Episode 5: Investor InsightSadaf Abbas
Mastering Business Consulting and Impactful Strategies
In a conversation with Sadaf Abbas, Jernej Adamic speaks about finding passion in work, making it feel like a hobby. He’s currently exploring how to rewire the brain positively and acknowledges Steve Jobs as a significant entrepreneurial influence. When evaluating startups, Jernej looks for traction, team, and technology. Rather than having a quantitative investment target, he emphasizes quality and relationship-building. He advises budding entrepreneurs to pursue their passion, stay adaptable, and persist through challenges.
About Our Guest
Entrepreneur | Advisor | Investor
Jernej Adamic is an investor and entrepreneur influenced by tech figures like Steve Jobs. He’s currently exploring positive brain rewiring techniques. Professionally, he evaluates startups, focusing on traction, team, and technology, valuing quality relationships over quantity. He advises entrepreneurs to follow their passion and remain resilient.
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What You’ll Learn:
- Both Sadaf Abbas and Jernej Adamic discuss how when one loves their work, it can become a hobby.
- Jernej discusses facing personal and professional challenges and his unique journey with Nevajen.
- Jernej’s personal project involves understanding and possibly altering perceptions, emotions, and responses to challenges.
- Sadaf mentions how the brain works on reward mechanisms, especially through the release of dopamine.
- Jernej cites Steve Jobs as a major influence and notes the absence of similar figures today.
- Jernej provides insights into what he looks for in startups – namely traction, technology, and the right team.
- The significance of startups testing their ideas on the market to ensure they’re not just developing products for themselves.
- Jernej’s approach prioritizes quality over quantity, focusing on more mature companies but being open to early-stage startups as well.
- Jernej emphasizes the importance of passion, resilience, and creating value for society.
- He advises entrepreneurs to be true to what they’re passionate about, even amidst challenging business environments.
Sadaf Abbas: Welcome to Investor’s Insight podcast, the show where we dive into the journey of our most inspiring figures in the world of business, investment, and entrepreneurship. I’m your host, Sadaf Abbas from Oak Business Consultant and today we have a truly special guest joining me. He is Jernej Adamic. So Jernej, tell me about yourself, your career, and your journey from entrepreneurship to serving as advisor and investor.
Jernej Adamic: Yeah. Hello, Sadaf; thank you for having me on this podcast. I’m glad to join. Hopefully, I can give value to your podcast and your wide audience. So my name is Jernej Adamic, I’m originally from Slovenia, but I’ve been living in different places for the last ten years. I’ve been an entrepreneur for at least 15 years or so, starting with a small advertising agency. Then I moved more to the startup world, where we started a startup in Amsterdam in 2014. After exiting the startup, actually, during the corona times, I moved more to assisting the startups with a US venture called Startup Junkie. In between, I started to work with venture capital, and lately, I’ve been moving more and more to private equity debt capital, helping projects actually to get funded. So actually, it’s been quite a journey for the last 15 years with a lot of ins and outs, with a lot of excitement, with a lot of great times, with a lot of course challenging times. So I’m glad today if I can wrap up this experience, actually, and to help entrepreneurs and people actually, who want to go to the road of the business or already on the road of the business to help them find or let’s say improve a little bit their knowledge and understanding where they are and how to move forward.
Sadaf Abbas: So congratulations on your role as Managing Partner Nevajen Capital Limited. Can you provide some insight into the work you do there and the impact you aim to achieve?
Jernej Adamic: Never Join Capital is to wrap up our activities or my past activities from moving to actually being an entrepreneur, which is, I would say, the most challenging or one of the most challenging, let’s say, positions that you can be in in your professional career to, let’s say, more calm waters of providing the capital. Nevajen Capital was established with two of my great partners to help fund good projects. So besides that or what we do, we help companies who want to get sold or who are looking for the buyer; we help them to prepare or to be better prepared actually to find the buyer. On the other side, we help, let’s say, individuals or investors or managers who are buying companies to find good companies, and we help them also if they need additional funds or either need debt capital or investments, we help them actually to get this capital. The third, let’s say, pillar of our activities is helping companies, small companies, SMEs, startups, and also large companies actually to get funds for different kinds of purposes, but mostly for the purposes actually of, let’s say, building new products, improving the products, getting to the new markets and similar. But the major, let’s say, idea behind Nevajen Capital is matching good projects with the capitalists who are looking for good projects.
Sadaf Abbas: With your background in psychology and executive coaching, how do you approach the human element in business investment? Feel free to share the case where understanding human behavior was key to successful investment decisions.
Jernej Adamic: Yeah, I mean, I studied psychology. I have a master’s in psychology, but I never actually worked in psychology per se. But psychology, I think, is great. I call it more like a meta-science and also a tool that, of course, helps you to understand humans or gives you a framework to understand the human self-personality, the human better, but also the groups, smaller groups, what is happening in these groups, dynamics of the groups, dynamics of the person personality. So the psychology itself and the frameworks inside the psychology help me better understand how the person is behaving, and what is the person’s reactions. It Is easy to recognize the patterns behind it and then recognize what’s going inside of the, let’s say a company, what’s going inside of the decision-making of the company’s CEOs, how the companies, what are the relations between the people, how the dynamics between the people in the company is. So it helps you to better understand and to better shape your behavior when you interact with people inside of companies, with investors, with CEOs, with employees, it helps you to understand such things. So it’s hard to give you a case because once you apply psychology, it’s an ongoing process that helps you to understand. So I believe in this persona that we need to understand human behavior through personality because when you have the investor, or you are the CEO, or you have a team member, you need to understand their behavior through their personality.
Sadaf Abbas: So psychology is a very good thing. I think you have done very well to learn about this. Jernej, yeah, you have had a rich and valid career. If you could offer one piece of unconventional advice to aspiring investors or entrepreneurs, what would it be and why? Is it different from the typical advice people receive?
Jernej Adamic: Today, we have so much advice. It’s really hard, I think, to find something that is unconventional. I can only provide advice that today, we’re constantly told how to behave, what to do, and how to live our lives. You have all this advice, but I think from my side, the best advice would be to try to find what thrills you, what you really like, how you want to spend your life, what you want to achieve, and in a way, stick to it. Of course, be flexible. But some people are more thrilled to be like family people. Some people are more thrilled to have jobs but also live or focus more on their hobbies, and some are more like, let’s say, entrepreneurial or some like combinations. All this I think everybody themselves has to figure out how they want to spend their lives, what they want to do and stick to that regardless of the opinion of society or the opinion of people around them or let’s say the pressure from wherever it’s coming from. I think everybody should be pretty much honest with themselves about where they fit in this society and what they want to do. And my advice would be to stick to that and try to make something out of it.
Sadaf Abbas: So, come to the point, you need to listen to your inner self first. Be honest.
Jernej Adamic: Exactly. Be honest.
Sadaf Abbas: Be honest. So in your diverse career, you have interacted with individuals from different cultures and backgrounds. Could you share a story of cross-cultural business interaction that taught you valuable lessons about effective communication and relationship building?
Jernej Adamic: I think that interacting or being part of the multicultural environment is one of the most fun parts and also the most demanding part of, let’s say, everybody who is dealing with that because we’re talking so many languages. This is, of course, usually the first obstacle in the business environment because we have to find a common language for interaction. But beyond that, there are a lot of cultural differences that matter in the business. So I met a lot of business people or companies or sales representatives going to the foreign markets, failed there, and they didn’t understand what was the reason for the failure. And usually, the reason for the failure is exactly that they didn’t understand the other culture. They thought their culture was usually only one, and with this approach, they could move mountains, but this is not the case. I mean usually, the cultural differences are those who make things not happen. And I can say that my advice would be that every time you know that you’re dealing with an environment where there are multiple cultures, many cultures, you have to understand the cultures. You have to learn about the cultures. You have to interact. You have to be open towards other cultures and, of course, understand the process and how to interact with other parts and other peers. And while it’s super challenging because it gets you out of your comfort zone, it also gets you very much in the learning process. And if you’re open to learning, it’s an amazing opportunity to make your life richer and more open. And I think interacting with other cultures is one of the best parts of my job.
Sadaf Abbas: Awesome. So I believe that cross culture or multinational companies or startups that have different kinds of team members from different cultures basically enrich the whole organization, absolutely, and it also creates a whole place to interact with different kinds of people. So you need to understand their values so you can accommodate them as well properly.
Jernej Adamic: Absolutely.
Sadaf Abbas: So, yes, this is a good thing. This is a good thing, especially since I see in the startups as well that one person is living in the Philippines, and second person is living in India, and a third person is living in maybe USA or Europe. So usually, startup companies have a cross-culture; you can say the opportunity to all employees.
Jernej Adamic: Absolutely
Sadaf Abbas: So, beyond your professional achievement journeys, can you share a hobby or interest that you are truly passionate about? And how does this personal passion influence your approach to investment advising?
Jernej Adamic: Well, to be honest, I think for the last 15 years, my hobby has been my job. I like to keep it this way because if I like what I do and this is my hobby, I’m more passionate, and it keeps me going. So I find the purpose easier if what I do is also my hobby itself. But of course, I have hobbies. Like, I cherish nature more and more. I go to nature a lot, I do sports, I do readings, I go out with friends, with family, so the usual stuff. But I would say that I don’t have anything above what I do actually, that I super dedicate my time.
Sadaf Abbas: So it’s me, what you are doing, you are enjoying that time. So you are making that work as a hobby as well. The same goes for me! I love my work to do the number cruncher. So when I’m doing the numbers and when I am creating the whole financial model. So it gives me the work. I love that work. So I don’t need to have a separate hobby for that. I agree with this, Jernej, that when you’re enjoying your work, this just becomes your hobby.
Jernej Adamic: Exactly
Sadaf Abbas: Okay. Jernej, we would love to hear about your personal goal and aspiration you are currently working towards, whether it’s related to your career, personal life, or new challenges you are taking on.
Jernej Adamic: Regarding the challenges, I mean, they always come even when you don’t expect them, just like either they come from a personal source or a professional source, but challenges are there. My goals, I mean, at the moment I’m working with Nevajen, 90%, Nevajen is there. Of course, the goal is actually to make this company run to be a valuable part of the, let’s say, capital-providing, project-facilitating environment. One thing that I’m personally working on at the moment is related to psychology, but it’s how to rewire my brain just because the world is out there; the objective world is out there. But the big picture, how happy we are, how we function, is the perception of this. And our brain usually plays a lot of games with us. Even if something is good, we perceive it as bad, or sometimes we don’t see the threats and the challenges out there just because we are wired differently. So I try to in a way, I’m making a little bit of an experiment of myself on how I can rewire my brain to stay positive. Even in the challenging world, the brain should usually go into a panic, or you feel bad or something like that. I try to find the strategies and tactics and how to rewire this into the better things. It also goes with addictions. Sometimes you are a little bit addicted to something, and I try to figure out how to get out of these addictions easily or more efficiently. So this is what I’m experimenting with myself at the moment.
Sadaf Abbas: Absolutely. You are exploring yourself and doing the brain-wiring. This is a new study. We have come so far that you can change your brain through your strategies through your hobbies, and again brain works through the results. If you want to have something, then the brain is releasing dopamine. So always, the brain is working somehow differently to have something to get satisfaction. So this is human nature, we all know. But the main thing is that the soul is different from Jernej, and the soul has a different path. They don’t need to satisfy themselves. So the main thing is that happiness comes from the soul, and then this happiness goes to the mind. We need to cater to that properly. We are having the results. So yes. I already have experience in brain wiring as well, and believe me; it is very effective. It is very effective. So finally, Jernej, we would love to hear about your mentor or role model who has had a lasting impact on your career. Can you share a story?
Jernej Adamic: I mean, you know, along the way, you get a lot of mentors and role models, but I think my generation came to tech like early 2000, a little bit before that or a little bit after that. I think our role model at that time, and I think in a way still is, it was Steve Jobs. But just because Steve Jobs at the time meant that he opened up aspirations to the entrepreneurial world. He was super passionate about getting entrepreneurs to do something that they like and stuff like that and going to perfect this, trying to do something better for humanity, trying to develop better products for humanity, and I think somebody like Steve Jobs is missing today. We don’t see an entrepreneurial father figure like this. So I would think that not just me but my generation at that time was super influenced by Jobs.
Sadaf Abbas: Perfect. So Jernej, one more thing I need to ask you is that when you are evaluating the startups through the pitch deck, what key elements do you want to find in the pitch deck? What key elements do you want to see in the pitch deck for your decision-making?
Jernej Adamic: I mean, it’s usually traction, team, or technology you like to see as much as it is in the pitch deck. So that you have somebody with relevant technology or something that brings a lot of innovation there or somebody, of course, with attraction or a great team, so we usually focus on these things. But I think the most important thing is that the team knows what they’re doing. We see a lot of teams that, in a way, are doing something, and I was just like the same at the beginning of my road, but in a way, to be honest, too many teams or too many startups actually have an idea, but they don’t test the idea out there. They don’t test the idea on the market with the users, with potential users, and stuff like that. And if we sense that this is happening, I mean, we try to talk with the team or to give them a little bit of a second opinion and give them the idea that they should develop the product for the customers but not for themselves. So I think if you sense this, then this is an immediate NO, right? If you sense that there is a lot of potential for the product, but the team is not there, or something is not there, try to assist the team. But if you find an amazing startup, then it always makes us happy to see something with a lot of potential and the team knows what to do, and they’re in the right direction. This is one of the great aha moments of this job.
Sadaf Abbas: So the conclusion is that the team, their experience, the technology, and the market adoption with the attractions, right?
Jernej Adamic: You are right.
Sadaf Abbas: So Jernej, what is your next target this year? How many things will you fund for the investment? What is your target to achieve in this year and next year?
Jernej Adamic: Honestly, no target. No target per se. Because the good projects are going to be there, we will be able to assist them. If we can find good projects, we will be able to assist them. But we work really on the relationship-based; we don’t work on the mass market. Quality matters way more than quantity.
Sadaf Abbas: Okay, what is your targeted market for the investment?
Jernej Adamic: At the moment, we have in the pipeline, or let’s say our clients are between half a male up to $100 billion; they’re different projects. So it depends. We like to work with a little bit more mature companies, but this doesn’t exclude us from working with early-stage startups or something like that. For us, it’s more important that the teams or the companies that come to us know why they need us, exactly what our value proposition is, how we can help them, and that the projects are good. The biggest problem is having to say no to the project that you see. They’re not good. So it does make sense actually to continue, or it would be better for them to pivot than just being stubborn on some field, and nothing’s happening.
Sadaf Abbas: So Jernej, this is my last question. What advice can you give to our audience for respect for the investment and business decision-making?
Jernej Adamic: I would go back to advice. Just do whatever is great for you, whatever you find, or where you find your passion. And good things usually happen, just like being passionate and being open. Even if, let’s say, the business environment at the moment is hard, it can be personally challenging, but keep going. So try to figure out what works, what works for society, your audience, for you. And keep doing that.
Sadaf Abbas: Perfect. Thank you, Jernej, for your time and thanks to our audience, as well.
Jernej Adamic: Thank you for having me. Have a nice day. Bye.