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Tomasz Kowalczyk is a partner, an architect of growth and innovation in the Rebel Valley.

In the valley, Rebels Tomasz is responsible for creating innovative ecosystems for global businesses and technology start-ups. He has professional experience in consultancy firms in Poland and Asia (including one of the Big4 consultancy firms), as well as experience in the management of pioneering venture capital and credit capital funds in Poland, which have made around 20 investments in start-up companies.

Its field of activity includes the financing of pilot implementations in large companies and an in-depth consultation on the development and internationalisation of companies. It mainly focuses on projects related to the transformation of digital technologies in companies.

Rebels Valley was created in response to the demand of an innovative community of experienced companies with strong market positions and smaller, more agile companies looking for scalable market niches.

In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Tomasz says…

I’m not the most disciplined person in the world. However, I always try to remain resolute. And – at least one long-term non-professional activity. A year ago I resumed regular boxing training at least three times a week. I recommend to be active, because business is always about stress, and stress is more effective than any other addiction.

  • You are the master of your destiny, and only you can define the limits of your dreams.
  • Turn your dreams into goals, because that motivates you to wake up every morning.
  • Your professional activity cannot determine what type of person you are, always be yourself – the person you want to be.

Learn more about Tomas Kowalczyk and his career.

Tomasz Kowalczyk, Growth & Innovation Designer/Partner in Rebels Valley- Connecting Technologies With Companies That Need Them!

What kind of training and experience do you have in this field?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: My primary expertise includes digital solutions that strengthen the non-core activities of large multinational companies. I have worked for many years with brands such as P&G, Citi, BNY Mellon, Santander, to help them match their real needs with available technical solutions. My team, Rebels Valley, focuses primarily on transforming start-ups into large companies by providing them with the necessary financing and access to market experts – experienced senior executives who help our portfolio companies deliver their services to Tier 1 clients around the world.

When did you get the idea to set up a fund?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: Since I left Deloitte’s innovation advisory team, I have been active in the start-up/video conference market. I first joined one of the first venture capital teams in Poland and then acquired one of the first HVAC funds in Poland, launched by a leading local software development company. Since 2018 I work at Rebels Valley, a boutique focused on innovation, as one of the characters in the Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino – Mr. Tarantino. Wolf, played by Harvey Keitel. We do everything necessary to build bridges between the world of start-ups and the business world.

In which start-ups/sectors have you invested so far?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: I have been involved in financing a broad portfolio of start-ups – mainly B2B solutions, compatible with AI and other types of projects related to market technologies, human resources technologies, e-commerce, e-mobility and lunar projects, such as the Polish market expansion initiative.

In which companies would you like to invest? And what is your mental investment model?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: As said, our involvement is not limited to financing. We are looking for companies that have the skills, capabilities and resources to enable the team to attract the world’s largest clients. In the first place, we must fully understand the fundamental value that is offered. We always evaluate the ability to meet (and sometimes create) the needs of the market. We reviewed the growth and market strategy in detail to see if our investment adds value to the start-up.

The Valley of Rebellion is a practical approach. We actively support our portfolio companies – if necessary. I believe that the application of the Pareto rule to a portfolio of start-up companies – no more than 20 percent of the companies in the portfolio should focus on disruptive innovations in their target markets. 80% should focus on a more incremental approach.

What is your typical investment range and how many start-ups do you invest in total in a year? Can foreign starters also be supported by you?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: Every year we work together with about 20-30 domestic and foreign companies (mainly from EU countries). In 2021, we open an Asian office in the rebel valley in another country to expand our activities.

What is the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) you usually look at for the growth of a start-up?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: It may vary by sector, for example LTV, CAC, MoM etc., but it will be useful to learn more about your additional investment factors.

In our opinion, these are not performance and key performance indicators (KPIs). Show me potential leads for your current account.

How do you manage this COWID-19 flash situation for the future survival of your portfolio?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: On the business side, we argue that COVID-19 actually creates additional business opportunities – many companies are forced to intensify their digital transformation.

Of course it is necessary to review all sales and business development activities. In particular, many customers have reduced their offline presence, so online channels need to be used more effectively to manage the sales funnel. On the other hand, we make executives and founders even more aware that the time has come to sell real value, not dreams or inspiration.

Once you have become an investor, as in the early stages, there should be a difficult time if the first fund is set up with the second fund or if there is a good return on this LP. If there are such difficult moments, tell us how you (or your team) overcame them. Do you have any advice for setting up a fund?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: The management of venture capital funds is a matter of trust. When you open your first fund, you don’t have any experience proving your ability to make money on records. Be honest, tell them you have no experience in this area. Use external consultants, build a dedicated team. Turn weakness into strength – be open, develop your own investment strategy and update it if necessary.

Sometimes it goes wrong. At such times, don’t hide the difficulties from your stakeholders (PA’s, teams, founders). It’ll only distract you. It is always better to solve problems together than to lose market confidence in your honesty.

What do you think are the founders’ mistakes in raising funds or important potential customers?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: In the first place, the founders focused on the technology and the team. A start-up is not a laboratory, but a company that focuses on adding value to the business and providing information to its customers about the benefits of your business. Show the market strategy, prove you understand the market, so you know what resources to use, both human and technical.

What advice do you give to entrepreneurs who have the opportunity to meet investors like you? What are the 3 most important questions you always ask the founders?

Tomasz Kowalczyk:

  • How can you prove that your product/service meets current and future market needs?
  • What general market assumptions do you question and what is the basis for your approach? (based on the inspiration of Peter Thiel)
  • Can you tell me what the cornerstone of your project is – tell me as much as you can about a small child or a golden retriever.

What is your general opinion about the global concept and what are the important factors (criteria) that local start-ups should take into account in international expansion?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: For me, globalisation is like a market. This should be the ultimate goal of any new company.

Which start-up or technical industry do you think will influence the world in the future, for example within 2 to 3 years at local level?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: In addition to obvious answers such as AI in the decision-making process, analysis of large amounts of data, I would like to mention 3 problem areas:

  • Digital solutions that will make our world even more hybrid – I am convinced that the symbiosis between the human and technological worlds will become deeper and deeper in all aspects of our lives, from education and business to leisure and entertainment.
  • Tools for businesses to understand the online side of human nature – how to understand and add value to a network user.
  • New solutions for the entertainment industry – a void must be felt after COVID

What are the three most popular books or movies (series) that changed your life and why?

Tomasz Kowalczyk:

  • R. Weir’s Martian and Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 are must-read/observe names for every contractor because they say nothing is impossible, and I believe space is the next frontier.
  • Books by YN Harari that helped me make my own predictions about the future of mankind.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo – how he shows the power of human will and endurance.

How do you maintain your motivation on a daily basis?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: I’m not the most disciplined person in the world. However, I always try to remain resolute. And – at least one long-term non-professional activity. A year ago I resumed regular boxing training at least three times a week. I recommend to be active, because business is always about stress, and stress is more effective than any other addiction.

What are the three most important life lessons your (future) sons and daughters need to know?

Tomasz Kowalczyk:

  • You are the master of your destiny, and only you can define the limits of your dreams.
  • Turn your dreams into goals, because that motivates you to wake up every morning.
  • Your professional activity cannot determine what type of person you are, always be yourself – the person you want to be.

Why do you want to be remembered?

Tomasz Kowalczyk: I’m an ambitious man. I believe we will stay in this world as long as there is information about us and our actions. I want others to remember me as someone who was willing to act, to participate in changing the world and to make it a better place.

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