Vinay Singh is a managing director at Anthemis Group, a FinTech focused fund that leads seed and Series A rounds.
Vinay is also a partner at Archer Gray, a content studio with a venture arm that Vinay led. Vinay has produced over 15 films and has a lot to say about empowering creators, payments in media and the future of work. Really excited for this conversation.
To start, I believe that before this you were on the creative side of media. Can you tell me what your role was as a producer and how that led you to VC? Yeah, you know essentially I was the conduit between the creatives and the money and the person who would kind of figure out how to structure the deals and source the financing and run the productions.
And increasingly during that time the money was coming less and less from Wall Street and more and more from technology platforms And they were essentially stepping in and solving everything from the way in which the content was captured to how it was distributed and monetized And so you know as the person whose job it was to kind of make the business of art you had to kind Understand how to work closely with the technology platforms andthat led me as as you referenced earlier to a company called Archer Gray that was quite unique in the sense that it was both a content studio and a venture arm also perhaps notably uh founded by the co-founder of Anthemus Amy Naus and ran the venture arm there for a while And what we found uh increasingly is that the kind of limiting reagent was Financial in a lot of ways it was access to capital it was payments it was you know kind of managing new risks you know the kind of InsureTech of sorts that existed in a world in which the content creation was increasingly democratized And you know so many things were being pushed to technology marketplaces in a way from the kind of purview of the studios and their large legal teams and so on And so you know it very naturally kind of led me back into finance and back into FinTech and I joined Anthemis
in the, So let's talk about that race car , that is the media race car powered by finance And sort of how do you see the money flowing now and how is that changed and how do you think it's changing?
Yeah it's it's a great question and it's a fun question to answer now because we're coming off the back of two years of I think a level of attention from both you know the kind of VC community as well as the street that we hadn't seen before A lot of it's been couched in the kind of creator economy space or in the the web three NFT space which is exciting because I think those are both you know interesting framings for it But the problem Is the same problem that's kind of existed for a long time in Media but also other industries that have largely independent workforces what we would now call kind of gig economy workforces in that you know people exist outside the framework of traditional employment with W2 s if we're talking about here in the US and typical insurance And so everything from kind of how they file their taxes to how they access capital to grow their business has been hard like has been a struggle always You know there's a reason why there's this idea of a starving artist is because it's really hard to make a living as a starving artist no matter how talented you are but with The focus on the gig economy focus on creator economy I think there's a lot of new interesting solutions and luckily capital support that and and perhaps you could point to the Kickstarters and the Indiegogos and the crowd fundings is kind of the 1.0 of this the way of democratizing access to capital So that I think is super exciting And then I think it's the category of people who want to be independent for a host of reasons So this might be the lawyer leaving a large corporate law firm to start their own practice And you know there's increasingly a suite of tools Off the shelf and relatively inexpensive and I think that's empowering an entire new group of kind of independent workers that is not the same thing as Right Like the YouTuber the Uber driver they're on the same spectrum but their needs are very very different They probably don't need to kind of access capital in the same way to get seed capital to get going What they need is some way to run payroll and manage their you know accounting and expenses so they can focus on being a lawyer Mm-hmm. or you know whatever else it
So the tools to start a small business are improving. What else is interesting or like evolving for the indie creator or the smb? I think for a lot of people and that's whether it's an independent game developer whether it's that you know lawyer that I referenced the standard way you grow these types of businesses is off debt of some sort and In both those cases but I think especially if we're talking some of the kind of newer careers of the independent game developer it's hard to walk into the Main Street branch and say like Look I'm a small business and I'm building a game studio and I have an app on the app store that's doing okay and it generates 10,000 bucks a month and like can I get a loan to kind of do some user acquisition And I'm sure the banker will have no idea how to process that or evaluate that Mm-hmm. . Okay, so now I found a new way to build my YouTube influencer business.
How has commerce then affect.
a ton I mean you can't kind of deny anybody that spends even 10 minutes in a day scrolling through Instagram or you know pick your social media platform of choice you're inundated right With Commerce ads and these are new direct to consumer ads or it's your the people that you're following whether it's your friend or you know Gigi Hadid is pitching you something right Is kind of influencing you in some way towards some product or service that they love either cuz they just love it or because they're being paid to love it uh so that is new right and the kind of direct connectivity that you have when you see that ad to being able to then go and transact mm-hmm. that is much more direct than it's ever been ever Right that's new The notion of kind of influence being used to sell stuff is not at all new Right This is kind of probably as old as media goes and you know look back to pick any uh celebrity you might think of in any decade in the last century and they were probably the spokesperson for something or somehow involved in selling something The difference is just kind of how directly they could monetize that Right And what's exciting now is that you don't need kind of the typical agencies and everybody in between to say like this is a spokesperson deal and you'll get paid And if the product does very well too bad you know you don't make any money you can now Essentially influencers I always think of them as the kind of b in the B2B to commerce right The B2B to C You can make them that distribution channel and they themselves can be much more closely tied to the transaction and therefore hopefully you know monetize it in a different way So it's like everything is new is old but I think the way in which to your point you know how does it affect commerce the way in which we are actually transacting is entirely new increasingly digitally increasingly like on demand Immediately it's a very different call to action than before where you watched a commercial during your evening news and then you hoped you recalled the brand When you're in the store a week later
what does embedded finance mean?
ha Great questionuh my perspective in embedded finance is if you take the fundamental pieces of finance think of them as the building blocks you kind of take them apart atomize it what else can you build with it Uh that are kind of again at the core powered by finance or you know about delivering financial services but are solving maybe problems or creating opportunities outside of traditional financial services So that's the embedded piece the poster child for this is probably Uber which you know the Real innovation is a payment innovation and the solution is a mobility solution Uh you know I think if you look in other industries and it maybe a little bit closer to where I look you would say something like StubHub which started really as a secondary marketplace for tickets is an embedded finance company You know tickets are stores of value they're kind of financial instruments Uh there was never good secondary markets for it which is why you had rampant scalping and price gouging and so on So, you know those are the types of examples in the kind of opportunities that we're looking for when we talk about embedded finance I think there's another side of that same coin uh of sorts that you know I would call contextual finance which is increasingly interesting to us And that's new distribution channels for Let's call it you know traditional financial products you know in a world in which people want their financial products to kind of be invisibly attached to whatever they're doing You know whether that's like you get your car insurance literally onboard at your car based on you know maybe where you're driving or you know is that wanting to obviously be able to pay with Apple Pay at the grocery store and kind of just having our mobile device be our credit cards You know that all would fall under this umbrella of contextual finance in my mind and it's a close cousin to embedded finance but different in the sense that, you know we're we're still talking about delivering financial products just through new distribution channels
that Fascinating. I hadn't, I actually didn't know the difference. . Uh,
I might have just created it right now but you
So now there's embedded and contextual finance and everything. Do you think the flip is true? And every company is also becoming a content company?
Yeah I think it's tricky cuz on some days I would wholeheartedly agree with that I think probably The slightly more accurate statement is that every company has to have a content strategy today And some division or some part of your business might be creating that content Or it might be more about understanding kind of marketing I mean in some ways content is increasingly synonymous with marketing and you have to have a modern marketing strategy
a And what does modern mean to you then?
Uh yeah great question I mean it is increasingly mobile It's increasingly tied to social media and you know kind of social media is not just for d TOC brands anymore or even consumer brands I mean there's a lot of B2B marketing happening on TikTok you know I find it super intriguing The new point of discovery for realtors and for home shoppers is TikTok Right You know kind of they're these brokers that make their whole career advertising the properties that they're representing just on topping and getting huge followings there And that's kind of look a cherry picked single example But I think it's indicative of where we're going
we're I don't spend enough time on TikTok to really
the, what's like the right use case on TikTok for a B2B strategy?
I think you know even if you look at some of the incredibly stayed and successful incumbent firms in everything from financial services to consulting to kind of legal you'll see thatis important for them to repurpose some of the content you know repurpose their white papers for TikTok audiences is McKinsey recruiting new clients on TikTok Probably not but are they kind of reinforcing their brand And especially speaking to perhaps you know some of the younger audiences inside of their potential clients A hundred percent
Okay, big question. What makes good content? Um, but like you've produced things and you're LinkedIn I think said something like, You're passionate about getting good stories told something like that.
Yeah the short answer is story right If you think about anything that you've loved whether it's a TikTok video straight up to you know a a film to a song there's other elements to it right If we're talking about music's gotta have a catchy beat but the stuff that stands the test of time the stuff that you bring up at a dinner conversation a week later the stuff that you wanna watch or listen to numerous times the the video games that you wanna play over and over again you come back mostly because of story and so look different stories resonate with different people for different reasons So I think again if if we're going to kind of talk about art community really matters right Understanding who is the community For what you're telling the story How are you going to reach them Why is it gonna resonate And then the best content crosses over right I mean to use the Hollywood term right The the kind of idea in Hollywood you know they call it the four quadrant movie but essentially it's a way of saying it has several core communities and it has a chance of crossing over into the zeitgeist outside of the obvious community for this particular movie or this particular uh show or this particular album So it's magic When it happens it's hard to capture I think you have to always start with a good story
Do you think like there's certain things, that you can look for or can identify of, Oh, that's going to resonate, that'll be four quadrants or whatever,
Yeah Look I think and this is where frankly there's a lot of parallels between being a producer and being a v We're trying to always figure that out right Try to be kind of uh one step ahead of everybody but you try not to be too many steps ahead of you know we we've all heard of the companies that were before their time or similarly you know movies that were ahead of their time And so part of our job is a little bit to be you know fortune tellers to understand kind of where the zeitgeist is and where it's going You know in both these cases whether you're producing a movie or backing a company it'll be somewhere between years and a decade you know till they really maybe see the light a day in in a in a certain way So understanding kind of where the industry is going where tastes are going is a big part of what we do Sometimes we get it right sometimes we don't
And how big, Let's talk about Ments for a second. Um, what's your fun size or what's your sweet spot? Check size, however you wanna talk
Yeah absolutely Uh and this may be a good chance for me to expand a little bit you know at the top of the podcast you mentioned that you know I am part of the early stage team but really atheists we see ourselves as a platform for kind of broad financial change and so we're multistage multi strategy everything from Venture Studio through to a spec and frankly everything in between I sit on the early stage team we're just wrapping up a fund that was 150 million fund focused on pre preceded seed and Series A uh as as kind of initial entry points And then you know follow the companies through the next few rounds So Really the idea of the firm is to like I said to be a platform and kind of the main activity on that platform today has been investment but we you know have been advisors to several financial institutions who are also our LPs We have Anthemis Institute that supports kind of you know more academic work Uh we have a media brand and hacking finance uh that would help pre pandemic called an annual conference as well as other events So you know the vision is really the kind of full stack evolution of of financial services and being able to be a part of that at every level
you know, LA doesn't have that many funds that can lead a series A you guys lead, right? ?
we do Yes
Well that's great. It, and you've only been in LA uh, um, month or two.
I think we're hitting two months in a day or two Yeah Yeah
Um, okay. Other big things to hit on. Web three. You mentioned that we talked about creator economy and
web three have been very hot So
it's hot, everyone wants to know about it. what, where are you, um, in the web three spectrum?
Yeah look I mean I think I don't know where we are exactly in the hype cycle but I think it is fair to say we are somewhere you know in the early days of Web three And You know what we've been focused on is really to you know to use the super generic kind of example but the picks and shovels The feeling is that you know in order for this to be ready for prime time let's say you have to build the infrastructure we have to build the kind of scaffolding that's gonna support all the different types of businesses that's going to help us navigate the next Luna or Celsius you know challenges and so on
Okay, so you're investing in web three infrastructure, but if you put the Fortune teller hat back on, do you think there's a world in which Web Three disrupts our financial institutions or how creators are interacting with our fans.
Yeah I think I mean broadly yes to both but the idea of kind of borderless currencies is something that Probably a lot of people have wanted or attempted to get at but it's very hard until you kind of take governments and actual borders out of it Right Defi does that Crypto does that and so that's incredibly exciting And then on on maybe the entirely other end of the spectrum as you said is kind of just you know how about creators having a more direct connection to fans and and that is part of as we talked about earlier this evolution that's been happening anyway a chance for creators to get increasingly close to their fans monetized directly Cut out you know intermediaries Now does that mean every piece of art should be tokenized No I don't think so what I'm hoping is you know is gonna settle out or what are the use cases that really make sense for both sides because sometimes there was a disconnect there right?
It made a lot of sense for the artist try to tokenize their album It didn't make any sense for the fan to buy this album on the chain versus just buy the album on Spotify or listen to the album you know Exactly So I think you know what we need to do is settle out a place where it mutually beneficial on both sides Uh similarly you know I mentioned the idea of what if we you know tokenize funds which is starting to happen at some point but again to what end And and you know how does that benefit LPs And I'm sure it's not right for every fund It might be right for certain funds so we're figuring it out That's the exciting part You know along the way there's a lot of experimentation which means there's a lot of failure and that's part of the evolution we all have to go on And but overall I think super exciting I think what we're probably gonna find is that to have a truly decentralized economy you have to have some centralized regulatory kind of constraints on it to make sure that it can you know withstand turbulence and withstand kind of you know everything from inadvertent problems to you know actual financial crime and attack And and I'm not sure where there yet
Do you have thoughts on the regulatory environment of what's needed in the Web three world or more broadly, just in the media and FinTech world that you're looking at?
I think the end result will be a hybrid of the existing entities, whether they be kind of private or government that we know about, and new entities that have yet to be formed that are native to web three. And, some mesh of those different entities will form the right kind of regulatory environment, I hope for this economy to flourish.
But how that plays out, if I'm being honest, I, I don't have a strong opinion about
a What about in the more traditional media world? I think you said something like a new Creative Commons licenses needed. what does a new creative common license look like? Uh, what is needed?
Yeah. And I wouldn't know the exact history either other than to kind of, you know, it was boring, I think out of the web 2.0 world in which all of a sudden user generated content exploded and, understandably people creating that wanted some ability to both. Not impede its virality, whatever that might mean in, in different cases, but also kind of, you know, have some controls on it and hopefully, you know, be able to monetize it.
I think in the end, the nature of Web three, just by its very definition, the way in which kind of controls are built into the tokens and into the, facilitation layers is totally different. And so again, I, I don't have the answers here. I'm, I'm looking hopefully to the community to build the kind of cool companies and the cool ideas to solve these things.
but I think it's, , the kind of industry and, , and that technology is what I'm trying to say is ripe for a new approach to how we kind of do licensing and how we track that.
Makes sense. So let me pick up on another thing from your Twitter bio. It says you are investing in virtual economies. Tell me what does that mean?
Yikes. You never like to see your Twitter bio?
See the, actual light a day? Um, Or it could be called out on it. No, I mean, I think, look, that's a, for me, it's a little bit of a catchall term. for, again, a lot of the stuff that we look at when we talk about kind of embedded finance, which is what are the new financial instruments?
They could be virtual, they could be, physical but not, you know, actual currency. We talked about kind of ticketing. I think this is a big area of opportunity where investors in a, in a ticketing platform for exactly this reason, that the feeling that, tickets and, you know, what's interesting is like increasingly tickets have value, you know, before, during, and after an event.
And so much as like, you know, the commemorative NFT ticket now has its own value and an aftermarket kind of way. you know, tickets, especially as they're increasingly have, you know, better technology applied to them. Can be a form of currency in the actual event and, and unlock kind of, you know, experiences or even just be traded up or down kind of, for, you know, upgrades while you're at the event.
Um, , but a lot of the technology that needs you to unlock that, to kind of really treat the ticket as a financial instrument wasn't there. So, you know, that's not a virtual economy per se, but it is a kind of new version of an economy, right? That, that lives outside of traditional assets or traditional kind of, currencies. Flip side of that is, you know, actual virtual, economies that, live in the, decentral lands of the world, in video games, in, in kind of, you. I, I spent a lot of time looking at kind of Roblox and what is the Roblox economy and, what are we going to see being built there. And, you know there's some medium piece I wrote somewhere about how kind of, you know, Roblox is the new sales force.
And, what I mean from that is like, you know, they have really thought from day one credit to the company about how the economy can function at scale and how it can support, you know, businesses that live almost exclusively in that world, on that platform. and that's super exciting and that, you know, we see that a little bit in, kind of what Epic is doing in Fortnight and so on.
wait, can you gimme that? An example of Roblox, So they've thought about how economies function at scale, don't spend that
much time looking
at Roblox. Like what does that mean?
Yeah, I mean, so the the Most obvious use case of that is people who develop uh experiences and characters and so on in Roblox that then sell 'em for Roblox right But you know there's kind of secondary economies for these items There's increasingly people who are like you know service everything you might see in the real world in terms of like design studios that service the people who are then trying to create these characters and sell 'em Is exists and is kind of growing And so again early innings and we're building But if you think about also kind of again this is where you know hopefully the analogy holds but you know how Salesforce built from kind of a platform with a very specific and singular use case to an entire economy of people who would build bespoke products on top of Salesforce You know people who are integration experts who would come in and help you integrate So I think we're building towards that type of economy in roadblocks and it will run largely on you know their virtual currency
Fascinating. So Roblox is the new sales force and what makes for a good new virtual economy. Yeah I think in some ways the whole everything old is new again Um The thing that makes for good virtual economies is that they have all the hallmarks of good kind of traditional economies right That there is secondary markets for the assets right This is what you know when we talk about Rally Road which is is a portfolio company as well you know in part what they did and did brilliantly is create secondary markets for the assets that you're holding right You're not just now holding an incredibly illiquid asset that maybe is appreciating but you can't trade risk mitigation So we're talking about art Some of the really interesting innovation I think that's happened in art is the new way in which you kind of can ensure the art and manage that risk and and taking that away from just the kind of two or three very traditional you know insurance companies that used to understand that asset class So for these virtual economies to work even if we're talking about kind of Roblox you know there has to be A way to spend your virtual currency Right Something worthwhile doing with it other than just maybe kind of recycling it back into that exact same economy So one of the things that you know I'm hoping will increasingly see is you know we talk about kind of crypto as a as a borderless currency want to hopefully increasingly see currencies that are borderless in the digital world You know uh you can move this virtual currency from this gaming universe over to that gaming universe And there's you know there's some trading platform for that
mm-hmm So sort of, but maybe it's like marketplaces
outside It's new.
gotcha. Yeah it's it's like capital markets for virtual currencies Yeah
Any other really good example? Companies that are illustrative? I think Rally Road is a great example. Anything else? Like what is an anthemis really known for? What are some of your big ones that like put you guys on the map?
great question Uh so I mean we'll maybe start somewhat local investors in a company called Happy Money you know formally called Payoff That's down in oc Betterment uh Carta Currency Cloud You know these are some of the early big investments that we're well known for you know in this particular vintage of the fund or investors in pipe
Oh yeah that's a good
We so Okay, so those being some of your, ones that are very well known that even I know. Um, how do you describe infamous? Like what's kind of the fund's reputation, FinTech?
Yeah I think I mean yes if you were to pull a handful of people I think you know we're known as one of the original and most active you know FinTech and ensure tech investors but, but
you're kind of London based, so I don't think everyone in LA knows you as well.
That might be fair Uh so you know we're not headquartered anywhere We're kind of proud of that But the company was started in London You know if you look at the 55 or so people that we have 30 ish that in London you know the rest mostly in New York and scattered a bit around the US like myself out here
And I've forgotten. Why did you end up moving to LA two
forgotten. Uh great question you
I try to surf No, you know look I've loved it here for 20 plus years I spent a summer uh doing of all things investment banking here in LA and I've been trying to get back ever since But you know in addition to kind of personally want wanting to be here this other thing is really that's happening That's super exciting here And I'd be curious to hear your take you know we blinked and we have 10 or more portfolio companies here you know uh increasingly and maybe not surprisingly it's a great place to build consumer FinTech companies but also you know regular FinTech companies Also a great place to build any company I think You know I had the opportunity I can't say I got in at the even the mezzanine floor of like the building of the New York venture ecosystem but got to be part of its real build phase and and the kind of collaborative nature of that was really energizing and exciting And I get that same energy here. Yes, totally. So let's move to the personal vina. You've made 15 films. What makes a good producer?
You know I think a lot so a piece of it is you know what I just said is right You have to be really great at helping the storyteller tell the story right Giving some shape and guidance You're almost a consultant of sorts Uh you're a therapist of sorts and and and helping that but you know it doesn't matter if nobody Sees it or if nobody listens to it or if nobody buys it So you have to have the commercial piece of it too Right I mean I got to do it in an amazing era right The era of kind of YouTube and Netflix even you think about kind of actors actors were film actors until they were TV actors Once they went down that slope you don't go back You know that was kind of the era I was that we were coming out of when I joined the industry And now you haveRyan Reynolds who has you know a TV show on Hulu is a is a massive you know kind of Marvel star has a gin brand that he started you know they can do all of that And it and it's seen as totally organic as it should be And so I think that's exciting right Mm-hmm
Mm-hmm. . I mean, I just had a really interesting conversation with Jeffrey Evans from the Mantis Chainsmokers Fund.
I mean, one, he made me think maybe we should all go get celebrities
for our fund. It was interesting. It was like the power of having a v VC paired with celebrity
was pretty powerful
as he tells
and two, he talked about like, helping artists realize their vision is hard because they're also artists and they have a vision and they don't necessarily want it to be shaped into
Yeah that's fair And and and yeah it's probably worth you know giving That team A lot of credit it's a double edged sword working with kind of I think a celebrity uh broadly defined at the kind of center of your firm And there's examples of where it's gone really well There's a lot of examples where I think it's kind of fallen over under its own weight or perhaps the ego or just I think it's worth calling out like what we do is hard Mm-hmm. ,
Couple personal Um, what, what was high school like for you? What were your parents doing? What were you like in high school?
Wow Super personal I love it Uh so I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania called Quaker Town um in the kind of edge edge of the Philly suburbs where like suburbs met farmland and My parents uh who were Indian immigrants were at one point working at the same company And then my mom got a job about an hour and a half away and my parents unfurled a map and essentially drew a straight line between the two offices And you know the middle point was where they where where we got a house in Quakertown. and so you know all that to say like there wasn't a lot of calculus done about like well you know what's it like for a second generation Indian kid in this town it was interesting I mean I was totally an anomaly that I think frankly sculpted a lot of my life experience and life view
Uh it's hard I mean sounds super generic but total fish outta water right?
Like kind of Uh and it's funny I went from you know this town uh that was you know incredibly white and moved only an hour away for college to Penn at Philly where I went So I went from kind of a town in which I was like way too Indian to a school in which like I was not Indian enough or you know kind of the South Asian society there And culture was really strong and people came you know from parts of New Jersey and just parts of the world where they were very much in touch with their kind of South Asian culture in a way that I was not
uh, how do your friends describe you
God I guess I I I don't know if I did a good job on this podcast but you know a bit is the funny one
That's a funny
Uh is the Yeah it's it's it's like wow now I'm gonna be rethinking everything I said Was it funny What is it Funny enough But no look I think I think I'm a little bit of the jokester in the group You know it wasn't a straight line from, you know college to where I am now in terms of the normal path to venture which has been a lot of fun for me and I think hopefully makes me a better investor in some ways
year and made 15 films.
and made 15
Very cool Well, but
was really fun to have the chance to chat with you. Um, so excited you're in LA
it's great to be here again Thanks for having me on this This was a lot of fun.