Hey 👋 thanks for coming by! If I haven't met you yet, I'm Dominic. To get to know me well, I'm going to share where I like spending my time with respect to a few key themes.
- Investing @ Ripple Ventures: As you may have read, I'm investing in early-stage startups building tools for enterprises and developers. My job is to partner with founders in the earliest days and support them through understanding their markets, ensuring they're building the right products, exploring go-to-market strategies, and raising capital with a compelling story. I want to be the first check into the company, and be the empathetic yet pragmatic coach in the corner for the founders. My goal is not to tell founders what to do, but to pose questions and share frameworks to ensure that the best decisions are being made. I truly believe in what we're doing at Ripple Ventures because I see the lack of support and resources that early-stage founders receive with my own eyes. With companies that I have and have not invested in. Our approach to investing in tandem with rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty, building alongside our founders is truly unique. From helping bring on early key hires, to helping make the first sales, to supporting the company in raising their next round, it's all so rewarding to see the founders succeed. That's what keeps me going every day.
- Building the RippleX Fellowship Program: When I was a student trying to learn about startups and venture capital, it was extremely hard. Resources were siloed in blogs, videos, newsletters. People were busy and tough to reach as a student. There were only three people from my program that had gone into anything remotely close to venture. Student programs ran by VCs were broken because they were using students as deal sharks, and not giving them the tools to become a proper investor. I saw a lack of resources for founders to really understand fundraising and company building. That's why I built the RippleX Fellowship Program. It's an education-first program where I bring roughly 20 of the brightest founders/aspiring VCs across North America into one cohort every semester. I teach the intricacies of company building and startup financing from both sides of the table. Our student alumni have gone on to become venture-backed founders by top tier accelerator and venture funds, as well as full-time investors at leading firms. I'm extremely proud of what the program has turn into, and could not have done it without Arielle, Naz, and Turja.
- Advising Companies: Ever since I started working with founders formally and informally in 2016, I've never stopped. From doing drop-in office hours with accelerator programs, to one-off warm intro calls with founders looking for fundraising advice, to formally advising founders outside of the portfolio. I don't like calling myself an advisor because that means I give advice. I rarely give advice because I don't think it's ever useful unless you've been in the exact same position as someone before. Given I don't have decades of experience under my belt, I revert to posing questions and exploring frameworks for decisions. Ask any company I've worked with and they'll tell you how I like to "give advice" is by sharing "what I would ask myself in your situation is...". I feel like that's the best way to help founders, especially in my position, because I don't know the company and situation as well as they do. I never will. But what I can do is be a very solid sounding board for founders to bounce ideas off, double click on, challenge, and prioritize themes for decision making. I'm always looking to work with more founders if there's a good fit, so reach out to me if you want to chat :)
- Network Building: The game of venture is all about networking. Find me chatting with other investors, industry experts, students, and friends. From making genuine friends to making breakthrough discoveries. Maybe with the help of a beer.
- Industry Deep Dives: I am an obsessive person when I find something I'm interested in. I read through blogs, Reddit threads, Twitter discussions, Discord channels, and talk with my friends about it. The latest few things I've gone down the rabbit hole with have been in e-commerce, developer tools, and web3.
- Content Creation: A lot of my time is spent on content creation. From thinking of a witty Tweet, to writing our next Medium blog, to curating course content for the fellowship program, to writing in my blog, and soon some new drawings/visualizations of venture concepts. I'm always making the next new thing, including this website. My last one was kinda shitty and it was just a blog. I wanted something to showcase more of my story and references, inclusive of my blog. Randomly saw Typedream in a Product Hunt email and I gave it a spin. Pretty cool tool, so shoutouts to the team for building this product.
- Friends and Family: Over the past few years, I've come to appreciate friends and family more than I ever have in my life. There's nothing I enjoy more than hanging out, shooting shit, and laughing with people that you love.
- Journaling: I love writing both in public and in private. I got back into writing in a physical journal and haven't looked back. I thought I forgot how to write with a pen, but now I'm pretty proud of my penmanship. I am an extremely introspective person, so self-reflection is something I enjoy doing frequently. Learning about self is exponential for changes in the right direction. Being real with myself has helped me be more real with others around me.
- Traveling: My goal in life is to see more of the world. I've been to most parts of Asia, and will be exploring more of Europe very soon. I'm born and raised in Toronto, but am feeling/scratching the deep itch to work and live in other places. Hong Kong will always be one of my favorite places in the world because it feels like a second home to me (family, culture, # of visits made). Spending a month in a new city is magical IMO. No rush of doing all the touristy things in a week or less, getting a vibe of what it's really like to live in the city, making new friends you see more than once. I want to do more of that.
- Sports: My favorite sport to play is basketball. It's the one thing that I can get into flow instantly, and can take my mind off of just anything. The pandemic has pushed me to get into running, cycling, golf, and tennis which I also really enjoy. Nothing like safe outdoor activities to do with friends at a 6-feet distance am I right?
- Coffee: If you know me, you know where to find me. At a small coffee shop sipping a cappuccino and taking a bite out of a croissant (almond or chocolate, almost never plain). I like floral, fruity, vibrant coffee. I don't like dark, chocolatey, spiced coffee. I like iced espresso with a dash of whole milk in the summertime. I don't like cold brew or nitro brew too much.
- Local Bars: My friends are annoyed with me talking about natural wine, craft beer, and japanese whisky. The places we go when there isn't a lockdown are small local bars that serve at least one of the above. Regular wine tastes weird to me. I like the funk. Regular beer tastes bland. I like the hops (and the funk). Whisky though, I honestly like to try and drink Japanese just because it's Japanese (not sure why). There's good whisky from everywhere, that I will admit.
How I became a venture capitalist
A lot of people ask me this. So I'll walk you through my story:
- Accounting: I don't come from a "traditional" background to become a VC. I was an accountant. I was first introduced to startups from the inside when working with a startup in the BNPL space before Affirm became mainstream. Fell in love with the company culture, new technology being created, and honestly the people working there. This kickstarted my journey into wanting to find ways that I could work with more startups.
- Case Competitions: While in school, I did a shit load of case competitions. Probably did one almost every month for over a year. Not all startup and VC related though, it was all across the board. Stock pitches, consulting cases, startup idea competitions, and one venture capital competition. I wanted to be sure that this was the industry that really piqued my interest, so I got multiple data points across different types of jobs through competitions. Nothing came even close to what I felt when I was doing the venture capital one. Everything else felt like work. This didn't.
- Networking: So now that I knew I wanted to get into venture, I needed to talk to people who have done it before. I need advice because in 2016 there weren't 50 different fellowship programs that I could apply to and get some experience or network in VC. I reached out to alumni from my program and some local investors as well. Thank you to all of you who gave me your time and let me ask questions on your story, as well as tips to follow in your footsteps. I would not be here without you.
- Freelancing: The common advice most people gave me was to get some sort of relevant experience to stand out among the crowd. So I went on Upwork and freelanced for emerging managers and tech execs trying to start their own fund. Anything from pitch decks to fund models. I was learning on the fly, but only I had to know that. I also worked with a few startups on pitch decks, financial models, and marketing budget allocation. I was literally just trying to get any experience that I could.
- Writing: Another mentor suggested that I pushed out some blog posts too to showcase my interest in tech and startups, so that's what I did. One of the first ever pieces I wrote was how AI was changing the NBA (because I love basketball) and some companies that were creating that change. A really fun little project I had, and got me into writing in public.
- Getting Involved: I reached out to local accelerators and incubators with the goal of getting experience working with early-stage companies. I did office hours, and eventually partnered closer with a few companies. Thank you to the program managers and founders that trusted me to work with you even though I was a nobody with barely any experience.
- First Internship: Before my job at Ripple Ventures, I had a short internship at another fund in Toronto. I got exposed to fund management, due diligence, and ecosystem building there. Thank you to the team there for taking a bet on me.
- Meeting Matt: While I was graduating, I was honestly having a really tough time finding a job. There aren't many VC internships, let alone full time positions. I tried applying for everything from product, to operations, to even traditional finance jobs. I got rejected from almost everything. For some reason, Matt posted a job on Waterloo's platform and I immediately applied and reached out. I don't even remember how I got his phone number but we hopped on a call the same day and we hit it off. We've never looked back since, and I'm grateful for Matt taking a chance on me, trusting me to help build Ripple Ventures with him.
Helping founders find PMF, hire, and fundraise.
My superpowers are helping teams understand their markets, ensure they're building the right products, and raise capital through a compelling story.
Areas of Expertise
Venture Capital →
Market & Product Discovery →→
Growth & GTM Strategy →
Finance & Fundraising →
I'd love to talk with you! Email me, or message me on Twitter.
Copyright © 2022 Dominic Lau. All rights reserved.