Friends of Roble: March 2024

Roble Ventures
March 6, 2024
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We’re not even through the first quarter of 2024, and we've already witnessed some incredible technological developments. Our economy and financial markets are thriving, with tech giants like the Fab 4 (Microsoft, Nvidia, Amazon, and Meta) leading the charge in AI development. The true heartbeat of disruptive innovation—the startup ecosystem—has been lagging behind the public big tech companies but is finally picking up steam again, a long overdue change.

At a macro level, it’s worth reflecting on a labor market prediction we recently heard from Greg Brown, CEO of Udemy: By 2025, 85 million jobs could be displaced due in part to advances in GenAI, while at the same time, 97 million new jobs will be created to take their place. This dramatic rotation of our workforce, which we are now experiencing as continued tech sector layoffs, demands innovations around new ways to work—more details on this topic below in “What Keeps Us Up at Night.”

In many ways, early-stage future-of-work startups are entering their “Super Bowl,” and we think our modern-day 49ers (our entrepreneurs) are set to win this time. The most common tips we can give these founders based on common mistakes we’ve seen are twofold:

  • Focus on a narrow use case you can defend and grow from there. Many startups try to tackle too broad of a use case for their products, making them lose focus and need help locking down their ICP. In the age of AI, starting from a focused & seemingly narrow place is even more critical.
  • Make sure you move quickly and pivot quicker. Many startups that grew up in the pre-2021 times of abundant capital have yet to learn how to remain frugal and make the necessary changes when things are not working. During times of capital scarcity, it can be helpful to think of money as a proxy for “shots on goal,” aka a limited resource you want to preserve and extend.  

In the coming months, we’ll spotlight some of our uncommon founders driving uncommon returns as the core of our playbooks—our own shots on goal towards a better future of work.

David, Emily, and Sergio
The Roble Ventures Team

Lens Into a Human-Enabled Future


Sergio recently attended Upfront Summit, where discussions with founders and investors alike reaffirmed the importance of adding high-quality, differentiated value to our entrepreneurs, and gave some hints for where to find capital in 2024 and 2025.

Read Sergio's takeaways here.

With public big tech companies' record-level performances credited to innovations in AI, as well as expected 2024 IPOs, our eyes are on the curiosity and capital we see entering the private markets as winning investors look for next-generation private tech companies as a way to diversify their portfolios.

Read more.

Yesterday, teen authors Fenley Scurlock and Jason Liaw launched Down to Business: 51 Industry Leaders Share Practical Advice on How to Become a Young Entrepreneur.

Sergio had the pleasure of speaking with the young authors and sharing his secrets for success in business, leadership, and life for Gen Z entrepreneurs, along with those of 50 other industry leaders:

“Even though you’re starting the company, maybe by yourself, the most important thing is getting people to buy into your dream and be part of the dream [...] I put a lot of thought into whether I want to invest in a company not just because it is going to make money but because it is going to do good for society too.”

View at Penguin Random House

The Latest From Our Founders


Both Teachy and UBITS recently announced their placement on the Latin American EdTech 100! This prestigious annual ranking, prepared by HolonIQ, recognizes the most innovative educational technology startups with the greatest growth potential in the region.

See the full list here.

Rising Team CEO Jennifer Dulski was featured in a Forbes article on how to navigate lower employee satisfaction and engagement in order to bolster stronger team connection—and how ‘appreciation languages’ and even AI tools can help leaders accomplish this:

“The winning formula for supercharging team engagement and performance will be combining connective team-building activities with AI-generated recommendations based on insights about your team [...] When people feel properly recognized, it creates a deeper sense of belonging and purpose.”

Product School recognized Dragonboat as one of the world’s best digital products for roadmapping in 2023!

Read more here.

Hyperbound, in their pivot to support SDRs with their AI-enabled simulated roleplay platform, has partnered with CourseCareers to enable thousands of their SDRs to enter into tech sales with confidence.

What Keeps Us Up at Night

By Sergio Monsalve

AI is becoming frighteningly competent.

It threatens to displace many, evidenced by the continued layoffs and increasing operating margins throughout the tech world.

For example, a couple of weeks after the launch of OpenAI’s new text-to-video model, we participated in a discussion on the future of animators and animation studios at a conference in Los Angeles, where DreamWorks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg mentioned that 90% of animation jobs would soon be lost due to technologies like Sora. Executives are already making decisions to cut human jobs in favor of the automation that AI promises. Just look at Tyler Perry, who recently canceled his $800M studio expansion plans after he saw what Sora could do to the movie industry:

“As I was looking at it, I immediately started thinking of everyone in the industry who would be affected by this, including actors and grip and electric and transportation and sound and editors, and looking at this, I’m thinking this will touch every corner of our industry [...] The technology is moving so quickly. I feel like everybody [...] is running a hundred miles an hour to try and catch up, to try and put in guardrails and to try and put in safety belts to keep livelihoods afloat.”

The massive displacement of white-collar workers is already here, and gaining steam quickly. While AI itself holds the potential to create a whole host of jobs—machine learning engineers, prompt engineers, data scientists, security and policy researchers—it is unclear what will happen to those whose work has been deemed (correctly or incorrectly) as replaceable.

The temporary displacement of those in the animation industry and many others will create chaos and dissatisfaction that may make for an uncertain future in the short term. However, as new paradigms are established, we’ll see immense opportunities to reshape our work with the help of technology that enables us as humans.

In the long run, AI will help these displaced workers define a new way of working, where their creativity and critical thinking are valued at the premiums they deserve.

What Caught Our Attention


Fund/Build/Scale podcast (and corresponding Substack) by former TechCrunch editor Walter Thompson. If you’re looking for in-the-weeds technical discussions on building an AI startup, jump on the bandwagon now and subscribe to this new pod. –Emily

OpenCloud 2023: Software’s AI-Driven Watershed Moment (Battery Ventures) Good GTM baselines for startups –David

A Scientific Approach to VC (NFX) This is a great analytical breakdown of the game that early-stage VCs have to play in order to return their funds, and how founders can rise above the noise to get noticed. –Emily

Skills Tech Market is Booming (SHRM) Good article on the growing demand for platforms to help organizations better assess their internal skillsets and gaps to optimize their workforce. I remember Sergio mentioning this a few weeks ago. It’s a smaller market today, but if there's 1-2 exciting new startups in this space I can see the market size growing faster than expected and more companies demanding this solution. –David

Turpentine Podcast Channel (Apple Podcasts) Worth adding this channel to your rotation… –Sergio

Venture Investors Keep the Breaks On for the First Month of 2024 (Crunchbase) Venture funding was subdued in the first month of 2024, clocking in below even the already depressed monthly averages of 2023, Crunchbase data shows. What will it take to kickstart startup investment this year? –David

Three Questions Every AI Enterprise Startup Should Ask (Forbes)

- What is the highest value customer use case you can solve?

- Is there proprietary data that you can access or develop to create a moat?

- Can you insert your product alongside incumbent vendors?

Are you a founder currently raising in the future of work space, or know someone who is? Pitch us.

About the author

Roble Ventures
noun: oak

Roble Ventures is a future-of-work focused fund investing in technologies that enable people, teams, and organizations to achieve their most ambitious work.

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