Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Ask A VC Anything! Roy Bahat, Bloomberg Beta: 10 Key Highlights


For our 17th Silicon Global Online episode, Ask A VC Anything, our featured guest was Roy Bahat. Bahat is the head of early stage fund Bloomberg Beta. You can see the firm’s full investing operating manual on Github! In our fascinating conversation with Roy, we discussed Bloomberg Beta and their system of operating, what defines the future of work, and tech hubs outside of Silicon Valley and the Northeast.

10 Key takeaways: 

Online conversation with VC Roy Bahat and Rebecca Fannin, host of Silicon Global Online.

·       As a new entrant into the early stage venture capital world in 2013, Bloomberg Beta has done things differently. For instance, Bloomberg Beta has made its investing process transparent, using an open source software called Github. Bloomberg Beta put its operating manual on Github, and made it public.

·      Bloomberg Beta focuses on the future of work. This can mean anything that makes work more productive or humane including productivity tools (Bloomberg Beta was an investor in Slack before the IPO) and an entire stack of work-related technology solutions like what is used in data centers, data processing technology, business applications like CRM and HR administration tech, and professional media.

·       For Bloomberg Beta, the future of work can also mean investing in companies with such a profound idea embedded in how they operate that they could set a template for other businesses and industries. An example of this is in Bloomberg Beta’s portfolio company Flexport, a shipping broker that uses AI to broker deals at a fraction of the cost to before.  

·       Bahat believes that the best investments produce disagreement. So, while other firms have a decision-making process of group agreement, Bloomberg Beta wanted to see what it looked like if only one person at the firm had to say yes for an investment to be made. This way, founders can speak to anyone on the Bloomberg Beta team and know that they were speaking to someone empowered to make the important decisions.

·       Bahat remarks, “This philosophy was uniquely suited to early stage investing. The sin at this stage is not investing in something that fails, but in failing to invest in something that becomes the next big thing.” A typical venture fund will take 7-9 years before they’ll know if an individual investment will be successful. Bloomberg Beta is a seed-stage fund, so the firm’s time horizon is 9-11 years. 

·       Bloomberg Beta focuses on the Bay Area and the NY, Boston, DC areas because that’s where their main network is. Currently around 5-10% of their investments come outside of the US.

In 2017, in conjunction with NGO New America, Bloomberg Beta released findings on the future of work throughout the country. This coalition between New America and Bloomberg Beta led Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio to invite Bloomberg Beta to see the venture capital ecosystem of his constituents. This led to comeback city tours where Bloomberg Beta was able to build a network in underserved places like Ryan’s Youngstown, Ohio. In 2018, Tim Ryan announced a $2.25M Comeback Capital Fund created to bridge the divide between Silicon Valley Investors and Midwestern startups.

Bahat, who does due-diligence on 300-400 companies a year, believes “wasting a founder’s time is a sin.” He visits geographies in the US outside of Silicon Valley and the Northeast that are on the rise, and calls Atlanta, “the most underappreciated tech ecosystem.

Bahat weighed in on growing tensions between the US and China and believes the forces of decoupling are winning. He illustrates this viewpoint with Bloomberg Beta portfolio company InCountry, which provides a cloud service to other software companies that want to customize their national presence by country. This move towards different national internets and away from a singular global “Internet”, is seen by Bahat as a troubling trend. But Bloomberg Beta saw InCountry as a way to capitalize on a movement that has already begun. 

Bahat noted a trend in 2020 that is more in focus than ever. That is the need for diversity on the cap table. Not just in terms of race and gender, but for differing investment perspectives and knowledge. A successful venture-backed company now might explicitly want an investor with experience in a certain geographical area, or expertise in certain technologies. Bahat notes that this is in stark difference to earlier years where one investor might want to take on the whole investment. 


Roy Bahat has been the Head of Bloomberg Beta since 2013. Previously, Roy held positions in several industries including starting as an Associate at McKinsey, a Senior Policy Director with the Office of the Mayor in NYC in 2002-2003, a Vice President at News Corporation, a President at IGN Entertainment, and a Co-Founder and Chairmen at gaming console startup OUYA Inc.
In addition to his role at Bloomberg Beta, Bahat is also a lecturer at the Haas School of Business, where he teaches an annual seven-week course on media to MBA students. He is also an organizer at #walkthevote – a non-partisan movement to support community leaders and voters organizing local “voting parades” to drop off absentee ballots.
Roy can be found on twitter at @roybahat, where he shares his thoughts, what he’s working on at Bloomberg Beta, and a video series called #thisisnotadvice
Roy Bahat holds an A.B. in Social Studies from Harvard, and an M.Phil in Economics (urban economics) from the University of Oxford.

submitted by Michael Weiss at Silicon Dragon