Tiana is the Founding Partner at Laurence Innovation, an Austin-TX based pre-seed investment fund. The fund has a focus on early-stage tech companies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) verticals that are tackling some of the most pressing challenges the world is facing. Another core priority for the fund is having a robust portfolio of companies founded and led by women, under-capitalized entrepreneurs and geographies.
Tiana is known in the blockchain industry and the venture capital space. She’s the author of two books, Blockchain For Dummies and Introduction to Blockchain Technology, the co-founder of Factom (a blockchain company in Austin, TX), and has been an angel investor for tech startups for five years.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
In my twenties, I had a mixed bag of entrepreneurial adventures. I started and failed several companies. Then at 29 years old, I finally had an exit. I took the money from that and started investing, including in my new software company in the blockchain space. In 2017, I left this company and started investing and writing full time.
I’m now taking everything I learned from my failures and success and putting it into my new venture fund - Laurence Innovation. It is a seed-stage venture fund based in Austin, Texas, that focuses on capital-efficient startups in the Midwest, leveraging a systematic, diversified investment approach. It seeks non-bias gender parity in deep tech founding teams.
Q: Your fund focuses on diversification, diversity, and hard tech. What inspired the creation of your fund and this investment focus?
I care deeply about making capital available to bright minds no matter their gender or ethnicity. So, I am launching a venture capital firm that will fund deep tech companies founded by diverse teams, helping generate inclusive and innovative technologies that solve for our most difficult challenges by leveraging the power of ALL the brightest people.
Q: On your website it says you're investing in Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies. Can you tell us more about it?
I love technology. Advancements in 4IR technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and protein folding are rapidly changing our world. They also hold the key to solving our most difficult challenges, such as global warming and food security. I want to fund technologies that help move us towards a sustainable and peaceful global population, even as it grows past 8 billion. I believe that investing in restorative industrialization, undercapitalized founders and geographies, will make this happen.
Q: How do you measure the impact that your portfolio companies are having?
I’m investing too early to measure the impact. But what we are looking at for now, are metrics I can control around our investments. Do we have diverse founding teams? Are they building something that both creates a greater good and makes a profit? If the answer is yes, then I believe they will make a major impact on society.
Q: What are the biggest unsolved problems in the diversity space?
As an angel investor, I made quick judgment calls. A friend once told me, "There is a direct line between your wallet and your heart". If I liked a deal, I would know almost instantly. All the rest of the time I spent trying to see if I was wrong or if something about the company was broken or the market was too competitive or if the price was right. What I've learned over the past six years is that these fast-thinking judgment calls are not great. It's a numbers game. The more times you invest, the more chances you have to make an excellent investment.
What I've learned is that three things have been correlated to success - intelligence, integrity, and conscientiousness. By shifting the investment paradigm from an emotion-based, bias-filled game to a systematic lean approach, I think more founders and more diverse founders will get funded because intelligence, integrity, and conscientiousness are universal traits that are not bound by gender, ethnicity, or location.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
Accept that you will fail…. a lot. Accept that it will feel humiliating, and that people around you will be unkind and unhelpful. Make a pact with yourself that you will keep getting up and start again - pick a number (mine was 11). Be your own best advocate but don’t forget to ask for advice (from people that have what you want only) and help from people that make you feel empowered and supported.