Author: Collab Fund

Brazil at Silicon Valley

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

Latin America continues to emerge as a vibrant landscape of innovation, and Brazil is quickly establishing itself as the epicenter.

Simon Rodriguez outlined this sentiment as “Ask anyone and Brazil is X years ahead of Spanish-speaking LatAm, where X depends on the nationality of the responder”.

As BBVA reports, “São Paulo’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is valued at $108 billion. In comparison, Mexico City’s (the second-largest in Latin America) is valued at $22 billion.”

Moreover, São Paulo holds the 4th place in the Global Fintech ranking. In a region where “cash is king,” Brazil is leading the charge towards digital payments. Brazil’s Central Bank launched the country’s instant payment system PIX in 2020, which already boasts more than 130m registered users (60% of Brazil’s population).

To explore Brazil’s technological progress, students from Stanford and Berkeley hold an incredible annual event called Brazil at Silicon Valley (BSV).

As the name suggests, the aim is to bridge the gap between Brazil and Silicon Valley. This year, BSV was attended by a diverse crowd of over 600 founders, investors, technologists, and policymakers. My unofficial estimate is that at least 550 attendees undertook the long journey from Brazil — a minimum of two flights spanning at least 15 hours.

Let’s just say that my portuñol came in handy.

During the Agtech session: How innovations in food systems can help solve the climate crisis, a BSV staff member used a voice-to-text function to generate the Chat-GPT summary minutes after the session was over. Naturally, (Read more...)

Paying Attention

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

Sherlock Holmes says in the book, The Study of Scarlet:

I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands.

This was written in 1887. Imagine how he’d feel today – phone buzzing in his pocket, social media feeds gushing out useless information.

Deciding what to pay attention to is hard, overlooked, and most important, it’s a negative skill – it’s about what you willfully ignore as much as what you actively seek out.

Francis Crick, who discovered the double helix structure of DNA, was once asked what it takes to win the Nobel Prize. He responded: “Oh it’s very simple. My secret had been I know what to ignore.”

Author John Barry writes:

Einstein reportedly once said that his own major scientific talent was his ability to look at an enormous number of experiments and journal articles, select the very few that were both correct and important, ignore the rest, and build a theory on the right ones.

The best reading strategy I’ve come across is the idea of a wide funnel and tight filter. Be willing to read anything that looks even (Read more...)

Expectations Debt

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

I live in Seattle, and Amazon is our giant. A third of my neighbors work for the company.

When Amazon was on top of the world in 2021 – reputation gleaming, stock price booming – you could feel the pride and prosperity. You could practically smell it.

I once heard that 90% of culture is just “winning,” – when a company is winning, everyone’s happy, rich, being promoted, and they see their work as contributing to something bigger than themselves.

That was Amazon in 2021.

Then Jeff Bezos left, the stock fell 50%, 10,000 employees were laid off, and hundreds of thousands more fear they’re next.

That is now the scent wafting around my neighborhood.

It is so clear, so obvious, how the mood has shifted.

So here’s the question: What do you call the top-of-the-world status Amazon had in 2021? Was it a gift? A reward for hard work? The natural swings of capitalism?

Yes, all of those.

But there’s another way to look at it: An expectations debt.

Expectations were so high in 2021 that investors and employees had to achieve extraordinary things just to break even. When results were merely good, they felt terrible.

Expectations are like a debt that must be repaid before you get any joy out of what you’re doing.

The hard thing is that every company and every employee wants to have what Amazon had in 2021 – winning, wealth, prestige, reputation. But look at what it led to now, after the expectations (Read more...)

“Mars is for Quitters” —Sara Ledterman

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

Joining Forces with Harvard University’s Wyss Institute to Create Better Materials for Earth.

The goal of this alliance is to invent and commercialize the next great, worldchanging material – one that’s as cheap, versatile, and high-performance as the last worldchanging discovery, plastic, but without the negative side effects. By leveraging synthetic biology, we plan to fuel sustainable options that surpass even Goretex in their efficacy and commercial success.

Developing new materials that are both better for our planet and better for consumers presents a massive economic and ecological opportunity. Yet, despite the incredible potential, there’s been surprisingly little change in materials over the past several decades. Plastic, metal, wood, glass, and synthetic fibers comprise nearly everything we consume.

The reason? Fossil fuels. All of these materials rely on hydrocarbons for production and processing, which make them terrible for the environment, but also more accessible, cost effective, and difficult to replace.

While the field is still emerging, there are a few notable companies that have been at the forefront of commercializing sustainable materials using synthetic biology:

Ginkgo Bioworks: Ginkgo Bioworks designs and manufactures a variety of products, including flavors, fragrances, and materials.

Solugen: Solugen produces sustainable chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide and solvents, from plant-based sources. The company’s technology platform uses enzymes and renewable feedstocks to create products that are more sustainable and cost-effective than their traditional petroleum-based counterparts.

Zymergen: Zymergen (acquired by Ginkgo) designs and manufactures novel materials, such as adhesives, coatings, and films, that are more (Read more...)

The Spectrum of Financial Dependence and Independence

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

“I did not intend to get rich. I just wanted to get independent.” – Munger

Place yourself, your business, and other people you know, on this list.

Level 0: Complete financial dependence on the kindness of strangers who have no vested interest in your success. Panhandling when unable to work, or companies reliant on raising money from first-time investors who don’t care if you fail.

Level 1: Complete financial dependence on people who want you to succeed because they like you and their reputation is attached to your success. Children under age 15 – supported by their parents and generally too young to work – fall into this category. So do companies backed by friends and family who don’t intend on getting their money back.

Level 2: Complete financial dependence on people with a vested interest in your financial outcome. Unprofitable-but-promising businesses backed by investors who could earn a meaningful return on their investments, and are thus likely to keep supporting you.

Level 3: Ability to partially support yourself by adding value for others while still somewhat reliant on external support. Young people who work but rely on their parents to support what they consider basic lifestyle necessities. Or companies that could realistically be profitable if they changed their cost structure, but continue to raise money from investors to fund growth.

Level 4: Ability to fully support yourself by adding value for others, but value that is marginal and easy to replace. This is a common (Read more...)

Vicious Traps

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

There are times in nature when two plus two equals ten – when two little things combine to form one huge thing.

A little cool air from the north is no big deal. A little warm breeze from the south is pleasant. But when they mix together over Missouri you get a tornado.

Two calm water currents are not a problem. But if opposing currents meet, you get a deadly whirlpool.

Bleach and ammonia are common household products. Mix them together and you get lethal chloramine gas.

In each case it’s easy to underestimate risk – or at least be surprised at what happens – because the initial ingredients seem harmless. The idea that two innocent small things can combine to form one big dangerous thing isn’t intuitive.

This same thing happens with personality traits.

Years ago someone told me that bubbles happen when confidence (a good trait), optimism (a good trait), trust (generally good) mix to form greed and delusion. The reason bubbles are so common is that the inputs are mostly innocent, even if the output is lunacy and destruction.

So many things are like that. Some of the most vicious traps occur when two admirable traits mix in the wrong way and create something dangerous. They’re the hardest flaws to identify and fix.

Take patience and confidence. They both sound great. But mixed together they often form stubbornness, which is a disaster. Confidence that you’re right gives you permission to ignore signs that you’re wrong, and (Read more...)

Raise Your Hand If You Like To Win

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

We are excited to kick off a search for two new team members to join us as part of our two-year Associate program. Here at Collab Fund, the first question we ask ourselves when evaluating a new investment opportunity is: If this startup becomes massively successful, will it make the world a better or more interesting place?


We are focused on investing in businesses that are pushing the world forward, while also aiming to outpace the market and produce alpha returns over the next decade and beyond. To do this, we ask ourselves a second but vital question: Would a ‘villain’ invest in this company if their motive was one of pure self-interest? We call this the villain test.

We believe that the greatest returns (financial and social) in venture often come from contrarian thinking and the best path to seeing things differently is by surrounding yourself with different and unique perspectives.

Our ideal candidates for the position include being:

  • Entrepreneurial
  • Hard working
  • Optimistic
  • Intellectually curious
  • Self-starting
  • Excited to live in New York

The Associates will work closely with our Partners and the entire Collab team on both sourcing and evaluating new investments as well as supporting existing portfolio companies.

In addition to offering all the things you’d expect (comprehensive and competitive compensation and benefits package including bonus, paid holiday leave, sick leave, health and dental insurance, team offsites, and 401k) we offer the opportunity to work at a firm constantly pushing the status quo. We have created a (Read more...)

Announcing our Investment in pH7 Technologies

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

pH7 Technologies: Pioneering Sustainable Metal Extraction

In order to achieve the net-zero emissions target by 2050, as outlined in the Paris Agreement, we’ll need to undertake the Herculean task of decarbonizing entire economies. This challenge means reimagining virtually every industry on a global scale.

Critical to this transformation is electrification, which relies heavily on a steady supply of precious metals and industrial minerals. Unfortunately, mining has long been one of the least sustainable activities on Earth, often involving environmentally harmful processes such as acid leaching, excessive heat usage, the creation of hazardous working conditions, huge water waste and contamination and other notable environmental risks.

While some of these processes might be inescapable, a new wave of innovative technologies aims to make mining more sustainable. Companies like KoBold Metals, which focuses on efficient prospecting of mining sites, and Redwood Materials, which specializes in battery recycling, exemplify the rise of “green metals” startups that are rising to meet the challenge head-on.

One pioneering company at the forefront of clean and sustainable critical metals extraction is pH7 Technologies. Their proprietary closed-loop process enables a minimal environmental impact in extracting key minerals essential for supporting the global electrification movement. We’ve been inspired by their vision and progress, and were thrilled to recently participate in their Series A alongside lead investors TDK Ventures and Pangaea Ventures, as well as BASF, Rhapsody, and others.

While primary metals production often faces longer start-up times, we believe that innovative recycling methods can expedite market entry and boost (Read more...)

Some Things I Think

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

The fastest way to get rich is to go slow.

Many beliefs are held because there is a social and tribal benefit to holding them, not necessarily because they’re true.

Nothing is more blinding than success caused by luck, because when you succeed without effort it’s easy to think, “I must be naturally talented.”

Social media makes more sense when you view it as a place people go to perform rather than a place to communicate.

Comedy is the best way to teach about human behavior. George Carlin, Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld have done more to enlighten others than 99.9% of psychology PhDs.

The best measure of wealth is what you have minus what you want. (By this measure, some billionaires are broke.)

The most valuable personal finance asset is not needing to impress anyone.

Most financial debates are people with different time horizons talking over each other.

From school, I remember: Every good story I was told, but none of the formulas I memorized before a test.

It’s easiest to convince people that you’re special if they don’t know you well enough to see all the ways you’re not.

“People like you more when you are working towards something, not when you have it.” - Drake

A lot of people seem to have a necessary level of stress, and when their life is going well they make up imaginary problems to fill the void.

Few things are as persuasive as your own BS, while nothing is easier to (Read more...)

One Big Web: A Few Ways the World Works

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

Joseph Tussman, a UC Berkeley philosophy professor, wrote in the 1960s that, “What the pupil must learn, if he learns anything, is that the world will do most of the work for you, provided you cooperate with it by identifying how it really works and aligning with those realities.”

What could be more obvious than that? Figure out how the world works and align with those realities.

And here’s an obvious trick: The best way to learn how the world works is to realize how connected everything is. The big lessons from one field can often teach you something critical about other fields.

We’re usually taught as if math is math and chemistry is chemistry, with each field siloed off in its own department, focused on its own truths.

But learning of that sort is only useful in academia. The real world has no silos. The big learning comes when you connect the dots from one field to the next. And once you do so, you realize those connections are infinite. It’s all just one big web. A big web of how the world works.

Let me give you one example. It’s a story about kittens.

Two MIT cognitive scientists interested in how cats learn to walk once showed something I’ve always found fascinating: The difference between firsthand experience and secondhand learning.

The scientists raised kittens in total darkness. Once the cats were old enough to walk, they were placed in a lighted box for three hours a day.

In (Read more...)