting Liu is a Principal at Builders VC based in San Francisco where she leads Seed and Series A investments in enterprise software. She was previously at Point72 Ventures focused on data infrastructure and developer platforms, and Vice President at Nautilus Venture Partners, where she was the first hire for a $100M deep tech/AI fund backed by some of the largest Asian technology companies. Ting Ting is originally from Silicon Valley and has over a decade of investment experience spanning hedge fund research to biotech. She began her career in investment analytics at Bridgewater Associates before advising LPs in the United States, United Kingdom, and Middle East on their PE and VC fund investments at Cambridge Associates. She is a proud graduate of Dartmouth College where she completed dual degrees in Economics and Neuroscience.

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

Ting Ting: There’s quite a few I’d say but perhaps the most formative decision was moving to London in my mid 20s to advise LPs on PE/VC investments in EMEA. This became a lesson in taking risks and adaptation. The defining moment came when I was researching emerging VC managers in 2016 on behalf of an Emirati family office and recognizing in my analysis that I had become institutionalized to avoid taking risks on new ideas. Shortly after, I quit my job and moved to Silicon Valley to join an emerging VC fund pursuing a new model for independent strategic capital. Taking risks is an accelerant for growth. I am grateful everyday that as VCs we are empowered to take risks on asymmetric upside and learn from the journey alongside founders.

I learned an enormous amount outside of Silicon Valley – spending time with investors in the UK and the Middle East put technology in the context of global industries like construction, energy and real assets, and put venture capital in the context of economic cycles and LP allocation. For much of the world, technology is not the industrial epicenter. Because of this backdrop, I gravitate to startups building for real world problems with scalable technology and teams with domain expertise.

EVCA: What is an emerging technology trend that will have a significant impact on the world in the next decade?

Ting Ting: It is easy to say AI will be the next big platform shift – I do genuinely believe that it will have the broadest impact on the world in the next decade. Specifically, we are seeing accelerated digital transformation of analog industries after years of infrastructure groundwork to connect data through technologies like smart hardware, IOT, and RPA. Foundational AI models will become a core part of these vertical tech stacks.

We tend to underestimate how long it takes for technology innovation to drive business impact and meaningfully penetrate markets. The same trends we have seen play out in horizontal software – distributed cloud computing, DevOps, modern data infrastructure and API interoperability, embedded payments – are still in very early innings for foundational, antiquated industries. At Builders VC, we have always focused on these industries - healthcare, supply chain and manufacturing, construction, energy and agriculture. Additional advancements in AI have made it possible to automate higher value workflows that are still dominated by pen and paper or outsourced services.

Intensifying macroeconomic drivers (e.g. aging population, labor dislocations, energy transition) coupled with public hype around generative AI has fueled customer interest in AI solutions. Enterprises are willing to buy AI driven software for previously service-based tasks. Even fragmented SMB markets are experiencing generational behavior shifts and easier to penetrate through performance marketing sales efficiency. AI can reduce implementation times for vertically designed software and ease the burden of workflow customization, customer service and reporting.

Vertical AI companies are well positioned to accrue a data advantage and translate existing domain expertise to performant models with RLHF. We see opportunity for vertical AI companies to not only integrate AI in industry specific workflows but become the common operating system for bundled services in that vertical.