Travis Kalanick brought Uber to the world. But he also happens to be one of the biggest angel investors in Silicon Valley.
Below we take a look at his background, his angel investing portfolio, his most notable exits, his advice to angel investors, what to look for in founders when making angel investments, and more.
Who is Travis Kalanick?
Travis taught himself coding while he was still in middle school, and that passion eventually led him to study computer engineering at the University of California.
As every legendary startup story begins, he dropped out of UCLA in 1998 to co-found a startup called Scour, Inc., which offered an Internet search engine and file-sharing services. Although the company quickly became popular, it faced legal trouble and eventually filed for bankruptcy.
However, Travis bounced back by founding another firm called Red Swoosh, which specialized in file-sharing technology. Red Swoosh was successful, and Kalanick was able to sell it to Akamai Technologies for almost $19 million.
But it was Travis's co-founding of Uber in 2009 that truly put him on the map. What began as a small operation offering just three cars for hire quickly grew into a global phenomenon, revolutionizing the transportation industry.
Travis Kalanick has backed a diverse range of startups, including food delivery services and virtual reality companies. His portfolio includes 18 investments, the most recent being Beacon, which raised $15M.
One of the most notable companies in his portfolio is the meditation app, Headspace. He was an early investor in the company and served as a board member until 2020. Headspace has since grown into a well-known brand with over 70 million users worldwide.
He has also invested in the home security company Canary, which offers smart home security systems that are controlled through a mobile app. Additionally, he's backed the on-demand staffing platform Wonolo, which connects businesses with temporary workers on short notice.
His investment in the real estate startup City Storage Systems is another interesting topic of conversation, which aims to repurpose distressed real estate assets for new uses. The company has focused on transforming former parking lots and retail spaces into last-mile logistics hubs for delivery companies.
Kalanick has had 8 exits, which include:
How to be a great angel investor
Travis Kalanick has given several talks on how to be a successful investor, and these are the most important points he emphasizes:
Be passionate and invest in what you know: As an angel investor, be passionate about the industry or sector you are investing in and stick to what you know best. Understanding the business and the product is crucial to know what you’re stepping into.
Invest in the team: The team behind a startup is the most important factor for success. He advises angel investors to look for teams that are smart, driven, and have a shared vision for the future. It is the people who build a product, what drives them to keep building, and how much they believe in the company that makes it a win.
Prioritize early-stage investments: These are the companies with the greatest potential for long-term growth and innovation. By investing in these up-and-coming ventures, angel investors can play a crucial role in shaping the future of the industry. It's important to note that early-stage investing also comes with a higher level of risk, as these companies are often unproven and lacking in resources.
Be patient and take a long-term view: He advises investors to take a long-term view and be willing to wait for their investments to mature and generate returns.
Don't be afraid to take risks: Investors should take risks and be willing to invest in companies that may seem unconventional or risky. He believes that the biggest opportunities often come from taking big risks.
Build strong relationships: Networking is everything in getting in early on the best deals and meeting top founders.
Due proper due diligence: It is important to understand a company's financials to assess its long-term viability and potential for growth.
Travis Kalanick on what makes a great founder
They are multi-faceted, have patience and ability to identify gaps, and a champions mindset to push through adversity.
They go after building hard things that create lasting value.
They can tell the difference between perception and reality, and see where the world is wrong. One of his most famous statements is: “Perception is what everybody thinks, but what if reality is way over here? It’s hard to push towards reality when everyone thinks perception is reality. The great entrepreneur is able to see when the world is wrong. But when you see that the world is wrong, you have to be willing to go against them.”