Friends of Roble: October 2023

Roble Ventures
October 4, 2023
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We are excited to kick off our monthly newsletter to our Friends of Roble Ventures subscribers. This newsletter will differ from the others you probably receive — and we hope it will be much more helpful — in a few key ways.

Given that Roble Ventures is a thematic fund, we will describe our market roadmaps detailing our views on the future of AI at work and in learning environments over the next decade. We’ll also showcase new investments that illustrate those roadmaps.

Lastly, while we are excited about what we’ve been seeing in the early-stage development ecosystem, we won’t shy away from giving you the straight scoop and risk factors we see ahead.

Let us know your feedback by replying to this email. We appreciate you being a part of our community.


Sergio Monsalve, David Perez-Hernandez, and Emily Prechtl

The Roble Ventures Team

Lens Into a Human-Enabled Future


How is AI shaping the future of work?

Our working thesis: AI is a net positive force on human enablement efforts, and has the potential to reimagine the division of labor between humans and technology. It can automate tasks, augment capabilities, and align entire teams.

In this post, we look at the most recent Y Combinator Summer 2023 batch to see what top early-stage founders are solving for and how AI-enabled software will impact professions like software engineering, sales, marketing, and customer success.

Read the full post here.

At the inaugural AI Conference in San Francisco this September, we delved deeper into the cutting edge of AI development. Below are the 3 key takeaways we have been processing:

Read the full post here.

These takeaways spurred a lot of questions and conversation around some complex topics, including:

  • How do we prepare for or offset the massive employment dislocation that's coming with AI?
  • How will wages be under pressure, and how will AI be a net positive for employment in the long run?
  • Can we address employment dislocations with policy?
  • Do AI startups have any barriers to entry and defensibility?
  • How should the wider public be trained and educated when transitioning to a world with ubiquitous AI?

We plan to address these concerns in upcoming content. Many of these critical questions educate our own due diligence on new and existing investments.

Relevant Investments in Human Enablement Founders


Hyperbound AI: Hyperbound is using proprietary data and bi-directional data gathering to automate lead generation and qualification for enterprises — freeing up sales and marketing team members from the time it takes to roll out a personalized, multi-touch email campaign, and enabling them to focus on what they do best: connecting with customers and understanding their needs. Hyperbound AI is not just a technological advancement but a catalyst for reshaping how we approach work, fostering a more efficient and skill-enhancing division of labor in the AI era.

Tiny Comet Studios: Tiny Comet is an innovative game studio that creates history-based games designed for school-aged players. At the heart of their games lies the perfect blend of entertainment and learning, ensuring an engaging and enriching experience for young learners. With the average teenager spending 6 hours per week playing video games, the medium is a vastly underestimated immersive learning method that meets kids where they are. With Tiny Comet, we are exploring Roblox as ground zero for educational video games, which have the potential to boost student engagement by as much as 70%.

Teachy: In Brazil and various parts of Latin America, research shows that teachers spend an average of 20 hours a week preparing lessons and evaluating students, all unpaid. Built by a solid technical team, Teachy leverages new technologies in AI, large language models, and natural language processing to provide educators with tools to help them be more effective inside and outside the classroom — all while adhering to broader policy requirements for the Brazilian educational system.

What Keeps Us Up at Night


In addition to macro factors like the looming political backdrop of 2024 and the high-inflation environment, we see one major AI-specific risk factor that keeps us up at night: An accelerated exuberance among angel and seed investors when it comes to AI.

The challenge is that over 95% of the investments we’re currently seeing in AI have no competitive advantage, which will lead to massive losses over time. To combat that, we have focused on a particular set of diligence requirements to ensure we are testing for viability and a long-term moat.

In AI, we are convinced that access to proprietary data is the key to success for startups, and we have formulated a playbook to identify the business models that are best positioned to gain that access. The ingredients include:

  • 4 key ways to access proprietary data. Our primary framework is a simple analysis of the data used to train a company’s fine-tuned LLM. We look at Real Time Data vs. Stored Data and Private/Internal Data vs. Public/External Data.
  • Startups need to target the right customers who give them a data advantage. Founders need to be thoughtful about who they sign on as their early adopters. They should aim for customers who are more willing to share their data and co-mingle it with others’ in order to fuel faster machine learning. Selecting customers who are willing to make the data tradeoff for product value will be a key success factor.
  • Being thoughtful around a winning business model that accelerates data acquisition is critical. Certain business models will better set up AI startups for data access. For example, acting as a managed service provider, not SaaS, may be the go-to approach to gain that data advantage early on.

Overall, we see major network effect possibilities in AI-enabled products, which will bode well for large winners in the space. Keep an eye out for a deeper dive later this month.

What Caught Our Attention


Startups v. Incumbents — The Battle for AI’s Application Layer (Lightspeed Ventures)

The Financial Opportunity of AI (a16z)

Brad Gerstner says AI will be bigger than the internet, bigger than mobile (CNBC)

Generative AI and the future of work in America (McKinsey)

Evidence of the Effects of AI on Knowledge Worker Productivity and Quality (SSRN)

Are you a founder currently raising in the human enablement 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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