Nov. 23, 2021

UVC: Chris Smith from Playfair Capital on his transition from law to venture capital, the 2Bs of an ideal pitch deck, and ways VCs can harm startups

UVC: Chris Smith from Playfair Capital on his transition from law to venture capital, the 2Bs of an ideal pitch deck, and ways VCs can harm startups

Understanding VC is a deep dive on how Venture Capitalists work. In this episode, I talk to Chris Smith, Managing Partner at Playfair Capital, who was formerly an angel investor and a lawyer. Over the course of this episode, Chris talks about his transition from a lawyer to a venture capitalist, and the vicissitudes he faced during his journey. He also shares some extremely useful insights on how VCs function, the type of VCs founders should avoid, and the things that are much more important during early-stage fundraising than just capital. He also talks about his opinion on the ideal work culture in the wake of the pandemic and the world crawling back to normalcy, his unusual route of an interview process to becoming a partner at Playfair, and the type of culture they nurture at Playfair. Towards the end of the episode, Chris shares his thoughts about the comparative dynamics of European and Southeast Asian markets and some of the challenges that await them in the future.


In this episode, you will learn:

  • What are the pivots that propelled Chris’s successful transition into a VC?
  • What are the three crucial stages of fundraising that Chris deems indispensable?
  • What are the 2 Bs that every founder should keep in mind while creating their pitch deck?
  • Story of how the founder of Continuum Industries  reached out to Chris and chased him during a conference to pitch him and raise funding
  • Is fundraising really as easy as people make it out to be?
  • How should VCs allocate their time investment to their two customers - LPs, and founders? How does Playfair do it?
  • What are some of the ways in which VCs can harm startups?
  • Why does Chris prefer a hybrid work structure at a time when most companies are going completely remote?
  • What are the pros and cons of investing in Europe and SouthEast Asia? Is one better than the other?

About

Chris is Managing Partner at Playfair Capital, a Kauffman Fellow (Class 25) and a Contributor to Forbes.
He focuses his investing activities on seed (and pre-seed) deals in the UK, Europe and Israel. Chris is particularly interested in autonomous transportation, business and industrial automation (especially through AI, ML and computer vision), HealthTech (except diagnostics and therapeutics) and B2B SaaS. He loves finding companies operating in unloved/overlooked sectors that are ripe for disruption.
Prior to joining Playfair, Chris held senior roles at plan.com including Sales Director, Head of Tech/BI and Head of Product Development. He was the 8th member of the team and over a 5 year period built an award-winning sales team, introduced new products (organically and through acquisition) and lead the rollout of version 4 of the platform. Revenues grew to £50m in 2018 and the company ranked #1 in The Sunday Times Tech Track 100.
In addition to his roles at plan.com, Chris worked on the re-launch/re-branding of Vannin Capital (another Bramden Investments' portfolio company which was acquired by Fortress Investment Group LLC in September 2019).
Chris executed 14 angel investments across the UK and US from 2008 to 2018 with five exits to date including SuperAwesome (acq. Epic Games), Nearbuy Systems (acq. RetailNext) & Bidstack (LON:BIDS). He is passionate about investing in tech companies and supporting founders using his extensive operational and legal experience.
In his previous life, Chris spent nearly a decade in the City as a transactional lawyer. He has worked with some of the world’s leading private equity and venture capital funds on predominately international acquisitions, disposals and restructurings. At Weil, he spent time on secondment to the Silicon Valley office’s patent litigation team, UK-based food manufacturer Premier Foods and the Asset Protection Agency.
He also setup a telecoms business offering discounted international calling from 14 countries in 2001 which he partially exited via an MBO in 2005.

 

Chris Smith Profile Photo

Chris Smith

Manager Partner at Playfair Capital

Chris is Managing Partner at Playfair Capital, a Kauffman Fellow (Class 25) and a Contributor to Forbes.

He focuses his investing activities on seed (and pre-seed) deals in the UK, Europe and Israel. Chris is particularly interested in autonomous transportation, business and industrial automation (especially through AI, ML and computer vision), HealthTech (except diagnostics and therapeutics) and B2B SaaS. He loves finding companies operating in unloved/overlooked sectors that are ripe for disruption.

Prior to joining Playfair, Chris held senior roles at plan.com including Sales Director, Head of Tech/BI and Head of Product Development. He was the 8th member of the team and over a 5 year period built an award winning sales team, introduced new products (organically and through acquisition) and lead the roll out of version 4 of the platform. Revenues grew to £50m in 2018 and the company ranked #1 in The Sunday Times Tech Track 100.

In addition to his roles at plan.com, Chris worked on the re-launch/re-branding of Vannin Capital (another Bramden Investments' portfolio company which was acquired by Fortress Investment Group LLC in September 2019).

Chris executed 14 angel investments across the UK and US from 2008 to 2018 with five exits to date including SuperAwesome (acq. Epic Games), Nearbuy Systems (acq. RetailNext) & Bidstack (LON:BIDS). He is passionate about investing in tech companies and supporting founders using his extensive operational and legal experience.

In his previous life, Chris spent nearly a decade in the City as a transactional lawyer. He has worked with some of the world’s leading private equity and venture capital funds on predominately international acquisitions, disposals and restructurings. At Weil, he spent time on secondment to the Silicon Valley office’s patent litigation team, UK-based food manufacturer Premier Foods and the Asset Protection Agency.

He also setup a telecoms business offering discounted international calling from 14 countries in 2001 which he partially exited via an MBO in 2005.