S3 Ep 8. Roy Bahat: Bloomberg Beta

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This is a podcast episode titled, S3 Ep 8. Roy Bahat: Bloomberg Beta. The summary for this episode is: <p><span style="color: rgb(20, 40, 61);">In this episode, we're talking with Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta, an early stage venture firm backed by Bloomberg LP, focused broadly on the future of work. We're going to dive into how COVID has accelerated that future of work and how some of the trends that we're experimenting with today will continue. </span></p>

Tim Schigel: Welcome to Fast Frontiers. I am your host, Tim Schigel, managing partner of Refinery Ventures. In this episode, we're talking with Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta, an early stage venture firm backed by Bloomberg LP, focused broadly on the future of work. In this episode, we're going to dive into how COVID has accelerated that future of work and how some of the trends that we're experimenting with today will continue. We also talk about the Midwest and how problems here actually produce inspiration for founders to create businesses that solve them. The biggest theme or so what I hope you can take away from this conversation is that another trend as a result of COVID in the future of work is that people are using software more than ever. Software continues to eat the world and its appetite is only getting stronger. Please enjoy my conversation with Roy Bahat. Roy, welcome to Fast Frontiers. It's so good to have you on the show today.

Roy Bahat: I'm excited to be here. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Tim Schigel: And that background, I think we just learned is this is your...

Roy Bahat: This is the Bloomberg office in which I am right now.

Tim Schigel: First time back.

Roy Bahat: First time back. First time back, we opened last week here in San Francisco and so I am now here.

Tim Schigel: Interesting. I bet you have a lot of people wanting to talk to you since your focus and passion has been the future of work and with the acceleration and trigger of COVID, that's brought up a lot of questions. I'm curious to know what some of the top three or four trends that you believe are going to be lasting, stay with us as a result of all this?

Roy Bahat: Yeah, I think in the tech industry, we often tend to have, I think, a really narrow view of it. Oh, everybody's going to work from home. Well the reality is even in COVID at the peak, only half of people were working from home, at the peak. And so I think it's a little overstated in the sense that people tend to generalize from what happens to them. Now, do I think remote working tools are essential and a huge category and blah, blah, blah? Yes, absolutely. But here are the real trends. Real trend, number one, just more people are using software. We all know folks who work in companies where they're not even allowed to try anything new because of how the company controls what software they can use. Well now immediately, everybody just gets thrown in to figuring out the settings in Zoom. I think about my friend who she's a research doctor and for years she just wanted to use DocuSign or something like it to sign off on her research proposals or some document remotely. And the CIO of the hospital was like," No, no, no, it's too, blah, blah, blah," reason, reason, reason. And then COVID hits and bam, of course she's using DocuSign. There's just a lot more software generally I think is one thing. I think the second thing is that we're just experimenting with how we're going to use the office. I don't think anybody really knows how it's all going to settle out. And so we're just having a much more rapid pace of experimentation with hybrid environments coming in and now it's going to include managerial experimentation. It's going to include new tools. I had to create a new account for the in house doctor service that tests me for COVID when I go into the office, that kind of thing. I think there's just going to be a lot more experimentation about the use of the physical office. And then the last thing, this is the more human part is I think we've just, for those of us who have worked remotely, we've all just been exposed to so much more of the whole lives of the people we work with. I think that shift, once you open that door, it's once you've seen somebody's kids run by, the nature of your working relationship with people shifts and I don't think we quite know how, I don't think we quite know how work weeks and work hours are going to sort out.

Tim Schigel: Yeah, those are good ones. I'd love to spend a little time on them. The first one in terms of software, there's so many ways, it seems like with Zoom and working online, if you have to, it helps because you have to be more explicit in your communications. It's not just all talking in the hallway and that's a benefit. What have you seen though, technology is not good or bad but it's also not neutral.

Roy Bahat: Yeah, I think we don't really know yet is part of it. And we're just learning. I'll give you my hypothesis, which I stole from somebody else, which is that remote work is for many jobs and I think different jobs are different, but for many jobs, remote work is actually much better for getting work done. If you work in isolation, something where you're a writer, let's say. Good case to be made that you can get work done more easily when you are not surrounded by people distracting you. But for figuring out what work to do, there's just no substitute for that kind of real back and forth that you can often have collaborating in person. And so anybody who says that one way of doing it is better than the other, I think is missing the point. Like you said, technology is not good or bad it just has different, the engineering word is different affordances in different domains and we're just going to explore, okay, well, do you need to come into the office two days a week to be together with everybody to figure stuff out? Do you come in for your sprint planning meeting if you're working on software development? That kind of thing.

Tim Schigel: I tell you what, I hope people have now discovered that maybe they go for a walk, take a break, do other things. It'd be great if it kind of evens out traffic at rush hour.

Roy Bahat: And for me, it's stuff like, well, am I going to drop my kids off at school? How are we going to handle that? We're a one car family so I'm going to drive my car. It's all that kind of stuff. We're all just now figuring out. And I think that this, one of the reasons I love entrepreneurship is I think it's always a good time to be an entrepreneur. But in particular, during moments of chaos, it's know the Game of Thrones thing of chaos being a ladder. It's particularly a ladder if you are a founder, because if you're a founder, you are in this place where each one of these experimentations and changes, it's a turn of the wheel that allows you to build some new service that helps with it or manages some byproduct of it or something like that. I'm really excited to see what people build all over the country.

Tim Schigel: Yeah, that's a good point. It made me think about the, I was doing some work with a large corporation and it hit me. One of the things I love about being an early stage investor is that every startup is a new experiment and organization. We get to start with a clean slate. We get to organize, it's a purpose built organization. We don't have to follow some prescription that's been passed down for generations that this was how we do things. The whole thing is basically thought of from the beginning.

Roy Bahat: Totally.

Tim Schigel: Which is so fun.

Roy Bahat: Totally. Totally. I think that we have learned so much about remote work from the startups that have tried it. I've changed my view on this a ton, even though our fund, as you may know, is been focused from the very beginning on the future of work. We started working on that from the first day in 2013 that we created our fund. And so in a way I'm like, wow, this is the moment. As much suffering as there's been in the world, at least in this narrow sense, we're about to see a bunch of cool stuff. We've really been focused on it. But I think that we're entering this period where anybody who assumes that they know what they're talking about is totally full of it. Totally full of it. And we see so much from the live experiments of startups. One area where I changed my view, I think you know this, is we talked about this in the past is I used to be skeptical about remote work. I used to think that, oh, my view in 2013 was show me the biggest company that has ever been fully distributed. By the way, I wasn't skeptical about people having flexibility to occasionally work from home. I meant fully distributed companies. And obviously we're also now figuring out the language of this and then Envision went public. And I was like, okay, maybe I was wrong. People often used to say," Oh, look at MySQL or look at WordPress." And I'm like, WordPress is a great and valuable thing, but it's a tiny company in the scheme of the economy as a whole. Successful startup, but a tiny company in the skin of the economy as a whole. And now let's find out.

Tim Schigel: Right. What are some of the, within your portfolio, are there any situations where you've been kind of surprised by some of the innovation or ingenuity of the teams in terms of getting through this last year?

Roy Bahat: Look, it's one of these things where there's a million small innovations and it's hard to point at any one thing and be like, wow, that's it. It's almost stitch by stitch people had to figure out how to make it work. And we, because we're future of work investors have backed a bunch of tools that are wildly valuable for remote work. We were small investors in Slack, but then tools like Range that are about teams communicating their status on different projects, including how they're feeling about them. Tools like Icebreaker, which allows for a very different kind of video conversation where it encourages people to really deeply get to know each other. And it's a very different experience than what we're having now on Zoom. Tools like Donut that enabled lightweight automation of different processes when you're doing remote work, as far as HR processes go and getting to know people. There's been Bonusly, which is employee recognition. There's just been a bunch of these. And then some of the founders that we back are really committed to working together in person. I particularly think of companies that are doing something in robotics where I don't know how to do robotics work. What I'm going do? Hold up this piece and show you this thing for this construction camera thing that we got? That just seems ludicrous. And so people are adapting in ways that are suited to their business. And I believe what we're going to see is, like I said, a great experimentation, but then a settling where different roles, different companies at different stages, different companies, very much, depending on what they do, adapting to this moment in their own ways.

Tim Schigel: It seems like a number of your companies are very well positioned and there's been this catalyst that's happening with COVID of digital transformation within corporations. I'm sure it must be just creating a ton of demand.

Roy Bahat: Yeah. That gets back to the software point, which is the data I'd love to have, but I don't have is if I'm a typical American employee at a company or contractor to company, how many new pieces of software does my company tell me to use each year? And my guess is in the past, in a typical year for a typical employee, it was under five is my guess. Maybe even two or less, median. And now, just in the past year, everybody's figured it out and that's just going to unlock so much innovation. Every time I try to use WhatsApp with somebody who's not in the tech industry, I'm reminded these things that feel so familiar to us. Every time I go on Upwork and get a little bit of work done for something, somebody else thinks it's magical. And so this is partially just the whole world experimenting with the tools that we in the tech industry, for better and for worse, have had to slog our way through for 10, 20 years.

Tim Schigel: That is a great reminder. Yeah, you're right. You and I are used to that kind of stuff, but not everybody has to be subjected to it. And so in the fast frontier, you better know how to adapt because more and more of these tools are coming to you, but also for the tool providers for the software developers, that puts a premium on that consumer design usability.

Roy Bahat: 100%. The phrase that I use for this for people, people ask me," What kinds of skills should I practice to be successful at work?" And I do this daily series, which actually, Tim, you should come on as a guest called, This is Not Advice. Which is the data.

Tim Schigel: I love it. That's great.

Roy Bahat: One practical question about work. And one of the things is I call it being the CIO of your own life, the chief information officer of your own life. It used to be at work, many people would just wait to be told what tools to use and now more and more people should be the one saying," I know we've been using blank for tracking our stand ups, but really we should use Range. Or really," and I think we're going to see cases of the people saying, I certainly had this when we started Bloomberg Beta, I said," I need to be able to use the following software tools to do this job." And so," Hey," whoever else might have a say in this," if you don't want to let me use it, I can't do this job." Period. End of story. Full stop. And so it's a bring your tools to work kind of an idea.

Tim Schigel: Yeah. And we spend a bit of time in that, just creating some automation and integration with Gmail and everybody has their own portfolio. You don't all have to have the same thing either. You have your Calendly.

Roy Bahat: Totally, you have a stack of services. Totally. We often ask other venture funds, what's your stack? What do you use? And then we've done a thing, there's a woman on our team, Minn Kim, who's led this effort to do something we call tiny automations, which is basically all the things that we do many times a day, check for mutuals across the team on LinkedIn. We've built the little bits of software that go and speed up these little parts of our day, sometimes with low and no code offerings and you end up with this patchwork of little services that speed you up. And it really, it creates a wonderful experience. And I'll just say, my past work experience, I know like you, I've worked in different domains. I was in big corporate. I was in government. I was in nonprofit. I've been an academic. I teach at Berkeley still. And when I see across all these different domains, lots of people trying new tools, I'm like, okay, this is now really changing. When people in government are sending me their Calendly link, I'm like, okay, something is happening here. And the other thing that I just say, and this gets back to our conversation about startups experimenting with new ways of doing things. When people say the future of work, they often really are referring to what I call the future of working for us. And what they mean is tools that people like you and me might use. And that is only one narrow sliver of the future of work. The real opportunity to me is there's this generation of entrepreneurs who are going into valuable, enormous, traditional industries and they are just creating a new company where the way they run their company uses the technology on the inside. They may not even be great technological inventors themselves. They're not discovering new rocket science. And I think of valuable companies in our portfolio like Flexport, which is a shipping broker, Newfront which is an insurance broker and Domo, which just announced a plan to go public via SPAC, that is a real estate title company. And each one of these, and I don't have a good name for this kind of company, it's a certain kind of what they used to call a full stack company where they're just a competitor with all these enormous incumbents, but the way they use technology on the inside and reinvent all their operating systems is such an enormous advantage that they can have a better product and offering for customers at the same price or even cheaper. They can grow much bigger because it's simpler to scale. And that is this other piece of the future of work we're about to see is entrepreneurs who take on a traditional industry, logistics, real estate, construction, healthcare, name your thing. We don't do financial services, but financial services with technology on the inside.

Tim Schigel: Yeah. Every company has to think of themselves as a tech company and rethink that tech stack. And I don't know, when do you think that will be complete? How many years from now, before every company is?

Roy Bahat: Well, I guess I'd say it this way. That there's a marketing thing for us in tech of calling something a tech company. I think this has been the way of technological innovation since the beginning of time. Now I do think we're likely to see it happen much less predictably and at a much more accelerated rate because the nature, when it happens, it'll be faster because the nature of these companies now is they can use simple AI. They can use lots of other basic software tools and just have such an enormous advantage because the cultural change required at older organizations to adapt. It's not just like, did I buy the software? It's am I okay with this whole group of people who used to do this needing to do something totally different? And they just have this knot of interconnected system that a new startup just gets to start from scratch and refactor the whole stack. Kind of think of these new startups as refactored versions of old industry competitors.

Tim Schigel: Yeah. Well in that refactoring, what are the hazards that I've observed? I'm curious what you think as a future of work guru here. It's the easy button problem. Everything's automated. You talk to somebody customer service," Can you do this for me?" Oh, I can't. The software doesn't let me. And the threat of AI, the people talk about the workplace. How do we better design software and technology that actually gets the benefit of being human out of you and automates the simple stuff that actually helps make you smarter, not dumbs you down.

Roy Bahat: Yeah. Now that to me is the question of 20, 21, the longterm question, I don't know. And I don't even think it's possible to be a guru in the future of anything. I just consider myself a student of it and just try to figure it out. But my partner, James Cham has this line that he says and he's been our AI expert on our team. And we were the first fund to declare that we had an interest in investing in AI in 2014. And he says," Beware, don't be where the bot, be where the boss." And what he means by that is any of these software systems, just replicate a lot of the same structures that we had before. And I think the answer is, first of all, some trial and error, because we're going to have unexpected consequences and you don't want to hand over the keys. You don't give your 15 year old who just got a learner's permit, the keys to the car and say," Drive as fast as you want, anytime you want." And you try it in the parking lot first. That kind of thing. And so part of it is trial and error. And part of it is being intentional and really trying to observe well, where did the power in that lie? I think we all have these cases in companies where there's some official process for something where it's like, well, first you're supposed to go to X and then you go to Y. But really everybody knows it's really Tim's decision. Really you just got to convince Tim to make it. Now, hopefully that's not the case for you in any. But I think we all know those kinds of systems and software is just going to make it much more apparent.

Tim Schigel: Yeah. That's well put. Just let you know, so you also help out quite a bit, you're involved with Comeback Capital in Cleveland and Professor Scott Shane and my alma mater, Case Western Reserve University.

Roy Bahat: Yeah. Oh I didn't know it was your alma mater. That's cool.

Tim Schigel: Well, let me lay it this way, Do you know the name, Melvin Kranzberg?

Roy Bahat: I do not know the name Melvin Kranzberg. But I already love Melvin Kranzberg because with a name like that, how could you not love the guy?

Tim Schigel: He was a professor of history at Case in 52 until 71. He's famous for his six laws of technology. And the first one is technology is neither good nor bad nor is it neutral.

Roy Bahat: Oh, I love it. I love it.

Tim Schigel: There you go.

Roy Bahat: I love it. That is great. That is just great. I'm going to have to check out Kranzberg's laws.

Tim Schigel: How did you get connected to Scott Shane and comeback.

Roy Bahat: We have been from the very beginning of our fund, one of our hypotheses has been constantly test what you believe because it makes you better and try to falsify your own beliefs. And so one of our early beliefs was we wanted to stay as direct investors in the places we knew, the Bay area and kind of what I call the Accela Corridor, DC, New York, Boston. And that's where we had people. It's where we thought we could help folks source. It's where we knew context about how to serve founders. We can get them together for events. And we did this piece of work in 2017, trying to anticipate what the 10 to 20 year effect of technology on the future of work would be. And what came out of that was a lot of, hey, technology is already affecting work and it's just not doing it in the same way as everywhere in the country. And so I went around and started to meet with members of Congress to talk to them about different kinds of legislation that they could pass to support the future of work in the United States. And there was a guy named Tim Ryan. There still is, who is a member of Congress from Youngstown, Ohio. And he said," Hey, you want to learn about this? Why don't you come to Youngstown and bring some venture capitalists and let's figure out what this actually looks like." And so we began then this series that we paused obviously due to COVID, but of tours where we would take VCs from California and New York to emerging technology ecosystems around the country. And some of them were very developed places like Atlanta and some of them were really emerging places like Youngstown. And one of the things we saw, so first of all, I realized, yeah, I definitely shouldn't be directly investing at our early stage because there's good investors. Tim, you're one good example of this. There are good investors who are local, who know what they're doing. And at the same time in our very first meeting, we met Scott Shane, who's also faculty at Case Western and Scott said," Yeah, that's true, but hey, we do need bridges to the West Coast and to others in the technology industry." And he came up with this idea for what he called Comeback Capital, which basically pooled a bunch of LP money from the West Coast and from the regions where he is based. The First Fund is Midwest focused and then go try to write early checks into companies and provide them the value of some connectivity to Silicon Valley, for lack of a better word. And so he started that a few years ago. It's been a great success so far. I really believe in the model. And that's an example of the kind of experiment that we need to pursue. And he's brought in a bunch of local partners and we just need to figure out, okay, a guy like me showing up and writing a pre- seed check, unless it's something where I'm a deep expert. And we've written one or two, we backed a company in Columbus. We've written one or two where we really feel, we know the domain so inside and out that we feel it's an extenuating circumstance, but other than that, you need partners. And so funds like Comeback Capital, I think are essential to how an ecosystem can work.

Tim Schigel: And so what kind of learnings have you been able to observe since then?

Roy Bahat: My biggest learning, there's been so many, I wrote a piece about it after our first tour that we published in Vox. But my biggest learning is people often think, okay, well, what is the way to accelerate progress in mini ecosystems and Tim, you were saying the learning of entrepreneurs, the rate at which that happens is so essential. And I agree with that. And then the question is, okay, what drives that? Podcasts like yours are clearly part of the answer. People like you are part of the answer. I think that the two elements that I've seen that would speed things up the most, the first one is people from successful companies, successful tech companies especially, who were there during their periods of fast growth, not somebody who's at Oracle now. There during their periods of fast growth, moving to places. And second, offices are way more important and most municipalities or states or regions focus on, well, can I get a Google data center? That does not matter. It matters, sorry, it matters in lots of ways, but that doesn't matter to entrepreneurial learning. What matters to entrepreneurial learning is, does Uber set up a remote engineering office in, pick a city, Pittsburgh and therefore people start going back and forth? Now in that case, they're also hiring people from Carnegie Mellon and so folks to get to know each other. Second, offices are a really big deal. We backed a company called BeyondHQ that in part helps companies explore where to do this. Second thing is angels and angel investors are the secret mentors to almost all of the very successful early startups. And when I say angel investors, I don't mean a rich person who made their money in real estate who calls themselves an angel investor because they backed some tech company that nobody ever heard of that didn't work. I mean people who really know what they're doing about the trade craft of starting companies. And that tends to be the best angel investors in my view, they're even better, I say this as a VC, even better dollar for dollar on the cap table than VCs, are the founders of relevant, successful venture backed companies. And if you get somebody who is from Cincinnati who moved to the Bay area, had some success, company exited and then they start angel investing in early Cincinnati companies, the pace of learning is just extraordinary. And so angel investors and second offices, those are the two things that I'm most focused on. I open offer for anybody who's trying to become an angel investor. I'm easy to find on Twitter and delighted to speak with people.

Tim Schigel: Yeah, there are so many people who've made money, investors, I'll say entrepreneurs from traditional industries, traditional companies that want to invest. They want to support their local communities, but they've never done anything that's venture backed. They don't understand losing money, which is good. They've done well, but you have to understand this context, this industry that we're in and then if they invest and they're angel investors in your company, they're probably not going to have the network to help connect you to the seeds or series A.

Roy Bahat: Precisely. And now on some level it's like, look, tough talk. But when you can't raise money, you got to raise money from whoever you can. My start up, I failed to raise money from VCs for our first round. I had to go to college roommates and other randoms who I knew, sorry, I didn't mean to refer disparagingly to my angel investors like that. They ended up behaving really well, but it was scary because some of them were definitely more downside focused. We were able to offer them a chance to sell secondary along the way so they all had the option to make a bunch of money, but it was not easy. And I see all the time angel investors being like," Okay, but how do you know this? What you're telling me is this thing isn't going to fail?" And I'm like," Nope, I'm telling you, it's probably going to fail, but I'm also telling you that if it succeeds, it could be wildly successful." And you want to be an angel investor, even if you're awesome at it, you probably need 10, 20 bets if you're awesome at it, to just make sure to catch a winner. And so that's how you make money as an angel is and not by protecting your downside or weird terms and all kinds of shady shit that people try to do when they are not familiar with the venture backed way of doing things. And by the way, you said, this it's great that people didn't lose money. I agree with that. Being a venture backed business, it's not a better way to build a business, in my opinion. It's just a way. And sometimes for certain kind of businesses, the only way. But Mike didn't take VC for starting Bloomberg LP and he seems to have done just fine.

Tim Schigel: Right. No, absolutely. I dissuade entrepreneurs from thinking about venture in many cases because it just doesn't make sense.

Roy Bahat: My view on it is the only time to take venture is when it's your only choice.

Tim Schigel: Yeah. Yeah. I would say when you have an opportunity to be a market leader.

Roy Bahat: I like that.

Tim Schigel: When you have a chance.

Roy Bahat: More often it's a version of it.

Tim Schigel: But you have to know and there's nothing wrong with those angel investors, by the way, and you need the support, need local support. I've had them, but you have to know as entrepreneur what they bring to the table and what they don't. And so the big thing you hit on to that that we've also designed Refinery around is that specific growth experience component in those individuals, whether they're investors or entrepreneurs or other employees. Because you learn so much through growth. Whether it's zero to 10 or 10 million to a 100 million or a 100 million to a billion. It's growth is growth. And when you're seeking out advisors and mentors, that's not the only input you need. Sometimes you need that domain expertise or other, but you probably also need somebody who's been through that growth.

Roy Bahat: Yeah, look, the vast majority of startups that were wildly successful for better and for worse, had almost nobody involved at the very beginning with much domain expertise. Now that's not to say that domain expertise doesn't make you more likely to be successful because it may, they just may not have had access. But I value domain expertise, but it's any other ingredient in a dish, it's the timing and dosage question.

Tim Schigel: What are the other advantages, whether you're in Youngstown or Indianapolis or Ann Arbor, Michigan, that you've seen that you have by not being in Silicon Valley?

Roy Bahat: The most obvious one is price. Is it's just cheaper to live there and it's just as good a place to live, if not better, in many ways. Or better for some people. That's the big one is talent can get paid less and still live a great life. In fact, if not a better life. Then you have different, fresh ways of thinking about things. As much as it's great that in Silicon Valley, everybody talks to each other or did when we were able to see each other and hopefully we'll do again. That produces wonderful learning. It also produces group think. You don't need to launch your product on Product Hunt to be wildly successful, that's not a critical milestone in the development of any company. Not that launching on Product Hunt is bad or you shouldn't do it. It's just that you end up that these things that seem important locally, end up taking on towering significance when really, there's so many opportunities out there. I'll give you a classic example. I've been waiting for years to find a startup to back that uses older people as its labor force. People define old, however you want, that tends to obviously they can't age discriminate, but that tends to have an older population working for it. We see so few things in Silicon valley, even targeting older people as customers. You see some but very few, part because there's just group think and you got a bunch of people who are just all talking to each other, graduated from Stanford and it's like, well, that's not their lived experience.

Tim Schigel: And designing stuff for themselves.

Roy Bahat: Yeah, that's right. And that's a perfectly valid strategy. It's just that it's an incomplete strategy. And so if I think about places that have, Pete Buttigieg said this perfectly when on the first comeback city tour, we visited him in South Bend and he said," One of the assets we have here is problems." And what he meant by that is they have problems that normal Americans face that are different than the problems that a urbanite in San Francisco faces. And so those problems produce inspiration for founders and those founders go create businesses. And so I think anytime, it's like any creative inspiration, starting something is essentially in one large part a creative process. And so I think that's the other big advantage. And then there's a bunch of others. The community is generally more supportive depending where you are, by the way, there's one other big advantage I left out, which is a diverse talent pool. You go to Atlanta, shame on you if you can't build a diverse company, because there is just so much talent everywhere there. And in Silicon Valley where you have the lock in that happens for many companies struggling with diversity from the get go, that it's much harder to correct a culture that is not inclusive or equitable or diverse than it is to build one from the ground up that is. And so I think that's another huge advantage depending on where you are and those are just an incomplete list. There's probably a ton more, but those are some of the ones that pop to mind.

Tim Schigel: In terms of the activity you've seen, in terms of some people potentially leaving California to go back to maybe where they grew up or move to the Midwest or some of these other cities, how have you seen that? What have you observed?

Roy Bahat: Lots of people experimenting with where they want to live and I think it's great. We were just talking about a founder who moved to Cincinnati. I think I have seen that. I can't tell how much of these things are Twitter phenomena versus not. If you look at Twitter, it seems like Miami is the economic powerhouse of the United States of America. Is that for guys who have good Twitter followings or is it big? By the way, Miami can be great. My partner, Karen Klein is right nearby, which is where her folks are. It can be great. I think we're going to see a lot more of tech everywhere. I think that's a good thing. Then you go back to San Francisco, which is where I am right now. And I am long San Francisco. And I'll tell you the reason why is San Francisco's biggest challenge if you asked me a year and a half ago was how expensive it is to live here. Well, guess what? That just got fixed or not totally fixed, but addressed in large part. And so I've seen some founders come to San Francisco and so how's it all going to shake out? My guess is we'll have many more centers of economic activity in the startup space. I think that's a good thing. Excited to see how it all unfolds.

Tim Schigel: The word you've mentioned several times that I think is a great way to frame it and think about it is this experimentation or discovery. We don't know where it's all going to be, but it's good to see that people are saying," Look, I can do this anywhere. I can live anywhere. I can work online. I don't have to work online. I could change my work life balance and I might discover something new. I might discover something that others haven't seen before because it's new."

Roy Bahat: Yeah. One of my concerns about all this experimentation, just as you said, it's neither good nor bad is I definitely have seen a bunch of people who made their money in a certain place then flee that place. And I kind of think if a place gave you your shot, you owe it to that place to try to make that place better. And so a bunch of people who did great in San Francisco are now poo- pooing it I'm going off the elsewhere. San Francisco city government has a lot to be desired. It is not a well run city in my humble opinion and needs to be a lot better. I remember going to Tulsa and the mayor of Tulsa saying to us," Look around, see all these parks, all these buildings? We love our entrepreneurs here because they built all this stuff." And it's very hard for me to imagine people saying that quite the same way about the entrepreneurs of California. And I wish they could, because I think that San Francisco, most places spend decades wishing for what happened in San Francisco in the last 10, 20 years and I think we need to make more of it.

Tim Schigel: That is a great point. And I hope to see that more of our cities in the middle of the country, that their skylines are changed. I knew companies that are getting created right now today that in seven or 10 years have just changed the profile for better and help create the future. Hopefully they'll do some of that by getting some great ideas from you, Roy. Thank you very much for being a Fast Frontiers.

Roy Bahat: My honor, really. It's great to hear the questions and great to have a chance to ask you a few too, Tim. Thank you for that.

Tim Schigel: Thanks for listening to Fast Frontiers. If you like our show and want to know more, check out our website, fastfrontiers. com. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others and give us a rating and review on your favorite podcast platform. Join us next week when we bring you my conversation with John Nottingham co- president of Nottingham Spirk in Cleveland, Ohio. The Fast Frontiers podcast is brought to you by Refinery Ventures. Our producer is Abby Fittes. Audio engineering by Astronomic Audio, marketing, content and social media support from Content Callout and our podcast platform is Casted.


In this episode, we're talking with Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta, an early stage venture firm backed by Bloomberg LP, focused broadly on the future of work. We're going to dive into how COVID has accelerated that future of work and how some of the trends that we're experimenting with today will continue.