Gangnam Style Venture Capitalist Inspires Canadian Entrepreneurs

This past week Startup Grind Toronto organized an evening with SoftBank Capital’s Nikil Khalgatgi visiting from New York.

Khalgatgi is a venture capitalist with an edge—a soft kind of edge. As an engineer and product guy turned VC, he focuses on seed and Series A opportunities in e-commerce, mobile, and social platforms.

Khalgatgi is not your typical VC. He is down to earth, friendly, and humorous—in fact, he’s straight up Gangnam. The description on his Twitter profile used to be “I’m a VC. And this is crazy. But here’s my term sheet. Call me maybe?” and now for a few months has been “VC. Gangnam Style.”

But it’s not just his Twitter handle that makes him different. His first words of advice for the evening were, “timing is everything.” He encouraged all startups to not blindly run to incubators to help them, but to really think about what they were actually getting out of it and what value would be added in return for the equity they are giving away.

Recent graduates of the JOLT accelerator program, ShelfLife, asked about the reason for continued failure of startups. Khalgatgi emphasized that Toronto could really use a “tech mafia,” a group of tech leaders, big and small, who are committed to make investments together and actually work together as well.

Khalgatgi admires people with passion and perseverance. Dan Porter, CEO of OMGPop, is high on that list, a leader with a heart, who connects with his company—and is famous for rehiring all of the employees that he had no choice but to lay off at one time. Khalgatgi also continues to be inspired by the companies that make up his portfolio, from the creative and hip founders of Rap Genius to the large corporate heads of the Gilt Group. “It’s all about getting to know people and learning,” he says.

So how does Khalgatgi connect with his clients? How come he knows so much about them and their stories? It is because he has met them before, at one time or another, through some form of networking.

It’s his one and only passion—in fact, he admits to having hundreds of pages of worksheets because every time he meets someone, he writes down one thing about them (and this is where he recommends the Brewster app). So, if you’re a startup looking for some funding from Khalgatgi, or any other VC for that matter, you better have met him or her at an event and made some kind of impression. After all, Khalgatgi remind us, “the best deals happen on the golf course or at the bar.”

Khalgatgi also makes a point of telling startups to do the opposite of an old adage, to stop the focus of “think globally and act locally,” and rather to begin thinking at the local level and then quickly turning those thoughts and ideas into a global action. A startup will not survive if it only keeps in mind the needs and wants of its customer base in one particular city. A startup that wants to surpass expectations and be worth millions and millions of dollars in the next few years needs to make sure that they have outreach in numerous cities, and that one of those days, they get that meeting on a Monday in California.

Now that is a Gangnam style VC. Psy would be proud.