Judy Robinett is known for her titanium rolodex. She speaks and consults with professionals, entrepreneurs, and businesses on the topics of strategic networking, relationship capital, startup funding strategy, strategic alliances, and leadership. Her book, "How to be a Power Connector" was selected as the #1 Business Book for 2014 by Inc. Magazine. In her more than 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur and corporate leader, Judy has served as the CEO of public and private companies, in management positions at Fortune 500 companies, and on the advisory boards of top tier venture firms.
We are excited to have Judy as a judge at our 2017 LDV Vision Summit startup competition. Evan caught up with her in this last week before the Vision Summit about her experience investing in startups and the things she is looking forward to at the Vision Summit...
You see many startup pitches - what are the three most important reasons you would choose to invest in a team?
Character rules. While on first blush there are many solid deals with purported upsides, my first focus is on character. Howard Stevenson who is known as the lion of entrepreneurism at Harvard once told me that the first time someone was untruthful, he walked knowing he would lose all his money regardless of how promising the deal was. Howard invested in well over 90+ startups and his book, “Winning Angels, the 7 Fundamentals of early stage Investing,” is a must read.
Besides dishonesty, I try to avoid bad actors. Life is too long to deal with the dark triad; narcistic, Machiavellian and sociopaths. I want to make sure these are folks I like, trust and want to work with for the long haul.
Top questions I ask myself; does the team exhibit emotional IQ, how do they deal with conflict? Litigation is emotionally and financially draining so better to determine ahead of time what happens if there is a blowup.
Second, does the team show the ability to learn and pivot. Are they coachable? How do they deal with feedback? It’s a rare biz model that doesn’t morph.
Finally, vision is grand but do they have a customer. Paul Graham of Y-Combinator said there are only two reasons startups fail. First is lack of a customer and second is lack of funding. A few months ago a founder called me after spending $12M to build out a platform only to discover no one wanted it.
What business sector do you believe will be most disrupted by computer vision?
I’d bet on life sciences. Over 25 years ago scientists tried to use AI to diagnose cancer but failed. With Intel’s new 10 nm chip out later this year, we will find ourselves in a perfect storm—processing power, adoption across sectors globally, more investments, projected 150M users of consumer AI. We will be able to solve problems we couldn’t before. Think of IBM’s Watson who now has read every single research paper available on cancer, tracks all clinical trials and then imagine what will happen when pictures are added.
Future surgeons will be able to perform simulated operations. We will see better diagnostics, improved quality care and lower prices.
At the White House Fintech summit, many in the audience were startled to see the adoption of roboadvisors like Betterment uses for financial advice. The same arguments were used a few years ago that this industry needed to have ‘high touch and high trust’ that new technology wouldn’t work.
What was your biggest mistake as an investor and what did you learn from it?
I got a $100K brick to the head when I fell in love with the product and drank the Kool-Aid from a charismatic founder with a big idea. My big take-away was that I needed to step back, do the math, think hard about the assumptions and then do a gut check; then and only then, would I invest.
Now I have Jack Welch’s quote, “Get Better Reality,” posted on my wall.
We are honored to have you judge the 2017 LDV Vision Summit startup competition. What are you most excited to see at our Summit?
I would love to see folks figuring out motion sickness, cancer diagnosis, next-gen headgear and MRIs, expanded content but honestly, I want to be surprised!
Accenture Technology global trends now lists AI as the number one trend saying, “ AI will be the new UI”.
I’ve been watching new players from Russia—Ntech Labs with facial recognition to Boston’s emotion AI, Affectiva which now has over 5 million facial videos. I’ve seen the narrative change from those dissing this technology to proclaiming it will be the next industrial revolution.
At the Vision Summit, I'm interested in seeing how speakers from companies like Upskill, PathAI, OrCam and AutoX showcase how they are utilizing AI and computer vision to revolutionize their industries as well.
You wrote a great book called “How to Be a Power Connector” What was your goal in writing this book? Do you have one exciting success story after writing this book that you can share?When I was CEO of a small public biotech I frequently spoke at BIO. I grew frustrated that promising drugs were falling to the wayside because people couldn’t connect the dots to critical resources needed for success. With 7.4billion people on earth, $369 trillion in global private wealth projected by 2019 by Credit Suisse and countless ideas, information said to double daily with IOT, there is no lack of resources. But most people are in the wrong room talking to the wrong people asking that Old Testament Job question—why me?
I wanted to change that by providing a clear, easy-to-follow roadmap with the latest research on strategy and relationships. Nothing happens without people.
Three months after McGraw-Hill published my book, I heard from a young man in Africa who had applied my principles and obtained funding. I did the happy dance.
Last chance to get your discount tickets to the 4th Annual Vision Summit, now through May 19!