At the age of 16, most aspiring entrepreneurs get their start in business by taking on a newspaper route or mowing their neighbors’ lawns. Ramtin Naimi skipped all of that and started trading stocks instead. Two years later, at age 18, he started a hedge fund and always pushing the ball forward, in 2016 launched Abstract Ventures, a VC firm based in Silicon Valley, at the ripe old age of 24.
Today Abstract Ventures is one of the most active seed firms in the Valley. As CEO of Beacher Media Group, I've created partnerships between some of the biggest stars and most innovative entrepreneurs in the world. In my numerous meetings, I've had the good fortune to be in the room with Naimi a number of times and have always been impressed by his ability to not only have a ton of deals going at once but to stay on top of those deals and close them. (Abstract has closed a head-spinning 31 deals since August.)
How does he manage a pace like that? I spoke with the non-stop dealmaker for Entrepreneur to get his thoughts on grabbing success and never taking your foot off the gas pedal. Here are his top ten tips.
1. Hustle with a relentless sense of urgency
"I feel like some people are hustlers by nature and some aren’t. But it is also something that develops and becomes more pronounced with time. Once you recognize the benefits of constantly moving, constantly banging on doors, constantly trying to close deals, not waiting for one thing to end before starting the next, you never want to stop."
2. Don’t wait, create
"I was so focused on getting a job at a traditional venture capital firm in the Valley at first. I didn’t realize that while I was waiting to get a job, I could have been meeting founders and developing my network and building out my deal flow. It took me to click with that 'Do the job, don’t ask for the job' mentality. I told myself, if I can’t get the VC job that I want, I’m just going to be a VC. And six months later, we are one of the top 3 most active seed firms in the Valley. Avoid the mistake of waiting for things to happen. While you're waiting for something to develop you can be getting 10 other things off the ground. There's no such thing as having too many irons in the fire."
3. Give in order to get
"The amount of business we’re doing is a direct result of me sharing all of my deals with everyone around me. I tell people what I’m working on, I introduce VCs to founders, founders to VCs—I’m constantly making introductions to people. I’m not greedy with my network and deal flow, and I’ve found that pays back tenfold."
4. Don't take business advice from someone you wouldn't trade careers
"I picked up on this fairly early. There were people who tell me, you know, your hedge fund was good, but consider going back to school, finishing your degree and get an MBA and finish things the right way. I looked at those guys and they were very successful at climbing the corporate ladder. But it wasn’t the success I wanted. I didn’t want to trade careers with someone who took 20 years to get to where they were, I wanted to trade careers with someone who hustled and broke down walls and made things happen. I shadowed guys like Stuart Peterson and Gil Penchina. I did a bunch of free things for them and never expected anything in return. And that work resulted in relationships that opened doors for me and showed me the ropes. They told me, 'You don’t need to go to school. Education is only as valuable as the network you get out of going to school and you’ve already created that network. Anyone who is telling you to go back to school is wasting your time.' And these are guys who went to Booth and Kellogg advising me not to go!"
5. Be transparent with your intentions
"No one likes cagey people. There are some VCs who will never tell you want deals they’re working on, who they are working with or even what the purpose of this meeting is. I think that approach is all wrong. This is a give-to-get industry. The consistent feedback I get is that people appreciate my transparency. I tell everyone which companies I’m looking at, which ones I’m investing in, which ones are in my pipeline, which ones you should talk to—I’m not secretive and that builds great relationships."
6. Don't be afraid of rejection
"I emailed half the Valley trying to build my initial network. I was used to rejection coming into VC because I was trying to raise money for a hedge fund when I was 18. You can imagine how many nos I got. I meet founders that if they go to 7 VCs and they get 7 nos, they start to think that this isn’t the right idea to work on. Maybe this is stupid? Maybe I should start from scratch? You have to remember that some of the biggest companies in the world didn’t get funded. AirBnB didn’t get funded, they had to go to Y Combinator after getting nos from 25 VCs. Uber had a really difficult time getting funded. I think the people who are really successful in entrepreneurship don’t take no for an answer."
7. Not all opinions are equal
"VCs like to pretend that they are experts in every sector of the world. There are generalist VC and specialists. There might be a guy who specializes in Bitcoins, who lives, sleeps and breaths Bitcoin. His opinion on Bitcoin might be valid. But if you’re talking to a generalist, he might be an expert on 2 sectors and know a little something about 15. So you can’t take their opinion as fact. A lot of entrepreneurs don’t know that."
8. Don't waste anyone's time
"When I was starting out, I never went into a meeting asking for something without being able to offer something in return. People don’t like one-sided meetings, that’s just wasting a person’s time. What people want is to build relationships with people who add value to what they are doing."
9. Harness the power of the blind email
"My blind emails always started with a quick story about myself. I tried to make them engaging, interesting and to the point. And I personalized them, it didn’t look like I copy and pasted the same email to 35 people. I’m receptive to emails like that. If it is apparent that I’m one of 100 people they sent this same email to and they just swapped out my name, I don’t respond to those."
10. Take bets
"One of my favorite quotes from Ray Dalio’s Principles is 'Recognize opportunities where there isn’t much to lose and a lot to gain, even if the probability of the gain happening is low.' As Wayne Gretzky said, 'You miss 100% of the shots you don't take'. I lose sleep over missed opportunities. There are so many 'what ifs' in the seed stage that you can talk yourself out of any deal. The only thing you can do is have a thesis, and when an opportunity that fits your thesis comes around, you pull the trigger. That’s been my philosophy. If you talk to anyone who has had multiple billion dollar exits, if they’re being honest, they’ll tell you that they had no idea that those would have been their best wins."