HomeInterviewsFuel Venture Capital, Interview with Maggie Vo & Olivia Gaudree

Fuel Venture Capital, Interview with Maggie Vo & Olivia Gaudree

Olivia Gaudree & Maggie Vo
Olivia Gaudree & Maggie Vo

Fuel Venture Capital is a Miami, Florida-based early stage venture capital firm with a portfolio of tech startups around the globe across numerous sectors. When Maggie Vo and Olivia Gaudree started working at Fuel Venture Capital, the firm had just 4 portfolio companies. They have helped Fuel grow to 33 tech driven portfolio companies with more than $550 million AUM and are currently raising a fourth fund.

Background

Maggie Vo, Managing General Partner and Chief Investment Officer at Fuel Venture Capital

Maggie Vo was born and raised in Vietnam. She came to the U.S. when she was 17 years old with the goal of building a career in the U.S. and achieving the American Dream. With a full scholarship, she graduated from Centre College with a double major in Financial Economics and Mathematics. To take her knowledge to the next level, she studied for and passed all three Chartered Financial Analyst exams on her first attempt. All of these qualifications propelled her into being a leader and positioned her well to tackle the demanding and challenging role of Managing General Partner and Chief Investment Officer at Fuel Venture Capital. She began her career in finance at Prudential Vietnam Fund Management, and later, Prudential Property Investment Managers in Singapore. Right before joining Fuel Venture Capital, she was a portfolio manager for a global long short equity hedge fund. In 2018, she decided to make a transition from the public markets to the world of venture capital since she recognized that value is continually shifting to actors in early-stage private-market deals. At Fuel Venture Capital, under Maggie’s leadership as the Managing General Partner and Chief Investment Officer, the fund’s portfolio of high-growth tech startups has grown from four to 33 companies with more than $500 million in AUM. Maggie has been recognized as the 26 most important VCs in Miami by Insider, received 40 under 40 awards from South Florida Business Journal and was recognized as an Entreprenista 100 Award Honoree.

Olivia Gaudree, Partner and VP Operations at Fuel Venture Capital

Olivia Gaudree is a partner at Fuel Venture Capital and Vice President of Operations. Olivia joined Fuel VC as an intern in 2018, quickly climbing up the ranks to her current role, due to her extremely hard work ethic. Since then, Olivia has been a vital asset in distributing more than $100 million to South Florida startups alone. On the operations side, Olivia has allowed Fuel to accomplish its goals as she keeps the company running smoothly and in an organized manner. Prior, Olivia interned with a boutique hedge fund as an equity researcher. Olivia also interned during the summer of her junior year of University, at Thomson Reuters’ New York City office in the firm’s Financial and Risk Division. Olivia graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor of science in finance. This year, Olivia made the Miami Forbes 30 Under 30 list and the Venture Capital Rising stars list, which celebrates venture capital’s brightest talent.

VCWire: Can you introduce Fuel Venture Capital

Fuel Venture Capital was founded in 2017 in the heart of Miami with a goal of providing FUEL for the world’s most innovative startups outside of Silicon Valley and becoming a diversified choice for global investors to gain exposure to the creative economy. Today, Fuel is managing over $500 million in AUM over multiple funds and has a portfolio of 33 companies across different sectors and regions such as Terran Orbital, Betr, Aexlab, Curve, CookUnity, Recargapay, Lunar, and Soundtrack Your Brand.

Fuel VC is industry agnostic and globally diversified in its venture sourcing, Fuel VC targets groundbreaking early and late-stage companies using disruptive technologies as a main differentiating factor to transform how businesses and consumers transact (Fintech), consume on a daily basis (Marketplace), how they work to make a living (Enterprise Saas), and how they ultimately enjoy their lives (Entertainment Tech).

Fuel Venture Capital’s “founder-focused, investor-driven” approach is led by a diverse team of experts from the public markets who bring decades of combined experience in investment banking, wealth management, executive leadership, and entrepreneurship. This wealth of knowledge and expertise allows the firm to serve clients with fiduciary rigor and build a powerful network of investors and founders, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of groundbreaking advancements. Our vision is to become the top-of-mind Global Venture Capital Fund known for ELITE intellectual firepower, work ethic, communication, results, and values.

VCWire: Which is your overall strategy?

Fuel Venture Capital targets  early and late-stage companies using disruptive technologies as a main differentiating factor, tapping very large addressable markets, providing unique product offerings, and driven by exceptional founders. With a mission to provide investors with a diversified portfolio selection, we are investing globally and actively seeking companies in fintech, marketplace, enterprise SaaS and entertainment which leverage technologies to  transform how consumers and businesses transact, consume, work and enjoy their life. We invest in technologies shaping the future of work, health, commerce, and money. We also invest in horizontal technologies that permeate all of our areas of focus, such as web3 and AI.

VCWire: Beyond capital, how do you support startups?  

Our firm is led by a team with decades of combined experience in investment banking, wealth management, and capital markets, giving us a unique perspective on how to best support startups. At Fuel Venture Capital, we are not just passive investors; we are active partners, working closely with our portfolio companies to support them in fundraising, financial projection, talent hiring, business expansion and exit planning. Over the past 18 months, we have been laser focused on helping our founders to navigate the challenging market cycle while pushing them to reach operational excellence. 

Given that many founders are young or new to their industry, they may not have experienced a prolonged bearish market or seen a company raise a down round ahead of a successful exit. The Fuel VC team has crafted tailored playbooks for founders to execute, helping them navigate challenges and seize opportunities in this evolving landscape. We are proud to say that within only 12 months, our portfolio companies have achieved significant advancements across multiple metrics, including growth, unit economics, and profitability. Our late-stage companies have either achieved EBITDA positive and cash flow positive or are on the cusp of reaching these milestones. Our mid-stage companies have proven their business models, preparing them to scale up to the next stage. Meanwhile, our early-stage companies have refined their products across different distribution channels and launched into new markets quickly and efficiently.

VCWire: What do you like to see in founders? I mean, is there something which impresses you at a first glance?  

As investors, we have the privilege of doing due diligence on thousands of companies and meeting with hundreds of companies. Ultimately, we only invest in a select few of them. So, what qualities do we seek? Here are some key traits shared by our most successful and trusted teams: 

Resilience: The journey is arduous, but entrepreneurs driven by a purpose often exhibit resilience, finding non-financial motivations to persevere through tough times. They articulate not just the what and how, but also the why of their vision. Even if an idea is groundbreaking at its inception, its value hinges on an exceptional founder who can execute it and pivot it effectively. 

Talent Attractors: A great leader requires a great team and outstanding founders are acutely aware of their limitations and are eager to recruit individuals who can fill the gaps. They naturally attract ambitious and talented individuals, surrounding themselves with a team capable of realizing the company’s vision. Our role is to help founders leverage their strengths, recognize their weaknesses, and continually build a team that complements them.

Pursuit of truth: Great founders respond by asking themselves, “Is this true?” They embody intellectual honesty, welcoming critique as an opportunity to improve. They possess strong listening skills, making them approachable and adept at synthesizing inputs. They arrive swiftly at decisions that are uniquely theirs. In the nascent stages of company development, founders are your primary reference point. Early products and revenue will fade with time. Markets will fluctuate, teams will change, and customer needs will evolve. As an investor, your anchor is belief in the founders’ capacity to respond effectively.

Most of all, we are looking for founders that see things that others do not and have the drive and persistence to build a large category-defining business.

VCWire: Please, tell us a bit more about the portfolio. You can list four startups whose paths have made you particularly proud of.           

Through Fund II we are actively seeking and investing in companies and disruptive founders who are transforming how consumers and businesses transact (FinTech), consume (marketplace), work (enterprise SaaS) and enjoy their life (entertainment tech). Below are three of these companies.

  • COOKUNITY: CookUnity, New-york based chef-to-consumer marketplace, is redefining what it means to own and operate a restaurant and deliver high-quality chef-driven experiences to any consumer in the luxury of their own home. The company has expanded from a single commissary kitchen in NYC to 7 kitchens nationwide and built a playbook for launching in new geographies more efficiently and acquiring new chef networks. Covid served as a catalyst of their growth, and the company has been able to maintain its growth trajectory while reaching significant unit economics and profitability milestones, proving their growth flywheel. 
  • BETR: For Betr, our Miami-based company, founded by Joey Levy, sports betting industry veteran and a Thiel fellow, and Jake Paul, professional boxer and global creator/media mogul, on a mission to build a category-defining business in the U.S. gambling industry, 2023 was a year of remarkable growth and traction since launching Betr Picks, their fantasy product in early September 2023. In 2023 the company quickly established itself as the fastest growing sports betting focused media company in the United States. The company enjoys a massive market opportunity and has a clear unfair advantage over its competitors in technology, licensing, marketing and distribution, as well as deep domain expertise, has allowed them to eliminate extremely high upfront costs and barriers to entry prior to its products being launched. Joey and his team have continued to execute on the larger vision of becoming one of the go-to players in sports betting, and over the last 12 months they have shown that they can continue to hit milestones and execute against their plan effectively. Just recently, Betr became the most-followed sports gaming brand on Tiktok. For a company that has truly only been operational since fall 2023, it is amazing to see Betr at the top of the list. 
  • AEXLAB: AEXLAB is our VR game developer based in Miami, Florida. Founders Jonathan Ovadia and Albert Ovadia have a deep love for VR and developed VAIL VR from the ground up, incorporating the VR community’s input at every stage of development to build a VR video game that was not just for VR gamers but, more importantly, built by VR gamers. AEXLAB demonstrated its capabilities of immersive VR with the release of its flagship product, VAIL VR, a multiplayer “first-person-shooter” (FPS) game. VAIL VR redefines the VR gaming landscape by seamlessly blending cutting-edge technology developed in-house with deep attention to detail, delivering an unparalleled FPS experience. With a strategic focus on cultivating robust network effects and vibrant community engagement, VAIL VR transcends VR gaming; it serves as a portal to a dynamic virtual ecosystem and represents the evolution of the next generation of Esports. AEXLAB launched VAIL, on the Meta store on February 15th and since its launch has been ranked 134 overall out of the 461 paid games on Meta’s store, 10th overall paid app in 2023, and are currently number 1 in 2024. 

VCWire: Which sector/s would you bet 2 cents on in the next five years?  

At Fuel, we believe we are on the edge of the next platform shift following web, mobile, and cloud based technology. AI has potential to become a horizontal platform crossing all industries and driving efficiency gains everywhere. AI technology, especially generative AI has and will continue to bring a fundamental change in the way software products are built and how we do our work and live our life. The average AI consumer may feel like the current AI landscape is uncertain, however, in 10 years, we believe it will just be another part of how we live our lives.

VCWire

22/04/2024