By Paul Snatchko
Brian Laung Aoaeh is in the business of venture capital. But, he says, the kind of startup founder that really excites him does not need a venture capitalist.
“She simply needs some capital to enable her to build her vision and transform the world. My job is to give that founder sufficient reason to decide that she wants to undertake that journey with KEC Ventures as a companion,” he wrote in a blog post titled “Question Everything.”
In the past two years, KEC Ventures has invested in Wedding Spot, Seen.co, Feed.fm, JustFab, BitVault, The Bouqs Company, Drync, Kanvas, Filip Technologies, Jump Ramp Games, Yhat, Sound Pharmeceuticals and several others.
Startup founders have got to inspire confidence at the first meeting, Brian believes.
“She has to make me want to follow her over the edge of a cliff or into a burning building. She has to make me feel I could trust her with my life because come hell or high water, she’s going to figure things out,” he wrote. “She’s smart, hard working, can process an enormous amount of unfamiliar information and take action based on what she’s learned, she knows or can learn how to build and lead a team that’s going to do something ambitious. She might be an introvert, or an extrovert. She gets me to buy into her vision of how things should be, and how she will use technology to accomplish that. She wants to win, and she knows how to win.”
Brian stresses he’s also not looking for a yes-man (or yes-woman).
“I do not believe in founders who lack the intellectual and emotional fortitude to debate and argue honestly about what is best for the startup with their investors and with others who might have opinions about what they should do,” he says. “I expect the entrepreneur to know far more than the average investor about what will work, what will not work, and why. Cheery agreement with everything an ‘ignorant’ investor suggests acts as a red flag to me that perhaps this founder does not understand the problem she is solving, or her market, as well as is required to do what she says she wants to accomplish.”
Brian was born in Ghana but spent most of his youth in Nigeria (where his father began teaching English in 1979). He moved to the United States to attend Connecticut College in New London, CT, from which he graduated in 2001 after studying math and physics and working as a DJ at the college radio station.
“I graduated in the middle of the dot.com bust,” he remembered with a smile.
He went on to work at UBS and Lehman Brothers, being laid off there a few months before the historic firm’s collapse in September, 2008.
Brian also holds an M.B.A. from New York University’s Stern School of Business. Last fall, not far from NYU, he discovered Caffe Reggio on MacDougal Street. It’s one of his favorite coffee shops and “would a good place to impress a date,” he said.
Brian has been married since 2012 and has one son, age 8. His family lives in Elmont on Long Island. He travels to Joynture by driving to Queens and taking the E train into Manhattan. Joynture is an ideal coworking space, he thinks, “because of its blend between community and privacy.”
Brian, who recently became a U.S. citizen, notes that his parents spoke different African dialects when he was a boy so he was raised with English as his first language. But, sometimes, people underestimate his fluency.
“When I’m with people from the U.K., I like to challenge them to a game of Scrabble. ‘I can’t believe I lost to you!’ they always say after I kick their butts,” he joked.