Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Ramzi Rafih, Founder & General Partner at No Label Ventures

Ramzi Rafih is the Founder and General Partner of No Label Ventures, a venture capital firm investing in extraordinary immigrants, and under-represented founders.

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To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I am the Founder and General Partner of No Label Ventures. We are a venture capital fund with a mission to empower the next wave of overlooked founders. We invest in early-stage deals, and early on we are focusing on backing exceptional immigrant founders. It is the only VC firm based in Europe to fund immigrant entrepreneurs and support them in their visa process, and even sponsor their visa.

We’re based in London but look at deals and founders all over Europe. We invest where at least one founder is a first or second generation immigrant, originating from outside Western Europe. And alongside writing the check, we help them secure visas, often even sponsoring the visa ourselves. 

We just launched, so it’s an exciting time. Before starting No Label Ventures, I was an investor in private equity for ten years at KKR and Silver Lake. I started to angel invest in extraordinary founders and built a portfolio of 20 startups. 15 of those startups were founded by diverse teams, with at least one founder who is a woman, an ethnic minority, or under-represented. That’s really my sweet spot – overlooked founders who then outperform.

What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I wake up quite early and front load important emails to investors and entrepreneurs who we are considering investing in. We look at pre-Seed and Seed deals, so it’s more about the founder themself, than a business model. I like to really understand the motivations of founders, and look for key characteristics like tenacity, resourcefulness and resilience. One of the great things about immigrants is they tend to have these qualities in spades.

I have two young kids, and so my mornings start very early (I try to wake up before them). After a cup of coffee I’ll go for a 15-20 minute run followed by meditation. When I’m not travelling (e.g. to Paris to meet founders), I drop the kids at school and I head to the No Label Offices in Soho. From there it’s non stop. My favourite part of the work day is meeting founders and that spark of electricity when you realise this person has something special, and you want to invest in them.

I still work some weekends but do try and get in as much time as possible with my family. My wife has a PHD in genetics, and is great at bouncing ideas off when it comes to startups in the health or wellness space.

What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I mean, it’s tough for everyone right? I think building something which I truly believe in, which is a bigger mission, helps enormously. It’s not a normal 9 – 5  job and I definitely have skin in the game. I’m all in, as they say. 

But I appreciate getting away skiing with my family when I can schedule a break. And sometimes play paddle tennis or poker with friends to wind down. I actually find in down time is when I get inspiration and clarity for the fund’s next steps. 

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In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

About a year ago, I started a new habit of running 15-20 minutes early every morning, inspired by Sam Kacem, the founder of Cure, an amazing studio in Notting Hill, London. I find this to be a great way of waking your body and your mind. It’s also good to start your day with a challenge, it sets the tone for the day.

Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I have taken a ton of inspiration from reading Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned by Ken Stanley and Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin. Last year was super busy with fundraising, but in the rare downtime I listen to Philosophise This, an amazing podcast making philosophic ideas very accessible to lay-men like myself (my favourite episodes are the ones about Camus and Weil). Sifted and Kara Swisher have great newsletters on all things tech which I read over coffee in the morning, to skim the latest funding rounds, and venture happenings.

If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

It would have to be Nadine Hachache-Haram. She has built a very impactful company, Proximie, which is making medical expertise more accessible to improve patient outcomes. She has built a great business, successfully raised a Series C round. She continues practising as a surgeon, and she is very generous with her time contributing a lot to the medical community, as well as aspiring founders. 

Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

There’s never the ‘right’ time to start something. I think for me, being an immigrant from Lebanon whose family fled the Civil War, I learned to appreciate making the most of your time. The Beirut port explosion in 2020, helped me realise that our time here isn’t promised and that I wanted to create impact, helping others as much as I could.

For me, backing overlooked entrepreneurs is the right mission. In the US, half of all unicorns are built by immigrants. So as much as I loved working in private equity, I knew I had to take the leap and start a VC fund to back these founders. No-one else was doing it, but gut instinct (and research!) told me to take the leap.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.