Rachel Lam is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Imagination Capital. Prior to launching Imagination Capital, Rachel founded the Time Warner Investments group in 2003, and was head of the strategic investing arm of Time Warner Inc. for 14 years. Rachel managed Time Warner's investments in and exits from many portfolio companies, including: Maker Studios (sold to Disney), Bluefin Labs (sold to Twitter), Admeld (sold to Google), Playspan (sold to Visa), MediaVast (sold to Getty Images), CrowdStar (sold to Glu Mobile), Kosmix (sold to Walmart), iSocket (sold to the Rubicon Project), ScanScout (sold to Tremor Video), Glu Mobile (NASDAQ: GLUU) and Turbine (sold to Warner Bros).
Rachel will be sharing her knowledge on trends and investment opportunities in visual technologies as a panelist and startup competition judge at the 6th Annual LDV Vision Summit May 22 & 23. Regular tickets are available through May 12 , get yours now to come see Rachel and +60 other top speakers discuss the cutting edge in visual tech.
In lead up to our Summit, Evan Nisselson, General Partner at LDV Capital asked Rachel some questions about her experience investing in visual tech and what she is looking forward to at our Vision Summit...
Evan: You founded the Time Warner Investments group in 2003 and now you are Co-Founder of Imagination Capital along with Richard Parsons. What is your most important value add to help your portfolio teams succeed and why?
Rachel: I think our most important value add is experience, judgement and perspective gained from years of investing in and managing businesses. As Dick would say, we are "long in tooth" (a nice way of saying we're old), and having lived through the Internet Bubble of 1999-2000 and the AOL Time Warner combination, we've been through a number of investment and business cycles, which gives both of us good perspective. We don't panic if things go differently than we expected--so many successful businesses go sideways at some point. So, hopefully, I can provide thoughtful feedback to portfolio companies as they grow, hire and particularly when they raise subsequent financing. We also have clear industry expertise in the media space and bring meaningful networks to help our portfolio companies succeed. I have more VC and strategic corp. dev. relationships, and Dick brings the Fortune 500 rolodex which can be important to tap at the right moment.
Evan: You have extensive expertise in how technology has empowered and disrupted the media industry since you joined Time Warner in 1996. What role has visual technologies played in this evolution? How will your insights impact your future investing strategy?
Rachel: Wow, if you think back to 1996, what a different world it was for the media industry and what "visual technology" meant back then. Visual technology in 1996 was probably the delivery of video programming through cable headends, and we spent a lot of time talking about bandwidth constraints, video compression technologies and whether cable plant could be used for IP telephony and broadband delivery (remember this was early days of the internet and most folks had dial-up internet access, if that!). Time Warner bought Turner Broadcasting in 1996--a deal both Dick Parsons and I worked on--and that was for its innovative and cutting edge linear cable networks, CNN, TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network. At the time, the new cable networks were disrupting the broadcast television industry, bringing the idea that programming could be tailored to specific audiences. And, the first VOD technology was developed by one of Time Warner's portfolio companies, N2 Broadband, which brought "on demand" video programming to the consumer, which was the beginning of consumers being able to watch some of "what they wanted, when they wanted" (but not "where" they wanted as it was still tethered to the TV screen). Visual technologies over the past twenty years have been inextricably linked to the entertainment and information video content creation and distribution market for businesses and individual consumers--enabling the amazing CREATION of special effects for filmed entertainment and incredible video games, as well as specialized AR and VR content and equally importantly, the DISTRIBUTION of this visual content that allows consumers to now get content EVERYWHERE. Visual technologies powered incredible consumer shifts in how, when and where they consumed video content, which then rippled through the adjacent advertising market.
Today, the most interesting thing developing now is that visual technologies are now becoming intelligent with computer vision, and so now visual technologies go beyond entertainment/informational video products to now being the eyes of an intelligent computer so that visual technologies now enable new enterprise applications powered with AI and machine learning.
Evan: Which businesses do you believe will be disrupted the most from visual technologies over the next 10 years?
Rachel: While I think there will still be innovation in the forms of video and games content created and distributed by emerging visual technologies over the next 10 years, thus continuing to disrupt the media/filmed entertainment/video content and video games industry, I think the major paradigm shifts will be in those industries that computer vision and processing of huge amounts of video data will bring new capabilities to--security, city management, even farming (where processing drone footage might bring new efficiency and yield), and hopefully the auto industry (via autonomous vehicles). Also, industries where new VR and AR products greatly enhance current capabilities and the form factor is small consideration (so nobody cares if the headset is clunky) , such as in health care applications or businesses like oil rig repair where the cost of human error is very high. So I see lots of disruption from visual technologies in the enterprise-oriented markets and smaller shifts in the media/video content industry.
Evan: What are you most looking forward to at our 6th LDV Vision Summit?
Rachel: Great discussion, new and fresh ideas that challenge current accepted norms, and awesome networking.
Evan: You frequently experience startup pitches. What is your one sentence advice to help entrepreneurs improve their odds for success.
Rachel: Really be able to articulate the industry/paradigm shift that your company captures, why your product and go-to-market strategy will capture this shift and outpace competition, and finally, show some initial traction that demonstrates that you can execute on your strategy.