Investing in fintech and engineering infrastructure.

Founders: why we should meet, what I invest in, how I can help and founder feedback.

General Partner @ Partech,
Founding Partner @ Irregular Expressions.

Investor @ Memfault, Medigate, Bubble.io, People.ai, Canva, Treasure Data, ProdPerfect, Okay, Clubhouse.io, Datakin, User Interviews, Educative, Alectio, Grove Financial, Bison Trails, Nivelo, Trade Up, Atomic Invest, KickPay, Firefly, MindKick, Antheia, Peachy, Nirvana, Anzen, Jeeves.

Former VP, Engineering @ Mint, Ring, Porch.

Former CTO @ Cadre, One Kings Lane, Twelvefold Media Former Co-founder and CTO @ Fountain, Activeweave.

We should have met yesterday

Whether or not you’re fundraising right now. Companies are built over many years, and the investors you bring on to support you on that journey will likely be around through most of it. So we both want to maximize the odds we’re a great and valuable match. Proxies help: what we’ve done, with whom, etc. But to truly find out, nothing beats getting to know each other early. We’ll learn answers to two questions: are our areas of interests aligned, and can we, together, grow the company faster and more successfully?  

What I obsess over

I look to back founders building engines of collective progress.

As an investor, I’ve long been inspired to take on the problems I faced building my own startups, in product and engineering roles. This has kept leading me to two distinct categories of companies. 

Engineering Infrastructure

First, systems and platforms transforming the work experience of technologists — whether software engineers, designers, project managers or data scientists — and that in the process make them qualitatively more effective and productive. I view technology, applied responsibly, as one of the core drivers of sustainable progress, and equipping those building the future with the best tools simply yet powerfully accelerates our journey on that arc. Think Dev Tools, Dev Ops, Engineering and Data Infrastructure, Machine Learning and ML Ops platforms.

Fintech

Second, rather orthogonally, fintech and embedded finance companies. I was lucky enough to work on Mint’s core data aggregation system early on, and that first foray into the dawn of fintech illustrated vividly the crucial role of finance in our lives. At Cadre much later on, we focused on democratizing access to institutional-grade commercial real estate investments. Just like accelerating the development of technology is a fundamental engine of progress, I believe modernizing our financial infrastructure and expanding access for all to innovative financial services is an essential vector of equity.

How I get involved

Once an engineer, always an engineer: I think in systems, whether it’s about refining a recruiting process, a product organization, or a sales playbook. 

For over twenty years, I worked with amazing teams and co-founders, typically as CTO or VP of Engineering, at quite a few startups. Activeweave, Twelve Fold, One Kings Lane, Fountain, Porch, Ring. Most notably Mint and Cadre, both fintech companies.  

Engineering and Product Organizations

In addition to lots of scar tissue, that long operating career left me an undiminished passion for the crucial roles great product and engineering teams play in the outcome. It’s hard to underestimate the importance of hiring and retaining exceptional people when building astounding technology that meets the needs of a thriving market. Naturally, this extends to equipping those teams with the best tools and practices out there. Let’s invest early in

  • Hiring,
  • Team development,
  • Organizational design,
  • Engineering processes,
  • Fine-tuning product-market fit,
  • Avoiding scope creep.

Growth

Building it doesn’t mean they will come, not without a repeatable playbook to acquire and retain customers. Whether it’s product-led growth, top-down or bottom-up, your go-to-market strategy is ultimately what propels the company, or stalls it. While I often defer to my partner Reza, whose entire operating career has been spent in marketing and sales, I also bring to bear a deep network of specialists whose collective experience translates into actionable tactics in most configurations.  

Ecosystem

Ultimately, one of the most powerful reasons I specialize so narrowly is to nurture an ecosystem of investors, customers, partners and acquirers truly valuable as you grow the company. I help you connect with two main ecosystems: engineering and product leaders, and fintech practitioners. 

A helpful band of nerds

I initially brought together that syndicate of early stage investors — now including over 75 CTOs, VPs of Engineering at high-growth technology startups, to further extend, amplify and tailor to various industries and companies the perspective and advice I could share from my own experience. The group has proven a valuable, specific, tactical as much as strategic resource to founders. It doesn’t hurt that everyone’s teams at work are avid consumers and producers of engineering infrastructure.

Fintech

With an industry now encompassing financial infrastructure, and with the diffusion of many financial functions into a far-reaching pool of companies, thinking systemically about — and connecting with — the downstream actors in the field is critical in meeting the needs of the market, as the realm of prospective customers and acquirers widens. Similarly, cross-pollinating strategies with founders serving similar customers has proven a powerful growth accelerant.  

Founder Feedback

I’ve been extremely fortunate to back incredible founders. Here are a few words from them about our work together. 

Jean was one of the first investors we ever pitched and shared the vision for Canva with, back in 2012 when he was on a trip to our home town in Perth, Western Australia. Jean was incredibly supportive back then, and his support has continued over many years – letting us crash at his apartment for *months* as we pitched for our first round of funding, he listened to our unpolished pitch many times, he introduced us to great people in his network, gave great advice and lent a friendly ear too many times to count. We’re really lucky to have met Jean along our path.

Melanie Perkins @ Canva

Jean is a super star. Believed in Canva before we even had a prototype and supported us through the fundraising and business building phases. Not to mention, he let us crash at his house for over a month (was supposed to be a couple of days) while we were trying to raise our seed round.

Cliff Obrecht @ Canva

Jean is one of the best technology leaders out there, hands down. I’m very lucky to have him as my investor and mentor.

Oleg Rogynskyy @ People.ai

If I had one thing to say about Jean, it would be that everything that he does is purposeful and meaningful! Few investors put as much time and effort into understanding our technology, our business model and our challenges; but once Jean decided to make the jump, he was all in and has been one of the most precious allies to Alectio and to me so far. If I need an introduction, he will just make it happen. Jean is one of those people you feel better having by your side, who are there when you need them – whether it’s because you need strategic advice, or just because you need a listening ear.

Jennifer Prendki @ Alectio

Working with Jean and the Partech team throughout the investment process was a highly professional experience. They came prepared with the right level of industry and competitive knowledge to advance the process. The process was also well balanced between the commercial aspects of our company and the technological / product aspects. Finally, they were friendly and easy to work with which helped accelerate the process and create a positive experience. Following the investment, Jean and team have always been attentive to our needs and available to assist within our timeframe. They have provided warm introductions to the right people, professional guidance and insights when requested, and a lending an ear to help address pressing issues. They have been a great investment partner.

Jonathan Langer @ Medigate

Jean and Irregular Expressions have been great partners and investors for User Interviews. Even before we were fundraising, Jean was able to give helpful intros and advice on scaling. His experience as an operator allowed him to understand and get up to speed on the market incredibly quickly. Once we began to fundraise they moved fast and had a very smooth, founder friendly process. Everyone in Irregular Expressions is a successful operator, so the questions and conversations felt more like a mentor session than a pitch. Post-investment everyone has been available and engaged whenever I had a request. I’ve done working sessions on GTM strategy and product philosophy with people from Irregular Expressions network. I also have very helpful quarterly meetings with Jean to go over the business. I’m very grateful I’ve had the opportunity to work with Irregular Expressions and look forward to scaling User Interviews with them as partners.

Basel Fakhoury @ User Interviews

It’s been a tremendous pleasure working with Jean over the past year and a half. From our very first breakfast in San Francisco, Jean immediately understood the potential of our company and brought his experience as a founder and engineering leader to bear. The team at Partech moved fast and was great to work with throughout the financing process. Since then, Jean has worked alongside us to close hires, find customers, and wrestle with difficult strategic questions. I’m thrilled to have him on my board, and look forward to a long journey together.

François Baldassari @ Memfault

Jean was incredibly helpful brokering introductions and investments from stellar engineering experts who could be force multipliers to our business. These experts have been tremendously helpful in my recruiting process as I grow my company post Seed investments. Jean has also made himself available post-investment for any help needed. It’s been a great relationship to us and would recommend to founders with a strong focus on capital that is strategic.

Eli Polanco @ Nivelo

I found Jean to be very thoughtful and structured in the way that he approached his investment decision. He takes the time to make sure that he understands the nuance of your business and to offer valuable perspectives drawn from his past experiences. He is very much a “System 2” thinker, which I greatly appreciate. Post-investment, he has been very proactive in finding ways to support our initiatives — from making valuable intros to meeting with candidates on our behalf. He’s been a great partner to Atomic.

David Dindi @ Atomic Invest