An interview with Sakib Jamal: Forbes 30 under 30 2024
Bangladeshi-born American venture capitalist Sakib Jamal has recently achieved recognition of being listed in Forbes' prestigious 30 Under 30 list for 2024 in the North America region, in the Venture Capital category. As the inaugural employee at Crossbeam Ventures, a venture capital firm, Jamal has played a pivotal role in propelling the firm's assets to an impressive $280 million across two core funds.
Jamal is currently the Vice President of the Investment Team in Crossbeam Ventures Partners and also serves as a Board Observer for seven different companies in the portfolio. He has also worked at J.P.Morgan, the reputed multinational financial services company, as an investment banking analyst. Earlier in the year, this graduate from Cornell University also secured a spot on Crain's New York Business 20 under 20 list.
In an interview with The Daily Star, the young venture capitalist dives into his background, experiences, and projects of both past and present.
How does it feel to get selected for the Forbes 30 under 30 list?
I think it's important to recognise that it is an award for young people, which means I still have a majority of my life and career left. I am very grateful and it does feel good to be recognised for my work. I put in a lot of late nights and sweat, with many sacrifices along the way. But my dreams are much bigger.
I want to back the best global founders and achieve a level of expertise where I can engage with Bangladesh at the policy level with the government. There are a lot of low-hanging fruits that the government is already tackling, and I am excited for our infrastructure and commercial conditions to get better.
When did you move from Bangladesh to New York? Could you share your background and the journey thus far?
I was born in Chittagong and then moved around all over the country - places like Comilla, Chittagong hill tracts, Syedpur, Rajshahi, etc. due to my father's job in the Army. Back then, he was posted in Myanmar, where I went to elementary school. Afterwards, I spent a few years at Sunbeams School in Dhaka, after which I received a scholarship to go to Hong Kong for high school. In 2015, I came to the US with a scholarship to go to Cornell University.
You were a former analyst at J.P. Morgan. How did your experience there help you?
J.P. Morgan was a transformative experience. Quite frankly, I lacked a lot of professional polish and understanding of cultural norms as I did not receive the training many people who grow up here automatically get. However, I was incredibly lucky to have strong mentors who guided me on the right path. Not just at J.P. Morgan, Cornell or Crossbeam, but even in Bangladesh - people like Abdullah Al-Rezwan, Asif Khan, the founders of Lightcastle Partners, and many more to name.
How did you come across Crossbeam Venture Partners? What prompted you to become a venture capitalist?
I was always interested in startups and worked on entrepreneurial projects. I started a business in high school that was taking 'nokshi katha' from Tangail to sell through a DTC (direct-to-consumer) e-commerce site and via stores in Queens, New York. I had to stop that business during my undergraduate years as my academics, club involvements, and part-time jobs were getting too much to handle together.
After graduation, while I was at JP Morgan, I started a newsletter called The Capsule on Instagram with my friends Zafin Hassan, Salsabil Salah, Muqueet Chowdhury and Umran Mustafa. At peak, we had 22,000 subscribers sharing bite-sized news across multiple platforms. We had to shut that business down when we failed to monetise effectively and the world reopened after Covid-19. Nonetheless, I learned a great deal from that experience.
I also used to serve as a teaching assistant for the Entrepreneurship class at Cornell, where I met Crossbeam's founding Partner during a guest lecture. We stayed in touch, and when he started the firm three years later, I decided to join him.
What has been the most exciting startup that you have invested in?
There are too many to name! But there have been some cool ones over the years. There is one called Chexy that is a promising one out of Canada, and most recently I invested in a company in the senior care space called Blooming Health alongside Chelsea Clinton.
Tell us about your projects in Bangladesh.
My way of giving back to Bangladesh is to ensure that the diaspora community has connectivity with home. As such, I am involved with a non-profit called Bdeshi.org which my friend Rahat Ahmed founded, where we try to do just that. My other main project right now is a collaboration with the JAAGO Foundation where all proceeds of my upcoming book will go towards children's education.
Do you have any advice for aspiring startup founders or young entrepreneurs?
There is so much advice out there, but all of it will be useless if people do not implement them. I would say that everyone should employ the Pareto principle - focus on the few things that really matter to you, and stay laser-focused on them. Any large project requires a lot of stamina and you should optimise for sustainability instead of short bursts.