“The day that I told Elon Musk he would have failed”

A few days ago, in preparation of our Scaleup Summit at the NASDAQ Center in San Francisco, I had the great pleasure to sit down with one of the current big guns of the Silicon Valley investment world, Niko Bonatsos.

I had met Niko in different occasions in the past but, here, we do spend an hour-long genuine discussion on past, present and future that you don’t want to miss. In front of ~30 CEOs of hot startups (some locals, some internationals) our discussion ranges from his upbringing in Greece and how he stumbled into Venture Capital, to the day he cold-emailed Elon Musk to tell him he will be failing, according to Niko and his buddy students @ Stanford (spoiler, Elon answered…).

Most importantly, in between golden pills of wisdom for entrepreneurs, you can appreciate how humble, ernest and anti-primadonna Niko is, regardless of his role of top influencer in the tech world. While being the managing director of a fund that has raised more than $5B (with investments in Snap, Airbnb, Gusto, Deliveroo, Lemonade and many more), as is Linkedin profile recites he is “always SUPER eager to learn more about an ambitious startup idea” (and add his email address…).

Hands down, one of the nicest guys in VC that I know…


 0:50   made in Greece, developed mourned the world
2:20   when @ Stanford I found more VCs than students and ended up in VC
5:15    when in 2011 I cold emailed Evan Spiegel, founder of Snapchat
7:48   when 2 weeks of delay in investment in Snap costed us a few hundred million $
11:45   what is like to be Niko Bonatsos today
16:37   Niko upbringing: as a kid in Greece, Cambridge (UK) and to Stanford
22:00  my mentors
23:22   mastering the art of cold email is key in your life
23:55   when I cold emailed Elon Musk to tell him (2009) how he would have failed
27:22   is the world of Silicon Valley VCs become sour/pretentious?
30:08   every year 10-15  companies produce most of the profits of the VC world
30:40   what does it take to be a rockstar VC
32:45   YC: friend or foe of  VC  industry?
37:20   take on WeWork and how the sentiment is changing last 6 months
40:25   the change of  flow of capital from abroad (Japan)
43:40   presence of government fund into VCs
47:17   how you can finally make good money as VC in EU
49:20   #1 thing I’m looking for, in order to get excited
56:20   Impact investing & why we passed on Juul
57:40   Importance of AI tools in investment