Welcome to the second episode of Unlimited Partners. My guest today is Rahat Ahmed from Anchorless. He's the Founding Partner & CEO of Anchorless Bangladesh. He's an investor, advisor and strategist in technology and emerging markets with a focus on long-term value creation. Passionate about emerging technologies and how consumer behaviour will evolve over the next 25 years. At Anchorless Bangladesh, they are very excited to work with brilliant founders with incredible ideas, globally-experienced investors, the startup community and other local stakeholders to strengthen the Bangladeshi ecosystem.
Join me for a discussion with Rahat as we dive into his background and what it means to build in a part of the world is growing at 10% GDP year over year. Taking on risk when you're looking for 100x returns. What a good founder looks like, as well as many other great tidbits of info.
I am your host, Thomas McGannon.
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[00:03:15] Thomas McGannon: It's been, it's been a while, we've spoken about your upbringing and kind of your, your family's role in the country of Bangladesh and I've, I've heard, you know, anecdotes about your time at Prince Street and I've listened in preparation for this to to you speaking about the the sense of self that exists in in all Bangladeshis. So like I kind of have this concept of who you are and what you're working towards, but I think that one of the parts of your business that was compelling to me was when we first met in Columbia Missouri, I think uh with Dan McMurtrie and we had some some beers at at one of the Mizzou college bars. I could tell that this was this was like a deeply, this is deeply personal, this is this really um gets out like who you are as a, as a person. Do you mind just kind of sharing a little bit about your background?
[00:04:13] Rahat Ahmed: Yeah, I mean, you know, I was born in Bangladesh, moved to the US when I was eight years old, grew up in the Houston suburbs, um which has, as we've discussed in the past, maybe a really heartbroken sports fan, but that's that's part of life and moved to New York for college, stayed there ever since I spent about 20 years there. Um I've worked in merging in frontier markets out of college. I was on the buy side trading those markets, started off doing tech supply chain, consumer internet etcetera. So I was in the early days of the smartphone supply chain, looking at, you know, gaming companies in china, which was a lot of fun. It was interesting to me because the longer I stayed on that side of the business, the more I started moving into things like commodities and, and you know shipping and shipbuilding. And it was fascinating for me because you got to connect the dots between the developing countries in the developed markets, you know, um, when you know, steel prices in brazil are impacted by the weather patterns in the east coast of Australia. That's fascinating to me, right? Or demand of certain batteries and you know this before, like lithium, like really got on the forefront, but like you were like, where can we source lithium from? Where is that coming from? You realize like it comes from completely random places and there's all sorts of, I don't know, socio capitalist issues that you've got to deal with. And it was so fascinating because it wasn't just about buying and selling, it was actually making a conscious decision on how people's lives are impacted. Um, after that, um, You know, I had the luxury at some point while I was on the side to go and invest in Bangladesh. I remember my first trip, there was September of 2004, I went on the ground and met with a bunch of people, I was like, all right, it's too early, right? Um, kept tracking the market in 2007 went back again, there was some political changes that allowed us much more transparency into the market and things started looking good. And so we ended up being one of the largest traders on the market. Um, you know, some of the companies that we looked at back then are, are just absolutely flying right now. The market is done pretty well, but at the same time, you know, I think we weren't emphasized in Indonesia even, or obviously India, which has always done just absolutely fantastic when it comes to that stuff. Fast forward. About eight years. A friend of mine, um, who um, emails me out of nowhere, he's like, hey, I put some money into this company, Can you look at it? I'm like, okay, turns out to be a logistics startup in Bangladesh called Pato and I read the email from the founder, I'm like, wait a minute. This is a really good email. And what was interesting about it is my first reply back to my friend was, what school did you go to? Like, did you go like Harvard, I don't know, some fancy school. Right. He's like, no, he went to North South University, which is the local university in Bangladesh. Right. And I'm reading them like, wait a minute. That's a really good email, we gotta dig deeper and end up calling up my ex boss and I was like, hey, I know you did gojeck before you want to look at this because it looks very, very similar. And we go down to Bangladesh, we meet the team and we're just like, Okay, this is, this is pretty interesting, like there's potential here. And then we look at the market at that point. I think the total fundraising for the country was like maybe 50 million, right? Or probably less than that actually at that point. So you're like, okay, we're starting to see that market Indonesia, you know, it's going to come to Bangladesh. So let's, let's start doing something like that here. Fast forward three more years and I come back, I'm winding down my own startup and I came to see my parents or something and my Bangladeshi American friends in new york, they're like, hey, you found that one company before, why don't we do some more investments? So I posted on some facebook group, I was like, okay, you know, we're Bangladeshi Americans looking to make some investments in the country if you're a founder and you're raising money, you know, drop me an email. So I had a bunch of these founders come and meet me at the hotel I was staying at and start talking to them and one thing becomes very consistent. It's like very, very smart people, but they don't have access to early stage capital. And you know, the more we started thinking about it, the more we started realizing, okay a couple of things, right? One is you're not gonna solve really, really hard problems with conservative capital. I mean that's a global understanding, right? So in Bangladesh, we have massive problems, we need to solve the opportunities are out there, whether it's in health care or fintech or whatnot. But if you're not having high risk tolerant capital, it's not gonna be able to find a path over a five year period where you're gonna have to take losses. So that was an interesting opportunity. Then start talking to Dan. I was like, okay, Dan, let's talk to some people in New York, see if there's an appetite for the country and that's where it started, you know, kind of started coming together as a former, you know, um, portfolio guy, you know, I remember, you know, we sat around the table and we did our macro discussions and we said, hey, let's bump up, you know, Country X because we like the macro story, right. What you realize is, you know, somebody in New York or London or Tokyo, they can love Bangladesh because they read about it in the Wall Street Journal or Nikkei or wherever the problem is that the instruments or vehicles that you need to get exposure to Bangladesh don't really exist. And that was, that was the opportunity. So we're like, you know what, let's, let's do a Bangladeshi only fund and that's kind of how it came together for me, I think it's personally a combination of, you know, the opportunity, financial opportunity, I think it's great, but also as a Bangladeshi, I I feel like you know, I don't really, I don't have friends, I don't know that many people who are Bangladeshi that work in hedge funds and venture capital in private equity, there's a very limited amount of us and it was an opportunity for me to actually go and, and, and I mean it sounds weird to say give something back, but I feel like it's a part of almost destiny in a way where I felt compelled to do it and it felt like the right time and I felt like I had a journey and life that led me there. Um actually one of my partners Peter who I've known for over 20 years. First thing when I told when I told him I was doing this, he looks at me, he's like about fucking time as if he knew I was I was going towards this.