Earlier today, Snap made some waves when it announced that Imran Khan, its chief strategy officer, was stepping down from his role to pursue other opportunities. We have now confirmed with sources close to the matter that he’s leaving the company to start his own investment fund.
Khan, who had been an early investor in Alibaba when still at J.P. Morgan & Chase, wants to put together a firm that will span the range of funding opportunities in the tech sector, with a focus on startups and other companies that are disrupting non-tech areas. Targets will include both private and public businesses, as well as private equity, buyouts and long-term stakes.
And given his crossover experience between the US and Asia — he was known for helping introduce US investors to soon-to-be-huge Chinese companies like Alibaba, Baidu and Sohu — you can expect interest to play on the global theme here, too.
While Snap dukes it out with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google over domination in social apps, there are countless areas that are only just beginning to get disrupted by technology. The overriding thesis, from what I understand, behind Khan’s move to start a new firm is that there is something close to $1 trillion in value that is at play because of that disruption, and so he wants to be in the thick of making “opportunistic” investments that will take advantage of the changes and shifts taking place.
Khan plans to base the firm in Los Angeles, where he lives now: “Silicon Valley is too dominated by the VC bubble, and New York is dominated by the hedge fund bubble,” the source said. (And what about London? “Many trips to Europe, too.” I’m glad to know we’re still thought of by some as part of Europe…)
Khan has long wanted to build his own investment firm, but the opportunity for operational experience at Snap (which was still going by Snapchat when he joined in 2014), a startup that was growing like a weed at that time and had just passed a $10 billion valuation, was too good to pass up.
One source I’d talked to characterised Khan’s departure as something that was due to happen after Khan spent four years at Snap. His time there spanned a period huge evolution, going from generating zero revenue to being on track to make about $1 billion this year, and from 100 employees to 3,000.
But Khan was brought in at a time when the company was starting to try to figure out how best to grow in a way that would resonate with investors, and you could also say that this has now been done. Now that Snap has essentally established what is going to drive its business (ad tech) it needs to move on to the next phase of how it will execute that — and execute it.
From what I understand, his departure is something that Snap CEO Evan Spiegel knew was on the cards for a while. Since Khan is not jumping to a new role elsewhere but starting his own thing, that is partly why he’s able to stay in place for a smooth transition.