The Download: Alex Osadzinski, Venture Partner, Cofounders Capital

Alex Osadzinski is a lifelong lover of technology with a passion for building, growing and managing teams and companies. He was early at six startups and then most recently spent three years in senior roles for Relias, a Morrisville-based unit of German giant Bertelsmann that provides software solutions to reduce variation in healthcare. Alex also worked for seven years as a venture capitalist with Trinity Ventures in Silicon Valley.

He has been a very active angel investor, adviser, and board member in the Triangle as well as an investor in several local venture funds. Alex’s specialties include computer systems, software and networking, video technology, strategy, engineering management, product management, marketing, team building and general management. Alex is now mostly retired except for spending a few hours a week with Cofounders Capital and recently joining the board of Second Nature.

1. What is in your pockets?
I worked for a Swiss company from 2008 through 2012 and spent a lot of time in Europe and was introduced to the benefits of the man purse—or the “murse”—which is particularly useful right now. If I go out right now, I’d have my murse because there’s a lot of stuff you need to take including your wallet, car or bike keys, mask, Purell, Ziploc bag for the mask, rubber gloves, AirPods, and phone.

2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
I recently joined the board of Second Nature, which was previously called FilterEasy. I was one of the original angel investors in the company. Second Nature provides healthy products for the home. Their original product line is HVAC filters that you order online and they just show up in a box and they cost the same as going to the store. But it’s more convenient and because if you don’t replace them, your air quality goes down and your HVAC costs go up because your filters are getting clogged.

So it’s particularly relevant right now when air quality is even more important. You can get the very-high-filtration filters that filter out not just mites and dust but also potentially airborne viruses and bacteria. It’s a company that I like. It’s a good, strong team. [We featured Second Nature CEO Thad Tarkington in The Download last October.]

I spend about half a day a week with Cofounders Capital, a local early-stage VC firm. I’m an informal advisor there, which basically means that because I’m old, I’ve got a lot of experience and so I pontificate and just give them my opinions on companies that they’re looking at. I do referencing for them sometimes. Do some tech due diligence occasionally. But it’s nice to be engaged and trying to be helpful there.

3. What is your favorite coffee spot?
I used to live in Cary but now live north of Hillsborough in the wild, so my favorite coffee shop is the Nespresso machine sitting on the kitchen counter. Normally I’d meet up with an entrepreneur maybe once or twice a week at a coffee shop, but it’s just based on their convenience. I don’t have any specific one that I favor. My only criteria is that it’s quiet so you can actually hear yourself talk because I’m old and grumpy. I just don’t like loud places.

4. What keeps you up at night?
Well, right now, my mother, who turns 97 shortly, who’s living in a retirement community in Northwest Wales. That’s a worry. The U.K. is not in good shape, potentially even worse shape than the U.S. when it comes to the pandemic. So I worry about that. I have family in lockdown in other parts of the U.K. and in the Netherlands. My partner’s family’s in Taiwan, so that’s all pretty disturbing.

The main thing is just the uncertainty and the state of the current and future civil society. The current situation is straining that and all the bad stuff is coming out. Conspiracy theories, the rejection of science, reading that Bill Gates (supposedly) patented coronavirus in 2008. I’ve lived science of one form or another my entire life. It just really bugs me, and the future is highly uncertain.

5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
For a truly special occasion Herons at the Umstead never disappoints, but it’s a once-in-a-year kind of place. It’s really good. For true inexpensive satisfaction, there’s Torero’s on Kildaire Farm Road. You just can’t beat it.

6. What is next for you or your organization?
For Second Nature, it’s continuing to innovate with products. They changed the name from FilterEasy to do more than just filters and it’s great to see the evolution of their broadening product line and the innovation even in some of their core businesses. And it’s wonderful to see a team of self-effacing, fairly young folks when they started the company, do so well. So following that and being part of that is something to look forward to.

For Cofounders Capital, its first fund was fairly small. It’s fully invested at this point and has had some outcomes, including some good ones, but mostly is waiting for the rest of the companies to achieve their final outcomes. Fund two is, I think, the largest early stage capital here in the Triangle at $31 million. It’s about halfway through its initial investment phase and has the ability to put more capital to work in a company. It seems to be having good effect, and just watching those companies mature and be nurtured and get the good outcome is always satisfying.

As always in venture capital, even the best VCs in the world, half of the companies fail. That’s bad for the investors, bad for the VCs, but it’s even worse for the entrepreneurs. So you hate to see that happen, but you know it’s going to. Still, mostly it’s inspiring.

For me personally, I have a thirst for learning. I want to be a good mentor and governor for the companies I work with and continue to be useful and just be a good citizen for the rest of my life.

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About Brooks Malone 41 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and HQ Raleigh.