Alla Adam (she/her) is a European-born investor and Lean Startup and VC Coach. The author of “Million Dollar Coach Playbook,” “Million Dollar Investor Playbook,” and “Million Dollar Negotiator Playbook,” Alla provides her coaching & mentoring expertise to founders, investors, and VC firms all across the world.
A self-made investor, Alla first got involved by investing in startups before building a global portfolio spanning the Americas, Europe, and parts of Africa and Asia. As a champion for queer, international women in VC, Alla’s journey inspires our entire StartOut community. Continuing our investor spotlight, Alla graciously spoke with us about her worldview and advice for anyone entering the ecosystem.
How did you first get involved in the VC world?
I got involved in VC in 2003. I was introduced to these interesting startups and began investing in them. I also became one of the early investors in Bitcoin. It all started with small checks before it grew.
What do you like most about supporting startups?
Well, purely financially, it’s high risk and high return. I am a curious human and like learning what motivates a founder. I’m less interested in index funds, where you wire the capital, wait for ten years, and then get a return. In startups, I have an opportunity to get involved in the process; everything happens much faster, I thrive in controlled chaos, and the opportunity to work in close connection with founders is irreplaceable.
I’m highly interested in the Australian, African, and LatAm markets. Traditionally, I started with early-stage startups before working into Series A, providing the same interest & inspiration. My areas of investment focus include but are not limited to Non-Violent Agriculture + Biomanufacturing + Vertical farms; Psychedelics; EdTech; AI; Clean Energy; HealthTech; Blockchain; Smart City Solutions; SpaceTech.
What does it mean to be a VC coach?
It’s commonly thought that startups need more coaching than VC firms, but I would disagree because I think that VCs also need a lot of support. How can we evaluate startups better? How do we reach outside our usual home base and expand to new markets? How can we negotiate better? How do we create an inclusive, diverse culture within the funds? What new models can we use to support our portfolio companies? Etc. These are the questions many VC firms have that I do my best to help with. There are also many cultural differences.
There’s a strong GP-LP dynamic in VC firms, and the relationship between the two is often an area of growth that doesn’t come without conflicts and misunderstanding. I help navigate those issues by providing executive coaching & mentoring.
How did you learn about StartOut?
It happened at the pandemic’s beginning when we all were suddenly locked down. I started looking for more ways to engage in the community. As a bisexual woman, I sought LGBTQ+ engagement and decided to talk to my community. From there, I was introduced to StartOut, and shortly after, I became a mentor. I’ve had such beautiful experiences with an entrepreneur in Los Angeles and one in Singapore.
What do you think of the current investment in the LGBTQ+ community?
I wish the level of investment were higher. At the moment, I see a rising trend with interest from VC funds. We experience the rise of involvement and raise of capital, but VCs need to be more inclusive and proactive. I hope that by 2025, we will see at least 25% of investment going to LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs in America.
America, Canada, and Latin America are more proactive in promoting LGBTQ+ founders, so these parts of the world need to help lead the way. We have a lot of issues in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Asia is a little better, but the market is so closed that it’s hard to analyze what reliable data exists. This is why it’s critical for these markets that support LGBTQ+ equality to spearhead the change.
How would you recommend a new investor get involved?
Well, if we’re talking about the interest in investing in startups, it’s very useful to visit Demo Days. As an aspiring startup investor, you can listen to founders’ pitch decks and learn how to evaluate them. You should acquire experienced VC mentors and ask them thoughtful questions like, ‘What shall I pay attention to when I negotiate a potential deal?’ or ‘What are the main blind spots of investors?’
What would you say to Queer and women investors?
Indeed, it’s generally a male world, but as a woman, you learn how to swim in a red ocean. You are initially overlooked, and there’s a huge stereotype. But when they see your expertise, skills, and portfolio and understand your strategy, there’s a huge shift in respect.
I also would love to see more investors with an immigrant background. I was not born in the United States, so I was considered an outsider for a certain period. I went to two Ivy League schools to better understand the legacy of the American venture capitalist. Continue to put yourself into the conversation. Be assertive. Execute courage. Have skin in the game.
Every human can make it in VC or startup. You might face significant obstacles, but that’s ok because it’s how you learn and gain experience. Choose yourself. Start today. It will be hard. You can do hard.