For this week’s Humans of Garage Society, Cadets Prae and Esther sat down with our best-dressed Garager Furuzonfar Zehni from Fresco Capital. While we were super impressed by his stellar startup credentials, he had a more humble view of himself. “I’m a Venture Capitalist. I know nothing but my startups.” Though humor was intended, such a bold statement certainly speaks to his passion for the the startup industry. Read on to find out more about Furuzon’s vision for creating impact through his position and hear his advice to both current and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way. How do we pronounce your name?
My full name is Furuzonfar (pronounced as fur-zon-far), but I’ve been called all sorts of names! Furuz, Furuzon (pronounced as fur-zon), Fu, Furu, Fury just to give you a taste. My all time favorite is probably Furuzon though.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a native of Tajikistan. Fun fact: we have the largest population of snow leopards. Not only have I lived in Tajikistan, but I’ve also lived in Yemen, Sweden, Russia, New York, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Hong Kong. I studied Accounting and Finance at HKU - it’s the best university in the world. I love sports as well, especially basketball and football. I’m a die hard fan of the Golden State Warriors! Operas and musicals are another passion of mine and Hong Kong is a great place for that.
What is your career story? Did you start off as interns like we did?
University is a great bubble, but one thing I have realized is that things start moving a lot faster once you graduate. You have to always be on the lookout and seize the opportunities as they come. I wasn’t smart enough to intern like you guys, so I started my own company. Straight out of college, I went to New York for three months to work for a consulting firm. I decided to return to Hong Kong because my sister was starting school here and that was when I started my own company. My first company was Gonnect, a data visualization company for financial conferences. Another company I founded was Jefferson Trust, a wealth management firm aimed to improve transparency within the industry. Both of these companies are in Hong Kong and still exist to this day! Fresco is definitely a well-suited workplace for me as it allows me to handle other projects and maintain my companies as long as the job is done for Fresco.
Can you tell us a bit about Fresco Capital?
Fresco Capital is a Venture Capital firm focused on building enduring value across different cultures and business sectors. As it is our mission, the team members are from all over the world. We have members from Japan, the US, Bangledesh, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and of course Tajikistan.
Why did you choose to join Fresco Capital, or venture capitalism in general
I am bad at planning, so I never planned it out that I was going to be a venture capitalist. It was more of luck and fate than anything. I met one of Fresco’s managing partners, Steve, eight years ago while I was still in university. Steve was my mentor then, but we soon became friends. He invested in my company, Gonnect, and then asked me to join Fresco Capital. I was attracted to the team’s diversity and the firm’s global perspective, so I accepted the offer.
Word of advice for entrepreneurs? What does a venture investor look for in startups?
The most important aspect we look for is what we call the “founder market fit”. A simpler way to put it is how passionate the founder is about not just the product or the problem at hand, but the market. The world changes day to day. Trends, demands, and problems are all constantly changing. If the founder is only passionate about the problem or the product at that point in time, he or she will no longer excited about the market once that problem is solved. We look for people who will continue to innovate and maintain the same level of motivation and enthusiasm for the market.
What is your typical day at Fresco?
Simply put, a typical day at Fresco for me involves more deciding than investing. I spend a lot of time deciding what investments we should make by talking to brilliant founders from all over the world. A proportionately large amount of my day is devoted to meetings. Most of them are mainly with our investors, and potential & existing investments. I also work on internal projects and handling, as well as talking to Tytus to review the past few days’ work.
Why did you choose a coworking space? Why Garage Society?
I like the ambiance and energy of coworking spaces, as opposed to serviced offices. There’s more vibrancy and dynamism in the space, and Garage Society is an exemplar of that. Here, there is no such thing as a dull environment and that is what I love about it.
What do you see for your future, both personally and professionally?
One thing that I have always held highly of is creating impact. As a venture capitalist, I am allowed to impact many firms and that’s one of many reasons I cherish my job. No matter what my future looks like, I will always try to have a positive impact to this world.