Brian Laung Aoaeh, CFA
7 min readMar 24, 2024

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I am the boy in the blue t-shirt. This is in front of my family’s home in Naville, UWR, Ghana. When I think of home, this is home.

I keep this picture to remind me how far I have come.

It dawned on me yesterday that, between KEC Holdings, KEC Ventures, Genius Guild, and REFASHIOND Ventures: The Industrial Transformation Fund I have now worked on more than 100 investments that have closed.

About 50% of that number has been since July 1, 2021 when Lisa Morales-Hellebo and I decided to take the biggest risk either of us had ever taken yet by setting out to build The World’s Best Early-Stage Industrial Transformation & Supply Chain Technology Fund.

We are within touching distance of $3,000,000 in our rolling fund on AngelList which we launched to answer the questions skeptical potential limited partners asked us when we first began pitching them between September 2018 and December 2020;

  • First; Your thesis seems very narrow. What exactly would you invest in? Does anyone care about supply chains? That sounds like a dumb thesis.
  • Second; How do we know that you can source investments, or that any founders would want you on their cap table? How do we know that other investors will want you as a coinvestor?
  • Third; How can we be sure that you can work together as a team? What if you are incapable of maintaining a productive working relationship? We have heard that there’s a lot of team risk with the two of you.
  • Fourth; We have no idea what your portfolio would look like. We do not believe that you can build a portfolio that makes sense.
  • Fifth; You should be a diversity-and-inclusion fund! Why is your thesis not a diversity-and-inclusion thesis?

We heard them, and we decided to answer all those questions and others they did not ask.

  • First; We have now made 58 investments, across 53 different startups. The arguments that there’s nothing to invest in related to our thesis, that the thesis is narrow, or that we’d lack for dealflow simply do not hold water.
  • Second; Dealflow is not an issue — we see deals from 148 different countries even though we have made it abundantly clear that because of our small capital base and small team we are only investing in startups in the United States for now.
  • Third; We get our pick of investments — we have made 3 Series B investments, and 1 Series A investment. Series A and B investments are the exception, but we have found that founders will make room for us when they do not have to. We have won allocations in oversubscribed rounds. Our founders have told us they wish we were in a position to make significantly larger allocations. Our focus is on adding tangible value, and that can start even before we are on the cap table.
  • Fourth; We punch far far above our weight. We are OBSESSIVELY and UNREASONABLY ENTHUSIASTIC about the founders we back AND the problems they are solving. They get our full attention, 100% of the time. Nothing is too much for them to ask our help with. We are there when other investors go missing-in-action. We always have their back. We have unreasonably high expectations for every single one of them. We look for the people we believe are doing the best work in Industrial Transformation & Supply Chain Technology; Attempting the impossible.
  • Fifth; Team Risk? We have known one another since June 2016. We have built the world's largest and fastest growing open network of grassroots driven supply chain meetups — with no major corporate sponsors. Others have tried and failed. We’ve built a fund from scratch and are in the process of making a name for ourselves. We are building an operating company that’s a sister-organization to the fund and the network of meetups. Through that process we have supported one another through very tough and difficult personal times. We have celebrated each others personal wins. We have learned how to argue and dissent productively and vigorously with one another. We argue a lot. We also laugh a lot. We share an unflagging passion for our founders. Our commitment to our founders is unflinching in the face of difficulty. We trust one another. We share an OBSESSIVE and UNREASONABLE ENTHUSIASM for early-stage innovations in Industrial Transformation & Supply Chain Technology. We share a voracious appetite for learning about anything and everything that’s relevant to our investment thesis. We’ve survived the COVID19 Pandemic. We’ve endured going without a steady income since we set out on this journey. We are a much stronger team now than at any point in the past. Team Risk? That’s always a valid concern, but I urge less knee-jerk thinking, and a bit more curiosity. I am not saying we are perfect. In fact, we know there are many people who find each of us off-putting in various ways. But, neither of us has set out to be liked by everyone. We have set out to do work that: Facilitates the success of the founders we choose to back; Generates great returns for our limited partners; Makes our families and friends proud, and; Earns the respect of our peers. In my mind, everything else is an unwelcome distraction. We do not take it for granted that our earliest limited partners chose to back us when there was no rational evidence to suggest that was a smart thing to do. Nor do we take it for granted that the founders we have backed have chosen to put their trust in a team that is just starting out.

#MyPersonalMantra

When you find people who believe in you do not let them down.

Brian & Lisa at the end of #SCIT2019 in NYC.
  • Sixth; As the former Statistical & Research Analyst in diversity-and-inclusion at UBS and Lehman, I happen to know a little bit about the topic. I certainly have a firmer grasp on the issues than most of those who would seek to lecture me on the topic. We’re happy at the diversity represented within our portfolio. I am repeating this for emphasis:

We look for the people we believe are doing the best work in Industrial Transformation & Supply Chain Technology; Attempting the impossible. Then we go all-in on them with OBSESSIVE and UNREASONABLE ENTHUSIASM.

Our Investment Thesis: REFASHIOND Ventures: The Industrial Transformation Fund invests in early stage startups refashioning legacy industries through Data & AI, Advanced Materials, Advanced Manufacturing, & Next Generation Supply Chains; Defensible through economic moats.

I remember a conversation I had with my late grandfather before he died in 1996. It wasn’t long before I left home to come to the United States, to attend Connecticut College as the beneficiary of a full academic scholarship that enabled me to pursue a double major in Mathematics and Physics. He asked me a question about the Sun and the Moon. I explained to him how the solar system works. He listened carefully and after I was finished, he told me it did not make sense to him, but that he wanted me to continue to work hard in school and that if I did that I would be fine.

My grandfather was an illiterate subsistence farmer. What I am doing now would be simply incomprehensible to him. As I often tell prospective limited partners, the vast majority of my relatives would find what I am doing now completely incomprehensible.

But that is one of the wonders of the United States; That a skinny boy from a small village in the Upper West Region of Ghana can dare to imagine a future in which he is building “The World’s Early-Stage Industrial Transformation & Supply Chain Technology Venture Capital Firm of Record” and that somehow the universe will conspire to show him a path to making that dream a reality.

As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.

— Rumi

At most venture capital firms, Industrial Transformation & Supply Chain Technology is a tiny, emerging “area of interest” . . . At REFASHIOND Ventures: The Industrial Transformation Fund it’s our entire world.

Join us.

Unconditional, uncompromising belief that celebrates big wins and small is an invaluable gift. I am grateful for everyone who has expressed belief in what we are doing in one way or another.

We will not let you down.

But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

— Luke‬ ‭12‬:‭48‬ ‭ESV‬‬

From 2018.

The critical and important skill is to solve problems, particularly ill-defined problems. What is an ill-defined problem? It is complex. It is ambiguous. It doesn’t yield easily to known assumptions and well understood variables. Arriving at a workable solution might require working through significant cognitive dissonance because there is so much uncertainty about the existence of an answer. The likelihood of failing to solve it is greater than the likelihood of finding a solution.

Research and analysis is my calling card, and I thrive when grappling with ill-formed problems of a theoretical or practical nature.

Join us.

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Brian Laung Aoaeh, CFA

Early-stage VC — Supply Chain Tech at REFASHIOND Ventures. #TWSCF. NYUTandon. Research. | I’m not afraid to be different. Blog @ www.innovationfootprints.com.