How Fission Ventures Vetted More than 200 Deals in Fewer Than Five Months

MP Steve Zausner (SIPA ’91) distills the process that he and Principal Marco Casas (CBS ’17) are implementing to invest in Columbia-connected startups, and others in the wider AVG ecosystem.

During the volatile early days of the Russian equity markets, one of my bosses — now a wise-old-billionaire — said to me, “You can only control your efforts, not the outcomes.”

I took that to heart, and thought about how to apply it to investment success. To me, it came down to process: Could I create a solid process for sourcing, triaging, analyzing, and structuring investments? While this could not guarantee me success, I felt that I would win if I did things the right way, enough times.

With the support of AVG’s network of investment professionals, our team is implementing a process for sourcing deals in Columbia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem the right way.

While Fission has only operated for five months, Marco and I have already looked at more than 200 potential investments involving entrepreneurs in Columbia’s ecosystem and AVG’s family of sibling funds. Of those, we dismissed the bulk as not meeting our initial criteria of having a solid lead investor or fitting our definition of one of the 15 sectors of tech. Many are simply not ready for venture investment.

Of those that did meet our initial screen, we scored more than 65 investments, rating them based on quality of lead investor, deal, team, product-market-fit, and execution. 3 companies, including Accolade and Verity Studios, made it into our portfolio. Co-investors in these deals included a few of the world’s top venture firms: Andreessen Horowitz, Fontinalis Partners, and Madrona Venture Group. We’re thrilled with Fission’s initial progress and eager to share news about other investments we’re making in Columbia-connected companies alongside more marquee VCs.

Similar to emerging markets, venture involves a great deal of risk. We hope that through our process we can uncover those risks, quantify them, and in some cases neutralize them. Ultimately, we believe we can structure portfolios that offer Columbia alumni investors exceptional risk-adjusted returns.

At Fission Ventures, we try to invest capital raised from Columbia alums the right way. In subsequent letters we’ll dive deeper into our investment process with articles on how we source, analyze, structure, and, finally, invest in deals.

— Steve Zausner, Managing Partner of Fission Ventures

Fission Ventures is a network of Columbia alums investing in Columbia-connected businesses. Learn more.

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