GP Interview: Santosh Sankar
Santosh Sankar is a co-founder and partner at Dynamo Ventures in Chattanooga, TN. This is his Emerging Manager interview.
👉 Big Learning Up Front (B.L.U.F.): Explaining your fund thesis and process clearly and publicly builds trust with founders and makes you more efficient.
Santosh, tell us about yourself
I’m a Founding Partner of Dynamo Ventures where we invest in enterprise, seed stage startups in supply chain and mobility. Most importantly, I am a dad to my son and two golden retrievers and husband to my wife, Melissa.
I had the good fortune of starting my career in VC earlier than most - and earlier than I personally had expected. I started my entrepreneurial journey in college where I started my first small business, Razor Studios where I offered IT support and web development services for small businesses. Later in college, I founded an online media business called Bullish Bankers. The premise was simple, we would publish fundamental analysis on select public equities and provide economic commentary - by students aspiring to build a career in finance. Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of my north star and spent five years on Wall Street in banking and public equities. Thankfully, I had a “quarter life crisis” and ended up having the opportunity to team up with my Partners to launch Dynamo.
Personally, I have a variety of interests including cooking, the outdoors, and Penn State football. I enjoy discussions around the intersection of design, technology, business, and the capital markets.
Describe your fund
At Dynamo, we’re interested in supply chain and mobility startups with enterprise business models that are at the pre-seed or seed-stage. Candidly, we spent two-thirds of our life thinking about and investing in supply chain. Given that the supply chain is a global concept, we do invest internationally with about a third of our investments based outside of North America. My Partner, Jon Bradford is based in the UK and brings 20 years of seed investing experience to our motley crew.
Our check sizes range from $250K to $1.25M where we take a third-to-half a round alongside complementary investors. We’re happy to lead or follow - we are mindful of what is best for the company.
Share one process improvement you’ve used individually or as a team which has made you a better fund manager
In late 2020, we published a three-part series outlining “What We Invest In,” “How We Invest,” and “How We Support” in an effort to improve transparency around the firm and encourage other VCs to do the same. Greater transparency benefits everyone but most importantly the founders we serve.
We’ve found this effort increases the trust founders have with us ahead of a first conversation because they better understand our process and approach. Founders have complemented the transparency with our most recent investment commenting on how it aligns with the references/feedback they received when diligencing us.
Which founder from your portfolio has had the greatest impact on you and why?
This is a difficult one because I try to grow as an investor from each founder interaction I have - in our portfolio or otherwise. As such, I’ll share two stories:
Sean Henry, Co-founder & CEO, Stord - thank you for equally taking a chance on us and allowing us to co-lead your seed round. Our stories rhyme to some degree with Stord being your first rodeo and Dynamo being ours. I’ve learned a TON about being a great seed investor to a rocketship company but most importantly regarding the support a seed investor provides as a company scales.
AK Schultz, Co-founder & CEO + Mike Howes, Co-founder & CTO, SVT Robotics - thanks for allowing us to be the first institutional investor on your journey. You've been amazingly coachable despite your 15 years of experience in industry. Equally, you've helped me learn how to communicate with more experienced founders and industry veterans while also supporting them on the journey to build a venture-backed company.
What’s one thing you wish you knew before you became a VC?
Your illiquidity of your successes require a patience and fortitude unrivaled in any other investment disciplined. You think you get it but it's best understood by experiencing it.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you recently fell deep into
I am learning about the specifics of door locks having bought a 70 year old house last year. I can now dismantle an old lock, clean, lubricate, and replace it in about 20 minutes. There's beauty on the simple, reliability of this mechanical creation.
Name one GP and one LP everyone should learn from -- and whom we should feature next
Frank Rotman on the GP side puts out some amazing content on portfolio construction and venture investing
Graham Pingree on the LP side is amazingly approachable and helpful given his vantage point as a LP investor in seed funds
Finally, what are the 3 best emojis?
Santosh Sankar is now on the EM roster at EmergingManager.vc. << View all these EMs, learn from them and then teach me some new things. Santosh’s contacts: santoshsankar.com and @santoshsankar. Thanks to my friend Santosh for doing this and for always being a trusted voice for all things logistics — Reilly