Friends of Roble: November 2023

Roble Ventures
November 1, 2023
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At Roble Ventures, we want to take a moment to share our sorrow and empathize with all innocent civilians tragically affected by the recent geopolitical conflicts and the humanitarian crises occurring in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Many of our LPs, entrepreneurs, and fellow venture investors we have spoken with over the past months share our concerns and sympathies.

On a more positive note, these partners have made an increasingly stronger case for optimism regarding what lies ahead for our startup ecosystem in the coming year: we believe that the worst is ending and that we are now past the bottom of these macroeconomic challenges.

2024 is shaping up to be an incredible vintage for early-stage startups, much like 2010 was in the aftermath of the financial crisis. We are finally seeing enterprise budgets stabilize, and their purchasing appetites increase as a result — with clear evidence for this coming from our portfolio companies’ acceleration in revenue and inbound interest for financing. This bodes well for all startups on the cutting edge of emerging technologies, particularly those with a differentiated strategy and approach around transformational inventions such as AI.

For this November newsletter, we’ll present some recent thinking our team has done around how AI startups can win. We will also share some relevant articles to help you anticipate the venture capital environment going into the new year.

David, Emily, and Sergio

The Roble Ventures Team

Lens Into a Human-Enabled Future


Overall, we remain incredibly optimistic about the potential of AI startups. We see real traction within the future of work and learning on the horizon. However, there are some troubling patterns and undeniable challenges that these companies have ahead of them — mainly centered on a lack of differentiation or competitive advantage in their products.

After reviewing thousands of early-stage AI startups over the past year, our team has compiled a playbook that will be beneficial to founders who are looking to build something unique and ripe for VC investment.

Read the full post here.

There are four critical elements to our playbook:

1. Successful AI startups will win by accessing data, and what keys a fine-tuned LLM to serve within its particular vertical is outsized access to proprietary data: data that is relevant, domain-specific, and context-heavy. It can come from a unique blend of public and private sources.

2. Feeding off of access to this high-quality proprietary data, network effects take hold. This provides more value for clients, higher usage of the product, and more data that improves the model over time.

3. With access to proprietary data as the name of the game, startups building their go-to-market motion will want to prioritize clients who are more willing to enter into a robust data partnership, exchanging data-sharing permissions for product value. Choose your customers wisely.

4. Considering the rich history of managed service models benefiting from open-source movements (see Red Hat with Linux, Cloudera with Hadoop, and GitHub with Git), founders should consider whether SaaS will be the most beneficial business model for an AI startup in the first inning of this megatrend. A “do it for me” approach, rather than the “self serve” approach, might be more attractive to customers who don’t have the proper in-house AI expertise.

Read the full post here.

We also had the chance to discuss a roadmap for AI in the future of learning with others at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. We came away from this forum with several vital predictions:

See Sergio's post on LinkedIn here.

What Caught Our Attention


Venture Capital Spring is here in 2024 (TechCrunch)

Business Trends for 2024 (Forbes)

Warmly pivots from Zoom tool to directing warm leads to sales (TechCrunch)

Microsoft could soar 22% and will top a $3 trillion valuation as it's best positioned to monetize generative AI, Morgan Stanley says (Business Insider)

AI Funding Soars to $17.9 Billion While Rest of Tech Slumps (Bloomberg)

Navigating the AI Era: How Can Companies Unlock Long-Term Strategic Value? (Goldman Sachs)

6 VCs explain how startups can capture and defend market share in the AI Era (TechCrunch)

More Than 50% of Software Engineering Leader Roles Will Explicitly Require Oversight of Generative AI by 2025 (Gartner)

Are you a founder currently raising in the Future of Work or Future of Learning 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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