“When I see business impact, I get really excited.”
Orly Glick, partner at Vintage Investment Partners, took a nontraditional route to the field of investments.
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Orly, tell me about yourself and your journey.
I was born and raised in Israel. I did my army service in technology. I left the army service and started basically being the cable guy here. I was walking around the neighborhood, going on people's roofs, and fixing cable TV.
Then I joined Indigo, a digital printing company, as their service engineer. I relocated with them to the Netherlands. I went all around Europe to fix the machines. Then I was in the training center and trained engineers that came over. I did a lot of technology, mechanics, and electronics.
Were you surrounded by a lot of other female mechanics and engineers?
No. I was usually the only woman in the room.
What was that experience like at a young age?
Back then, it was very rare. At that age, I was so audacious and with such young chutzpah that I felt like it was okay, it was normal. As I got older, I understood that it was rare.
What was the transition for you from being an engineer to the investment side?
When I was an engineer, I always had grease in my fingernails. I was sitting one day and thinking, "I want to get rid of all this grease in my fingernails. Let's get a real degree, a white-collar degree."
After leaving indigo, I studied at Maastricht University. I did my bachelor's, my master's, and my MBA. Then I did my dissertation for McKinsey & Company in the area of biotechnology startup evaluation. It was when the biotechnology ecosystems started emerging from Israel. I worked with McKinsey for a few years. I had my own company for a few years.
Doing a dissertation on a new emerging technology or an ecosystem within Israel, what was that process for you?
The thesis was around the emergence of an ecosystem. If you look now, you can't imagine the Israeli ecosystem without automotive tech or without cyber tech. People forget that it's an evolution. At the time, it was probably the emergence of the biotech ecosystem. The first thing that we did was really to understand what are the common denominators of companies that were successful and how do you value them.
Tell me about the transition to Vintage.
Today, Vintage manages three billion dollars and is investing in two things: funds and late-stage startups. Investing in Israeli funds, in European funds, and in US-based funds, and in large funds or first-time funds by experienced managers.
Then there are also late-stage startups, set around their round-B or a bit later. It's always co-investing with our funds. It could be a direct investment, and it could be also a secondary.
The people around you, did they expect Orly to go into investing or specifically a firm like Vintage?
I think that there's no right way. Investing has many different disciplines in it. You can come from expertise in a certain domain. You can come from a financial background. Being an investor is not for a particular profile. I think everybody could bring their own skills and experience to becoming an investor.
If I'm thinking about my own experience and what I am bringing to the table as an investor, it is basically that complicated set of experiences. What I brought to the table here is understanding of the business side of experience, understanding the incentives of people, understanding the markets, and understanding trends.
When you’re thinking about investing in a fund, what does that actually mean? What is a fund of funds?
A fund is basically the sum or the aggregation of all its startups. If you're thinking about a fund, basically you look at the startups that they invested in or the portfolio companies, and then you can find what the fund is basically all about. This is really generalizing; it's much more than that, like the team and the added services that they bring to the table and their thesis. But basically, on a general level, it's the portfolio companies and their returns.
As you're talking to a fund, how much of that is the portfolio companies versus the management?
I think it's eventually intertwined. The distribution here is not a bell curve distribution. The good funds attract the good startups. Then the good startups refer other good startups. It's like it's feeding itself.
Is the process of due diligence on a fund similar to due diligence on a startup? A fund is a startup in some sense. But it's also very far from a startup.
It's very interesting. People think that a fund is a completely different species than a startup. But a fund has to fundraise just like startups. There's a lot of challenges that are similar. But it's basically a business.
You're also co-investing sometimes in the late-stage companies. What is your process like? What are your defining factors for them?
We're always investing alongside our funds. It's always going to be either that a fund refers the startups to us and then we invest together or that we refer startups to our funds in our network. Then there's due diligence, just a normal due diligence process that takes in understanding the business, understanding the technology, meeting the team, understanding the competitive landscape and so on.
You're about to embark on something new. If you stop for a second and reflect on where you are today, what is going through your mind?
I think that there's people that are experts on one thing and they're 20 or 30 years in the same thing. I'm a business expert. I've done so many different things, from technology to business, from corporates to startups. I know what drives people. I know what drives markets. I can see things a little early. I really love growing things, pushing things, putting KPIs, and achieving them.
Is that from a day-to-day management perspective? Or is that on a high-level entrepreneurial perspective on the impact that you're going to make on users?
All of the above. It's really running the operations and running the teams but also creating business impact. At this point in my life, I'd like to create a little bit of a global impact. That's what I'm going to do in the next endeavor.
If you have to think what made Orly curious back in elementary or middle school, what are some things that come to mind?
I was always dismantling everything everywhere, everything around me that was electronic. I was really, really curious about electronic stuff. I had a computer, like the first computer. I was really fascinated by technology.
At what age do you think you already had the conviction that this is going to be your world?
Always. When I was 15 or 14, my mom said, "You need a profession. You have to study electricity." So, she sent me to a school called ORT. I wanted computer science, but I came one year too late. I did electronics, which was 10% computers.
You wake up every day, you go to work, you work really hard. Where does that source of inspiration come from?
I think it's the impact. When I see business impact, I get really excited. When we started the value-added services, for example, we were trying to find where is the good win-win for everybody. Every time we had a successful PO and POC, we literally celebrated.
Michael Matias, Forbes 30 Under 30, is the author of Age is Only an Int: Lessons I Learned as a Young Entrepreneur. He studies Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University, is a Venture Partner at J-Ventures and was an engineer at Hippo Insurance. Matias previously served as an officer in the 8200 unit. 20MinuteLeaders is a tech entrepreneurship interview series featuring one-on-one interviews with fascinating founders, innovators and thought leaders sharing their journeys and experiences.
Contributing editors: Michael Matias, Megan Ryan