VC Spotlight: Rob Go of NextView Ventures

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Intro to Rob Go & NextView Ventures:

Rob Go is a founding member of NextView Ventures, a Boston based micro VC, who as of February 2012 closed their inaugural seed-stage fund.....of $21 million! Rob brings an array of expertise to NextView and their portfolio companies. He is a Harvard Business School graduate, started his career at Parthenon Group (consulting firm), worked for eBay and Fidelity in product management roles, transitioned into venture capital with Spark Capital, and now is well on his way with NextView Ventures. With the hectic life of a VC: traveling, meetings, startup pitches, etc. Rob was kind enough to answer a few questions about his experiences as a VC. So lets get started:

What was the transition like going from a company (eBay, Fidelity, and Bzzagent) to a venture capital firm (Spark Capital & NextView Ventures)?

Two challenges:
1. Venture is quite lonely. Although you are spending time with lots of people all day long, you are rarely on the exact same side of the table as those you spend time with. There are often misalignment's with founders, and even your own colleagues are sometimes misaligned with you unless you are a true partner in the firm. This is unlike a company where there is more potential to be working collaboratively with others on a common problem with shared incentives.

2. Venture is very negative. You say "no" all day long, and you tend to spend most of your time working with companies that are struggling vs. the ones that are doing great. This is pretty negative and can be draining. In an operating role, you feel like you are pushing the ball down the field all day long. In VC, you can go 6 months+ without making an investment, and it's easy to look back and feel like you have little to show for that time.

Both of these issues were solved (somewhat) by founding my own firm. My partners and I are highly aligned and collaborative as equal partners, so that helps the loneliness. We are also building our own franchise and reputation all day long, which helps a bit with the negativity.

Team is an important part of any company. Can you share what drew you to Lee and David and why you guys make such a great team?

1. We all combine operating, entrepreneurial, and institutional investing experience
2. We all share a common ethos which we re-enforce by inculcating certain words into our everyday language. These words are on our website and are really core to our culture and chemistry as a team.
3. We are an equal partnership, which creates shared alignment
4. We had all known each other for 4+ years. In some cases, we have known each other for closer to 10 years
5. We have lots of similarities, but complimentary skill sets and styles when it comes to a lot of the things that matter in VC, including:

- Personality fit with founders
- Sub-Domain expertise
- Operating expertise (marketing vs. product vs. analytic etc)

Check out the team of NextView Ventures

Why seed stage? Is there a difference in the attitudes and appreciation of early startups and entrepreneurs at the seed stage?

There is a significant market need. On one hand, the best funds have gotten bigger and bigger, with funds over $300M, in some cases over $1B doing early stage investments. On the other, capital efficiency has brought down the cost of starting software businesses. This creates an obvious market gap. Large funds are highly misaligned with founders when making a very small investment, unless they choose to treat those investments fully equivalent to their other much larger investments. But that just isn't practical most of the time. Dedicated seed funds have the incentive alignment and focus to be most impactful to companies at the earliest stages.

You talk about lagging indicators [on your blog] in relation to Microsoft's purchase of Yammer; how does NextView stay ahead of these indicators and trends?

Stealing a bit from Paul Graham's recent blog post, we try to "live in the future" and think about what's missing.

Paul Graham:

Live in the future, then build what's missing. That describes the way many if not most of the biggest startups got started. Neither Apple nor Yahoo nor Google nor Facebook were even supposed to be companies at first. They grew out of things their founders built because there seemed a gap in the world.

Can you give an example of an opportunity that you passed on and now regret?

When I was at Spark, I passed on Playfish because it just seemed too speculative and too "hard" given that it was a European company publishing social games. EA bought the company less than 2 years later for $400M.

I loved your blog post on the 5 most under-hyped companies. Right now, what is the most under-hyped company that stands out in your mind?

Our own portfolio aside, I'm surprised at how little you hear about ZocDoc, which I think is probably one of the top 2 or 3 companies in New York. But you never hear about it.

ZocDoc is an online medical care scheduling service, providing free of charge medical care search facility for end users by integrating information about medical practices and doctors' individual schedules in central location.

Where do you see yourself and NextView in 5-10 years?

We will be doing the same thing we are doing today, trying to invest in early stage companies solving problems that matter.

Thank's Rob for all your insights.

For those of you interested in the Boston Startup Community, check out Rob Go's Guide to the Boston Tech Community.

Comments (6)

Dec 19, 2012

Nice post. Good insight.

Dec 19, 2012

Good post - much appreciated.

Dec 20, 2012

Awesome. Informative link http://paulgraham.com/startupideas.html

PE is the new black.

Dec 20, 2012

What are your thoughts on ZocDoc's ability to monetize their traction? I was told by an investor that looked at them that he felt like there was a "lot of smoke and mirrors going on there."

Great post, by the way.

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