Assia deserves an award for the diversity of her life experiences. This show jumps around her life as we extract lessons from her wide array of experiences. We sat down together in Dubai and talked about women on boards, media strategy, growing pains of start-ups, becoming an angel investor and dyslexia.
Assia Grazioli-Venier is a media executive, angel investor and advisor to high-growth tech startups and entertainment companies. In 2016, Assia co-founded Muse Capital, an angel investment fund that invests in a wide range of next-generation products from fin-tech to healthcare to entertainment. Assia is also on the board of directors of Italy’s legendary Juventus Football Club; she is the first female and youngest board member in the 120-year history of the club.
A huge thank you to Naseba and the Global WIL Economic Forum 2017 for making this interview possible.
Read the Transcript
Rana Nawas: (00:00)
Hello ladies and gentlemen. My guest on today’s show is diversity personified. Assia Grazioli is a media executive, angel investor and an advisor to high growth tech startups, entertainment companies, and venture capital firms. In 2016 Assia founded Muse Capital, an angel investment fund that invests in a wide range of next generation products from fintech to healthcare to entertainment. Assia is also on the board of directors of Italy’s legendary Juventus football club. She’s the first female and the youngest board member in the 120 year history of the club. We sat down together in Dubai and talked about media strategy, becoming an angel investor, building a business attractive to investors, and her experience on the Juventus board. So let’s get into it. Assia, thank you so much for joining me on When Women Win. So glad to meet you in Dubai.
Assia Grazioli: (01:04)
Thank you for having me.
Rana Nawas: (01:06)
Let’s start with football.
Assia Grazioli: (01:08)
Rana Nawas: (01:08)
So my sister is fanatical about football. She’s been an Juventus supporter her entire life.
Assia Grazioli: (01:13)
Rana Nawas: (01:13)
Yes. Actually her claim to fame is that she once danced with Alessandro Del Piero.
Assia Grazioli: (01:17)
Rana Nawas: (01:17)
Yeah. He’s not a good dancer, apparently.
Assia Grazioli: (01:21)
No, he’s a good player. He’s actually become a friend, he lives in Los Angeles.
Rana Nawas: (01:26)
Oh, wow. That’s funny. I will edit all that out. Have you always been a football fan or was that somewhat irrelevant to joining the board of Juventus, which is a 120 year old football company?
Assia Grazioli: (01:39)
It’s definitely irrelevant to whether I got on the board or not, but it is, it is a team that my family has supported for three generations so we’ve all been Juventus fans but interestingly, when I was asked to be on the board, they had no idea that I was an Juventus fan until I was on the board. So we never actually talked about Juventus is in that way. It was always just on a business perspective.
Rana Nawas: (02:08)
So how did that come about, that business introduction? Hey, join our board.
Assia Grazioli: (02:12)
So I was consulting and advising for a lot of media companies and venture capital firms around 11, 10 years ago based in London. Spotify was one of my clients as well. I was working with different media and tech companies and around that time I was on the Gatwick Express from London Victoria to Gatwick Train Gatwick airport and I’m sitting on the train and on the other side of the train tracks of the train, there’s a gentleman with a hatbox and he’s just sitting there with a hatbox in front of him and I don’t usually talk to anybody on that train ride because it’s such a short train ride, but I couldn’t help but ask him are you to a wedding? Is that a hatbox? And he goes, yeah, I’m meeting my wife, I’m going to an English wedding. So we started talking for 15, 20 minutes. We don’t talk about business, we talk about life. I don’t even remember what we talked about, but I know I was probably being very curious and asking a lot of questions as I usually do and by the end of the train ride we exchanged business cards. He went to the north terminal. I went to the south terminal. I looked at the business card and it said under Andrea Agnelli and it said Lamse, Andrea Agnelli family are Italian business royalty. They’re well known for owning Fiat and Ferari and also 60% of Juventus. So the Agnelli was a name that rung a bell for me for sure and Lamse is the investment fund that Andrea was running and there was a family fund. So of course I was a consultant and eager to get more clients. So I was like oof, I’m going to have to call him in a few days but I don’t want to sound so eager so I’m going to wait until Wednesday. So I didn’t call him, we met on a Friday. On Sunday, he actually calls me and says that he googled me, researched me and saw that I was in the media and tech space and said he wasn’t going to go back to Italy, but he was going to come to London to meet me. So on Monday morning he showed up in my office with a stack of papers and they were all tech and media opportunities that had come to him but given that his fund wasn’t specifically investing in any of these types of businesses, they were more real estate and infrastructure, but he always had a curiosity about this space. So he basically took the stack of papers, slamed them in front of me and said, all right, I’m going out to lunch. When I come back, let me know what you think. So I was left there reviewing all these deals and he came back and I gave him my opinion on different deals and then he said, would you like to be my advisor for the fund, for everything that is tech and media investments? So I said yes. So for the next three years I was his chief advisor of media and tech investments. We never talked about Juventus. It was never something that we discussed and then a few years later he was asked to be the new president of the club and turn the company around and when that happened, he gave me a call and he said, I’m removing everyone from the executive team and removing the board. Would you like to be one of the new board members? And that was that.
Rana Nawas: (05:15)
Assia Grazioli: (05:16)
Rana Nawas: (05:17)
And were you the only woman?
Assia Grazioli: (05:18)
At the time, yes and then there was another incredible woman that joined who’s a famous lawyer in Italy and now we have four women on the board.
Rana Nawas: (05:29)
Assia Grazioli: (05:31)
Rana Nawas: (05:31)
Oh, wow. It’s the magic number, right? One third.
Assia Grazioli: (05:34)
Rana Nawas: (05:34)
It’s always a third. And how has that been? Well, how was your experience on the board being the only woman versus when another woman joined? Was there a difference for you or not really?
Assia Grazioli: (05:45)
No. Well, I think I was more nervous generally, as anybody would be about getting into a new business. Sure, I’ve always been in tech, media, and entertainment and sports is ultimately an entertainment business. It’s all about TV rights and sponsorship and merchandising and ticket sales. So those are all individual things that I know a lot about, but comprehensively the sports business was new to me. I’ve never actually worked in the sports business, so there was a learning curve to pull all those different assets together. So I think that was the thing that was making me more nervous. Certainly the board was accepting me with open arms and still have been and it’s a beautiful family. I think I was possibly more nervous about the media and fans. I thought maybe they would, their misconception of women in business maybe they would, maybe the feedback would be bad or I would have articles written about me just because I’m a woman, but actually I was very well accepted in the press and I was very well accepted by the fans and certainly the business, so it ended up being great. There’s moments I think at the beginning when you’re, again, like any new business when you’re a little bit nervous about, wait, am I doing it right? And I suppose if there had been a woman who had done it earlier a few years before me, then I would have probably felt more comfortable just going up to her and saying, am I doing it okay? And so I didn’t really have anyone like that. What makes me very happy is the women that we have on the board now, even though they are exceptional and in many ways better than I could ever be, I do love to be a sounding board for them because I remember not having that when I first came on. So there is a great pleasure in being able to be, to having been the first woman in numerous positions in my career and had more women come onboard after me and to be a helpful to them, so.
Rana Nawas: (07:47)
Yeah. A lot of the research shows that if not a third of the board is female, then the token woman has a lot of trouble getting her voice out in terms of being interrupted consistently, in terms of ideas being stolen by her and the guy sitting next to her and these are issues that have come up again and again all over the world. And so you didn’t find it that bad?
Assia Grazioli: (08:12)
Well, I don’t think, it’s not that Juventus is any worse, frankly, than any other company I’ve ever worked with. I think even in school, women are their opinion, there’s unconscious bias in every aspect of a woman’s education and career and hopefully it will become less and less. But you find that you have to speak up louder. You have to tell, explain your point four times as stronger. You have to risk sounding like a bully or, yeah, because you’re pressing on about an opinion because at the beginning they are unconsciously are not listening to you as deeply as maybe they should or they would. So I don’t want to isolate Juventus as, because they have been incredible to me but any issues that I’ve had about being a woman are issues that we all have and have encountered our entire career. So, you have to make a point and you have to kind of risk being considered at the beginning, a pain in the ass. I mean, I remember writing really long letters with, about opinions about the way that the company was running or elements about the company and I knew it was going to be met with, oh God, here she is again, giving her opinions on things and the trick is to be persistent because one day when they see that shit, she actually saved our ass for something and oh my God she was right, the minute that happens, they start listening and there’s unequivocally, there’s just never, it’s never the same. You just have to get them once. You have to get them to realize that you were right once, that you were important once, that you were influential once. The minute you do that and you shock them, that bias slips away. You just have to have the courage and patience to get to get there.
Rana Nawas: (10:08)
So what’s your opinion of quotas on boards?
Assia Grazioli: (10:11)
I’m a fan. I know it’s a dirty word. Just like feminism can be, I’m a huge fan because as much as you can put all kinds of initiatives in place that a company to increase women’s access to be interviewed and to have access and to stay in jobs. If you don’t make a company accountable to actually hire a certain number of women, they just won’t do it and they’ll blame it on, oh, there’s not that many women looking for a job in that sector. Oh, there are becoming mothers and so they’re harder. There’s not that many women at that level that wants to apply for this role. It’s not true. There are plenty of women. I meet them every single day. The fact that people think, I was actually having a conversation about this in the car yesterday with my business partner who is the number one champion of all women, Rachel Springate and she is frankly the epitome of strong, incredible woman, but she is on the fence of whether quotas are important or not and she said to me, but what about you have three people in front of you, three candidates, and you feel that you have to hire the woman even though the mail candidate might be better and I said to her, well, you’re looking at it wrong. First of all, if you were told at the very last minute when you had those three people in front of you, oh, we have to hire the woman then, then obviously you’re making a bad decision and it’s not the best decision for the company, but if you know a year or two or even six months in advance that you have to hire women or a different race or people with disabilities, then you will open the net and you will spread the net wider to be able to attract an array of talented people to fill that role within that gender or race.
Rana Nawas: (12:06)
Yeah and to be honest, Assia, of all the senior executive women I know, those on boards and not, we’ve all come around, myself included, to believing in quotas. Our initial reaction a few years ago of course was no, we don’t need quotas and we’re awesome enough to get there on her own. No, that’s not been happening.
Assia Grazioli: (12:25)
Of course we’re awesome enough to get them, our awesomness has nothing to do with it.
Rana Nawas: (12:28)
Assia Grazioli: (12:28)
Our awesomeness is clear as day.
Rana Nawas: (12:30)
That’s not the problem. That’s not the barrier.
Assia Grazioli: (12:33)
The barrier is not that.
Rana Nawas: (12:34)
So, as a next career move, a lot of women I know are keen to join a board. Do you have any advice on how to go about this and any tips on what can you actually do to get on a board? And then what do you do when you’re on the board?
Assia Grazioli: (12:48)
Every single board that I’ve gone on or have been on, except for the Juventus board, I’ve asked and told them I want to be on your board of directors.
Rana Nawas: (12:59)
Told the board or told the investors?
Assia Grazioli: (13:02)
Whomever needs to hear it and if it needs, if the investor needs to hear it and the founder needs to hear it and another board member needs to hear it and everyone needs to hear it from all sides, I tell them all. So when I got on the board of Northzone, I had been working with Spotify for numerous years and I know that they respected me highly and so obviously the people at Northzone knew about me because Northzone have invested in Spotify for or they were the first investors in Spotify and they’ve been their investors for every single round. So they knew who I was and they knew that I was highly respected. But how would they know that I would not only want to be on their board, but be good on their board if I didn’t ask to be on their board? I suppose men don’t have to ask and it’s a given, but we women have to, we have to make our voice heard and say, hey, I actually really do want some opportunity. So I went to lunch with every single one of the partners of Northzone and I didn’t plead my case, I told them about myself and it wasn’t even a job interview. It was sort of, hey, I’m pretty awesome and this is what I do and this is what I think and I know you haven’t asked me where your opinion, but this is my opinion about Northzone and this is my opinion about your portfolio company and if you’re interested, I’d love to be considered for your board position. I didn’t even know that they had a board position open. Maybe they didn’t have it open and they made it one open for me. I’m not sure but I do think and it took a year and a half of talking so it wasn’t like I applied because there was a posting or anything and I don’t know if they would’ve asked me if I hadn’t told them I was interested.
Rana Nawas: (14:40)
Now Northzone, can you just tell the listeners a little bit about what North Zone does?
Assia Grazioli: (14:47)
So Northzone is the second largest media investment, media and tech investment group in Europe. They’re based out of Stockholm and London but they have offices in New York as well. They are predominantly consumer, investing in consumer facing companies. Their most famous investment is Spotify. They’ve invested in every single round of Spotify and so they’re going to do very well with that or when and if spotify IPOs.
Rana Nawas: (15:13)
So let’s talk about Spotify because you have a very longstanding relationship with them.
Assia Grazioli: (15:18)
Rana Nawas: (15:18)
Can you tell us a bit about their growth journey and what hurdles did spotify face growing so spectacularly and how were they overcome?
Assia Grazioli: (15:29)
So when I first started working with Spotify and the founder, it was about 40 people. Now there’s about 4,000 employees at the company. When I first met them, they only had an office in Stockholm, which is where they’re from, and then they ended up opening an office in London and then everything expanded from that. Now they’re in, I don’t know how many, but in pretty much every city and country you can imagine, almost at least. It’s been, it was a fun ride for me because I helped them. It is a very entrepreneurial company and so, and as a startup, when it’s very small, obviously the focus is on expansion and strategic partnerships and strategies to expand and grow the brand and to get a user base and increase the user base so that there’s a real business there, consumer facing business. The struggle with any startup and any company that grows is the company culture. So how do you maintain the culture that your company is famous for and has created, has instilled in. Well, how do you maintain the company culture of a company that’s 40 people and make sure that that’s still true with 4,000 people when the priorities are different, the investors are many, there’s a lot but there’s bigger pressures from on the investment side of things. How do you do that? I think spotify, like any other company in this position, has struggled with that. You end up making not always the best decisions of hires and you end up listening to, as you grow, you end up listening to investors. You end up listening to different board members. You ended up getting influenced and pressured by different sides, whereas when you’re a 40 people company, the founder can be Gung Ho and with conviction lead the company into the way that he thinks or she thinks is the right way to do that. I’m a huge fan of conviction and sticking your, and really staying with on course with what you believe. You’re not always gonna get along with everybody and you’re not always going to do what everybody thinks you should do but conviction generally wins in my opinion. When you start listening to too many people and too many opinions, that’s when you can get lost and that can happen a lot as companies grow. So, I think that’s why a board is important to try and level that, help mitigate that, maybe.
Rana Nawas: (17:57)
And speaking of, I mean we’re going to stick with the theme of boards for a second, you recently joined the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce board of directors. How many boards are you on, Assia?
Assia Grazioli: (18:09)
I stopped, I left the Northzone board because I started Muse Capital, my investment fund with the Rachel Springate. So I thought it was, even though we invest in different types of companies and our check sizes are significantly different, I thought it was a little too confusing to be on the board of a big investment fund and also starting my own. So I got off of that and now I’m really just focused on the Juventus board, Swedish Chamber of Commerce. I’m on the board of a PR media company called [inaudible] group in Los Angeles and New York but a few here and there but the one I really focus on mostly is his Juventus and I’m trying to do less now so I can focus on Muse Capital.
Rana Nawas: (18:54)
I would like to stick with the Chamber of Commerce board for a second just because we hear about all these chambers of commerce, right? In every country in the world there’s the American Chamber and the British Business Group and the this and the that. Me, as an ordinary business woman, how can I use the Chamber of Commerce? How can I leverage it? How do you help me?
Assia Grazioli: (19:15)
It all depends on, each chamber of commerce is very different. Like every company it’s managed differently with different boards and different individuals. The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce tends to be very vocal about opportunities to help Swedish entrepreneurs and businessmen and women get active and get started and get funded and get any resources that they need when they’re in America and the other way around as well. So generally speaking, it’s sort of like an embassy, you can call them up and ask them if they have any resources to help them. Usually they’re very proactive so you can, there’s websites that lead you to different things. They do events and conferences and awards and they promote the culture of the country. Every chamber of commerce is different, some are better than others.
Rana Nawas: (20:07)
Now you started your life as a media strategist.
Assia Grazioli: (20:10)
Rana Nawas: (20:10)
Right, what does that mean?
Assia Grazioli: (20:14)
I started my career a little bit by mistake actually. I was an environmental biology major at Columbia University. I wanted to be, even though I’m dyslexic, I loved the sciences. I didn’t want to be a scientist, but I loved the sciences and I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker about the environment and science and me and, yeah, tell stories about the environment. So I went to work for a company that created documentaries for the BBC. A year into working for them, I got hit by a taxi and I virtually severed my leg below the knee and I spent a year in the hospital and basically had nothing to show for two years of my life. When I moved back to London to restart my career, everything had changed and I essentially had nothing to show for two years of my life. So I told one of my friends, hey, can I just grab a desk and work with you? And he was running a big media company at the time and he said, listen, come, we have this new client. He does something called made for mobile content. Remember, this was before phones were smart. This was before youtube had launched. I said, maybe you can help me navigate them. I’m not really sure exactly what to do. So, to try and make a long story short, I ended up working with this company that made for mobile content that, you used to buy or buy your phone, it was preloaded with video content and people didn’t even realize that and they were tiny and you could hardly see what they were. They were so granular and so I ended up producing made for mobile programming for these company for phones and one of those companies was Ministry of Sound and so, which is a big music media company out of London, a dance music company and when the founder and the CEO saw one of these programs, he was impressed and he asked who’s making these programs and then he met with me and he showed me the company and he showed me around the headquarters and he asked my opinion, what do you think we could be doing better? I had no idea I was actually in an interview, I just thought he was asking my opinion and I said, well, you don’t have a digital team and you really should because that’s where the world is going and your radio channel is on sky and it shouldn’t be on sky, it should be on digital because that’s where your demographic is and you have a record label but why aren’t you using digital to promote some of your artists and blah, blah blah and why don’t you have video on your website, why is your website just a tiny, simple page and at the end of that meeting he said, all right, see those 30 desks over there, they’re yours. Go sit down, go build TV, radio, and digital. So that’s sort of how I got into it and I really got into it by mistake and I wasn’t following a rule book or a guidebook. I was really focusing on my gut and my instinct and thinking what does, what do people like me want to watch and hear and how do they want to engage with their brands? And that’s what turned me into a strategist because I was just, I realized I had a knack for content, storytelling, marketing, branding and then that’s it. I just got stuck into it and I really like it.
Rana Nawas: (23:23)
Oh my gosh, I love it. I mean, I’m, similar story for me. I got into aircraft leasing by accident. I didn’t grow up thinking, I know, I’m going to finance commercial jets to commercial airlines, you know?
Assia Grazioli: (23:34)
When did that happen?
Rana Nawas: (23:34)
These things happen. 11 years ago.
Assia Grazioli: (23:37)
Rana Nawas: (23:38)
Yeah. Because I met someone who I just really got along with and he said, you’ve got to join my team.
Assia Grazioli: (23:44)
Isn’t what you just said, you said you met someone and he said, you have to join my team. That makes me think about when you talk about, and I know we’re probably going to get there but, women only businesses, what you just described was a man who saw huge potential in you and asked you to be part of something bigger than yourself and something that probably was and probably still is a very male oriented business. Similar to me. I met a man on a train who gave me a huge opportunity. I met Daniel Ek, a man, founder of spotify, who saw an opportunity in me and brought me in and made me a part of the conversation. I think it’s important for us to be working with each other and with each other’s genders in order to create that change and to increase the amount of women that are going to be in business today. So as much as women championing women is incredibly important and vital there’s also so much value in men championing women and there are a lot of men that champion women in business. So we just have to make sure that they see us.
Rana Nawas: (24:50)
Absolutely, I mean we won’t get there without male allies.
Assia Grazioli: (24:54)
Rana Nawas: (24:55)
Nobody ever has, man or woman. You don’t get anywhere without allies. Alright, let’s change gears. A study came out of California earlier this year that found when a man and a woman were given an award winning pitch, exactly the same pitch to pitch to investors narrated by voice only, investors were twice as likely to give them money to the man than they were the woman. Exactly the same pitch. These vcs were, two thirds of them wanting to give them money to the man and one third to the woman and it didn’t matter whether the investors were male or female, they had the same unconscious biases you referred to before. So that’s the problem, I think is, it’s not the businesses, it’s in fact the biases in the investors.
Assia Grazioli: (25:45)
I was about to say.
Rana Nawas: (25:47)
It’s crowding out.
Assia Grazioli: (25:47)
So that’s the thing and you’re right, is the investors need to be more conscious about what they’re investing in and why they’re making those decisions. It is not surprising to me and I see it all the time that women businesses are not being invested in and that’s because it’s not happening from the venture side of things. I’m a huge fan of women entering the venture space precisely to change that. So I think that we as women will be a lot more fair. We women venture capitalists will be a lot fairer and smarter about the investments that we make. When you talk about women venture capitalists who also have the unconscious bias, I don’t want to generalize, but it’s very likely that since those women in venture funds are a minority in their own fund, there’s probably a lot of bullying there subconsciously. So if you’re one female venture partner in a company of five other male partners, you’re going to have to have a hard time raising your voice and saying, hey, we need to give her a chance because there’s five other male investors who are pushing the point that they don’t like that idea and so you’re making it harder. So I think the trick is to have more female investors, period and hopefully, I mean we do tend to be fair and more open minded and hopefully when there’s more women investors and more women venture capitalists, then the decisions will be made smarter.
Rana Nawas: (27:30)
So, Assia, you live in Los Angeles and you work a lot in tech. So obviously we have to talk about sexual harassment. So I read that 60 percent of women in Silicon Valley have been sexually harassed by their superior and a separate study, that I just read in the economist has come out, has said, has found that when women do report sexual harassment, 75 percent of them have faced retaliation. So they’re being harassed and then we tell them they’re not reporting and then they report and 75 percent face retaliation. What’s going on here in your world of tech in California and how do we fix it?
Assia Grazioli: (28:09)
So interestingly enough, I’m in LA, which is a big tech space obviously but it’s also a big Hollywood space and I’m sure you’ve been listening to the whole Harvey Weinstein situation. Unfortunately, what this is showing, and I don’t think any of us are surprised, is that sexual harassment is rampant in every single industry. I don’t know the statistics, but I bet you that the 60 percent statistic of harassment is true for every single industry. Unfortunately, women are harassed all the time. It is unacceptable and I’m glad that there’s specific accounts coming out in Hollywood and there’s specific accounts coming in venture and that will make people more accountable but unfortunately it’s the world that we live in and it needs to change.
Rana Nawas: (29:01)
Alright, let’s change gears now and talk about angel investing because that’s what Muse Capital does. I recently came across an opportunity and I was really keen to invest but I have no idea how to go about it, you know, how to protect my interest in my money. So what advice do you have for women keen to explore angel investing as one of their sort of as a piece of their portfolio?
Assia Grazioli: (29:27)
So first of all, I would advise them to think about what area they want to invest in first. So take the skill. If you’re an expert in aviation, you should probably try to invest areas around that even if there’s extensions of it, but if it’s technology, it’s technology of aviation. Different extensions of that industry just at the beginning. Just so that it’s something that’s more familiar to you, not totally abstract. I would definitely do that. So decide what you’re good at. Decide what sector you want to invest in it. Start off with that. Once you outline that, you want to make a list of who are the top investors investing in that space, which are the investors that have done better in that industry in investing. You’ll see that there’s a really top funds with millions and billions of dollars of investment money and then there’s also smaller but very successful funds similar to mine, for example, Muse Capital that invests smaller checks but are also statistically successful and have done well. Get to know them, let them get to know you, and realize that for you to invest, you don’t have to be a venture capitalist, born, raised and bred, you can, there are some amazing venture capitalists that are not venture capitalists by trade. So for example, Rachel and I, my business partner at Muse Capital, neither of us come from the traditional venture capital space, but because we are strategists and connectors and know how to build businesses and build startups and grow and accelerate businesses, that’s the value that we bring to the investment community. So that’s one thing and secondly, seed investment tends to be a harder, higher risk investment. So as exciting as seed investment is, you have to be a little bit more cutthroat. So only invest in a seed if the founder has previous experience in launching businesses and ideally successful businesses. Another thing to look out for is try to coinvest with someone who really knows what he or she is doing and has a track record of doing that well. So like with anything in life, you want to make sure that any of your, that your abilities are accentuated, but any of your lack of abilities are offset by somebody else’s abilities. So if you don’t have experience in the venture space, make sure that you’re investing alongside someone who does and they’ll be very thankful to have you on board and investing with them because you probably have assets and qualities that they don’t have. So I will do that. Be very careful about evaluation. So it’s very easy for companies to get so excited about their idea that they’ll blow up the figures to make themselves sound like their company is ridiculously valuable and that’s gonna do that, that’s just such a skewed way of analyzing a business. Make friends with someone who is an analyst, a friend. Just say, Hey, can you look at these numbers? What do you think is, does this look like it’s a sustainable business? Gut is a great quality to have but you’ve got to backup gut with some figures and we have our venture partner who was just promoted from associate to venture partner. He is brilliant. He’s a private equity background and we are a great team because I’ll say, God, I really believe in this business, it has all the quality that I like, I liked the idea, I liked the founder. She’s amazing. She hasn’t done anything like this before, but she’s a great leader and the idea is fantastic. What do you think? And he’ll look at the figures and the numbers and say, yes, I think it works because of this or maybe he’ll say it could work, but this is an issue and then we take that and we’ll go back to the founder and say, what do you think about it? So it’s a conversation, but you definitely just want to surround yourself with people who can look at the company from different sides. You want to make sure someone’s looking at management. So Howard’s the company manager. Who’s the CEO? Who’s the founder? Do you think they’re going to be good leaders? Are they going to be able to take the company to grow? Do they have someone who can be more financial in their business? And yeah, and you know, then also contact people like me, we always like to, if there’s any women in venture and venture capital or business and want to get some advice, pop us an email. We have a website, MuseCapitalLabs.com and they’re welcome to send us an email and ask us any question and advice. We want to support and get more women investing in more women and investing in seed companies and the smarter we can help them be, the better we can show that we’re amazing.
Rana Nawas: (34:33)
Wow, that’s amazing. That’s great that you make yourselves available to support women everywhere, basically.
Assia Grazioli: (34:38)
All the time, we always to that. We make a point. This is also why I’m here to speak at this conference, so whenever possible, if we can educate or help women go navigate whatever business that they’re in, we’ll be happy to do that.
Rana Nawas: (34:51)
That’s amazing. I wanna thank you, Assia, for those tips. I mean really actionable, practical advice. Let’s look at the other side of the equation. So imagine I’m an entrepreneur setting up a business. What are you, I mean, you mentioned a couple of things just now that you’re looking for, but what would you, what are the top four things or something that you would look at for me as an entrepreneur coming to get your money?
Assia Grazioli: (35:16)
I would want you to know certainly the industry that you’re in, so you should know everything about your industry, who other people are, what the competition is like, what the figures are like. You need to know as much about your own industry as possible. That’s a given. You need to know what you know and know what you don’t know, so be very clear about what would make you a great founder and why you would be a great CEO of this business and what elements that you will need to make that business thrive and what, which many of them might not be qualities that you have innately and how you intend on answering that, which generally speaking means you’re willing to hire, you’re looking to hire someone with a specific role. For us to see that you know what you need to be able to make this company successful and that includes hiring people from different, with different skill sets. So having confidence and knowing that you would be a good leader and a good team builder to launch that company. Obviously, it needs to have financial sense. So have you looked at the numbers, have you put together different plans, have you crunched numbers just to see how it would come to fruition? Sometimes some of the better ideas in your head don’t actually make sense financially, which is very unfortunate, but it does happen and the flip side is true too, sometimes you think, well, that’s not a really special idea, but then you look and you realize it’s a huge opportunity. So yeah, know about your industry, know what you don’t know and what you do know and what makes you a great founder, and the network. So as much as I would love to see someone in the middle of nowhere just come up and launch the biggest shampoo brand, unfortunately we do live in a world of where networking is important and contexts are important, especially for startups who you know and what strategic partnerships you can put in place are we’re going to make or break the business, especially at a young stage. So be in the city and be in the network of people that will help you launch that particular business. So I want to know that you’re, if you’re launching a fashion company, I want to know that you’re spending time in fashion centric cities and that you’re doing everything you can to go to conferences and meet different people in that industry and you’re networking and really forging those relationships. Relationships at an early stage startup life is essential. So you need to be a lot of people who go into startups don’t realize that it’s such a relationship driven business, but it really is. So if you, for example, are not willing to do that and you’re not someone, you’re shy and you don’t like to be engaged, hire someone or find a partner who is willing to network and do that. There’s nothing wrong with being who you are and being good at something or not something or something else or there’s nothing wrong with you not wanting to network, for example, but just be aware of that. Know that is important and find someone or a founder or a CFO or a COO that is. So you just want to make sure that you’re aware of what your abilities are and what you need to make that company.
Rana Nawas: (38:45)
And fill the gaps.
Assia Grazioli: (38:46)
Fill the gaps. Yeah, exactly.
Rana Nawas: (38:48)
Again, lots of practical tips. Thank you. So the last question I’m going to ask you is about your dyslexia because you said something very interesting earlier, which is that you regard it more as a strength and a weakness. Can you talk a bit more about that?
Assia Grazioli: (39:04)
Sure. It’s interesting because when I get interviewed for articles, even though I never say a phrase such as despite that I’m dyslexic, I was able to do this and that. But even though the journalists have the best intentions, they certainly don’t mean badly, it tends to be written up as despite being dyslexic, Assia has been able to achieve this, this, and that and the irony is it’s not, despite being dyslexic, it’s precisely because I’m dyslexic. I was taught to think differently or not taught, but I do think differently and have been thinking differently my whole life and have different perspectives and different skill set and my ability to think one way doesn’t make it any better or worse than somebody else’s ability. I always use the metaphor of a opera, a tenor and soprano. They both need to coexist. A tenor has a certain note that he or she can reach and a soprano has certain notes that he or she can reach, they can’t reach each other’s notes. That the tenor is not disabled because he can’t reach the soprano notes and the sopranos not disabled because she can’t reach the tenor notes. They both can coexist. They both have a reason to exist and together they make us incredible music. Frankly, that’s exactly that that any disability and also gender and this is the importance of diversity is being able to be exactly who you are. Think the way you think. So I see fives and threes, so what. I am aware of that and I know to make sure that Rachel checks my fingers a little bit better when I submit them but I also have a highly creative brain and marketing and branding and I come up with fun, good ideas most of the time I hope and I think that that is really what has allowed me to do well in business and why I think I contribute to boards.
Rana Nawas: (41:01)
Thank you so much Assia, really. It’s been such a pleasure and just for our listeners, how can they find you?
Assia Grazioli: (41:06)
They can find us on Muse Capital Labs, musecapitallabs.com. I know it’s a very long winded url or faster and easier is probably social media which is @AssiaGrazioli, Assia Grazioli, and that’s on twitter and instagram, so.
Rana Nawas: (41:34)
That’s lovely. Thank you so much.
Assia Grazioli: (41:35)
Thanks so much.
Rana Nawas: (41:38)
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. You can check out show notes and more episodes at RanaNawas.com/win or search When Women Win on Itunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’d also love to hear your feedback and ideas for who I should bring on the show. You can find me on instagram at @RanaNawas. Thanks and have a great day.