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Home > Interviews > Randal Leeb-du Toit - April 2002

Randal Leeb-du Toit Interview April 2002

The following is an interview with Randal Leeb-du Toit, Former Executive Chairman of Tribalweave Capital, Joint Editor-in-Chief of The X Report and Chairman of nABACUS Limited.

Randal has extensive relationship capital and experience in accelerating the expansion of high growth start-ups and corporate ventures. Since setting up Tribalweave in 1997, he has been integral in the raising of many millions in venture capital and has worked with both early stage investment groups, intrapreneurial initiatives at fortune 100 companies and on multi million dollar mergers and acquisitions.

He has advised and published extensively on innovation, law, directors duties and venture capital and is consulted regularly as a futurist, particularly on the convergence of info, bio and nanotechnology.

Randal has run his own legal practice and worked as general counsel to a multinational manufacturing and metals conglomerate. Externally he was National Surf Lifesaving Champion across four disciplines.

Regarding investing in companies developing nanoscale technologies, here are the Questions:

1. Given the vast [and growing] plethora of nano-this and nano-that companies, how does one go about investing in a company with real potential?

Success in investing mirrors success in life: stick to what you know and are good at and build your explorations into the unknown on deep rooted principles and experiential analogies. Nano investing is no different to investing in any other technology in this respect.

When looking at potential investment opportunities one needs to first chart the landscape (see the first edition of The X Report), then segment opportunities into areas where one is most comfortable. Once individual opportunities are identified an astute investor will scan them very quickly looking for potential alerts and issues. Companies that survive this initial 60 second screening move through various phases of due diligence and further screening. When it gets down to needing technology assessments there is no substitute for expert opinion. Seek out the services of nanotech investment consultants like nABACUS, who have deep technological and industry knoweledge. That said, once one has sufficient knowledge of an arena to be confident one can spot the top opportunity there is no reason not to swoop on an A-class team executing what one has pre-identified as an unfair advantage play.

2. About what percent of this year's venture capital will nanoscale technology companies receive?

Percentages mean little when one is managing a portfolio. Percentages only assist investors who have herd mentality and are subject to investment myopia.

The industry pulse at present indicates a lot of interest in the space, how quickly this translates into activity is subject to the markets and individual fund preferences.

3. Do you expect to see the same kind of frenzied investing in Nanoscale technologies as happened with the dotcom boom, or have we learned our lesson?

Tribalweave Capital is concerned that a level of nano myopia is surfacing in much the same way as occurred in the internet era and other earlier booms such as Winchester disk drives. That is why we decided to publish The X Report. Its aim is to give a holistic view to the converging of info, bio and nanotech, a view that will ensure CXOs and investment professionals gain access to the best opportunities without individual-industry-induced blinkers.

4. Out of every 10 start ups that you typically fund, how many succeed past the third year?

Sadly the drop off rate is traditionally very high. That said we take a very active investment approach and provide our portfolio with what we call virtual CEO services. This helps to minimise the probability factor of failure.

5. Is there any one nanoscale technology of special interest to you or your firm?

We have worked across the technology spectrum, from software development and IT, through wireless and into biotech and particularly bioinformatics. We also have a deep knowledge of the manufacturing and steel industries. This translates to a comfort level across materials augmentation, nanoelectronics, bionano and the like.

What really hits Tribalweave Capital's buttons are companies working at the crossroads between info, bio and nanotechnology. Quantum computing is an area we are very excited about.

If you have a comment, please us.

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