Robinson is general partner of 4490 Ventures, a
Until recently, he was a partner at
For now, 4490 has a staff of one -- Robinson -- temporarily working at the
"We want to cover the whole state," he said.
A native of the
When he's not working, Robinson likes to spend time outdoors -- golfing, playing basketball, skiing, or just hanging out with his family.
Q: You've lived on the
A: The job I'm doing at 4490 is very similar to what I was doing at
I'm here because I want to take
Q: When you spoke to a meeting of the Wisconsin Innovation Network in
Trying to take concepts like thinking big, solving really hard problems, trying to change the world -- those are very much things that I think can be imported to places like
There are very smart people here, willing to try to solve hard problems and to work very hard to do that.
A: This is the first 4490 Fund. We think it will allow us to invest in somewhere between 12 and 20 companies, and it will take us about three years to deploy that capital. As far as individual investments, it depends on the stage of the company. Earlier-stage companies will probably need a couple hundred-thousand dollars in seed money; more mature companies may need
Q: What's the meaning of the name, the 4490 Fund?
A: It's the notion of the location being, roughly, the center of the state of
Q: How soon do you expect to start making investments in companies?
A: We can make investments in companies now; I'm talking to entrepreneurs. The real bottleneck is just getting myself up to speed on the investment and entrepreneurial community in
We're looking at opportunities, but it will take a little while before we actually make an investment. Hopefully, we will make three or four investments in 2014, starting sometime this summer.
Q: What are you looking for when you consider which companies should get an investment from the fund?
A: They have to be IT focused, which really means business-to-business software. And they have to be, for the most part, earlier-stage companies.
Ideally, they are companies trying to solve a hard problem, that would be difficult for others to duplicate.
They should be operating in a market that allows them to build a large and sizable company that will ultimately be interesting to acquirers.
And we want to invest in people who are passionate, who have the capability and the desire to build something significant.
Q: It seems as though a lot of tech companies are springing up around
A: I've been pleasantly surprised and pleased to see the amount of activity. Certainly, there's a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm.
Health care IT has some good opportunities to invest in.
I would hope that one-third of our fund, or maybe even more, will be invested in health-tech companies. I think
As for the other two-thirds, we'll let the opportunities define, to some degree, where we go.
Q: Why are you looking for business-to-business companies when there are so many more consumers than there are businesses?
A: It's a very different skill set required to invest in consumer businesses rather than business-to-business.
Historically, there have been a couple of very, very large consumer winners in each sector and they get the vast majority of the spoils. If you're a winner, like a
On the business side, businesses tend to be a bit more practical and predictable. And there are vast amounts of opportunity to improve, to disrupt the existing market leaders and build something that's really, really interesting.
On the consumer side, it's really hard to pick -- especially, early on -- who's going to be a winner, and it's often winner-take-all.Q: What is your earnings goal?
A: It's probably too early to say. This is a long-term proposition that we're engaged in.
Venture capital returns are commonly two to three times the size of the fund; in this case, you would want returns of
When about 70 percent of the first fund is invested -- around three years from now -- you're generally able to start raising money for the next fund. Ideally, that will be a bigger fund and will include additional investors beyond just SWIB and WARF. By the time we get to a third fund, it could be even bigger and include even more investors, with some from out-of-state. The goal, eventually, is to continue to support
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