Oh Ship! Show Presents: From Engineer to Venture Capitalist with Ross Fubini

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It’s never too late or too big of a jump to pursue your passions.

Early technologies like Netscape made the internet accessible and more user-friendly to all. Pioneering this era by creating user-friendly technologies might be enough of a success story for many. But for Ross Fubini, these feats ignited a passion to give back to others and help to make their dreams come true. That’s why he made the leap from engineer to venture capitalist — to help bring future technological turning points to fruition. 

Let Us Introduce Ross Fubini, Founder of XYZ Venture Capital

Ross Fubini started his career as a core engineer for Netscape before becoming a founder. He served as the Founder and CTO of Cube Tree, the Director of Engineering at Plum Tree Software, and the Co-Founder of Village Global. I tout him as a “super connector” of people, given his varied background in technology, and he’s used this talent to develop XYZ Venture Capital. 

His words: “I get to work with amazing people who build products indistinguishable from magic.”

Here’s a closer look at his passion for scaling up great ideas via funding and the right opportunity.

Freddie: Why did XYZ Venture Capital take a very different approach to funding than your previous venture capital roles?

Having had a tremendous journey developing internet technologies for the masses, Ross didn’t know at the time he was playing a role in creating a whole new industry. He didn’t realize it would become a billion dollar industry. He was having fun and investing himself in a “cool idea.”

“VMWare, Google, Netscape… All these things we think are obvious now were not obvious at the time. I’ve also had the pleasure of working alongside incredible people: John Coons (now a leader at PayPal), Glen Kelman (CEO at Redfin), David Meyer (SVP at Databricks), and many more.”

Having learned from and been surrounded by brilliant minds and ideas throughout his career, Ross chose to pursue early-stage companies once he made the switch to venture capital investor.

“I didn’t want to fund mature companies. I believe I have a unique insight from other people in venture capital and I want to use it. I can see individuals at the idea stage and getting very, very involved in those companies and that’s why I ended up going there and helping them start that fun.”

Freddie: How do you stand out in the highly saturated venture capital space?

As with any venture capital business, Ross and XYZ Venture Capital are great at fundraising. But their value to helping customers learn, build, and grow doesn’t end there.

“Fundraising is our goal. That means the day we invest, it’s one of the things we’re going to prove in the next year. We flesh out what we’re not going to prove, what we’re focusing on, the iteration of the priorities, the hiring support, etc. As you get closer to the next round, it’s all about the fundraising story. Who should we tell it to? That is the thing that we are uniquely good at.“

Freddie: What sectors are you really passionate about investing in?

One of the reasons Ross believes his firm has been so successful is because they focus on industries in which they have experience and can pick up on shifts and changes within those industries that pave the way for emerging themes.

“I’ve been passionate about investing in public sector environments because of a personal connection. My grandfather served as the assistant secretary of defense. He had a tremendous mind, spoke 12 languages, and had multiple PhDs. Having grown up outside of DC helped me develop an interest in the public sector. I’ve also had opportunities to get into this industry. I was very close to the founding team at this big data company called Palantir, which uniquely did a lot of work in the public sector. Being able to see them execute and learn how the government makes purchases has led us to back over 25 firms who are developing solutions for the public sector.”

Freddie: What do you look for when choosing companies to invest in?

Choosing companies to receive funding takes a multi-faceted approach. To start, Ross looks for deep insight into the company and the industry. Questions like “Who is the audience?” and “What makes this unique?” come into play. 

“When we first back a company, we’re looking for deep insight about a market that is shifting that we can see. We are a surfboard on that wave and asking whether we can see the wave happening or feel it shifting. We’re building things like infrastructure, fintech, and unique tooling to enable their fraud decisioning systems or whatever it is. This comes from real education, talking to customers, and seeing a constant unmet need.”

Freddie: What advice can you share with entrepreneurs who are considering raising a first or next round of funding?

Venture capital funding is starting to change, for better or worse. Ross mentions there’s an economic change happening. While funding is still out there, it’s more important than ever for entrepreneurs to focus their efforts and connect with the right investor firms for money.

“There are venture teams that are maybe underpaid. People are nervous about their jobs, even though they’re getting funded. There’s still excitement for businesses, but it’s like feeling worse about your 401K because it’s lower. 

“I think the biggest mistake we see people making in fundraising is actually one of sales qualifications. Think about it: does the person you’re pitching do the kind of thing you’re trying to do? You don’t want to get a hold of an investor list and bomb everyone. The best way to reach me — or any other investment company — is to go through someone who knows me. Sure, I’ll read every email, but someone who is already connected to me will break through a little easier.”

Hear the full conversation on the Oh Ship! Show on YouTube, episode #104: Listen, Subscribe, and Learn.


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Freddie Laker

A veteran digital marketer with experience working with some of the world's biggest global brands. He now focuses on providing interim leadership to PE-backed firms.

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