Interview With Max Zamkow
Fund / GroupThird Act Ventures
Number of portfolio companies37
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO GET STARTED IN PRIVATE INVESTING?
Great timing and an insatiable desire to be a part of something great. I graduated from college right at the beginning of the smartphone revolution. Steve Jobs finally opened up the iPhone to third party developers, and silicon valley went crazy. Simple games like Doodle Jump were getting tens of thousands of downloads per day; VCs were literally throwing money into any company that made an app; my friends and even TAs were dropping out and starting companies left and right. Seeing this once-in-a lifetime opportunity and swept up in the excitement, I declined my offer to work at Epic, and jumped headfirst into the world of early-stage mobile startups. When I wasn't working I was meeting with friends and colleagues to talk about the companies they were starting, some of which were so exciting that I just couldn't stop thinking about them. I wanted to help, I wanted to be a part of it, but I already had a full-time job with a lot of potential, so instead of leaving I started advising and was fortunate enough to be able to write some small angel checks. That's how I got hooked, and the rest, they say, is history.
WHAT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU VALUE IN AN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY?
I'm sure many investors have talked about how important the team is here, so I'll double click into a specific trait: market wisdom. There's nothing more important than the ability to understand the dynamics of the market you're playing in and move along with it, or even better, preempt it. Founders are constantly bombarded with conflicting information and advice from investors, customers, sales data, marketing agencies, other founders, etc. Knowing both whom and what to listen to, and the ability to step back, see the whole board, and move in the right direction is critical to success.
WHAT ARE THE BEST INNOVATION THEMES THAT YOU SEE IN THE MARKET TODAY?
Following the onset of the pandemic there has been a significant increase in attention to healthcare systems, both from entrepreneurs and investors. The confluence of this innovation acceleration with another effect of the pandemic - the shifting of healthcare out of facilities and into the home - has created a breeding ground for technological innovation in care delivery. This has the potential to improve outcomes while lowering costs, which fits perfectly with Third Act's mission of helping older adults live longer, healthier lives.
BEYOND ECONOMIC RETURN, WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DO YOU HOPE TO MAKE WITH YOUR PORTFOLIO?
Investing in Agetech is naturally impactful. We're helping older adults live healthier and happier lives; we're relieving the burden of caring for an older loved one; we're making care less expensive, more effective, and easier on the care staff.
WHAT ARE THE MOST PRESSING CHALLENGES OR PAIN POINTS IN MANAGING YOUR DAY-TO-DAY PRIVATE INVESTMENT ACTIVITY?
As an investor I have to excel at three things simultaneously - find and diligence new deals, assist portfolio companies, and fundraise - each of which is a full-time job. I'm always looking for new tools and devising systems to streamline and improve, but striking the right balance is a constant struggle.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST INVESTMENT LESSON YOU'VE LEARNED AND/OR THE BIGGEST INVESTMENT MISTAKE YOU'VE MADE?
Always ensure that the company is raising at least 12 months of runway. Short bridge rounds may be enticing, but with no room for error the risk-profile just isn't worth it.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE INDUSTRY INFORMATION SOURCES AND/OR SERVICES?
Agetech News (shameless self promotion), Clockwork (obviously), Startup Health, Senior Housing News & Home Healthcare News
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE NON-BUSINESS INTEREST OR HOBBY?
Bourbon. My friends and I have been to Kentucky many times, we've even purchased private barrels - one of which we drank at my wedding!
PLEASE LEAVE US A BOOK RECOMMENDATION (BUSINESS OR OTHERWISE).
The Little Engine That Could. It's all about persistence and believing in yourself.
WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THE PRIVATE MARKET OVERALL?