As the co-founder and co-owner of Steelhead Ventures, a San Francisco-based micro-venture capital fund with seed-stage investments, George Arabian has been a part of many success stories and worked with all types of entrepreneurs.
The entrepreneurial spirit for George and his twin brother, Gary, was passed down from their immigrant parents who owned a florist business. It was here that both George and Gary learned that businesses, like flowers, can be planted, nurtured, and grown into successful companies. While his brother chose a path focused on real estate and investments, George opted to be a strategic executive and sales strategist, launching and growing Bay Area technology companies.
George explains that his fund is firmly grounded in the city he loves: “Steelhead Ventures represents our values of integrity and innovation as well as our commitment to the future of San Francisco and the Bay Area by putting our money where our hearts are beating.”
Steelhead’s portfolio includes more than 25 visionary companies whose ideas are designed to impact their marketplace and communities. Each of these investments were identified as having the right founders as well as investment partners who aligned with their values. Often, a co-partner fund is added to offer a larger capital base and vertical industry expertise to further help founders grow.
As George notes, “We are activist investors who catalyze growth through access to our networks, provide value through expertise, and focus on revenue acceleration and optimization.” His goal is to pass on that spirit to entrepreneurs he meets, teaching them how to mix passion and purpose within a business context.
Steelhead has a very specific investment strategy in place: “We are sector and industry agnostic rather than just focusing on the overall technology industry. We are drawn to founders who bring deep insights to the formation and vision of their start-ups and the markets they are serving.” For him, it is a team effort, choosing to work with founders, joint venture partners, thought-leaders, and executive teams who are making a positive difference in their communities and shaping how the future looks across the globe. This means founders have to have more than a product idea; it has to be a market-changing idea that will really take hold in the market.
George and his team use a set of criteria they use to determine which founders to fund. This includes assessing whether a prospect is following their passion, has deep domain experience, and a vision for the sector or market they are changing or innovating around. Also, they consider whether the founders have the character and composition to survive the near-death experiences that a start-up will experience as it grows, deals with challenges and barriers, and retains and attracts top talent through it all. Another important factor is identifying which founders are “coachable”, meaning they are willing to listen and take advice from those who are investing in their vision.
Steelhead works closely with some of the most brilliant people in the start-up and innovation world, including the following visionary companies:
- IdeaMarket is a crowd-sourced curated marketplace that matches pre-funded ideas with extraordinary entrepreneurs. Co-founded by IdeaLab pioneer Bill Gross, the mission is to create a million new companies and the jobs that go with them.
- WorkHands is a LinkedIn LNKD -5.73%-style business network for blue-collar workers with online profiles for trade workers, networking for apprentice programs, and trade organizations and job postings from across the country.
- Treasure8 is working to revolutionize sustainable food production and nutrition as well as ushering in a new food era for the future of humanity.
- Trusted Insight is the world’s largest platform for bringing efficiency and transparency to the practice of alternative institutional investing.
When asked what advice George has for other entrepreneurs looking for funding, he explains, “There’s two main takeaways for entrepreneurs to use. One, don’t speak about when you get to the mountaintop, but be passionate about the road and journey toward reaching that mountaintop. Two, when you meet an investor, don’t talk about the market opportunity, the size of market, and all the details. Instead, talk about why you started the company, which should be a very personal story. That’s what makes me believe in a start-up and what gets me excited about the possibilities we can create together.”