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Rob is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm that champions founders that are using technology to redesign the largest categories of the everyday economy, including transportation, food, housing, apparel, money, health, and entertainment.  NextView has invested in over 60 companies at the earliest stages, including Sunrise (acq. by Microsoft), TapCommerce (acq. by Twitter), GrabCAD (acq. by Stratsys), RentJuice (acq. by Zillow), Dia &Co, ThredUp, Mealpal, and many others.

Prior to co-founding NextView, Rob was at Spark Capital, a leading venture capital firm focused on the intersection of media, technology, and entertainment.  Before joining Spark Capital, Rob worked at Ebay as the Business Product Lead for "Finding”, in which he oversaw the launch of various products that significantly enhanced Ebay's search, browse, and merchandising capabilities.

Previously, Rob was a consultant at The Parthenon Group, held product management roles at Fidelity Investments and BzzAgent, and helped to found Letslink.jp, one of the first social networking sites outside of the United States.  Rob is a frequent speaker and writer on entrepreneurship and product management and currently serves as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Harvard Business School.

Rob attended Duke University and holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School. He was also a founding board member of Highrock Church in Brookline, MA.  He lives in Lexington, MA with his wife and 2 daughters.

You can learn more about Rob by following his blog and @robgo on Twitter.

He will be live on May 23 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as any questions as possible.

  • JP

    John Phamvan

    3 months ago #

    Hi Rob

    You recently wrote about the importance of the idea (http://robgo.org/2017/01/23/how-important-is-the-idea/).
    However this post focused on pivots.
    How do you gauge what is right about the idea the first time you hear it?
    Also, has an idea itself ever been so compelling to you that you invested in it without it having demonstrated any traction etc?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      Hi! Thanks for having me here on Growthhackers. And thanks John for asking the first questions!

      We've invested in a number of companies pre-launch. When we do so, it's because it's a founder that we have a lot of conviction about and has really strong fit with the opportunity they are going after. We realize there is a ton of risk ahead, but we think founder/market fit are super important. Here is my decision tree: http://nextviewventures.com/blog/flowchart-vc-decision-making/

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        3 months ago #

        Can there be founder-market fit even if the founder has no domain expertise to speak of? Can that lack of "insider thinking" actually be their super power and unfair advantage?
        If yes, how would you determine that?

      • RG

        Rob Go

        3 months ago #

        Actually, yes. FMF can come from domain experience. But it can also come from skillset overlap. When we invested in Mealpal, the founder did not really have food/restaurant expertise. But had a lot of knowledge about rolling out a local marketplace across different geographies. So that was actually really relevant FMF

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    3 months ago #

    Bonjour Rob,

    Thank you for doing this AMA in our community.

    Here are a few questions for you, looking forward to new learning.

    1) From a growth competencies standpoint at an early stage startup you consider investing in, what do you look at first and foremost?
    2) What are the main criteria that trigger your investing attention on an early stage startup?
    3) Do you have a favorite startup growth story?

    Merci!

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      Actually, first and foremost I tend to look at founders that understand that all the best growth tactics in the world aren’t helpful unless you have a product that creates jaw-dropping customer value. The best form of customers acquisition will always be word of mouth and referral, and that requires a product that is worth talking about.

      The other thing I look for are founders that have a strong quantitative bent and a competitive streak. I find that these folks tend to believe in their inherent ability to figure stuff out and get better. They look at a marketing channel and just believe that if they keep working at it (with a good product) they can figure out how to make it profitable.

      5 Share
  • GH

    Glen Harper

    3 months ago #

    Hi Rob, thanks for being on the AMA! In your opinion, at what point should companies start to pour resources into growth? I understand that until a must-have use case is nailed, that all focus has to go into the product/service itself. Can you share some examples from your launches where you realized it was time to start running growth experiments because the product/service was now marketable? Thanks!

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      Personally, I think that some resources should be focused on growth as long as you have a live product in market. Growth is a mindset and a way of doing business, not just something you turn on and off. Of course, you divert way more attention and resources to growth when you have strong PMF, but even while you are searching for it, pushing hard towards some sort of growth target forces you in front of customers over and over again, and you learn a lot about what is and isn’t working about your product and your company than if you didn’t focus on it at all.

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    3 months ago #

    Hi Rob,

    NextView has clearly gone all in on content for a while. Can you talk about the key benefits and ROI to the organization? Is there a reason you can think of that an investment outfit can afford not to be doing content in today's environment?

    Thanks!
    Dani

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      I don’t like to be terribly prescriptive around what other investors should or shouldn’t do 😃 I think that content fits our place in the ecosystem and our own personal style. Some other investors speak at tons of conferences or go to a lot of cocktail parties. I’m too introverted to do that.

      My view though is that what has changed is that VC is much less of a cottage industry. The best VC funds essentially think about their business like… a normal business, and design a marketing and product funnel that is analogous to most businesses.

      For us, we think of our funnel as: awareness -> nurture -> sales -> close -> delight -> Refer

      Content is critical across the process. It drives top line awareness to a large number of people. It helps us nurture contacts because we are in front of them on a regular basis (like through subscription products like our podcast), it helps us sell and close because we demonstrate thought leadership, and it reminds founders we work with to refer us to others.

  • MD

    Mark Anthony de Jesus

    3 months ago #

    Hi Rob.

    Do you have any insights into the sequence of hires in a marketing department for a SaaS company (or in general) that tends to be most impactful?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      This is somewhat generic, but I think that in the beginning, you want to hire high-potential people who are somewhat generalists and can cover a lot of surface area when you are honing your product and GTM. As things mature, then you hire more specialists as well as more senior folks. A common mistake I see in startups is they hire someone way too senior too early. You need people who are not removed from the actual pwork in the beginning, unless you are a superstar founder who can really hire superstars from the very beginning. But this is usually a pretty high-burn proposition

  • JD

    James Dunn

    3 months ago #

    Has NextView ever invested in first time, unknown entrepreneurs? If yes, what did they do to convince your firm to invest?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      We do this quite a bit. Often, we have a bit of time to get to know the founders, but we try to move with conviction. We usually are trying to identify something superlative about the founders. We rely very heavy on references, even if the reference is just a professor or an employer. Most references hand out superlatives very very sparingly. So when we hear anyone say "She was the BEST at XYZ" we really pay attention.

      We also take a lot of cues from the demonstrated resourcefulness and hustle of a founder. We backed one team, Eliot Buchanan and Dan Choi the founders of Plastiq when they were finishing their undergraduate degrees. But buy the time we invested, they had learned as much about the payments industry as most people who have worked in it for years, and got both the former CEOs of Paypal and Amex to be investors or board members. That was amazing resourcefulness.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    3 months ago #

    Hey Rob - so cool to have you on!

    You mentioned a number of companies in your bio above that you invested in at the earliest stages.
    All of the companies mentioned are clearly diverse. But what key characteristics do you think do you think they shared at those early stages that convinced you to invest?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      Every company is different, and few companies have everything, especially at the early stage. Typically, I think about:

      1 Superlative founders. We prefer founders that have some elements about them that are extraordinary, even if it means that they seem unbalanced or misunderstood. This is in contrast to founders that are solid across the board. but not exceptional at any one thing.
      2. Jaw Dropping Customer Value (see above)
      3. Competition Crushing business model. A business model that gets better and better and more and more dominant as the business grows.
      4. Distribution advantage - some unfair advantage around GTM, either through strength of the team, some existing asset (social media following, SEO, etc), or something else.

      BTW, I borrow #2 and #3 from folks at Vistaprint, a company that created some amazing marketers. #4 is from my partner David :)

      3 Share
      • RG

        Rob Go

        3 months ago #

        On the follow-up question below about network effects. It's not just a network effect. It can be stuff like:

        - Scale advantages
        - Brand
        - Doing more and more things in-house that increases operational complexity but reduces cost

        The question is how quickly do these thing start to really kick in to give exponential benefits. If it takes a long time, it's tougher for us

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        3 months ago #

        "A business model that gets better and better and more and more dominant as the business grows" - feels like your describing network effects businesses - is that a correct read?
        If yes, is that a natural filter for investments?
        If not, can you elaborate more on what other business models get better and more dominant as the business grows?

      • JF

        j. alain ferry

        3 months ago #

        "We prefer founders that have some elements about them that are extraordinary, even if it means that they seem unbalanced or misunderstood."

        I love this, Rob!

  • DO

    Danielle Olivas

    3 months ago #

    Hey Rob,

    Thanks for spending time with us!

    What is your view on the overall venture capital and start-up macro-environment? Do you see any notable trends?

    I look forward to your response!

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      This is a broad question! I'd suggest following the content on our various blogs and podcasts. http://nextviewventures.com/platform/

      For the overall environment, we are as bullish as we've ever been. We may be closer to the peak of an economic cycle than the trough, but in the long arc of time, I think things are unbelievably exciting!

  • SK

    S Kodial

    3 months ago #

    What advice would you have for first time founders that have no inherent domain expertise but are passionate about solving huge problems in such verticals to raise their odds of success?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      I think the best companies are authentic ones that come out of direct and personal experiences. So if you feel like you don't hae direct domain experience, go get some! Being a founder can happen at any point. It's very hard to manufacture an idea just because you want to start a company. It's best to find companies that are solving problems you think you might be excited to solve and then learn in that environment.

      2 Share
      • RG

        Rob Go

        3 months ago #

        I'd say so.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        3 months ago #

        What if no one is solving the problem the way you're thinking about it? In that case is getting domain experience a matter of just doing it and validating your approach?

  • EJ

    Evan J. Andriopoulos

    3 months ago #

    Rob Go! I love your articles... now, for a bootstrap start up, limited human and financial resources, big on ideas, a basic 1st gen. product how can we growth hack followers to our blog for remote workers, and what steps should we take to onboard these to get them to use our free services (convert to paid later)?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      I'm not great at growthhacking a social following. I think it's generally best built over time. My suggestion though would be to try to either attach yourself to an existing community that overlaps well with your target audience and try to build your following there.

  • TN

    Tri Nguyen

    3 months ago #

    To steal from Peter Thiel: From a VC perspective, is there this one thing you believe to be true that most other VCs do not?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      Some people think that technology entrepreneurship is getting more centralized in silicon valley. I think it is only getting more geographically dispersed. But I think that a lot of people hold that belief.

      On a personal note, I'm a fairly religious person. I don't think that's terribly common in the industry, but I'm not alone either.

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    3 months ago #

    Hi Rob, Thanks for doing this AMA today!

    If a seed stage company whose model was such that people used the product only, say, once to a few times a year (like say home buying or health care or travel), how could they demonstrate traction to you in a way that would convince you to invest?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      We’ve invested in a few companies like this: Renoviso and Paintzen. What both hold in common is that the unit economics of each are really excellent. So there is a lot of margin to play with on the customer acquisition side. Also, we are more likely to invest in this kind of business when there is very little competition, vs. a space that is crowded with a lot of players.

      With Renoviso, the founder had a history of being great at quantitative marketing and customers acquisition. They also did some very small scale testing, where they spent the dollars required to drive demand (like 10 transactions) and fulfilled it in a very manual way.

      With Paintzen, we had to believe that there was a subsegment of the market that does have much higher repeat than one would expect. In their case, it is commercial customers. The repeat rates there are actually pretty astounding. They also had really interesting data around the cross-selling opportunities of their customers, which is very promising if/when they go into new verticals.

  • KK

    KD Kaivan Dave

    3 months ago #

    What do you look for when investing in companies? Is it the passion off the entrepreneur? The idea/product?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      I mentioned a few things above. Maybe another angle is I ask myself some heuristic questions, like:

      Do I really hope that this product exists?
      Would I be fired up to work for this company or person?
      Would I be fired up for my kids to work for this company one day (assuming they were older)
      Can this company be best in the world at something?

  • BC

    Billy Canu

    3 months ago #

    Hey Rob,

    My salons do about $10m yearly. I have worked towards "2.0"'ing the experience for investors, etc any recommendations on taking a brick and mortar and making it desirable to investors?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      Congrats! Building a $10M business is really great. I'd say investors will think largely about scalability. It's usually a combination of:

      - Is there a strong brand that will carry over to a broad geographic roll-out? Is there brand space in the industry that this company fits into?
      - Is the model well understood and predictable? Can we go from 10 locations to 100 locations pretty quickly with a pretty solid playbook?
      - What technology leverage exists in this business? Can this company scale even faster through more than just opening more locations?

      • RG

        Rob Go

        3 months ago #

        BTW, we don't really do retail/brick and mortar investing, so this is a somewhat uninformed POV :)

  • DG

    daniel gold

    3 months ago #

    IF the founder is pre launch where do you physically want them to be situated? Also what industries do you focus on in this scenario? Second question do you find most of your dealflow through introduction or do people come to you directly?

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      On location - do you mean what city? We think founders should be in the city where they want to build their business long term. But we aren't prescriptive about it. It's easier for us to help companies if they are in one of our core geographies (SF/NY/BOS) but we are flexible.

      In terms of industry - we are more likely to invest pre-launch in an industry that we understand or with a team that we know well. It's hard to go into an industry you don't know and work with an unfamiliar team pre-launch.

      In terms of our deal flow, most comes through introductions. But as I described in one of the answer above, the introductions are the result of a bunch of different tactics in a funnel of awareness -> nurture -> sell/close -> delight ->refer

  • LD

    Liam Doolan

    3 months ago #

    Hi Rob, great to meet you and thank you for taking your time.

    I am a Founder who has completed a small seed round and we have found product market fit with our mobile fashion app Comb, we're now looking to raise our next round of funding to scale our growth and team.

    Do you have any recommendations about how to approach a VC without an introduction, essentially 'going in cold' - have you seen any particular approaches that worked really well or caught your eye?

    Cheers!

    • RG

      Rob Go

      3 months ago #

      I think going in cold is really tough. You can try to start engaging with the investor on social media. You could also consider applying to an accelerator or leveraging the relationships with your earlier investors. Or, try to get some PR for the product on a blog or producthunt, and see if that drives and VC/investor users, and then reach out to them

      • RG

        Rob Go

        3 months ago #

        I do find that the earlier stage you are, the less likely a VC is to pursue an investment outside of their core geographjy

      • LD

        Liam Doolan

        3 months ago #

        Yeah 100% agree on going in cold being tough, we experienced it during our first round of funding but, I also completely understand from an investors point of view, a recommendation is always best.

        We have our first move onto web in the next few weeks which should generate some PR and awareness.

        A slightly unrelated question, do you see a lot of VCs sticking to their territories? We're based in the UK so tend to focus on raising finance from the UK and Europe based VCs. Would you encourage startups to look further afield?

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