Interview With Thomas Klocanas
Fund / GroupBlockTower Capital
Number of portfolio companies40+
Focus AreasCrypto / Web3
Stage(s)Pre-seed - A
HOW AND WHY DID YOU GET STARTED IN PRIVATE INVESTING?
My early career at Barclays, covering European Tech & Payments from an Equity Research perspective really awakened my interest in private investing, perhaps counter intuitively given a job description focused on public markets! I had a long-running interest in consumer tech prior to this, ranging from video games, pre-iPod portable music players, through to popular early internet applications and communities, but analyzing large, mature, public companies interested me in one unique way: I was most interested in the top-down thematic pieces we published on FinTech and Blockchain, and the applications that would have on our coverage universe, versus our single-stock, usual research analyzing our companies.
My immersion into the world of venture however only really started at Columbia Business School, where I focused a majority of my course work to venture related topics, and built a strong network in the venture and crypto landscape, which ultimately led me to my post MBA career at ConsenSys, a leading venture capital / incubator and software company in the blockchain space, and eventually into ‘pure play’ venture at White Star Capital and now BlockTower Capital, where we focus on both public and private digital asset investments across our different strategies.
WHAT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU VALUE IN AN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY?
Given my focus is primarily around early stage, team and founder market fit is a key consideration, alongside market, of course. In assessing early-stage teams and founders, we look for founder market-fit in terms of experience and background, resilience, flexibility and ability to operate soft and hard pivots if needed, and individuals with strong morals that embody company’s mission statement. I look for teams with unique and complementary sets of experiences, perspectives and skills as a guiding principle. In addition to a team’s complementarity, their chemistry and the culture they set are also crucial elements in our assessment, which is why we love to spend considerable time interacting with founders prior to investing, and staying connected even outside of their periods of fundraising. Last but most certainly not least, we look for founders and teams who are relentlessly passionate for their problem space, and can translate their passion to new hires. It takes passion to build big outcomes and align a growing projects’ many incentives.
WHAT ARE THE BEST INNOVATION THEMES THAT YOU SEE IN THE MARKET TODAY?
I’m extremely excited about the digital asset and web3 category at large, as exemplified by my focus in recent years. Zooming out, cryptocurrency is still owned by less than 10% of the global population, and decentralized financial systems hold over $200 billion in assets, yet still represent a small drop relative to the traditional financial system and Web3 applications have reached tens of millions of users, and yet are still pale in comparison to the billions using Web2 applications. In other words, it’s still early. A lot of the products and business models which will define the coming decade and beyond are likely not born, or current early-stage projects.
Within web3 more broadly, we’re extremely excited by themes such as the intersection of decentralized finance and real-world lending, where various BlockTower projects come to mind as leading projects we are excited to see scale, DAO tooling, at the treasury, payments and governance layers, as well as Metaverse infrastructure. Across these three themes, we’re observing growing investors, enterprise and repeat entrepreneur interest.
BEYOND ECONOMIC RETURN, WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DO YOU HOPE TO MAKE WITH YOUR PORTFOLIO?
My personal interest in web3 is deeply rooted in the belief that it is paradigm shifting technology which will empower end users, in developed and emerging economics, both financially and in terms of digital sovereignty. At BlockTower, we look to back companies, networks and communities who are building on this new tech stack to endeavor to offer consumers greater financial empowerment, and transparency around data and privacy, as well as enabling new digital experiences. We hope our portfolio will be able to have impact well beyond pure economic returns.
WHAT ARE THE MOST PRESSING CHALLENGES OR PAIN POINTS IN MANAGING YOUR DAY-TO-DAY PRIVATE INVESTMENT ACTIVITY?
Time management and prioritization, without a doubt. Venture is a network driven industry, and we engage on an ongoing basis with our founders, LPs, co-investors, researchers, and other industry experts to surface and diligence opportunities, as well as support our portfolio investments, and in a fast-moving market, one’s calendar is often filled with meetings morning to evenings. Finding the time to zoom out, and produce deep work is key, but tough. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried every to-do and scheduling tool out there!
WHAT IS THE HARDEST INVESTMENT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED AND/OR THE BIGGEST INVESTMENT MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE?
There are many, and likely will be many more, but one key lesson that has stuck with me is pushing for sizing when you have conviction, even (sometimes even especially) if that is a contrarian view. Early-stage investments are always risky, and it’s easy, especially as a junior VC, to lose confidence in your investment thesis when presented with skepticism or pessimism, but if you’ve done the qualitative and quantitative work and have conviction, you are likely seeing an opportunity others haven’t crystalized yet.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE INDUSTRY INFORMATION SOURCES AND/OR SERVICES?
Messari, The Block, The Defiant, and of course, Discord and “Crypto Twitter”! The first two are musts in terms of aggregating the gargantuan and rapidly moving volume of news flow in the web3 space, while the latter two feel like drinking from the firehouse. There is still so much information asymmetry in this space, but the beauty is all of this information is out there on open social networks for anyone who has the time to consume it!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE NON-BUSINESS INTEREST OR HOBBY?
I’ll rarely turn down enjoying some specialty coffee or natural wine (within reason!), especially in good company with friends and family. I also enjoy spending time with my wife and dog, and am an avid football (soccer) fan and player.
PLEASE LEAVE US A BOOK RECOMMENDATION (BUSINESS OR OTHERWISE).
No relation to venture, but I recently got through Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook's Tour and really enjoyed it. I’ve always enjoyed his narrative voice, but this particular book had me feeling like I was there traveling with him and the crew, almost like I could smell the cooking scenes and taste the flavors. Closed the book with a strong feeling of wanderlust… and hunger.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THE PRIVATE MARKET OVERALL?
While private markets are evidently linked to macro narratives and public sentiment in this new paradigm, ample dry powder from smart money investors has been raised and earmarked for private markets, in digital assets and more broadly, to support quality talent coming to market in 2022-2023. Valuation discipline will remain key.