Angel of Year Finalist Shafin Diamond Tejani Describes Himself as Entrepreneur, Not Investor

UPDATE: Shafin Diamond Tejani won the Angel of the Year Award for 2015

Shafin Diamond Tejani might be one the finalists for Angel Investor of the Year at the Canadian Startup Awards but he says his biggest accomplishment of the past year wasn’t investment related. It wasn’t even business related. It was the birth of his daughter.

Balancing two kids and Victory Square Labs, the venture-building company Tejani co-founded, wasn’t easy, he says it was a matter of survival. Yet he still managed to put his kids to bed every night.

For Tejani, being recognized as an investor is a testament to the people around him.

“I’m surrounded by amazing people, I got an amazing group here at Victory Square Labs and I think it’s a testament to all the great entrepreneurs,” he says. “There’s just been so many good ideas and good entrepreneurs that I’ve had the fortune of coming across.”

Tejani, who founded his first company at 19, thinks of himself as entrepreneur not an investor. He says it’s in his blood, his father was an entrepreneur as well and as an Ismaili Muslim, entrepreneurship is part of the culture.

“I’m a trenches guy, I want to get my hands dirty,” he says. “I’m an entrepreneur through and through.”

When he’s looking for investments, Tejani says he’s looking for deals where he can play an active role. He calls it TKM, or time, knowledge and money. For Tejani it’s a way to mitigate against risk, by helping inexperienced entrepreneurs and finding synergies, like distribution channels between portfolio companies.

When it comes to tech startups, Tejani says he’s always looking at the entrepreneur behind them.

“What I really see as difference-makers is the operator, so the entrepreneur, his or her game plan and the team that he or she puts together, don’t get me wrong, the tech is important but sometimes the operator is like that secret sauce,” he says.

He says he’s even invested in ideas he didn’t like at first, just because he was impressed with the tenacity of an entrepreneur.

Increasingly, Tejani’s portfolio is looking more diverse. While the majority of his investments are in the web, mobile and gaming spaces, one of the investments Tejani says he was most proud of in 2015 wasn’t a tech startup, it was a film.

“It was a documentary by a local film producer,” he says. The film looked at a school in India that was set up to give a high-quality education members of the Dalit, or untouchable, class.

So far, the school has been a success, giving children career opportunities they wouldn’t have had without it. It’s a message that resonates with Tejani.

“I’m a big believer that education is the best tool to break the cycle of poverty,” Tejani says.

The film was also a success – winning an award at the HotDocs festival.

“That wasn’t something where we were looking to make crazy returns, it was an amazing story by an amazing filmmaker and I wanted to make sure that story got told and seen,” he says.

Shafin Diamond Tejani was among the recipients of the third Prime Minister’s Volunteer Awards.

Victory Square Labs, founded by Tejani in 2007, earned him a win in the Business Leader category for the BC region. The company provides funding, mentorship and resources to entrepreneurs in the web, mobile, gaming and film sectors.

Tejani was a finalist for Angel of the Year in the Canadian Startup Awards. He’s also got a strong philanthropic edge to him: since Victory Square’s inception, Tejani and his team have donated 7,500 volunteer hours, helped raise $75 million for school programs and community organizations, and awarded $250,000 in scholarships.

 

With nominations coming in fast and furious for Techvibes 2014 Startup Awards we’re uncovering a ton of great stories for our readers.

Incoming nominations for our Angel of the Year category have reminded us that that we didn’t report who was this year’s recipient of the Angel Forum’s Angel of the Year award.

The 2014 BC Angel Investor of the Year was awarded at the 36th Angel Forum and it went to Shafin Diamond Tejani of Victory Square Labs.

Shafin is in good company with past winners of the award including Mike Volker, Boris Wertz, and Mike Edwards.

Shafin launched his first company, an online dating website, from his university dorm room at the age of 19. Since then, he’s launched over 40 startups, in 21 different countries, employing over 350 people and generating over $100 million in annual revenues.

His most recent success, Victory Square Labs, is a startup accelerator that provides funding, mentorship and resources to startups in the web, mobile, gaming and film spaces. With a special focus on funding socially responsible companies, international startups and female founders.

Look out for big things from Shafin in 2015. Word on the street is that he’ll be stepping up his involvement with Launch Academy’s Ray Walia (currently a Launch Academy mentor) and partnering with Walia on some new investment vehicles in the new year.