Mitchem is a co-manager of the recently launched Ignite Fund, which backs growth-stage companies
Venture capital used to be a cottage industry, with very few investing in tomorrow’s products and services. Oh, how times have changed! While there are more startups than ever, there’s also more money chasing them. In this series, we look at the new (or relatively new) VCs in the early stages: seed and Series A.
But just who are these funds and venture capitalists that run them? What kinds of investments do they like making, and how do they see themselves in the VC landscape?
We’re highlighting key members of the community to find out.
Rebecca Mitchem is Partner at Neotribe Ventures.
Mitchem spent the first ten years of her career working at J.P.Morgan Asset Management. At JPMorgan, she spent time in New York, London, and Frankfurt. In the last five years of her time at the firm, she was an investor in the Private Equity Group, which is a $20Bn+ platform that makes investments across growth equity, co-investments, secondaries, and private equity funds. Mitchem was a member of the Investment Committee and was a member in multiple deal teams committing >$1Bn. During her time with the group, she served on multiple boards in both Director and Observer capacities. She is a Chartered Financial Analyst.
She graduated cum laude from Cornell University with a B.S. in Applied Economics and Management. Mitchem is originally from West Virginia.
VatorNews: What is your investment philosophy or methodology?
Rebecca Mitchem: I’m happy to give you a little bit of broader Neotribe history; that’s helpful context because there’s the early stage fund and then there’s the Ignite Fund, which we just launched, and the investment methodologies are a bit different. So, it might help if I spend a little bit of time up front explaining that.
Neotribe was founded in 2017 by Kittu Kolluri, who was previously at NEA. He was a GP there for 10 years, and previously a co-founder and entrepreneur multiple times. Essentially, his vision for Neotribe was, “I want to launch a smaller fund. I want to really focus on ownership, and conviction-based investing. And I want to spend a lot of time with these companies and help them find product market fit. I want to take both tech risk and market risk, I want to invest in companies that are software, and also both software and hardware.” So, we’re sector agnostic with a deep tech angle, ownership percentage focused, and really focused on partnering with the founders from day one, to help them find their first customers, to help them pivot. Essentially, all the work for a very early stage company.
He built the team out in 2017 and then I joined Neotribe last year, as part of the Ignite Fund process. So, Kittu’s vision originally was that, at some point, because our thesis is taking large ownership percentages, there are going to be stages, like the Series B, where he was no longer going to want to invest out of early stage fund, but he was still going to own a meaningful percentage of a company. And so, they launched the Ignite fund, starting last year mostly with our existing LPs, to say, “we’ll invest a percentage of this fund in our existing companies and then also there are tons of companies that either we didn’t see when they were raising their early stage rounds, or we did say and we passed on them, and they surprised us to the upside.”
So, that’s what the Ignite fund is meant to focus on, Series B plus. It’s not as black and white as a Series B plus, but that gives you a good guide. Everything continues to change in terms of what a Series A or Series B is, but when I say “Series B plus,” I really mean a company that is generating revenue or has contracted revenue and is showing signs of product market fit and it is starting to get some diversification and customers. Whereas on the early stage fund, we’re probably investing before a company has customers and before a company has built their executive team and all that. So, the strategies are a little bit different.
VN: So the Ignite fund is basically, for the most part, a follow-on fund?
RM: The majority of the fund will be follow-on capital. The hope is we’ll find three to four new companies to add to the Neotribe family through this fund.
VN: You mentioned that you’re sector agnostic, but I assume there are certain categories that you’re most interested in, both as a firm and also you personally, so talk about a few of those. What are the opportunities that you see in those sectors?
RM: When I say “deep tech,” that means something different to everyone. For us, deep tech just generally means something net new. It could be a unique technological approach, it could be access to unique proprietary data, or it could be taking new technology, like AI or ML, and applying it to an industry that hasn’t historically benefited from technology like that. So, that could be cleantech, computational biology, robotics.
I have to say I’m personally a bit more positively inclined towards software; that’s where more of my historical experience has been. Kittu is a huge proponent of when you can combine software and hardware in an application that could really benefit from new technology. So, the early investments in the Ignite Fund currently span computational biology, Web 3, enterprise security, and compliance. And I would expect, as we continue to invest in it, that it will start to reflect the early stage fund as well and include more in robotics, cleantech, 3D printing, all of which we find really exciting.
We don’t typically do consumer, which may sound natural based on what I just explained to you, but we would be very interested in B2B2C. So, there aren’t really hard and fast rules, it’s just where we’re seeing tailwinds in the market, and room for development technologies.
VN: What’s the big macro trend you’re betting on?
RM: Each company that we invest in may benefit from a different macro trend. Every investor has their checklist of things, team, tech, and market are the ones that you hear most often, so one of the questions we always ask is “why now?” And the “why now?” could be different: it could simply be that technology didn’t exist previously, it could be that no one was able to get access to this proprietary data set before, or it could be that these co-founders came out of a company and they’re the perfect founders to implement a vision.
So, there isn’t one macro tailwind that I would say we’re constantly looking for; it’s much more that each company has something specific and unique that they have access to and or they’re able to tackle that we believe could be category creating, or can really change the way a market works. So, it could be an existing market, it could be a completely new market. It’s not so specific as to say, “we think this one trend underlies all of our investments.”
VN: What is the size of your current fund and how many investments do you typically make in a year?
RM: The Ignite fund is $90 million and we expect to make three to four investments each year. And so, our investments will range somewhere between $5 and 10 million, we’re expecting.
VN: When I talk to people for this column, it’s usually more early stage, but you’re a little bit later, investing in Series B. You said that the companies do need to have some traction and some revenue at that point, but are there actual specific numbers that you want to see? Do they have to have a minimum number of users or a minimum amount of ARR for you to want to invest?
RM: We actually don’t have any minimums. For example, I’m currently in discussion with a company that actually isn’t revenue generating but has contracted revenue. So, they have a product that they’re going to start producing, and they already have a purchase order for that. And that’s totally fine for our fund’s purposes, but we’re attempting to not take binary risk, meaning, “we think your product is interesting, but a customer hasn’t validated that yet through actual revenue or purchase order.” Theoretically, the loss ratio of the Ignite Fund will be less than that of a venture fund, where you may expect 30%, 40%, 50% of your investments to fail. That’s the nature of venture. Hopefully our loss ratio will be much less than that and we’re using some revenue traction as part of the evidence that something’s working, and that their risk isn’t binary.
VN: Does that also depend on the industry? I know that certain types of companies take longer, also B2B can take longer than B2C, and you’re not a consumer-oriented fund. So, is there a longer life for some of these companies? Maybe they aren’t as far along just because their specific sector takes longer to get those companies to get that revenue.
RM: There are a couple of companies that we’ve looked at that we’ve been really excited about, but are pre-revenue and so we’ve passed and said, “Hey, come back for your Series C.” That would be a totally appropriate response, but we’re also willing to invest in a company that’s around $1 million of ARR, or a little bit less than that, or whatever it may be, depending on the industry. This company that I mentioned, they have zero revenue, technically, but they have contracted revenue. So, every industry, every company, we’re looking at it in a unique way. And what we’re trying to do is underwrite the opportunity to say, “we believe there’s an inherent value, either in the existing customers or patents or technology, such that our worst case return is we get our money back. Our upside, relative to a venture fund, will be capped. Our base case will probably be in the 3x to 5x return.” Whereas, when we’re thinking about a venture investment, we may be saying, “we want this to have the potential to return the entire fund.” But we also know the downside is a zero.
VN: So, these companies have customers, do you talk to their customers to validate the companies before you invest?
RM: Typically, the answer is yes. And then, in addition to that, what we like to do, which is unique to my experience at Neotribe, at least, is we like to put them in front of potential customers as well. So, it’s not just talking to their existing customers, it’s finding people in our network who could be existing customers. It helps them because every CEO is very happy for you to help them with their pipeline, but then it also gives us an independent check on, is the customer pull real? Is this an issue you really want to spend time on? Where is this in your prioritization? Because you can find companies who can pretty quickly get to that first $1 million of ARR, and then flatline. You have a couple of really exciting, early mover customers, and then they’re unable to get to the next stage. So, what we’re really trying to validate is if this actually a big problem and also a priority for the people and that there’s some budget set aside for it. Because creating budget can be a very difficult thing.
VN: So, it’s determining which companies are a “have to have” versus a “nice to have,” or however you want to put that.
RM: Exactly. And then there are all the nuanced questions that we ask, depending on the sector. Are you willing to do a proof of concept? How long do those typically take? Are you looking to make a decision in the near term? A CCO or a VP of engineering, they have 100 priorities and even if this is interesting, maybe it’s interesting next year, maybe it’s interesting in two years. Of course, what we’re trying to find is someone to say, “Oh, I didn’t know that existed, that solves a real problem that I have.”
VN: When I talk to early stage funds and I ask them the most important thing, they always tell me it’s the team, because they’re usually investing before there are any real numbers. At your stage, how important is the team? I’m sure it’s not the number one thing, but how important is it to you?
RM: I would say the team is still up there as the most important thing, because there are so many factors that go into a team. I’ve historically had experiences where I thought a company had an amazing product and the team just wasn’t able to execute; they got out executed by another team. Or a team that viewed the board as maybe not the most important or helpful resource and, therefore, they told the board what they wanted to hear, but not what they needed to hear. If you don’t have trust in your team in terms of communication, and trust in your team in terms of execution, you could have an amazing product and still fail, that’s a very likely probability. So, the team at this stage is so crucially important. A team who know where their gaps are and where they need help is still critically important at this stage.
The other piece that’s super important, that’s a little bit of a differentiation from the early stage fund, is market size. So, if I’m the early stage fund and I’m investing at a $15 million valuation, I can still have a really nice exit if this company grows to $50 million of revenue. If I’m at my stage fund, and I’m investing in a company that’s valued at $300 million, I need to believe that it can be a $1 billion dollar company to be excited about it. So, it needs to be tackling a market that’s pretty much proven. On the early stage fund, it will take market risk and technology risk; I would like to take neither. I want the technology to be proven, and I want there to be signs it’s a very large market.
VN: Getting back to the team for a second, how do you vet them? What’s your process?
RM: It’s different depending on if it’s a company that’s already in the Neotribe family, of course, or if it’s a new company to our fund. If it’s already an existing company, there’s a rapport, we’re probably already on the board, we probably have a multi year relationship with them. You can also get a lot based on the other team members that you interact with. So, if you’re being introduced to people other than the CEO, like the CTO or CMO or whoever else, you can learn a lot from the rapport of that group.
On something that’s net new, we always want to do founder references, in addition to customer references. So, tell me someone that you’ve worked with previously, give me a prior investor that I can speak to, and we’re always trying to see if this person is open to feedback. I don’t want to run their company, but I want to know that they’re interested in learning, they’re interested in doing the best thing for a company and the shareholders. I want to know that they’re incentivizing their team. It’s always a red flag if you see a founder, especially at my stage, who still owns 60% of the company and doesn’t want to give equity to their team members. So, there are all these signs where you can start to say, “hey, this feels like a best in class CEO or best in class founding team, who want to do things the right way, and are being transparent with their employees.”
VN: How do you vet the product? For a consumer focused firm, the easiest thing is you download the app, you use it, you see if it works. For B2B, it’s probably a little bit harder. So, how do you know that the product is good?
RM: We do three things in that regard: one, we have a lot of technologists in our network as advisors who we will bring on to do deep tech type reviews. And then Kittsu and other members of Neotribe are also technologists in their own right, so there’s a lot of validation that comes from our team and from our advisors. The next piece is customer validation. If I’m a customer, especially at my stage, and I’ve fully deployed the product and I can tell you, “it’s working, and I’ve had no problems, and the uptime is 99.999 percent of the time,” then that’s also validating.
The third piece is we can use are external resources like a Gartner or other other research vendors to say, “Hey, I’ve spoken to five customers, but in your role as a Gartner analyst, you’ve spoken to 500 customers, or however many it may be, what are you hearing? Are you hearing the customer service is good? Are you hearing that there are new entrants? Are you hearing there’s room to have conversations with new startups because the technology is better? What are you hearing?” So, we try to go at it from multiple angles.
VN: I want to ask you a little bit about valuations, especially over the last couple of years with everything that we’ve been dealing with. There was some trepidation when things first shut down that VCs wouldn’t be able to deploy their capital, but the last couple of years have actually been record investments, so that didn’t happen. So, vaulations really skyrocketed, which I don’t think everybody expected. What have you seen over the years? And how has that affected your investing?
RM: I’ve definitely seen valuations increase. Anyone who’s investing, especially in that Series B plus world, who tells you otherwise is incredibly unique, or just isn’t taking new meetings, one or the other. I would say, on the early stage side, of course there has been some rise, but not nearly as much as in the Series B plus market, and there are lots of reasons: as everyone knows, other players who are coming down to invest earlier, record amounts of fundraising, there’s a ton of money in the market.
Our average entry valuations in our first companies in the Ignite fund are probably a tad bit higher than I would have expected when the fund started being raised, which was a year ago. What that means for us, and the way we think about it, is there’s an increased focus on quality, meaning I would prefer to pay a $200 million pre-money valuation in what would have maybe been a $150 million pre-money valuation previously, if I believe the team, tech, market, all of that will substantiate a really nice exit. What it doesn’t mean is we’re bargain hunting because value investing in a growth investing world has proven to be a pretty difficult thing to do. So, typically, if you’re seeing a deal that’s off spec and cheaper than the market would indicate, there’s probably some hair on it and some of that you can potentially get around. It could be that we see something no one else is seeing, or it could be that we didn’t see the risks everyone else saw. So, our preference is not to get caught up in it and we may pass on quality companies because we just can’t get there on valuation. But, if anything, we’re going to reach a little on valuation, and we’re not going to cut our standards.
VN: A lot of early stage VCs I talk to for this column tell me that valuations are going up so high that it’s actually becoming harder for some of their companies to get that follow-on round, because they’re taking on too much money and they’re not proving themselves. So, have you found that there are companies that you would like to invest in, but they’ve just raised too much, they haven’t proven themselves to that valuation that they got in the early stages, and therefore, you just can’t follow-on?
RM: That’s a real development in the market and it’s something we’re talking to our early stage founders about because there have been a number of our founders who’ve gotten preemptive term sheets at wild valuations, in our minds, for subsequent rounds and for an amount of capital that they couldn’t responsibly put to work in a number of years.
As a founder, all you want to do is de-risk your business and de-risking your business typically means raising capital. But, the flip side of that is exactly what you’re saying: what happens when you go to raise in a year or two and you still actually probably have a ton of capital on your balance sheet because you can’t hire people as quickly as you expected to? You haven’t made as much progress as you expected, but you still want to raise in an up round and it creates a lot of problems. So, yes, there have been companies that we’ve seen that we’ve passed on because they just haven’t made the progress in between rounds that we expected, and they raised at a evaluation we thought was too high to begin with. Taking a down round can be really painful, optically, for your employees, for morale, and I understand why people don’t want to do it. So, we’ve encouraged our companies, on the early stage side in particular, to say, “what’s an amount of capital you can reasonably put to work over 18 to 24 months as a guideline? What are the three milestones you’re going to tell your next series investor that you’ve accomplished? Is it diversifying your customers? Is it launching a new geography? Is it building out your management team? What are the things you’re going to be able to say we accomplish between races, and then raise the amount of capital that’s appropriate to accomplish those goals.”
VN: Since you’re following on with the companies you’ve already invested in, you have a little bit more control over that than another fund might have.
RM: Well, it’s influence, it’s not control; they can do what they would like, for the most part. But it’s trying to take all of the stuff that we’ve learned as a team, and I’ve been in finance for 10 years, Kittu has been in it for 30, he’s seen cycles more than I have. He’s able to say to them that the current environment we’re in is probably not going to last the entire time you’re thriving. It might, but by the time you go to raise your next round, it could be very different. And you want to be prepared for all those scenarios.
VN: There are many venture funds out there today, how do you differentiate yourself to limited partners?
RM: There are a couple things that we focus on and one of them is fund size. So, the early stage fund is a $220 million fund, the Ignite Fund is a $90 million fund, and we’ve been very transparent with our LPS that these funds may increase slightly over time, but we’re never going to be a $1 billion platform. We think that the best returns for LPs, and this is what the data shows, comes from smaller funds. If you just do the math, it’s easier to get a 5x on a $200 million fund than it is to get a 5x on a $2 billion fund. So, one of the things is differentiated returns.
Another thing is just differentiated access. So, one of the things that we’ve found, especially on the early stages fund, is we’re often the first institutional check. If we have significant ownership, and we’re investing in the Ignite Fund, we may own a significant amount of that company and there tend to not be five or 10 other VCs in with us that you may otherwise see. Typically, a Neotribe deal may not have an Andreessen and Accel and NEA and all the others that you may typically find in your LP portfolio. So, hopefully, we’re giving you access to companies you’re not otherwise getting access to.
The last thing I’ll say, which is probably the most important thing, and I probably should have said it first, is we’re incredibly transparent with our LPs with our time, with our information. We always want them to know what our roadmap is so we can align with their roadmap, how they’re thinking about deploying capital. We’re always very happy to get on a call and talk about what we’re seeing in the market, we’re happy to introduce them to our portfolio companies. We take our LP relationships incredibly seriously. So, we believe we’re responsible to our founders, our LPs, and each other, essentially, and all those have an equal weighting.
VN: Venture is a two-way street, where investors also have to pitch themselves. How do you differentiate your fund to entrepreneurs?
RM: From the first time we meet a founder, we like to show them that we are a good partner to them, whether we invest or not. So, this goes back to what I said previously: if we meet a founder, and there’s someone in our network that we can introduce them to, either as an advisor or a potential customer, we will do that from the start. Essentially, we’re always trying to show you that we’re a small team, we’re a small fund, and we’re going to make a small number of investments, and those that we make are going to be high conviction investments for us, and we’re going to have a lot of time to spend with you. That means access to our network, it means access to everyone else on the Neotribe team. It means introductions to later stage investors, it means potentially introductions to acquirers.
Just like with the LPs, we’re so transparent. We all are who we are; it’s a very low ego team, which enables us to have really authentic conversations with entrepreneurs, and to give feedback that’s not self serving, hopefully, and that is in their best interest too. So, building that relationship, building that rapport, having honest conversations with founders, is in our DNA, all of ours.
On the less soft side, the Ignite Fund, in particular, is built to be flexible. So, if a founder wants a $10 million lead check, we can do it. If a founder wants a $10 million check to participate in the round, because they have a lead or they have an existing company that wants to do a super pro rata, we can do that. If us joining the board is really valuable to them, then we can do that. If there isn’t really room on the board and there’s a lead investor that they think provides more value, then we don’t have to take a board seat. So, the Ignite Fund is built to be flexible so we can meet a company and a founder where they are, and then just help them in the best way.
VN: Do you typically lead? It sounds like that’s not something that’s really important to you.
RM: The companies that are already in the Neotribe family, we will never lead, because we think it’s really important to always have an outside lead validate valuation. Each of us have seen a number of times where a company gets into trouble and if you really only have one or two investors, there aren’t a lot of people who can show up to help you. And so, we think it’s important as a company scales to diversify your investors. So, that’s one rule: on the existing companies, we don’t lead. On the net new companies in the portfolio, we can do either. Just based on who we are, our preference would be to led if it makes sense, because we do want to get involved, we do want to be hands on and we do think we can add a lot of value. But if it’s an $80 million round, I’m not going to presume I’m leading with a $10 million check, and if it’s a really quality company, and they otherwise think we can be helpful, then we’re fine participating.
VN: What are some of the investments you’ve made that you’re super excited about? Why did you want to invest in those companies?
RM: I can talk about two of them at this point. The first company that we invested in was a company called BillionToOne. It’s a computational biology company that developed molecular counting technology to test to detect prenatal diseases. So, it’s non-invasive, prenatal testing. We did a Series B out of the Ignite Fund and I’ll tell you a couple of things that were exciting about the company: one, the technology is completely unique and no other company is currently utilizing the same technology. The second piece is the future applications of the same technology into the oncology field provide a TAM expansion. And then the last thing I’ll say is that the founding team is incredibly impressive and something that I don’t think I’ve seen in my history of investing is they have beat their projections every quarter since launching. So, that’s something obviously every investor likes to see; predictability and underlying revenue and consistency of hitting your targets, essentially, just means it’s easier for an investor to make the case that you’re going to continue to do so and that you’re, ultimately, going to be successful. So, that’s a company we were super excited to invest out of the early stage fund and then it was the first investment out of our Ignite Fund.
Then there are two others; one I don’t think that I can quite yet talk about yet and the other one is called Vendia. This one is similar: the founding team is incredibly impressive; they came out of Amazon Web Services. So, Tim Wagner, the CEO, has been coined “the father of Lambda for AWS,” and they created a real time data cloud that allows companies to quickly build applications, and then to share data across companies, clouds, regions, whatever you name it. So, essentially, if I’m a company and I have 18 other companies in my supply chain, and all 18 of them have a different ERP system and a different cloud architecture, through the Vendia technology I can share data with them in a secure way, and in a way that makes sense, even with all the disparate systems. So, that’s a company that has a ton of applications and they’re in the early stages of figuring out, essentially, all the ways that their platform can be used. So, that was another one with massive TAM, really incredible founding team, and then a net new technology.
VN: Was that a follow-on or was that a new investment?
RM: That was a follow-on.
VN: Tell me a little about yourself, how you got into venture.
RM: Maybe everyone thinks this, but my path to venture was not your typical one. So, I grew up in a small town in West Virginia, a coal mining town in the heart of Appalachia. My dad was a coal miner for the first part of my life, my mom was a stay at home mom. I decided that I was going to be a professional at a young age and what I thought that meant was I would be a doctor or a lawyer. So, I actually went to college pre-med, thinking that that was going to be my path. I quickly figured out that wasn’t my passion, and that you can’t fake wanting to be a doctor so I did a lot of exploration in college and found business and finance made a lot of sense to me; I always loved math so I ended up graduating with a degree in finance and, from there, I went to JPMorgan.
I spent 10 years at JPMorgan asset management. It was a similar story: I got there thinking, “What a great firm, what a great culture, I can learn a lot here.” And I spent 10 years across a couple of different teams before I found my way to the private equity group and the growth equity group. I spent the last five years there and that’s where I really figured out this is something that I love doing. I love meeting founders, I love their passion, I love helping them, essentially, fulfill their life’s dream. The thing that’s true about most of these founders is they didn’t wake up yesterday with an idea, they have an entrepreneurial itch that they’ve had for a long time and they desperately want to change the world. How exciting is it to work with people who feel that way? Life is a little bit serendipitous: the first investment I was a part of at JPMorgan was a company where I joined as a board observer and Kittu was on the board while he was still at NEA. And so, I met Kittu in 2016 and developed a great relationship and rapport with him over the last several years. And when it came time for me to want to come somewhere a bit smaller in focus, the Neotribe opportunity was a perfect fit for me.
VN: what are some lessons you learned?
RM: I would say the most important lesson I’ve learned… well, there are lots of lessons. One, everyone’s a person. Everyone has risks and fears and dreams and thoughts and to start categorizing even a Series D CEO as someone who’s figured it out? The answer is they have their own set of risks and fears and thoughts and concerns. And to just be transparent and authentic with everyone, and that comes back in spades.
The other thing I’ve learned in concert with that is, if you have a feeling that it might not be the right fit, for whatever reason, then it’s okay to pass because these are relationships that last potentially 10 years. It’s a partnership that’s meant to be very long lasting and you both should go and be very excited and with full visibility about what the expectations are for each party. The thing that I learned the most, and I alluded to this earlier, is the “why now?” piece really matters because you could find a couple of founders who have created something that you think the world needs access to, but if the world hasn’t decided they need access to it yet, you can’t make it happen. So, the “why now?” piece is a big lesson learned that I will always ask myself.
VN: It’s all about timing. You always hear about these companies who had the idea for Uber, or something like, but maybe like two or three years earlier. Not too much difference between the companies, it’s just all about they came all in the right time for the market. But going back to what you also said about liking the founders, a lot of VCs I’ve talked to compare it to a marriage. That’s the analogy I hear quite a bit about the relationship between founders and investors.
RM: You have to learn how to communicate through good times and bad times, just like a marriage. You can’t bury your head in the sand if you’re getting bad news. And it’s the same thing for a founder, they can’t bury their head in the sand if they don’t want to tell you bad news. So, you have to develop that muscle, hopefully, from the start of saying, “as our partnership, I’m always going to be there when you want to pick up the phone. But I’m always going to expect you to pick up the phone when you need to.” You should set that expectation up early as you can and make sure you’re on the right page about what partnership you want, because everyone is different. Some founders really want to be able to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, I’m thinking about this candidate. But they said this, and I’m not sure that sat right with me, is this a yellow flag to you?” And some founders don’t want to do that; they’re really confident in the person that they’re hiring, and maybe they just want to call you and say, “Hey, can you help me close this person?” Either one is fine, but you have to be on the same page about the relationship that you want.
VN: What excites you the most about your position as VC?
RM: For someone who is intellectually curious, this is the perfect job. It is amazing how many people out there are trying to do incredible things every day and our exposure to them on a daily basis is still mind blowing to me. The fact that on a given day, I could have three founder pitches, and it can be so disparate in terms of interest but so exciting in terms of what it could mean for a certain industry or the world, is unbelievable. And the fact that there are people who are willing to pitch their life’s passion to you, and probably 30 other people, and get rejected most of the time, but still have the passion to move that forward, it’s just a really exciting place to be.
I’ll also separately say, for me, it’s really important that I love my Neotribe teammates. The idea of waking up and getting on a call with them and asking them a question or asking them to run me through something or talking about our views on something and having a team that truly likes each other, makes a huge difference.
VN: Is there anything else that you think I should know about you or the firm or your thoughts about the venture industry in general?
RM: I don’t want it to sound corny, but the thing that’s most important, and it’s so hard to get across in anything that’s written, is we’re just a team that is excited to invest in new technologies and companies and to help them reach the next level of success, whatever that might be: early stage, Series B, Series C, and beyond. We want to do it in a way that is fun, in a way that is low ego, and it’s always hard to get that across but for the right founders, it resonates. So, that’s something that’s super important to all of us.