Seeking Out Global IT Pioneers

A Moment with Phil Wickham

 Question: What did you do before you got involved with Sozo?


Phil: I ran a nonprofit organization called the Kauffman Fellows program which is a global network of venture capitalists. We operate in about 45 countries around the world and we're fed by a two-year postgraduate fellowship where we bring in about 45 or 50 people a year from all over the all over the world to go through a very intensive training as a part of a practicum. It's a part of their day-to-day work and then they'll join the full community once they graduate. 


Question: What was the inspiration for Sozo Ventures?


Phil: The inspiration for Sozo actually came from a Kauffman fellow in class '12 was from Japan. I had a lot of operating and investing background in Japan and across the Pacific between Japan and Silicon Valley and we

started a process of getting to know each otherand working on individual projects in Japan and after about 2 or 3 years of working together we decided to strike out and form a full-blown fund. 


Question: Which fund is Sozo on right now? 


Phil: We're just in the process of wrapping up our official Roman numeral two. We have an alpha fund in there that was an SPV from 2011 which invested $20 million dollars in Twitter and then we raised a formal Roman numeral fund one in 2012 and now we're we're closing Roman numeral two and it'll be about a hundred and eighty five million dollars. 


Question: At what stage does Sozo like companies to be at before investing in them? 


Phil: So it's a good question we so we use a language called readiness stage. Our assumption in creating this fund is that some subset of IT companies are destined to be global category leaders and so we believe that the Japanese IT market is the best springboard market into international markets- Asia in particular, we're looking at companies that are basically ready to do that. Now that can be there's no indicator saying at "X" million dollars in revenue that they're ready. Some of it's product related, some of its revenue related, some of its very much team and culture and maturity related. We have a pretty long process of between 6-12 months of diligence where we really get to know these companies and understand are you really ready to tackle this challenge because it is not for the faint of heart. 


Question: What determines which companies that you decide to work with? 


Phil: For the most part we approach them. If you look at the statistics, the the very important global players are a very small concentrated group and you have to go seek them out you have to win them over. We're much more of a sales organization and a sales culture as a venture fund than we are a passive selection vehicle and I think any top-tier fund will tell you they operate exactly the same way and so we'll look at companies and we'll look for indicators in the market- some of them publicly available data, some of it that we just dig up on our own- and we'll seek those companies out and then we'll just start to work with them as our diligence process. So we'll actually try to help them create business in the process of getting to know them which we find is a very positive experience for the entrepreneur and their investors and it's also the best way to get to know them. 


Question: Do you have a website? 



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