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Strategy Session: Former U.S. HelloFresh Founder Finds Early-Stage Fix With Antler

Strategy Session is a feature for Crunchbase News where we ask venture capital firms five questions about their investment strategies.

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Bryan Ciambella went from bringing the HelloFresh concept to the U.S.–the company went public in 2017–to a principal at B Capital Group before moving into early-stage investments.

He joined Antler as a partner in 2020, heading up the Singapore-based, early-stage venture capital firm’s U.S. operations.

What follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Bryan Ciambella, partner at Antler

What is your firm’s thesis, and how did you settle on it?

Ciambella: We like to be the first check-in and then double or triple down. Our general thesis is to invest in talented founders, and get in at ground zero and continue to invest all the way to the growth stage. It is super interesting being an entrepreneur doing this. When I was shaping the thesis for HelloFresh in the U.S., I wanted to start a company and have quantitative and qualitative resources, which early on for startups is friends and family. If a company has early product market fit, there is opportunity.

Why do you like being typically the first investor in a startup?

Ciambella: I think it is often the ability to craft and mold the company–getting it to find the right business model and early pilot customers. You usually only get one crack at it: Being hands-on in the beginning, you can see successful companies scale.

You say 2021 will be a big year for early-stage investments. How so?

Ciambella: If you look at 2021, all of the largest hedge funds and mutual funds have gone down from growth to venture. Large venture capital is going downstream, and I don’t think that trend will stop. There is so much crowded capital and assets are going to get picked up. We are starting to see our companies raise subsequent capital. Big tech investment is going from public to venture, and seed is the next wave.

What would you say was the biggest lesson learned during your time at HelloFresh that you took over to Antler?

Ciambella: The biggest thing is working with great people and keeping those networks close.

How do you like working with founders?

Ciambella: The interesting thing is we are vertical agnostic, but invest in trends and addressable markets. I like founders who have a strong quantitative skill set combined with grit. And they have the analytical skill set to build the business, and be married to the business. It is a personal issue to launch a company, and it comes from someone who lived in the trenches with the problem for a couple of years.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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