Lisa  

This is Lisa Calhoun and I’m a General partner at Atlanta venture capital firm, Valor Ventures. Today for the Atlanta Startup Podcast. We have a venture capital investor that is as excited about the southeast as I am. Ross Kimbel from Silicon Road Ventures. Welcome to the program.

Ross Kimbel

Thanks, Lisa. It’s great to be here.

Lisa   

Ross, Silicon Road, that tells us what you invest in, tell us how you named the firm. Just get us all up to speed.

Ross Kimbel

Sure, sure. Silicon Road we are a $30 million early-stage venture capital fund based in Atlanta. We invest in early-stage startups, building what we call the future of commerce. What that means to us is innovation really in retail, e-commerce, and CPG. If you drill into that the four focus areas that we’re really passionate about are retail and shopper tech, FinTech and payments, multi-channel commerce, and finally supply chain logistics tech.

Lisa  

Everything that gets the product to the door and all of the little pieces along the way

Ross Kimbel

Exactly. We call the future of commerce in the past it might have been labeled as retail tech but there’s so much more that goes into to like retail than just like the retail experience. You have online offline and the blending of those worlds. You have all the innovation that’s happening in supply chain logistics, and by the way, this vertical is it. There’s so much room for innovation there. I don’t know. I was on a run this past weekend, and I was shopping in a convenience store to fill up my water, and there was a truck that had backed in to deliver the product they’re still like signing pen and paper to sign for the delivery and a storm was coming literally like this here in Atlanta yesterday, you saw the storms roll through. It’s each of these areas, some are more advanced than others. FinTech and payments certainly are right up there. It’s very hot right now. But you look Supply Chain logistics tech that we think there’s an equal amount of opportunity there and really some interesting application so

Lisa  

I want to get into all that, but before we do, I want everybody and myself for that matter because I don’t know you that well yet. How did you get into this? How did this become your passion?

Ross Kimbel

Oh gosh, well, I get to combine two things that I love a lot. One is Atlanta.  I love the title and the subject of this podcast, Lisa credit to you for really spearheading this. Atlanta is a big deal for me. And then the other is investing and supporting early-stage entrepreneurs. I’ll hit both of them. If I start with Atlanta, I grew up in Atlanta. I lived in Atlanta until I was five and then from the age of 10, to graduated high school. I actually started my first business at the age of 12 years old. My business was actually going into a neighborhood creek and plucking out golf balls and then cleaning them and putting them minute this giant red coat cooler. And then I literally would set up shop on the like property line of a golf course right by my house Cross Creek if any of the in-town par three courses, I would literally sell golf balls to golfers that they had just sat in the hit into the creek. Sometimes it wasn’t that every ball, but it was often like one maybe the next day, I would have fished it out. But I made a lot of money doing that. at the age of 12 when you can come home with 150 bucks after, a couple of hours of work it was quite the rush. My entrepreneurial story really traces all the way back to preteen years growing up in the city.  then to have the chance to be in a more institutional role actually investing as an institutional investor into these startups and help fuel this next wave of entrepreneurship. It’s such a crucial time in the city’s history. It’s an amazing opportunity.

Lisa  

And I can imagine what those golf balls you learned a lot about brand preference.

Ross Kimbel

You got that right. From an early age. Know what would sell for $4 a ball and what was only a quarter very quickly. brand value brand it’s gonna probably end up back in the creek on the next one I’d be fishing it out again so but it’s amazing the brand.

Lisa  

Listen. How did the firm get started?  $30 million early-stage funds what was the original founding team? Is it just you What does the team look like? And when did you all come together?

Ross Kimbel

The team is not just payload in nature that’s loud and clear I with a very small team, and it’s founded by my partner Sid Mookerji. Sid has one of those stories where it’s a true Atlanta entrepreneur story. In the early 90s, Sid actually started a business called SPI. He started it here in Atlanta, and bootstrap the whole business over 20 plus years, until just a couple years ago. He had the opportunity to exit the business and had a fantastic exit event. It was one of those, moments in his life where he said, “I could do anything or nothing really it was kind of like it was a reset.” I think in the valley they say I could go read a lot of books. That seems to be the phrase people use after their big exit, but Sid was passionate about two things Atlanta and investing in early-stage entrepreneurs as he says he wants to give opportunities to them that he didn’t have in the 90s when he was building his business, SPI. He did a couple of things. He set up a foundation that makes charitable gifts to universities here in the city, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, and Emory to spur their own entrepreneurship programs. He still has a family office business and then he set up this venture capital fund that is a true standalone venture capital fund where we have many outside investors in the fund with us. It is a pure early-stage venture capital fund. His original business was designed around servicing retail organizations. Major big-box retailers that you and I would all know. And he wanted to parlay the innovation or the opportunity for innovation that he saw there in a fund.  That was the founding story of Silicon Road. My, I joined the fund at the very beginning of this year in January of 2020. And my background was a little bit different.  I went to school at the University of Virginia studying to be a doctor. I’m not a doctor, so let’s just make sure that’s clear. Sometimes I feel like when supporting and working with founders, seeing all the challenges that they go through. I mean, and that’s often overlooked in this industry leases as you as. I finished my degree early but didn’t want to leave UVA. It’s an amazing place and so I’d studied, I went into the school of commerce and took some commerce courses and just fell in love with the business and the impact that can be made in people’s lives through business and through a growing economy and the lift that that can provide to families and communities. That actually led him to consult and I was fortunate enough to go to Coca Cola and I spent about a decade at Coca Cola in the house doing two roles that eventually led to this. I’m happy to get into more detail on those in a moment, but I’ll take a breath right here and have

Lisa 

More brand mastery. I mean, sparkling sugar water. Global. It’s amazing. Of course, Coke does so much more than that, but I can’t think of a better place to learn about CPG at a brand level than right in our backyard at Coca Cola. What were what are some of the highlights of your time? Gosh,

Ross Kimbel

I mean, Coke is an amazing place. Coke’s in my blood a long time ago. An uncle was a bottler in southwest Virginia. My father was at Coca Cola long before I ended up going there, but he was in North sitting right there on North Avenue downtown Atlanta. He left and then I was at school and came and had this opportunity.  Coke had always been in the blood. What I was able to do there, I did essentially two tours of duty over the course of a decade, Lisa. The first was in 2007. I was brought in a staff augmentation role. I was asked to help put program management expertise around an internal project that was spinning up on really what they were looking for was someone who I think understood the internet who was able to travel a lot and not, be away on the weekends and that not be an issue and be able to work a lot of hours and so I checked those boxes and I was eager to do it. And so my first role inside of Coke Lisa was actually building What really was an internal startup? It was a startup organization inside of Coca Cola. Now, I know many of your listeners are founders so I don’t at all want to compare fundraising inside of a major corporation is the same as fundraising on the outside I completely different animals, but

Lisa 

It’s harder.

Ross Kimbel

Sometimes. Finding political support, building relationships across the organization to ensure the thing gets funded year after year after year. These are all really like complex things that in my early 20s, it was an amazing opportunity to learn in a global company like Coca Cola because so many of those behaviors are critical to scaling any sort of business, especially a startup and if a startup is trying to work with a corporation, it’s doubly important. My time in this role, it was basically running this startup inside of Coke. It took me to over 60 countries really built the thing from Very rough MVP to a globally scaled enterprise solution that saved conservatively as measured by an outside one of the big, big accounting firms saved Coke, half a billion dollars over the course of five years. And that was awesome. And it got recognized by leadership. And they said, “We want to do more of that.” And what that became Lisa was the company’s one of the company’s very first forays into early stage, working with early-stage companies. Of course, there are a lot of initiatives being done across Coke but this one in particular, for the second half of my time at Coke was really a corporate venture capital fund investing in early-stage startups that were solving problems that Coca Cola faced are not problems, but real opportunities, growth opportunities that business had so outside of beverages, not beverages, but think the technology that could help solve some of the Coke’s, core business opportunities.

Lisa  

A lot of times when people think about innovation in CP And finance. I would say the media has trained the mind to go to New York, but that’s not necessarily accurate. And the southeast has a lot of strings in that area not to say New York doesn’t have strength. Of course, it does. But what would you find to be the strengths of the southeast as you and your team are looking for opportunities? Gosh,

Ross Kimbel

Boy, this is one we could spend hours on. I’m so long in the city. I mean, if you look at Atlanta, Atlanta is an economic powerhouse, 30 fortune 1000 companies are here. The busiest airport in the world. The number one best state for doing business. The sixth year in a row from sight selects the number four Metro for entrepreneurs like it’s an economic powerhouse. And then powering that is our talent. I mean, we have what I think inc, inc, said Georgia is the number three state for African American led companies in the Inc 5000. Every year 55,000 degrees are awarded to, students in the Atlanta metropolitan area. I mean, that’s like that talent is just incredible. Not to mention it’s a tech hub with Georgia Tech and, and tech square, the amazing innovation happening there. And what’s going on with Atlanta tech village, the number four I think co-working accelerator space in the country. And then the low cost of living. I mean, all these reasons I can keep going. Like there’s a comment. There’s a slide that we often use when we’re fundraising

Lisa 

That I totally love and also, but to some extent, it is the powerhouse of the South story. When it comes to CPG and things that are around your area of investment focus. I really wanted to drill into that because I do feel like that business that focus on b2b, b2c or b2c tend not to be easily funded in the southeast we have much of a more b2b perspective. I’m sure where your thesis touches on things like logistics, it does get b2b. But if you’re also interested in brand and CPG, I’d love to hear more about how you feel that plays especially for entrepreneurs in this region.

Ross Kimbel

I mean, Lisa, you’re right. A lot of it is surprising. Like when you think about it like we have some major retailers here in Atlanta, Home Depot, coming off of a couple of amazing months of growth, you’ve got Coca Cola, one of the oldest, most recognized brands ever here. Yet, there’s, it’s interesting when a company is ready to raise capital around a consumer play consumer tech or consumer product. They’re not. I don’t know whether I don’t know if it’s a function of their not being the right mindset of investors in the set in this part of the South to fund those kinds of businesses or what but many of the companies that we see are going elsewhere, which is something we want to change, I mean, when you think about it, in retail, so retail, like, especially coming out of COVID Lisa, we’re still in COVID but as businesses begin to open up, there’s gonna be a lot of change that happens with retail experiences and the way that brands manifest themselves in retail and one thing we’re really excited about is retail tech.  the way that experiences might have been before COVID like come linger in a store pickup product, try on lots of things in a fitting room suddenly that changes, touch lists, and no contact shopping are going to be we think that’s a trend that’s not going to go away. COVID passes and the Coronavirus starts to wane in the coming years. Things will go back but I think that we were really bullish that this like this change in consumer behavior is going to be here to stay so so when you think about that application to brands, how are brands going to reach shoppers are consumers differently. me brands are very effective at how they’re contacting and engaging consumers. They’re looking at really multi-channel commerce. And to us, that’s all the different ways that consumers can discover a brand from all the way from television commercials to Instagram ads to Facebook ads all the way down to, down to very personalized content in banner ads. I mean, this is multi-channel like this. I think Long, Long gone are the days of watching a TVC and learning about a product and a brand that way. 

Lisa  

Many companies in your portfolio come to mind that are good examples of a fresh way of approaching the market. 

Ross Kimbel

Sure. I mean, there’s one of our portfolio companies is a New York company and actually we have eight companies in our portfolio. Five of them are in Atlanta.  I’m going to have you in New York for example. But this company is called Purch. Purch is an in-store, tech in-store retail tech play. They have these beautiful and immersive like monitors in in-store.  imagine walking into a Macy’s and you go to the fragrance department. And there’s this monitor that showing very immersive content that is a brand story.  think brand imagery, the fragrance like the story that they’re telling about the product. As you walk up to the screen, pre COVID world, you could pick up the fragrance and sample it in this new world, the technology that they have allows you to point to the fragrance and then for the monitor and the screen to produce dynamic content around that that you just pointed to. And what’s interesting about this, Lisa is that not only is it like an immersive brand experience but suddenly the retailer and the brand are able to measure things in store that they traditionally have only really been able to find online like time on site.  If you’re browsing a product on site. It’s very easy to track. How long are you on-site? Where are you? What are you looking at? What are the different colors of the product or the fragrances that you’re looking at on that page? In-store, it’s very hard to measure that. But at these perch, perch displays, all of that can be measured, including linger time, all these things that retailers are trying to bridge between online-offline, that’s what purchase doing so. I think retail experiences in-store are going to change, retail is not dead. Retail is just changing. And we believe the new retail we’re quite bullish on the way new retail is going to emerge coming out of COVID.

Lisa  

If you’re a founder of a startup, and you’re listening to this podcast, and you’re thinking, wow, I really like the way Ross talking about this. I really have a lot of alignment. Should they reach out what is the perfect type of Give me the setup of Yes, you should call me because you got this, this and this?

Ross Kimbel

Thank you. The great, great point they said.  As I mentioned, we’re an early-stage fund.  what does that practically mean?  we’re on that middle 80% of our portfolio will be in companies that have product-market fit, that are revenue-generating, and that have a think enterprise readiness level.  Let me go through each of these. Why is product-market fit important product-market fit and actually its enterprise readiness level? Those are two important things for us. Because we have this component of our fund that we call our customer Connect.  What we do in that model is my past relationships at Coca Cola and many of the customers like Kroger’s and Publix are and Walmart’s and targets of the world that I used to interact with. Combine that with Sid my business partners’ experience in retail, we have a lot of relationships in the industry.  We want to for a company that we invest in, we want to be able to introduce them to one of those large enterprises, like day one of our partnership with the company, they so in order for that to work, we need to make sure that the startup is ready when that retailer that CPG gets excited and says, Let’s start, there can’t be a well, I need eight weeks to build out the product, it needs to be ready to go. Product-market fit is important. And then having some something that that one of these customers could use. And then the other part that’s important is they need to be revenue-generating revenue positive. Why is that important?  That’s important for a couple of reasons.  we’re not looking for the next. The next startup that’s going to be that’s going to get to a point where they can exit based on VC funding alone, as a $30 million fund that math is difficult for us to make work. We want to invest in companies that have solid business fundamentals. That’s very simple. For us.  seeing that a founding team has found a way to make revenue early is important. It sounds simple and almost silly to say sometimes Lisa, but it’s important for us that that the business is,

Lisa  

Things like solid and a lot of those are so fuzzy. And I know it’s really hard to put a number on it too because we face the same issue of Valor Ventures. But I want to dive into something you said earlier on called product-market fit.  the way a lot of VCs use product-market fit, it means when your customers are really showing you with a lot of sales scale, that they love the product and it’s selling itself and you start to see that happening, you start to see those sales growing sometimes double digits week over week or month over month, depending on the business cycle.  for that reason, a lot of times product-market fit is used in my experience as a test for growth-stage capital, not an early stage. How do you all see it?

Ross Kimbel

Great question. We look for an annual run rate of between 200,000 and up to a million, which would be our middle 80%. On exception, we’ll go earlier than that, or later, if there’s an exceptional founder or a great opportunity to plug them into, one of our corporate partners, but growth is big. I mean, we’re in the industry of backing hypergrowth businesses. And Lisa, the other thing that I think that that I’d love to hear your thoughts on actually, in this, like, there’s this, there’s this concept around venture capital, that it’s right for most businesses, and often when we’re talking to a startup, we have to measure a lot of things. Does the founder have the hustle and the ability to make this into a hyper-growth business? Do they have the experience to do it? Do they have a wild card, do they have that it factor? In often there, there could be a lot of ways for a company to find funding and venture is one way. But it’s not the only way. And so I’d be interested in yours if I could flip the question back to you too. And I’d love to get back to the product-market fit part of this, but how do you in your experiences? Are you seeing, like VC as one type of investment class versus other types of ways businesses can get funding? How do you all think about that?

Lisa  

We think that venture’s only a fit when venture’s the only option that can fit. I would call it the funding of last resort. And quite frankly, we tell founders regularly. Did you know about grace fixes program access to capital for entrepreneurs, because you’re an amazing business, but your tech-enabled service and you’re definitely seeing customer growth, but the debt would be so much cheaper for you as an entrepreneur? Have you talk to your bank some entrepreneurs don’t have great banking relationships. If so we can make a couple of interesting, we try to get them one. Then there’s also we even talked about, yes, what the old fashioned note shop, there’s a lot of things entrepreneurs can do including passing around a note at 8% 9% 10% among their, their social circle, not even necessarily friends and family, the guarantees your return that is less, less destructive potentially than venture capital. But I love venture capital, if you have a hyper-growth business, there is nothing like the network, the knowledge, and the recruitment power of VC to get things done. If their risk-reward profile is right, of course, not just for the investor, but also for the entrepreneur.  Businesses growing, double digits consistently month over month, they’re going through capital so quickly that some of those other, lines of credit or I could pull a note together. Don’t necessarily they don’t want Because they don’t scale fast enough. But, as you and I know, venture capital can scale very quickly and that is, that is what some founders need given the target addressable market and the way it’s responding to them.  I think it is a capital last resort.

Ross Kimbel

Now, I love the way you put it. Very tweetable, capital of last resort and I think it’s appropriate to and it’s then I go back to your earlier question about like, consumer funding of or funding of consumer or b2c or b2b, b2c businesses in the south. And I’m eager for us to help play a role in trying to shore that up. We want the best companies to be staying in Atlanta, we want them to be part of this ecosystem that we’re all building. Having these types of relationships with like valor and Silicon Road and some of the later stage funds in Atlanta are such an important part of building that ecosystem.

Lisa

Speaking of that, what is around look like for you all do you tend to go alone do you tend to lead you to have a style that that founder should know about when they’re trying to think about their own syndication, and how do they pull things together?

Ross Kimbel

On the tactics we were flexible. First of all, we’re happy to lead. We’re happy to co-lead. We’re happy to syndicate. We’re happy to invest in a note. We’ll do a safe I wouldn’t say we’re happy to do saves. We’ll leave that there. But, we’re flexible. We’re flexible as investors and then as far as cheque size, so so our investment strategy is a little bit different than a typical fun. As, and probably as your audience knows, Lisa, a $30 million fund might invest in a dozen or so companies at between up to two or $3 million per company, and then really focus on that handful of companies in the portfolio. Our approach is a little bit different. Our approach is to come in with a first check size that has low six figures.  between 100 and $250,000. And then, as I mentioned earlier, one of the first things that we do is we get our portfolio companies in front of a corporation, a retailer, a CPG, and FMCG business. Why is that important? Because we believe that the companies that that that may do a fabulous Demo Day pitch, we want to see them do an equally effective pitch in a retailer or in a CPG or an FMCG. Why we because we believe that these types of partnerships create immense value in these businesses, both the corporations and the startups but also for us as an investor.  I at Coca Cola saw firsthand, the value of an emerging technology could play in helping Coke save a half a billion dollars. Like that, that was tremendous. And, and again, this was thanks in large part to Coca Cola scale and, amplifying effect of doing something rolling out a technology solution in 180 plus countries. If we can get that, right, that’s where we’re really, really bullish. And for those companies, Lisa, we’re going to double down and triple down.  We’ll start with a low six-figure check, we’ll put them in front of our partners. And then over time, we may grow our investment up to the north of $2 million in just a handful of our portfolio companies.  so what we intend to build and we’re at eight right now have eight companies in the portfolio. But over the next three and a half years, we plan to build a portfolio of 40 to 50 companies, of those, about half of them will follow on with and of those about half of those, I think like a quarter of all the companies will go up to $2 million. We want to be very clear about that upfront because again, that that that method is a little bit different than what’s out in the industry today. But we want to make sure it’s clear with everybody upfront so there’s no signaling risk in case we’re in four rounds one and two, and then we don’t participate in it, series A or B round. But no matter what all the companies our portfolio, we want to put them in front of our corporate partners and as part of this corporate Connect model, and so we’re really betting heavily on that.

Lisa  

It’s awesome. Are most of the corporate partners in the program that you said pulled together headquartered in the southeast? Or is it all over the world? Or do you like to invest all over the country? What kind of geographies do you focus on?

Ross Kimbel

Our corporate partners are spread all over. We certainly have a concentration in Atlanta but but but but they’re not all located in the Atlanta metro area. And as far as where we’ll invest, so we’ll invest any in any company in the US. We have a bias toward the southeast for both economical reasons because of, the way deals are constructed here and the valuations. I think they’re more favorable right now, to us to a microphone like we are, but, but we’ll work with anybody in from my past life at Coca Cola and at a VC after Coke. I developed relationships with funds outside the southeast. We want to work with everybody on but we have a preference to do deals in the southeast. And as I mentioned earlier, five of our eight companies now are in the Atlanta metro area. The other one is in Chicago and then two are in the New York area. But I expect probably half of our portfolio will be in the southeast or in the Atlanta area. And we’re quite committed to that both, as I mentioned economically, and also on a very personal level, we want to see the city continually growing.

Lisa   

One of the things I think a lot of our founders realized is that venture capital is kind of a multi-sport. For a firm to be successful, you have to have a lot of very strong things from fundraising to compliance, and then there’s a whole bunch about taking care of your portfolio. What side of the whole venture capital business is your favorite? Where do you like to go out of time? 

Ross Kimbel

Gosh, I easily it’s company building. Working with our portfolio companies to help them grow And then scouting deals I’d say like his you probably know Lisa like our time is spent in thirds and it wanes and ebbs and flows depending on the season but I’d say for us a third is in fundraising. A third is in deal flow and finding great companies to work with. And then a third is helping portfolio companies grow. And again depending on the phase of the fund, each of these will fluctuate but, but I love meeting new entrepreneurs. I hope if you speak to some of the founders I’ve backed in the past I think they’ll say I’m very founder-friendly in our terms and my demeanor and in my support in my role on the board. And by the way, founder-friendly does not mean soft. Founder friendly means taking interest of the founder and making sure that they are that they have what they need to succeed it sometimes that’s tough. Sometimes that’s tough love but I’m very founder-friendly in that regard. But I really love finding new companies. I’m so inspired, like so much of I mean, our world when we get to go and, meet entrepreneurs, I mean, I’m spending probably, again 10 to 12 hours a week now meeting new companies. It’s just incredible the kind of, like, vision these companies have, and these founders have and then, and then, it was, I’d say, in the macroeconomic conditions a year ago, it was a different kind of external pressure on these companies, and it is now and so to meet the companies now that are just that are persisting and, and executing and still finding ways to grow. It’s so inspiring. I’m quite passionate about the sourcing deals and then helping our portfolio companies side.

Lisa  

In terms of helping from your portfolio side with most of your opportunities, actually right here in Atlanta. And with you being willing to give that tough love. Have you noticed any patterns that you get if you could give a general tip to founders,  how Hey, this can get in your way? I see it all the time, it can be very hard to see. Is there anything from your playbook in that zone that we can share now with the founders listening?

Ross Kimbel

I think I have a couple of things. I’d say the first is timing, timing in VC, and raising funds is a big deal. And it’s easy to say that. And I know intellectually, probably founders hear that a lot. But let me just kind of explain why it’s important for us. On average, in my experience, I’ve been working with startups for over 12 years. I mean, the average time it’s gone, I’ve gone from meeting a company to investing average is four to six months. And why is that important? That’s important for a couple of reasons. One, to set expectations that this is a relationship. When we invest in a company, we’re with you. And by the way, we’re your one of a 10-year fund horizon right now. We’re with you for a long time. We’d like to really get to know who we’re going to be working with. And one of the things that I’m always impressed with are the founders who are effective at setting expectations, and either hitting them or managing them. And it’s hard to identify that in a short period of time, even like a matter of like weeks. It’s hard. You can’t see what are your goals for this quarter? How did you do? What are the changes you’re making as a result of what happened? Like that, that requires time. 

Lisa  

It doesn’t help that founder and this is one of the great strengths of founders and why we back them, they live in the future. They’ve imagined this amazing future and we all want to live there, which is why we’re funding the company. But how well have they predicted their ability to execute on that vision in terms of time? No, I totally agree. Ross. That’s a great point.

Ross Kimbel

And it’s important to us for a couple of reasons. One, again, we were looking to back not only visionaries but also those who can execute. And why is that important? Because, again, setting expectations and building a sustainable business is important. But also when you go in front of a Coca Cola I know having been there it’s a different expectation when you say if you’re a startup and you say we want to pilot this with Coca Cola, a pilot actually when I was there, I haven’t been a Coke and for years so if anyone from Coca Cola is in the audience forgive me if this has changed, but when I was there a pilot at Coca Cola meant which half of the US did you want to start it like east of the Mississippi or west of the Mississippi that was a pilot, but for our founders, a pilot means something very different.  messaging is important. The first tip is when we first meet and I please reach out and we’ll share contact information at the end of this talk, but please reach out. My first tip would be to know that this is a relationship that takes time. To grow on, I’ve not yet, and maybe you have these I’ve not yet invested in a company in a first meeting. I’ve had a very good indication of how it might go. But I’ve never invested in one meeting. And so for you, as a founder, please come into that with that x knowing that. What about your experience that on that one, Lisa?

Lisa  

There are certainly founders that I’ve met that I thought will likely invest in on a first meeting. But I really withhold judgment on that. It’s interesting. I, the question for me is not will I invest in a first meeting? The question is, who is this person? And why are they among the best in the world to solve this problem? And that’s what I’m really asking myself and so I don’t really get to that in my head. Do I invest or not in the first meeting? Maybe I did earlier in my career, but these days, when I realized that my job in that first meeting is to be wide open to that person, and to the problem that they’re trying to solve, and why that problem is so huge for them, and really kind of try to be empathetically in their shoes as to why them. And if I can come away from the first meeting with that information, I feel very well set up to move down that path of diligence on investment say, great, let’s look at your progress so far. Where are you on the product? Where are you on customers? But, so the answer’s no, I don’t invest in a first meeting. But if I do come away from that meeting, feeling like wow, this human being or this team has an amazing connection to a big problem with a big market, and perhaps a bit of a unique take or a rare take, then that I’m very excited and I’m very excited to learn more.

Ross Kimbel

I completely agree.

Lisa  

As people are building their companies in Atlanta. I wonder, are there some people that have been a value to you that you could give a shout out to? It’s really a question we ask everyone who comes on the program to tell us two or three people in Atlanta that every founder should know.

Ross Kimbel

Yes. The first is, is Joey Womack.  Joey is for those of you who don’t know, probably very few of us, he seems to know a lot of people. Joey Womack is one of the most selfless leaders in the city focused on helping black entrepreneurship grow. He has an ambitious goal of impacting a billion people by the year 2039. And he told me this, I think, in our first meeting I ever had with him and this was several years ago. And ever since then, I asked him, how’s it going still on track. He’s like, I’m getting there. I’m getting there, and so on. As far as someone who is like just a selfless leader, Joe is one of those guys to know. He’s really committed to developing entrepreneurship in the city like in the core and I’m, I’m sitting here in my office in Midtown right now and have just a big appreciation for what he’s doing. I say someone else, actually and maybe I’ll put them together but Dave Payne and Barry Givens at Tech Stars I just, I really admire each of them, they’re two very different people with different backgrounds but the way that they have embraced Atlanta and, really, they could do a lot of things with their time and they’re choosing now to really give to the city by growing, this amazing these two amazing programs through tech stars impact and the tech stars with Cox like I’m just so inspired by what they’re doing. I am really proud to work with him and to be a mentor over it. TechStars and so I just love the early stage like company building that those guys are doing. I’d say those three so Joey, Barry, and Dave. And finally, actually, I’ll throw in a fourth jewel Burkett at Google for entrepreneurs. I’m just really excited by the fact that Google and other major major tech corporations are seeing Atlanta is the tech destination that it is and how entrepreneurship is growing here in a way few cities are seeing and what she’s spearheading here between both, the fun that she’s a part of collab as well as Google and some incredibly inspiring so I think with that I’ll leave it at those four I could keep going but those are some of the top of mine.

Lisa  

Thank you for sharing that I hope everyone has their notebooks out or their audio on record and go back to the section and reach out to these amazing people right here in Atlanta, a huge part of the ecosystem. And Ross, thanks so much for sharing about your fund. If people do feel that, they’re post revenue they’re feeling product-market fit is on stun. They’ve got revenues between 200 K and a million or they’re about to get revenues at 200 k of how did they get in touch with Silicon Road?

Ross Kimbel

Yes.  you can reach out to me directly ross@siliconroad.vc. I’m also on Twitter @rosskimbel, but email is the best and fastest way to get in touch with me, ross@siliconroad.vc.

Lisa

Perfect. Thank you so much for sharing and appreciate you taking time out of your day to share with our listeners. 

Ross Kimbel

Thanks for doing this. Lisa. I’m so proud to be part of this and it’s really an honor to join.  Thank you very much.

Lisa

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