Niki works closely with Felicis’ investments in companies such as Guild, Trusted Health, and Popmenu. Before joining Felicis, Niki was an investment team member at Summit Partners and Vista Equity Partners, and he also worked at the Climate Corporation in sales strategy and operations. Niki holds a BS in Business Administration with Honors from the University of Southern California and remains involved with the USC Value Investing Group.
I get really excited taking in all the data and ‘making my bet’... following a company and backing it with conviction before anyone else.
How did your upbringing impact who you are today?
My parents are immigrants and entrepreneurs who opened and ran a restaurant for most of my life. This helped me understand how hard and all-consuming the entrepreneurial journey can be. During dinnertime conversations, we would talk about what happened at the restaurant that day, like how the cost increases in supplies affected menu pricing. I worked at the restaurant, too, helping with accounting, taking orders at the drive-thru, and anything else that was needed. These micro dynamics of a business have been ingrained in me from a very young age, and it’s what I've thought about for a very long time.
What gets you excited about working with founders?
I genuinely want to see founders succeed and reach their full potential. I also believe that every business has its own formula for success, and once you crack it, that’s when the magic happens. I deeply care about figuring out that formula for the companies I work with, whether it’s their business model or inner workings.
What’s the secret to a great relationship between a founder and an investor?
I want the founders I work with to feel empowered to push through the messy and hard times to reach their goals. Having honest and tough conversations with founders isn’t always the most fun part of the job, but it can be gratifying if it leads to better performance and creates a higher level of trust over the long term. I also don’t think people realize that many founders don’t have many people to talk to about their struggles or wins. I aim to be someone with whom founders feel they can share anything.
What’s one way you’ve helped a founder?
One time a founder I backed wasn’t getting traction for their Series A. They had been told no many times and were starting to lose faith. They called me late at night, unsure if things would work out. I gave them a big pep talk and told them to have more swagger and to go into the next day’s meetings with their chest up high because the business fundamentals were there. The next round of meetings resulted in three term sheets. Fundraising is not just about numbers; founders sometimes need the confidence to find their believers.
How do you find balance?
I love playing sports; it’s my favorite thing to do outside of work. I really believe human beings have been hardwired to compete, and it’s important to do that in healthy ways. Competition is such an excellent way to motivate yourself.