“I want to invest in things that can be big, that can conquer the world”

Balance in life is necessary to Robert Cohen, managing accomplice at Benson Oak Ventures. He is captivated with his funding work, however he advises individuals to be certain that they steadiness their profession with different things, like household and hobbies. Cohen shares that he will get enthusiastic about individuals who suppose otherwise about issues and likes to invest in concepts that can conquer the world. Benson Oak focuses on investing in B2B, B2SMB, and Passionware firms, and Cohen explains that their product is not only offering funds however including worth to their portfolio firms wherever they can. Different companies have various wants, however Benson Oak can assist entrepreneurs suppose via their product, how to construct the group, and totally different enterprise fashions. He spends plenty of his time listening to founders and says he enjoys being shocked by new concepts on daily basis.


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 Start by telling me about your self and your journey.

I’m initially from Philadelphia. I moved to Prague for 18 years. I used to be a part of Benson Oak, which was an area funding banking boutique. In the early 2000s, I believed we should always begin investing. Honestly, we stumbled into AVG, the anti-virus firm, in the early 2000s in Brno, two hours east of Prague. We really ended up shopping for it.
Then 9 years later, I had an awesome alternative to return to do acquisitions and allow us to go public. I ended up doing two offers in Israel. That introduced me to Israel for the first time professionally. I fell in love with it. For me as somebody who’s captivated with investing and startups, it made sense to be right here.
How does that ardour coming into the startup ecosystem transition into your work immediately?
AVG was a workforce of 20 individuals in this little city who unintentionally fell into this huge market. We saved saying, “There’s no cause a small firm in Brno can not be a worldwide chief.” That’s not one thing you ever have to say in Israel. That mind-set is there from the get-go.
Bringing that expertise from really seeing it occur in an uncommon state of affairs after which coming right here and seeing these superb entrepreneurs, it matches what I get pleasure from doing. It additionally matches the expertise that I’ve developed from B2C and B2SMB.
Tell me about the high-level technique of B2C or B2SMB.
Our particular technique is to invest in B2C, B2SMB, and “Passionware,” which is what we have dubbed the instruments and companies that drive the ardour economic system. The cause we put all of these collectively is as a result of all of them begin from very comparable beginnings.
We targeted our investments wherever from early-stage to post-product stage and actually assist our firms. We solely invest in things that we perceive. By definition, if we can’t add worth, we do not invest. That does not imply we now have to add worth, however we now have to be in a position to. That’s particularly in the space of product, being a mirror to entrepreneurs in eager about product. Helping with enterprise fashions. Helping the group construct. That’s our Benson Oak product. It’s not simply investing. It’s invest and add worth wherever we can. Different founders want totally different things.
Robert Cohen, managing accomplice at Benson Oak Ventures. Photo: N/A
Why is it irregular to discover any person in the Israeli ecosystem actually enthusiastic about B2C or Passionware?
I feel that’s a part of the means Israel has developed. The Israeli ecosystem began with deep tech, B2B. That was the place the early exits got here from. In B2C and SMB, your aspiration from the get-go is to construct one thing huge. The mind-set of newer firms is to construct a giant international model. That’s what excites me. I want to invest in things that can be huge, that can conquer the world, and go for these huge good points.
What are some examples out of your portfolio?
Promo.com is an incredible story of an organization that began as B2C and constructed a consumer base round the world. They turned that secret sauce of a B2C platform into Promo. Basically, the CEO invented a brand new market round video advertising for SMBs. Now we’re shifting past that and enabling SMBs to actually promote themselves. I name Promo a “Passionware enterprise” as a result of at the finish of the day, I’m in the enterprise of scaling my enterprise, getting customers, and producing income.
Is it frequent to be the lead investor in an organization and be so concerned in the day to day?
It’s turning into extra frequent. I feel that’s actually change into half and parcel of the VC ecosystem. It can’t simply be about cash. The worth add has change into the factor that differentiates. Our means is a particular means. We do not invest in 30 firms. We wouldn’t essentially be in a position to do what we do.
I feel it is also being a part of the workforce. We’re all in the similar boat. We share a few of our carry with our founders. It makes them a component proprietor of the fund and of everybody else. It sends the message that it is not administration versus shareholders, it is not founders versus traders. And we’re not normally the sole investor.
Is the ecosystem shifting extra in direction of a B2C or B2SMB mind-set and never simply cyber and AI?
Yeah. I feel there’s nonetheless going to be superb cyber and AI firms. There’s more cash that’s accessible to B2C and B2SMB now. I feel as extra firms succeed and a few of these firms go public, you may get extra deal move. The quantity of offers I noticed in a yr in B2C 5 years in the past might be equal to what I’m seeing in a month now.
Are you creating any particular thesis as you assist your Israeli founders to scale their enterprise? Most of them should not promoting to the Israeli market, proper?
One of the benefits of investing in B2C is you get to use Israel as an early petri dish. Four or 5 of our firms had their first income in Israel. It’s nice as a result of it exhibits the hustle, the potential, and product market match. At the finish of the day, it is a very comparable market in phrases of mind-set.
My instinct was that the shopper conduct is so drastically totally different that it would not really present the proper intention of the consumer acquisition or how to scale.
I feel in phrases of product market match and the worth prop, it is an excellent indication. Especially for the American market, it really is an excellent match. But in phrases of consumer acquisition, scale, and progress, it is a fully totally different ball recreation.
But from my perspective, seeing the workforce’s potential to put a product on the market that individuals want and can pay for and that early hustle to generate the early income, that’s necessary.
To your query about thesis, we now have a sure thesis about some things. We’re huge in blockchain, crypto. We take an open thoughts and want to meet entrepreneurs who’re pondering otherwise and are attacking an issue a unique means.
For B2SMB, we now have a easy thesis, which is “every thing a giant firm can do, a small firm will be in a position to do.” It’s nearly offering them that device. For shopper, there’s things that we’re shocked at virtually on daily basis. That’s what’s thrilling. It’s actually being disruptive, transformative, and what Israelis are nice at: pondering otherwise about how to deal with the downside.
What actually fascinated you as a child?
I’ve at all times been into sports activities. One of the things I did was accumulate buying and selling playing cards. I did not do it to earn money. I nonetheless have not offered it. Now I’m into plenty of things that are in sports activities tech. If I can mix earning profits, investing in sports activities, and having fun with sports activities, that is simply heaven.
What conjures up you immediately?
It’s my job to invest and to earn money for my traders. But it truly is my ardour and I find it irresistible. It’s additionally a steadiness. First of all, do one thing you get pleasure from, but in addition discover all the different things that are outdoors of labor. For me, that’s household, that’s sports activities, that’s hobbies.
What are three phrases you’ll use to describe your self?
I’m a really targeted individual. Well-balanced. I’m into meditation, which has really enabled me to steadiness. And optimistic. To invest in startups, virtually by definition, you want to be optimistic. You want to consider that tomorrow was going to be higher than the day earlier than.
Michael Matias. Photo: Courtesy
 Michael Matias, Forbes 30 Under 30, is the creator of Age is Only an Int: Lessons I Learned as a Young Entrepreneur. He research Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University, whereas working as a software program engineer at Hippo Insurance and as a Senior Associate at J-Ventures. Matias beforehand served as an officer in the 8200 unit. 20MinuteLeaders is a tech entrepreneurship interview collection that includes one-on-one interviews with fascinating founders, innovators and thought leaders sharing their journeys and experiences.

 Contributing editors: Michael Matias, Megan Ryan


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