Friends of Roble: May 2024

Roble Ventures
May 9, 2024
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Our recent webinar on “Creating an Effective Board of Directors” covered a lot of ground. We discussed topics like balancing the strengths and backgrounds of your board members, setting board norms early on, and enabling a board culture of transparency, accountability, and humility.

You can see the full recording here (password below). As a quick recap, here are three core questions we received from founders looking to develop a great board of directors:

  1. Board Challenges: What are the critical challenges of a venture-funded early-stage board? What are some non-obvious areas where these boards encounter dysfunction, and how can we avoid them?
    • The two-class shareholder system may lead to an imbalance on the board, with power going to those who hold the most equity, rather than distributed evenly among different perspectives.
    • When the independent seat remains powerless or vacant, the board may suffer from a lack of much-needed objectivity in decision-making.
    • After multiple rounds of financing, the board has too many VCs, who may have different incentives than what’s best for the company.
    • Many of the above can be mitigated by having a board roadmap in place early on, allowing you to plan for what kinds of expertise you’re looking for from your potential board members, as well as how to acknowledge and avoid conflicts of interest.
  1. Board Development: If you were a founder in the early stages of developing your board, what are the top things you would consider? When considering potential board members, how do you prioritize different professions, experiences, and accomplishments?
    • “When you choose your investors, you’re choosing your board”—so in your earlier funding rounds, prioritize VCs who have been entrepreneurs and/or have operational experience. They bring empathy and sensitivity to what you’re going through as a founder because they’ve been in your shoes. 
    • You should also be on the lookout for board members who can scale with you; ideally, this is someone with extensive board experiences with companies at all stages.
    • Be intentional with choosing independent board members who not only have a passion for the problem you are solving and bring various perspectives to the table, but who also complement each other around key areas of development: product & technology, sales & GTM, finance & operations, and teambuilding & culture. Maybe one member has their own experience exiting a company in your industry, while another is there because of their knowledge of a market you want to break into, and another has recommendations on people management. A well-rounded board is more agile than one stacked with the same kinds of specialists.
  1. Board Best Practices: What are the most essential tips you can give an entrepreneur when running a board meeting?
    • Set board norms early. Invest time in working with your board to agree on norms for how to operate and navigate disagreements effectively in order to promote fruitful debate and accountability. Sometimes an informal board can be convened before it’s constituted so a founder can “practice” at running the meeting and empower all members to speak up.
    • Do the pre-work to have a more effective meeting. Send slides, discuss sensitive issues with individual members, and agree on the meeting objectives all in advance.
    • You don’t need to be perfect. Just be honest and transparent; share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Especially in the early stages, your board is there to help you—so make sure you know how to ask for it.

Board development is a juicy topic, and one that we’ll continue to do deep dives into on our blog and this newsletter. Be sure to check out the recording for anecdotes that illustrate the importance of choosing the right people to serve on your board.

Lens into a Human-Enabled Future


Thank you to our audience for coming prepared with so many thought-provoking questions, and thank you to our hosts—Tom Bogan from Workday, Jennifer Dulski from Rising Team, and our Founding Partner Sergio Monsalve—for sharing their own experiences and stories from the boardroom to help founders and board members alike better address the needs of the companies they serve.

You can read our recap post for our high-level takeaways and watch the full recording here with the password &8tnM4*+.

If there’s a topic you’d like to see our team tap into our Advisor Network and trusted partners for a deep dive, let us know by replying to this email.

Last month, Sergio welcomed Udemy founder Eren Bali to his Stanford GSB class to debut their published case study on the edtech giant’s founding story:

David also attended the first-ever Texas Venture Gala & Forum, a conference dedicated to bringing together private and public stakeholders to bolster Texas’ entrepreneurial ecosystem.

He spoke on a panel discussing the importance of making venture capital more accessible to a broader set of founders, and encouraging more Texans to consider entrepreneurship as a vehicle for solving problems. Additionally—how can we start to look beyond the traditional markers of success when identifying high-potential founders in overlooked areas?

The Latest From Our Founders


Tiny Comet co-founder Emily Tierney spoke on a panel at LA Hacks, southern California’s largest collegiate hackathon, about the intersection of tech, gaming, and entertainment—and inspiring the next generation of builders.

Inspirit has partnered with the College Football Playoff Foundation and the NFL Foundation to provide Bates Academy (Detroit, MI) with two years of access to their platform, which includes modules on soft skills and job interview simulations as well as training in skilled trades.

Rising Team founder & CEO Jennifer Dulski spoke in a Forbes piece on the controversial career practice of “NATO Applying”—a Gen Z / Millennial term for applying for jobs without an emotional attachment to the outcome.

Hyperbound co-founder and CTO Atul Raghunathan will be a judge in an upcoming Elevate accelerator event. He also returned to The Ignite Podcast to discuss the company’s pivot.

What Keeps Us Up at Night


By Sergio Monsalve

The headlines declaring the "death of VC" seem to be reaching new heights despite evidence that venture-funded companies continue to create life-changing innovations. 

This week’s most recent tech IPO—Rubrik, a leading cybersecurity company founded in 2014—reminds us that venture capital is a powerful driver of economic and social good. Investors and entrepreneurs worked tirelessly together at Rubrik for over a decade to create a company that now delivers essential backup and safe recovery products to keep businesses alive even after a devastating ransomware attack. To me, this resilience and creativity combined with (and enabled by) capital are more representative of venture capital than the media-driven clickbait declaring Silicon Valley’s impending doom.

Disciplined diligence and cost-consciousness are always necessary, but so are bold investments into disruptive innovations. It is possible to strike the right balance without throttling the momentum of the right founders with the right ideas. 

While we are increasingly concerned about the trend of media bending to the whims of the attention economy, we hold fast to the idea that there are fundamentally revolutionary companies in the making today, and they need support now. As with what we saw with Rubrik, real success takes patience and sacrifice (sometimes ten years of it), so I hope we all give these wins the media attention they deserve to continue inspiring all founders to make their ambitions a reality.

What Caught Our Attention


You can’t manage what you can’t measure: metrics matter! (Substack) – Awesome blog on GTM motions and the various KPIs to measure success. ~David

Despite gen AI hype, venture capitalists are still largely on the sidelines (CNBC)

How to invest in AI’s next phase (J.P. Morgan) – "Most of the unrecognized value in AI is in areas such as software and applications. We call this the AI 2.0 theme, which focuses on “adopters”. Industries such as customer service, healthcare, finance, and logistics are poised for significant transformation through AI."

Latino-led venture capital firms helped create more than 50,000 jobs (Axios)

The AI Workforce is Here: The Rise of a New Labor Market (NFX) – NFX predicts a labor transition that sees AI services replacing human-centric services enabled by SaaS tools. Here they use a term that we think aptly describes our own view of AI in the long run, “Jevons paradox”: where increased efficiency leads to a short term reduction (in this case, the human workforce), but long-term surge in demand. AI will also allow for rapid re-skilling, allowing people to align themselves with these new opportunities. ~Emily

Jamie Dimon says AI may be as impactful on humanity as printing press, electricity and computers (CNBC) – In his annual letter to shareholders, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase chose AI as his first topic of issues facing the biggest U.S. bank by assets: “While we do not know the full effect or the precise rate at which AI will change our business — or how it will affect society at large — we are completely convinced the consequences will be extraordinary.”

Superintelligent AI (Tool) – Very practical, 5-10 min courses on how to use existing AI tools across many use cases. Created by the founder of The AI Breakdown, a great short-form podcast on major topics across AI & tech, and touches on the future of work often. ~David

How GenAI Will Impact the Future of Work (Gartner)

AI companies are running out of data to train their models (Morning Brew) – “The internet is so tapped out of quality data that Meta reportedly discussed buying publisher Simon & Schuster for the information contained in its books.”

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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