In 2016, I helped to lead a delegation of Latino entrepreneurs and investors to visit Israel -- a land also known as Startup Nation -- to see what we can learn from the local tech intelligentsia. It was my second delegation, and I was prepared to be surprised in several ways. I had a phrase for one kind of surprise: “the person on the delegation who provokes the most wonder.” In 2016, that person was Rami Reyes, an investor in our group who made practically everyone ask:
"what’s this kid doing here?"
Yes, Rami is young. He turned 29 this year. He's also baby-faced (in a good way), adding a layer of special optics to the matching reality. Yet beneath the youthful exterior lies a mix of old-soul traits that I have found in the most accomplished investors in Silicon Valley (like the mighty Gilman Louie, who I am writing about next week).
There are at least three things about Rami worth noting.
I caught up with him a few weeks ago to learn more about his story, which I immediately recognized as the story of hustle. It was there from the beginning, as a kid in Miami selling lemons and avocadoes door to door, then selling candy from elementary school through high school so he can buy a car. He developed an appreciation for money -- and what money can buy, beyond material things -- but he earned it the hard way: by working for it. He also learned that one way to earn it was to work harder than others. Rami’s early biography is a long chronology of outperforming and outhustling the competition by arriving early to the party. It’s what got him into Goldman Sachs Scholars, a prestigious program that introduced high schoolers to the world of high finance; note: Goldman typically selected students from the Northeast, but they made an exception for Rami. It’s what got him into the undergrad program at Wharton, which he began preparing to apply to in the ninth grade. It’s what got him summer internships at Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan, where he first learned he wanted to become an investor. And it’s what got him a meeting with Silicon Valley-based Elevation Partners -- which had launched a $1.9 billion private equity fund -- on a recruiting expedition for seniors at Wharton. Rami was a junior, but he found a way to get the meeting.
Yes, Rami got the offer and began his career in Silicon Valley in 2010. From where I sit, this was an interesting time. The Valley’s investment and commitment to companies in social media were in full bloom, and Rami’s first deal was an investment that Elevation Partners was making in Facebook. He was 22. It was a great stroke of luck. But like other canny investors and entrepreneurs I know, Rami learned to make the best of his luck. In 2011, the current fund’s investment period had come to an end, and the team began spending more time with their portfolio companies.