Christopher Zemina, a former Speedinvest Principal turned angel investor, has invested in more than 50 startups, including four unicorns. He is also the co-founder of Friday Finance, a fintech he sold to Pliant earlier in 2023. His investment community, Future Fund, is now open to applications on Roundtable.
Christopher talked to us about how he sifts through the good ideas, why he dedicates a lot of resources to investees and how you must be a “little crazy” to invest in early-stage companies.
Discovering Venture Capital
Roundtable: Can you tell me a little about your investing journey and how you started angel investing?
Christopher: Prior to starting my first company, I was an analyst at a VC fund. I’ve been extremely lucky to work with entrepreneurs on a daily basis over the years. We reviewed hundreds of pitchdecks every month and I developed a passion for investing in startups and supporting founders. After I left the VC fund to start my own company, I didn’t want to give it up, so I became active as an angel investor.
Launching Future Fund
Roundtable: You launched a syndicate called Future Fund and now you’re opening it up on our platform to other users. Why?
Christopher: I believe in the power of the community. As an investor, it’s more fun to share success with others. For the company, we can maximise the level of support and value-add by inviting co-investors and operators to our syndicate. And for individual investors, I figure that they want to be in control of their investments; many people favour investing on a deal-by-deal basis and picking their own portfolios rather than investing in a blind pool of funds. It’s a triple win.
Roundtable: Who are you hoping will apply to join Futures Fund?
Christopher: Everyone is free to apply to my syndicate. I particularly look for experienced operators with complementary backgrounds to join our community.
Roundtable: What’s the story behind the name of your syndicate, Future Fund?
Christopher: Our strategy is focused on the promise of investing in founders who share our vision for a better future. Future Fund is also an extension of my nickname “Fufu”. I know it sounds similar to the French “foufou” and I guess you need to be a little crazy if you invest at the earliest stages in the life of a company. I certainly wanted the name to be approachable, personable, and reflect my style – professional, but with a sense of humour.
Roundtable: Is Future Fund sector-agnostic?
Christopher: Yes. I particularly like to invest in things that I would love to do myself if I had more time. My background is in fintech, so I naturally see more dealflow in that vertical, but I also like to invest in SaaS, climate tech, consumer, travel, logistics, AI, and more.
Deal Sourcing and Selection
Roundtable: How do you source and select deals?
Christopher: I maintain an extensive network within the entrepreneurial community, including founders, accelerators, operators, and fellow investors. I also keep a close eye on technology trends, market disruptions, and emerging sectors, which often lead me to innovative startups in these areas.
I am also a member of many syndicates. It helps me find the best deals and observe new market developments.
Although I like to see as many deals as possible, I am very selective in placing my bets.
Roundtable: Your syndicate page says you’re looking for ambitious and exceptional companies. How do you find them?
Christopher: Early-stage investing is much more of an art than a science. There’s no silver bullet and no checklist that I can share. Good deals combine different aspects, from the team’s ‘grit’ to the right market dynamics. You need to listen to very smart people and sift through the ideas, and I wouldn't pretend for a moment that I hadn't made lots of mistakes, so the proof is still in the pudding.
I reject deals for lots of different reasons. Sometimes I don't believe in the vision, the scalability of a model, I doubt the unit economics or I'm just not passionate about the problem someone is trying to solve.
Also, there are lots of people out there who raise venture dollars for non-venture ideas. I think it's almost as difficult to build something big as it is to do something small, so founders should pick ideas that are worthy to pursue.
Governance and Expectations for Investors
Roundtable: You said you will syndicate all deals where you can obtain an allocation of more than EUR100,000, and that investors should “not expect too many updates”. What are your views on governance?
Christopher: There’s nothing special in my approach to governance. I want to set the right expectations from the start and attract investors with a long-term view. I always let the founders control their reporting and I don’t want to add a middle layer of bureaucracy and complexity. You should only invest in startups what you can afford to lose.
Roundtable: You’ve invested in dozens of companies as an angel investor, including unicorns like Revolut. What has this experience taught you about risk?
Christopher: Everyone wants to play it safe. But you can’t achieve meaningful success without risking failure. The fear of failure dampens our spirit of exploration. Some of my riskiest investments were the most financially rewarding ones. Venture is a game of outliers, so we have to embrace failure rather than fear it.
Providing Value Beyond Capital
Roundtable: Your website page mentions that you dedicate “extensive resources” to companies. Can you expand on that?
Christopher: I try to be helpful in three main areas. The first one is building networks – making connections to founders, investors, partners, journalists, customers and recruiting candidates. The second one is fundraising – helping shape the equity story and pitching to the right investors at the right time. The third one is content – sharing links to the best explainer articles I’ve found on a wide range of topics like hiring, go-to-market, leadership and self-development. A lot of intelligent things have been written by a lot of people smarter than me, and I want to share those resources with founders when I know they can benefit from it.
Roundtable: Thanks for taking the time Christopher!