Pejman Nozad came from Iran to the United States. He came as a Persian rug salesman, and made enough money from that to start investing in tech startups. He has created a culture around young people at Stanford starting up. We at LD want to do what Pear has done for elite university grads, but for brilliant majority world minds. We start by acknowledging the lessons we have learned from Pear. In this piece we cover 7 lessons from Pejman Nozad we at LD have learned just observing him over the years.
Pejman is a public personality so we are reporting on his thoughts, like journalists, based on what we observed. He wasn’t involved in the writing of this article.
This is our second “learning from influencers” piece after 5 Reasons why Y Combinator’s Michael Seibel Thinks Silicon Valley Still Matters in the New Normal.
1. Pejman Nozad invests in people.
I remember a few times when I visited Pear offices as a Stanford student. Pejman Nozad and Mar always emphasized people in their lessons. They said that it doesn’t really what idea you’re going after because that’s going to change. Instead it is about the team. Does the team work well together? Do they know each other from dorms or college clubs? Do they have technical backgrounds?
On their website, it says that they partner with entrepreneurs from “day zero”. This insight from Pear is a big lesson to us as potential investors in majority world startups. We need to understand the majority world entrepreneurs as people, rather than fixate on their ideas. We need to be with them from the start to have the most impact. This is probably even more relevant for us than for Pear since we at LD are likely to be the sole investors in these majority world founded startups.
2. Pejman and Mar identify pockets of bright talent.
Pejman Nozad and Mar had a strong emphasis on Stanford talent. They wouldn’t look elsewhere for a long time. When they did start expanding, they looked at very similar institutions: MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, etc. This is because Pejman Nozad and Mar Hershenson found bright talent out of these institutions.
At LD Ventures, we are interested in a completely different demographic of entrepreneurs. We are focused on majority world talent, not graduates of Stanford and the Ivys. That being said, we still need to focus on vetting and supporting the life long learning of the motivated, highly technical entrepreneurs of tomorrow. The lesson from Pejman Nozad is to find “pockets”. When we find that University of Nigeria grads are motivated majority world entrepreneurs, we need to get referrals to deepen our network into that pocket.
3. “Find people early” – an HR lesson.
A big lesson from Pejman Nozad and Mar Hershenson is to find entrepreneurs early in ther story. We want to be early investors in Tribhuvan University and Simon Bolivar University entrepreneurs before American venture funds go after them. Stanford and MIT are saturated but political borders have prevented brilliant entrepreneurs from top universities outside the US from receiving US venture capital. We want to follow Pear’s example but go after majority world entrepreneurs early.
4. Focus solely on innovative areas – a strategy lesson
Tech and Biotech should be the sole focus. The returns you get from innovative sectors are much higher and more promising than those you get from traditional sectors. For instance, if you look at the companies that Pear has invested in, they are SaaS products, Edtech apps, Consumer apps, Deep Tech, and Biotech. This is because these sectors are revolutionizing and replacing the way business is done in other sectors. If you look at this visualization of US and global stocks, then you can see how tech, biotech, and tech-driven businesses are eating the world. While clichéd it’s true. And, while tech might be overvalued in the US now, majority world innovative entrepreneurship is nascent. So, we think encouraging majority world entrepreneurs to focus on innovative areas is the key to replicating Pear’s success globally.
5. Pejman Nozad and Mar incentivize people to stay.
Pear offered a lot of perks, both physical and intangible to its founders. I noticed that many of my friends from Stanford worked at Pear for free. They gave out free office space. By doing this, they also were giving founders an intangible gift of a powerful Silicon Valley network.
6. Make a lot of bets but scale them appropriately.
One thing I heard is that Pejman Nozad and Mar Hershenson will scale their investments in your company if your company is performing well. If they see promise in your startup and traction, they may increase their investments or invest more in future rounds. This is what they did for a number of the companies that they advertise on their website.
7. Create a culture around young people starting up.
When I used to walk down university avenue in the past, and the side street where Pear is, I always noticed how they created a culture. You could see young Stanford students coming to Pear just to hang out. It was an awesome Garage-like space where you could work on projects while a student. They gave out free talks, free food, etc, and made entrepreneurship very easy and approachable for undergrads. They identified that people don’t need to have several years of experience to start a company — a great time is right after graduation or dropping out even.