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October 30, 2019  

Promising Start for Imran Khan's Proem Fund

Former Snap executive Imran Khan, who started his own technology-stock fund after searching in vain for a hedge fund he could back, is showing solid results early on.

Since launching in February, Khan’s Proem Investments Master Fund has generated a high-single-digit return — roughly in line with a 6.2% gain for HFRI Equity Hedge Technology Index. The fund employs a combination of fundamental research and quantitative analysis to take long-term positions in consumer-oriented technology companies.

Khan’s Santa Monica, Calif., investment firm, Proem Asset Management, currently manages tens of millions of dollars on behalf of Khan, his family and friends. While he has no plans to market the fund to a wider audience, Khan would consider accepting additional limited partners down the road.

Proem’s strategy clearly plays to Khan’s long experience in the tech sector. Until November 2018, he was chief strategy officer at Snap, having been hired in 2015 to help improve operations and strengthen ties to Wall Street ahead of the social-media company’s initial public offering. Prior to that, he was head of investment banking for internet companies at Credit Suisse, where he played a key role in Alibaba’s $25 billion initial public offering in 2014. And before Credit Suisse, Khan was a technology-stock analyst at J.P. Morgan, where he was ranked by Institutional Investor as the No. 2 analyst in the sector for at least five years.

When Khan left Snap, TechCrunch reported that he planned to launch a fund to invest in both public and private equities. While Proem is steering clear of private companies, Khan and his wife, former Amazon executive Cate Khan, started an online-retail business in June called Verishop.

Proem is targeting investments in online retailers and consumer-oriented software companies with potential for disruptive growth over 3-5 years or more. The “private equity approach” is tax-efficient, given the long holding period. The fund occasionally will take short positions.

In addition to Khan, the fund’s portfolio manager, Proem’s investment team includes director Anya Ngo, who previously worked with Khan both at Snap and Credit Suisse. Between those jobs, Ngo was at Ares Management.

On the operations side, former Ivory Capital general counsel Sophie Kim is filling the dual roles of general counsel and chief compliance officer. Michael Caruso is Proem’s chief financial officer — the same role he previously held at Curtis Macnguyen’s Ivory, which shut down last year.

Ahead of Snap’s initial public offering in March 2017, Khan owned 1% of the company. That stake was worth a couple hundred million dollars the day the IPO priced, but the stock now trades at a price 40% lower.

Verishop, the online retailer Khan runs with his wife, has raised some $30 million of startup capital from backers including Rakuten Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Madrona Venture Group and Simon Property.