Episode 72

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01/28/2021 | Episode 72 | 36:52

Investment guru Ron Tarro, VP, New World Angels

Ron Tarro, vice president, New World Angels Investment Group

Veteran technology executive Ron Tarro, now a leading investor in early-stage businesses, has a good handle on what it takes for a startup to become a success and generate big returns for investors. As vice president of New World Angels, Tarro keeps an eye out for companies with unique products and founders who can execute on their ideas and who think big about how they plan to use investment funding. In this interview, he also describes the syndicate process used by New World Angels and what it means for investors and for startups.

Key Insights

  • You’ve got to make sure that you are indeed creating new value, if you want to be an investable company."
  • I think Florida from a tech standpoint, really interesting things are happening. So, there is not just investment money, but you see better and better founders."
  • $500,000, "plus or minus," is the "sweet spot" for New World Angels, "never less than $250,000 and there is a reason."
  • Even a very successful company you can have a very successful company may not be an investable company, especially in VCs moving large amounts of dollars.
  • Investors, Tarro insists, are not interested in side hustles. "Most investors don’t want to invest in somebody’s hobby. Are you going all in on this or not? I’m going to give you a big chunk of money. Are you all in?"
  • "Zombies" are companies that earn just enough money to continue operating and service debt but are unable to pay off their debt. Such companies, given that they just scrape by meeting overheads, have no excess capital to invest to spur growth.
  • Software as a service is a a deferred gratification plan for a software company.
  • The future (2021) software, Tarro says, will be a "surveillance economy. The rise of platforms that are privacy first ... Anything that’s in that zone is going to have a higher and higher level of attention."

Veteran technology executive Ron Tarro, now a leading investor in early-stage businesses, has a good handle on what it takes for a startup to become a success and generate big returns for investors. As vice president of New World Angels, Tarro keeps an eye out for companies with unique products and founders who can execute on their ideas and who think big about how they plan to use investment funding. In this interview, he also describes the syndicate process used by New World Angels and what it means for investors and for startups.

"When in doubt, try to pick businesses that are clear sailing, no waves and you’re out there and you have something fairly new."

"Our thumb is on the scale for Florida companies. Thumb on the scale means we will look at others, but we’re going to take a closer look at Florida companies. It’s just our charter right now."


Joining me on SPX today is Vice President of New World Angels, amongst many other things historically, Ron Tarro. Welcome, sir.

Hey, nice to be here.

You’re what I would call a multi-threat, or in baseball terms the five tools player, as far as your background.

Utility infielder.

To get us started all on the same page, give us a few minutes – your background and your journey.

So, I’m a Minnesota native, but from a career standpoint, I married Florida, as the story would go. Been here for almost 25 years. I started my career – since this is more a professionally focused conversation – as a software engineer for IBM. Then a product manager, product marketing manager. Ended up as a strategy guy for tech companies as a consultant. Ended up being part of – with some other folks that I had worked with, having a small start-up company that we grew and sold off to a publicly held corporation. From there basically, I was a VP of a public company for a little bit and then jumped back out. And now, I sort of live in the world of somewhere between angel investor, advisor, mentor, executive and residence for a global tech group. So, really focused on the next generation of technologies.

My interests are clearly software, heavily weighted telecommunications and networks and stuff like that, enterprise systems. From an industry standpoint, the kind of all over the place, a lot of focus on travel and hospitality technologies in particular, in the last few years. I live in Delray Beach, Florida on the southern part of the state here, and pretty active in all things related to early-stage companies.

Wonderful! With that insight, you recently put some content out about why companies aren’t accepted into New World Angels which is an Angel group that you’re involved with. There were some wise observations in there. So, I think it’s worth digging into a few of those. Some, I think are pretty straightforward, not better enough. This is why a new company that’s submitted for funding may get rejected. ‘No Blue Ocean,’ talk a little bit about that.

Sure, let me dial it back so everybody knows what New World Angels is. And we can talk about these types of organizations, but New World is an investment syndicate. It’s one of the longest standing ones in Florida. It’s a collection of high net worth folks that put their money together and try to invest. When we start looking at No Blue Ocean and things like that, what was happening is I run screening for this book. I’m on the board investment committee. So, I’m the one looking at a lot of the incoming stuff with part of a team. You start to see patterns. Here is stuff that’s coming, “Oh, I’ve seen this movie before. This one is not going to make it.” In writing this piece that’s available online, I was basically, “Why don’t I get these out here and verbalize them to make sure that somebody who’s going to come at this group for investment has at least thought through some of this stuff,” hence this back-testing of our New World Angels decisions.

To your question on ‘no blue ocean.’ I think I use a subtext, something like, “Hey, you’re a small boat. You’re in big waves. You’re a new captain. You have limited gas,” nice metaphor here, but the idea was that you have and we see a lot of stuff that are – I’ll call it variations of things already in the marketplace. It’s the sort of thing where there’s too many big players that can either A, do this or B, prevent you from doing it. So, we’re always very sensitive to the idea that this may well be a good idea, but it may be too close to the sun or is not something you can go for. And by the way, it’s a lot of hard work to navigate with a small boat amongst big ones. There is a book out there that basically talks through this ‘blue ocean’ type of idea. When in doubt, try to pick businesses that are clear sailing, no waves and you’re out there and you have something fairly new. So, as an investor when you look at stuff you’re like, “Boy!” They’re trying to wedge in somewhere in between AT&T and Google or something like that. So you get a little concerned.

The idea here is, have you picked a clear category of something that’s new and different or are you simply a flavor of something that already exists? There’s a red one of these, we need a blue one. There is an argument here, and I’ll acknowledge that there is a weakness to my argument here that you should try to go for a blue ocean, and that is Elon Musk, right? You say, “Well Elon Musk just reinvented an extremely crowded ministry for automobiles and a rocket industry that is going nowhere.” I guess I would come back to a founder that would do that. I’d say, “Well, okay convince us you’re Elon Musk.” Elon has done a profoundly good job at spotting an insight in these industries that allowed him to succeed. And not without a lot of heavy lifting. The first thing about somebody who’s going to start a company is, you can start flavors of things that have already been done. Like really, you’ve got to make sure that you are indeed creating new value, if you want to be an investable company.

I think that you have to use the textbook example of blue ocean and Cirque du Soleil where it’s somewhere between circus and a Broadway show. And that creates what Peter Thiel says is a temporary monopoly-like conditions where you get to operate pretty much as the only player in the game until eventually people catch up with you.

Exactly, that’s precisely correct. Thiel’s made that case too where, “If it cannot be a monopoly, then I’m not interested in it,” right?


I’m more nuanced than that. What he’s really saying – if you’re to back it all up too, is … I shouldn’t speak for him, but what I’m really saying is that you can have a very successful company. And you can make a career out of it. You can be really excellent with it, but it may not be an investable company, especially in VCs moving large amounts of dollars. They want a monopoly. They want something that says, “You’re going to be in clear sailing for five years.” Instead, you could be fighting the fight and making money for 25 years, but it may not be for generating the kind of returns that an investor really wants.

You talk about folks who would go into a crowded industry. And there’s certainly examples of – Facebook came along after Myspace and Friendster and things like that. And then you say, “But are you an Elon Musk?” sort of with that mindset, when founders come to you and you think of what would be maybe a Rockstar founder. Are these people coming to you as well-rounded business executives or are they coming as massively brilliant in one area, and you’re excited enough about that to fill in the gaps in the other places that they aren’t as proficient?

More the latter. I look at founders maybe for self-awareness, in answering your question. I mean, by definition, doing something new is something that somebody hasn’t done before. So, you’re going to look at an individual and say, “Does this person have clarity of thought? Are they able to synthesize?” you’re going to just look at the abilities of somebody to manage, because as an investor you’re not investing in an idea. That’s the first five minutes of the conversation. You’re ultimately investing for execution of the idea. You’re going to look at this person and say, “Can this person execute?” or what you’re going to say is, “Have they assembled a team that can execute?” I look at that as, I am wide open to somebody who has never done this before.

You’re just going to look at their professional skills, but then the second question you’re going to ask is good judgement by somebody would be, “Who’s advising you? Do you have somebody that’s helping you here? Do you have somebody who’s helping you there?” and, “Are you getting good advice?” you don’t want to be investing in a solo act. Solo acts are out swimming at the beach and get eaten by a shark. Now, you have an investment problem. Most of the stuff is team sport. So, you kind of look at the team. Everybody completely unawares of their own industry or what they’re attempting to accomplish. It’s a risk. You won’t say yes or no, but it’s certainly on the risk side of the column, not the motivation side to invest in somebody who is too green and has not surrounded themselves properly.

When you look at teams, how would you juxtapose the single founder with strong supporting cast versus two to four founder group versus a five plus founder group? I’m assuming your ideal is probably the two to four founders, but how big of a deal is it when you see one versus two, versus five and then leader versus a team?

I actually don’t look at it in numbers terms like that. I kind of divide this way. First of all, let’s be clear. I’m a software technology person. If you’re going to start a fashion line, I have no idea how this applies, but I’m always very interested in the fact that a founding team one of them be – I’ll call it business person, market facing person and one of them being an engineer. So, a maker and a seller if you will. Getting those into the founding team, there’s just a whole bunch of reasons why that’s a good idea. It makes it more sustainable. So, the fact then if you have two people, fine, if you have four people, so be it. I have interesting questions about, “Have you worked out equity ownership?” so, you’re not going to get in some big battle, one year from now about who’s doing all the work. But from my standpoint, it’s really if you’re in an industry, what are the key skills of an industry and is it covered? If you can do that with two people, fine, or and if you do it with four that’s fine too. It’s all about momentum. There’s such a thing maybe as too many people too early. That’s an issue.

The other question too is, if you’re a founder and you’re coming into this. If you have five people and for four of them it’s a side hustle, we’re going to be thinking about that. Most investors don’t want to invest in somebody’s hobby. Are you going all in on this or not? I’m going to give you a big chunk of money. Are you all in? You have to have at some point, maybe not so many people that you’re looking like it’s too early or you’re not ready or de-counter which is, nobody is all in on this yet. We’re all funding a side hustle.

One of the ones I loved the most was the Zombie start-up. Typically, I’ve used the word stale. Just a company that’s come in and you can tell they’ve been raising for years. It’s just they’re so baked into their identity that you almost wonder if they would know to do it themselves if they actually got the investment, right?


What are the clear indicators of staleness? Obviously, you can know just how long they’ve been at it, but if you didn’t know that and you just had to pick that out from how they present, can you tell a stale company?

Yes, for listeners maybe. Zombie is this idea that you invested in somebody. An investor always wants – at some point in time – to get a return on their investment. Then when you do that, they sell the company, they go public. Something happens or new investors come in and just wipe out all the original early-stage investors, all of those. However, if none of those happen, what you’ve basically done is you bought a dividend stock at high risk. One of the things you’re trying to sniff out is, “Where is this going? Is this a build to roll-it-forward into something?” then to your question it is, “What are the clues?” Clues for me, and use it as you will, it may or may not be a good clue. One is, family-based teams.

Family based teams for me are by the way a great way to build a business etcetera, but as an investor, you’ll always be an outsider. And you’ll always probably be a minority in some form. So, you’re going to have some concerns there. I also have a clue that I use, and it may not be fair, but if somebody is in front of us pitching and they say, “My company.” What you have is they are communicating a very high sense of – call it – ownership and control. You begin to wonder, let’s unpack the ‘my’ especially after you have investors, because at that point it’s our company or it’s simply the company which is an entity. So, those are a couple of things I look at for zombie risk. But also, the other way to look at zombie risk is more analytically. That is, trying to imagine a couple of years out, who would buy this? How would this roll up?

That actually begs a more interesting strategic question which would always be what I try to do is visualize, “What does this industry structure look like a few years from now?” is this company even going to be a product category in five or 10 years? It exists today, but is it really going to end up as a feature in somebody else’s product set? If you can’t figure out who might have an interest in this, then you either have to ask or you have to develop just a little bit more. Otherwise, it just adds to the zombie risk factor.

I was actually thinking about more than that, the companies that had been raising. They haven’t even received the first rounds, but I guess that speaks to the emerging or has emerged start-up culture led by a lot of the YouTube starters and what not where the lifestyle of having a start-up is more enticing than actually a successful company.

Yes, you’ve actually … I don’t put it in mind is everyone’s zombie, but there are some people who are just really good at raising money. That’s actually not a business, unless you’re in finance. It really is, “What are you making and why do customers want it?” When I look at that, there are some folks that will give you an amazingly good pitch deck. Then on an execution basis, it’s just hard to imagine them running the place. In which case, you need to come back to the team, “I get what you are as a founder, but who’s going to make and deliver a product and make sure the customers are happy?”

Those are the ones I find to be a little trickier – it has to, because I think that people that can raise the money, can put together a good story, a good deck, even a good team, then say all the right things. But, there’s just something in them that speaks more towards the lifestyle of raising. And you feel like there’s a cliff when they would actually get into the trenches and build, like they fall off a cliff there.

This is a few years back, when I was in CEO mode, but you had a lot of companies that their point of pride was their burn rate. For those who don’t know what burn rate is, it’s how much money you’re spending every month in this company. The higher your burn rate, the cooler you were. No, I’m exciting myself, no. Let’s do that on the revenue side. It’s kind of a hard thing in trying to figure out, “Who is this person? Are they simply rational and balanced, just reasoned thinkers?” I think one of the things I put into that piece is, you’re going to get somebody in who’s a pitch artist. They use selling words. They’re putting adjectives in front of, “We are the premier of this and that, over the this and that.” And when it comes to that sort of personality, those are my flags. That’s how my flags when I’m watching the news nowadays too. Either using adjectives to frame what they’re doing. And they are framing things in ways that are excluding relevant analysis. So, that whole idea of that kind of founder – the permanent fundraiser to me, is a negative signal towards investing.

Paul Graham had a quote that said, “Founders should be eating, sleeping, exercising and thinking about product market fit.” So, if the person comes in and pretty much it’s product market fit, product market fit, and that’s the driving force behind all of their language, I think that’s my green flag signal.

Yes, there’s something to that. It’s interesting, and this is a pitch for incubators and accelerators a little bit, is again if you’re coming in with a dream, we’re going to come back and push back and say, “How about an execution plan for your dream?” but the founders that come in that I think qualitatively have got better, they come through some of the incubators and accelerators. Where they’ve had to pitch, they’ve had a couple of pairs of eyes on what they’re presenting, “Here is the questions. Here is your – I’ll call it – style or posture.” Again, some people are incurable, but I have noticed that some of the incubator ones, you can get a little bit better signals. You get a little bit better – I’ll call it – entrepreneurs contextually coming out of some of them. Not all, you have to be, ‘buyer beware’ on some of them.

When you talk about burn rate, and this sort of feeds into the small money, small future item that you had listed in your content. This is something I actually struggled with. I started – I was standard small business, and had to deal with all the stresses of cashflow and getting into positive cashflow. Then when I transitioned into the startup world and took my first investment, I had the same mindset. I just wouldn’t spend the money. I immediately set up a budget to make the money last as long as possible. But I realized later that it was at the expense of getting the kind of growth we need to build the rocket and launch it. You talk about high burn rate, low burn rate, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you see when it comes to how founders talk about spending the money they get?

Let’s walk into that by the ask. One of the things was small. This idea that somebody came into New World Angels and said, “I need $25,000. The sweet spot for New World is a 500,000- dollar check, never less than $250,000 and there is a reason. Is, for the most part what you’re looking at as an investor is the idea that this money is going to move the company forward to – I’ll call it a milestone – that in essence prepares it for bigger things. So, $25,000 is like coins in a fountain. If you’re going to do this, we want to come in and simply say, “Here’s 500 grand. Tell us what you’re going to do, so at the end of this period – be it a year, be it 18 months or whatever – you are well positioned for a bigger next step.” It seems counter intuitive, but that’s a lower risk strategy to say, “Hey, hire a couple of people, get this done and really put it down,” as opposed to going, “Twenty-five, 25, 25.”

Now, we may let it out in some intro milestones all the way to 500 depending on what’s going on, but really if it’s a good idea, in or out. If you’re coming at us with 25, hey listen, we love people who are efficient, but are you going too slow? If you were to look at somebody who took two of the same companies chasing the same idea as a theoretical exercise, you should say, “I gave somebody 25 grand and they made it last six months. I gave somebody 500 grand,” who’s going to win the longer race? The answer may be by the way that there is some turbulence and the 25,000-dollar person who kept their overhead lower is going to win the long race. You have to take a deep breath and think about that question, because if somebody is to market faster, has more of this and that, that’s a consideration. When you’re coming at us with 25 grand, usually when somebody asks for $25,000, what they’re asking for is sort of, “Keep my run rate for this month.” It’s hard to get deliverables in that range. It’s hard to get milestones in that range.

Usually, what you don’t want to do coming at an investor – at least me – is to say at the end of the day that, “With this money, I’m just going to be able to keep us on the track we’re doing.” It’s like, “No, I don’t want to hear that.” So, ready to market, are we getting to some level of product market fit? Are we, are we, are we? If it’s – we do quite a bit in pharma, is it stage whatever clinicals? What’s going on here? It could be that you’re doing quite a bit of software engineering that begs some questions. Could it be scaling the market against sales? That raises some questions, but you’re doing something. Anyway, that’s kind of my long way around to what you’re asking an amount of money for.

I’d say – for me now – the big lever is customer acquisition. We moved to a world now where historically there’s potentially large capex expenditures to build factories, to build products and now we’ve moved into this more software-based thing. I think what’s taken the place with the new capex spend is customer acquisition which, if you have any kind of behavior change in your product, if you have to educate people and get them to do something different, break their normal flow of life. Then that’s the modern-day equivalent of needing a large factory on a large plot of land.

There’s something to that actually. The ability to get into – I’ll do software as a service, but there’s everything from manufacturing as a service to, you can go on and on, everybody’s adapted that concept, but you could really get yourself into the software industry pretty quickly nowadays, at lower cost. However, what has happened, and why you see so many early-stage tech investment anyway is, the model also changed to software as a service which is basically subscribing the pieces of software. That could be a great thing if you’re the buyer of these services, can be a monthly fee, but it’s a deferred gratification plan for a software company. You see an uptick in investment in software companies because they have to get to some sort of – break-even in their revenue models on the P&L. The idea here is that there is certainly a different look. There’s different costs to get yourself up in the market place. Could be marketing as you mentioned, sales efforts etcetera. That’s where the financing is now in particular, because a lot of the cost of production has changed.

Would you agree that, or what’s your take on customer acquisition now? Obviously, the attention landscape is very fractured. It’s harder than ever how important is it for services or products that you invest in to have a self-generating user base share ability and things like that, or do you think most founders get how hard it is to acquire customers nowadays?

I’m going to separate this conversation into B2B, Business to Business and B2C, Business to Bonsumer. B2B always has a very focused story – I shouldn’t say always, never say never, all that stuff. But B2B tends to have a more direct focus and really demands much more of a solid value proposition. So let’s set that aside. The implication of your question is really more B2C. Let me be the first person to say I’m not a B2C person. When I see B2C investments I always think behind what you just asked which is, it’s going to take a lot of gas to get to 30,000 feet elevation on this. From my perspective, I am usually more reticent in a B2C world on a personal basis, just because I don’t come out of consumer products.

Having said that, when it comes to attention, it’s funny because gosh! It’s probably 20 years ago now. I actually wrote a short piece for Wired Magazine with one of my compatriots at Ernst & Young – the consulting group – on the Economics of Attention. We were arguing back then that actually, it’s not going to be eyeballs. It’s going to be attention. That is the thing that has to be monetized. We were too early. We were trying to see if we could get some consulting practice work around that. But since then, a fair amount has been written about it, but you see in that example, a really cool thing just to go as an aside, there is a browser called the Brave Browser. They have a generator called the Bat which is a crypto currency affiliative called the Basic Attention Token. The idea is that listen, an ad interrupts you, you should be paid for interruption, to oversimplify that whole story. I’m a little bit like, anything that is further competing for attention, I think is an uphill. However, things that might be rewarding attention in some way might be more interesting. That’s my meta on that. I mean, there is just so much stuff out there now. Actually, I’m a no-fan of social media because of the algorithms kind of controlling what you see, but I’m a big fan of having your own RSS feed reader and controlling the information that’s coming at you. The other thing you’re seeing – so it makes it really hard for information-type of service products there.

The second thing is that you see a lot of behavioral change of apps on phones where the number of apps on phones is not growing or not like it was. The usage rates are highly distributed to generalized platforms. Here is my 10 go-to apps on my iPhone or on my Android. Those sorts of things are out there casting a round in a B2C world. All of it means that there is a lot of marketing to change behavior. So, that’s a big deal. One of the things we’re always looking at, and I use the example … It’s easy to have a product. It’s very hard for somebody to change their behavior, to begin using your product. A bank account, online banking is a good example. In order to change your bank and online banking, you’d have to change all the people that you pay with your online banking. It’s a speed bump. That’s everywhere in the market today. On a list of busy things, can you get somebody to move in that regard?

It’s barriers to exit, the converse of barriers to entry.

Yes, there’s a lot of that. There are a lot of tech companies that are masters of this.

Let’s finish up by turning to the other side of the coin. I’m on the board of Seed Funders. We have Florida Funders. We have New World Angels, Bridge Angels. Ever since the Jobs Act, it’s really opened the door to aggregated investing. Florida has historically been more along the lines of the real estates and traditional types of investing channels, but that’s changing. So, if someone’s listening to this and fancies understanding more about the type of investing at New World Angels does, what do you say to them?

A couple of things. Let me take this again from a founder-entrepreneur’s perspective. If you’re looking at New World, I think it’s very true – in the early days of IBM and my time living here in South Florida, in the ‘80s … there was some tech presence, but this was not a tech state. I really think that’s quite different nowadays. If you look at even the members in New World, there’s a lot of tech background from a lot of diverse industries. When I’m looking at this … New World Angels, typically I think I mentioned before, kind of a 500,000-dollar check plus or minus is the sweet spot for the group. There is really no thesis. We look at pretty much everything, because normally we can find somebody in our orbit who can help us evaluate it. If you’re going to be doing pharma, we’ve got somebody who’s an awesome pharma. If you’re going to be doing MedTech or telecom, me. That’s it, there a lot of diverse backgrounds, a lot of diverse functional experiences.

Our thumb is on the scale for Florida companies. Thumb on the scale means we will look at others, but we’re going to take a closer look at Florida companies. It’s just our charter right now. That’s pretty much it. The Angel syndicates – just as a structural model – take a little longer to make a decision. We can lead a deal or we can jump into somebody else’s deal. The ones that you’ve mentioned, we’ve syndicated with and other things. But normally, the process for a syndicate is different than a fund. For those who are not familiar with a venture fund, a venture fund is if you have a bunch of money, you give it to the venture capital fund. Then you trust that they are good investors and they’re going come back with some return over some period of time. It’s essentially – to overgeneralize again – like a mutual fund that’s not as liquid, but maybe higher returns.

Syndicates are a little bit different. The way you look at New World is it’s a deal flow engine for you. It delivers deal flow every month, a number of options. Then, if it goes to due diligence, you choose to make an investment in it. It’s a little bit different look. So, if you’re a founder, it takes a little bit longer to do it. Again, industry agnostic, you’re probably going to have somebody in from your industry looking at this in some way, in it. So, that’s a little bit different than pitching to a finance major. No disrespect to finance majors, but probably have somebody in the industry with opinions that are participating. That’s about it. We’ve got members across the state and the investments across the state.

From a lifestyle standpoint, the investments can be early enough that should the Angels have an interest, they can actually jump in and either join the Board or become an advisor. These types of syndicates tend to offer that if you have an interest to actually – if you have experience in that industry to jump in and participate in a company. That can be a good experience too.

That’s a really good point. In some sense, you can pick up – with your money – some governance and some advisory. Depending on how big a check gets written, New World is going to look for either a board seat or a board observer position. It’s usually based on dollars, but also based on who you are. If you’re a newer founder, you probably want to look for that kind of support. If this is not your first rodeo, maybe less important, but you do want somebody with some industry perspective. But yes, we’re very high on that. We’re a high-touch group in that regard for founders. I would say that in general, you want to make sure, as a founder that you have a complete advisory team. Because listen, at that point then you’re in the same boat.

What I also like about Angel – because when I started saying I want to do a little bit more early stage investing – is it’s a little bit more patient money. If you have funds, you’re always left with this idea that the fund needs a resolve at some point in time. There’s a pressure. There’s been some ways to get around that now, but there’s a pressure for a return where Angels having made an individual decision, tend to be a little more patient with the companies. I look at that too as something that matters. Back to your original point, I think Florida from a tech standpoint, really interesting things are happening. So, there is not just investment money, but you see better and better founders. I’ve done a lot of work with FAU Tech Runway, Florida Atlantic University Tech Runway. Just looking over the last couple of years, the quality of both the mentors with direct experience, but also the companies coming into it has been pretty interesting. I’m very positive about Florida.

Let’s finish up with three quick hitters. One, tell me something relative to the group of Angels that you invest with, that you have a contrarian point of view on.

Oh, okay. I am usually a contrarian voice. I am willing to go earlier stage on big things. If you were to look at the center of a lot of Angel investors, they very much like to be – if there is an MVP or a working prototype and there is a first dollar revenue. It’s a beautiful place to be. I’m willing to go earlier. I tend to be contrarian. I can probably shift that into some industry things, but there are so many industry nuances probably. I could come up with too many contrarian positions. That’s probably the biggest one is, looking a little bit more deeply into taking a risk at earlier stage.

What software will eat the world in 2021?

Actually, I think what’s happening it’s going to be in medias. It’s going to really be in, when you look at stuff like locals.com, you’re seeing now a model. This is maybe my meta contrarian to blend the two questions is, there is a recognition that the social medias and the idea of a surveillance economy. There is a book out there by Harvard Professor Emeritus Shoshana Zuboff called The Age of Surveillance Capitalism … is the models where software is free, but what you’re surrendering is your psychometric profile for sale. Is something where it’s shifting much more towards private, more granular I’ll call it groups and relationships. I think what you’re going to see now is the rise of platforms that are privacy first. Apple has already started down this road with their devices. I think anything that’s in that zone is going to have a higher and higher level of attention.

Finally, we finish each show with a shout out to someone who’s doing great work that maybe you find under the radar that you would like to give a little attention to.

When I look around in South Florida, I pay attention to the incubators. I’m a big fan of the folks that are volunteering inside of incubators, in particular the mentoring etcetera. I think there is a category of person rather than calling out an individual that are basically dedicating time as advisors and mentors and incubators. Big shout out to them. I think they’ve gone a long way really advancing the tech industry here in South Florida. Again, the incubator provides a platform. The early folks like that guys like Reece Williams is a good example, if you know Reece. But the fact that those platforms now exist, and the fact that there’s a level of contribution from being retired or active professionals, I think they’re the heroes of the Florida story right now. Is really communicating to a next generation of founders, how to start a business? How to run a business? How to get it funded? How to accelerate it? Et cetera.









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About the host

Joe Hamilton is publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst, co-founder of The St. Petersburg Group, a partner at SeedFunders, fund director at the Catalyst Fund and host of St. Pete X.

About the St.Petersburg Group

The St. Petersburg Group brings together some of the finest thinkers in the area. Our team is civic minded, with strong business acumen. We seek to solve big problems for big benefit to the city, its businesses and its citizens.