Jim Robinson of RRE Ventures spoke at our InSITE alumni event last week. We had a great turnout with alums like Mark Davis, Rich Powell, Vinay Jain, Mike Katz, Shirley Xu, and Mike Dibenedetto in attendance. Jim, who didn’t realize his own bio described him as a “perennial futurist,” shared his thoughts with us on seed stage investing, investing in China, and the challenges and opportunities that he sees going forward. Note: these opportunities do not include veterinary clinic management, a field Jim dabbled in early in his career…
Jim highlighted the increase in the volume of early stage investing in his discussion, describing the “barbell” shape of the investment market: lots of early-stage activity and lots of growth equity, leaving a nice area of opportunity for RRE in between. He remarked that RRE helped spur the rise of angel stage investing in New York, but that the explosion of interest has been even greater than they imagined. He also gave us a word of caution: starting a startup now is easier then ever because of low capex, but starting a business is harder because of talent. He advised those interested in becoming entrepreneurs, especially those thinking about starting up right after the MBA program, to gain valuable insight by first working at a startup.
He also spoke about his outlook on investing in the future. In terms of where there is opportunity now, he still sees many gaps in areas that are yet to be effectively moved online. For example, there are no dominant brands in health and wellness or self-help online, though these areas have thriving offline markets. In the future, due to long cycle times for technology adoptions (he thinks we have ~15 years left in the current 50 year macro cycle), he thinks “startup” will mean nanotech, genomics etc. He also sees startups on the rise in places like China and Brazil and has explored investments in the Chinese market. Like any investor, he seeks out interesting and growing markets. However, his approach to investing, no matter how big the opportunity, is to never be the sheep.
This post was written by Marianna Zaslavsky, Columbia Business School Class of 2013.