What I'm doing as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence

by Peter Rojas

I promised a few weeks ago in my post about leaving AOL that I'd have another one up soon detailing my new role at betaworks. I'm not sure where the past few weeks have gone, but jumping into a new job at the same time as moving from New York to San Francisco pretty much destroyed all of my free time and so I'm only getting to this now.

"Entrepreneur-in-residence" can be sort of a murky job title; it certainly has come to mean different things for different people at different places. (Side note: does anyone know the first time it was used?) For me being an EIR means working with betaworks' investing team to find early stage startups to invest in, as well as advising and supporting portfolio companies based here in the Bay Area. I knew I wanted to move into investing after I left AOL and this was the perfect way to learn the ropes from some amazing people while figuring out what comes next.

The funny thing is that I even though began my career in technology as a journalist writing about venture capital and startups for Red Herring, it never occurred to me at the time that I would  become an investor myself. I was never much interested in finance and it really wasn't until I started my own company and went through the fundraising process that it began to see early stage investing as something that I might want to do. 

What I found is that early stage investing is  different from other kinds of investing. It's more subjective, for starters. Products and companies are so young that you rarely have much hard data upon which to base a decision, and because of that the process is driven more by intuition and relationships than financial models and analytics. You're essentially making a guess about the quality of a company's product (and its potential to grow), the future size of the market it's going after, and the drive and capabilities of its founders. It's about looking out over the horizon and making a bet on how technology is going to change the world.

In one way or another, pretty much my entire career has been focused on finding that next exciting thing in tech. Editing Gizmodo and Engadget was exhausting -- and something I never want to do again -- but it was exhausting because I was fixated on chronicling every single exciting new product or development in the world of personal technology. I don't blog much anymore, but I still love playing with new gadgets and apps and I'm just as obsessed as ever with trying to figure out what the next wave of innovation is going to be. If you're passionate about new technology and love being around the people working on it there are probably few jobs as well-suited to fueling that passion as being an early stage investor, which is why it seemed like a natural next step for me after being an entrepreneur.

I know that I have a lot of work to do if I want to be any good at this. One of the biggest challenges is going to be finding new opportunities early, so if you are working on something I might be interested in checking out or even just want feedback on what you're building, please get in touch. I'm especially interested in chatting with anyone who has had a hard time getting in front of investors because they don't have the right connections. I know how difficult it can be to get investors' attention, so I highly recommend taking advantage of the fact that I'm new to this!