About 18 months ago, Bill Pescatello returned to corporate venture after a stint in a traditional VC fund (Lightbank). Evolv is a $100 million firm created in partnership with Kraft Heinz. Bill already had CVC experience as he started his career post business school working at NBC’s Corporate Venture group. We talked on the episode about why Bill decided to return to CVC and how Evolv Ventures is set up.
I also hope you’ll consider subscribing to Agile Giants if you haven’t already on:
- iTunes (also if you feel like the podcast deserves 5-stars, would love a rating on iTunes)
- Google Play
- Or use RSS in your favorite podcasting software
Sean Ammirati (00:08): Welcome to Agile Giants, lessons from corporate innovators. I’m Sean Ammirati, your host, Co-Founder and Director of the Carnegie Mellon Corporate Startup Lab and Partner at the Early Stage Venture Capital Fund, Birchmere Ventures. Each week I’m going to talk to guests who are experts at creating startups inside large corporations. I believe fundamentally a startup within a company is the same as one inside the proverbial garage, a group of entrepreneurs trying to make the world a better place using new ideas and inventions. However, I also believe some of the techniques and processes are just inherently different. This podcast is going to explore those similarities and differences.
Sean Ammirati (00:56): So I wanted to finish up the series of interviews on Corporate Venture Capital with just one more here. We’ll probably come back to CVC at some point, but on this week’s episode, I finish up this series with a really good one. Bill Pescatello just started, about 18 months ago, a venture group in partnership with Kraft Heinz. It’s a $100 million firm called Evolv Ventures. But Bill’s career is interesting because he started his career working at NBCUniversal after business school doing Corporate Venture Capital. Then moved over to work with Eric and Brad at Lightbank. So Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, many of you know, ran an early stage firm in Chicago called Lightbank, and then as Eric and Brad shifted their attention back to startups that they were running, Bill made a decision to come back to the corporate side and work with Kraft Heinz.
Sean Ammirati (01:47): We talked on the episode today a little bit about why Bill made that decision and how Evolv Ventures is set up. I think this is the great exclamation point on a number of interviews in a row that we’ve done here on CVC. Again, we’ll probably come back to it at some point, but I wanted to kind of finish up with last but certainly not least, this week’s conversation with Bill Pescatello.
Sean Ammirati (02:15): So Bill, thanks so much for making time to join us on Agile Giants. I thought it’d be a great place to start actually is talking just a moment about the things you did before you started Evolv Ventures and then obviously we’ll get into Evolv specifically. So can you just walk through your career leading up to the founding Evolv Ventures?
Bill Pescatello (02:32): Sure, sure. So I’ve been doing venture capital for just about 12 years now. Got my start actually out of business school, went to North Chicago, coming out of business school, I had the opportunity to work with GE Capital and NBC. So this is back in 2007 we started a $250 million joint venture that invested in anything you would think there’d be strategic to a major studio like NBC. So over the next five years we made investments in companies like BigPoint and Rubicon Project, which ended up going public. ADAFI, a number of great companies in kind of the digital media, general digital media space and ad tech space. So we did that five years. Comcast actually acquired NBC. This was back in 2011.
Sean Ammirati (03:13): Okay.
Bill Pescatello (03:14): So after acquisition, I joined Comcast Ventures. I work with the folks there, taking the train on a weekly basis from Penn station to Philly. So yeah, was fortunate enough to do that and then get to work with great folks over at Comcast Ventures. And then while I was there, actually had an ex-colleague who partnered up with two serial entrepreneurs in Chicago, Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell who were just starting a fund called Lightbank, which was a $200 million seed fund, largest seed fund in Chicago. And so I joined Eric, Brad and then another colleague of ours, Paul Lee, who we worked together at NBC. We did that for like the next about eight years. I became a partner at Lightbank. We invested in over a hundred companies. We built a really great fund here in Chicago with some really nice wins and it’s seen some great results.
Sean Ammirati (04:04): Yeah. People may not know who Eric and Brad are. I mean, I’m guessing a lot of people do. But do you want to just kind of quickly talk about Eric and Brad so people understand the context of the founding team of Lightbank there?
Bill Pescatello (04:18): Sure, sure. And it was a really interesting time. So this was 2011, where I was at Comcast and at the same point, this was when Groupon was really breaking out in Chicago. And Groupon was at the time, the fastest growing venture backed company of all time. Eric and Brad started the company with the Andrew Mason. Ended up going public I think around the $15 to $18 billion number. I forget what it was exactly when it went public, but built up a very large company. That was their fourth successful company in a row. They basically had, what was it? I think it was basically four companies within almost a five year period that they started. Three of those, they took public. Fourth one, they sold for $700 million. So incredible results in one company after another. And the Groupon was just huge. And so in that light, you know, Eric and Brad, they really wanted to institutionalize their personal investing.
Bill Pescatello (05:06): And really built a great fund. Across all the opportunities that they were seeing Chicago was really taking off. And so, Brad and Paul Lee I’ve worked with before to help them kind of manage that fund and brought me in as a principal at that time. And so we all came in together and started building it up. Meeting companies like Sprout Social, which recently went public less than three months ago. So again, built a really nice portfolio with guys who are more entrepreneurs.
Bill Pescatello (05:31): And honestly, the part of the reason why I started Evolv Ventures was Eric and Brad started two more really big companies. So a company called Tempus, which is a genomics company who’s raised over $500, I think over $500 million at this point in like a three or four year period. And then Uptake Technologies, which Brad started, which is a similar dynamic. He’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars and built on paper, multibillion dollar potential company there. And so Eric would hold a 100% focus on those businesses. As they were focusing on those, again, I wanted to continue to grow and build and do additional funds. And so it was literally thinking about starting my own fund as they were really focusing on those businesses.
Bill Pescatello (06:11): So it was going through that process and while I was, that’s where Kraft Heinz kind of approached me.
Bill Pescatello (06:17): And this becomes, why do you go from a strategic fund? Right?
Sean Ammirati (06:20): That’s the next question for sure. Why go back to a corporate? So I think you’ve got good answers here, but I want to make sure the audience gets a chance to hear this as well. So…
Bill Pescatello (06:29): Yeah, so I mean I thought through it and I looked at all the data and the information and you look at results and I’ve tried to do a number of funds out there and I think it’s somewhere over a thousand venture funds out there in the US today. It’s an incredible amount and there are ton of seed funds with really smart investors and not everyone can win. It’s highly competitive. Cambridge Associates, and you look at average returns and actually return to capital.
Bill Pescatello (06:54): Sometimes it’s troubling, you know, this really strong view if you’re going to do this. Even if you’ve got a great track record and things are worked out in the past, I think have to be realistic in terms of what’s the chances you’re going to be successful if you’re just another fund.
Bill Pescatello (07:07): And that was the piece we’re going to start this, I didn’t want to be just another fund, whether it’s strategic or financial. That didn’t matter and for me, what I looked at it is, as I talked to Kraft Heinz and Kraft Heinz, there was another great advantage that we had with Evolv Ventures is that Kraft Heinz has a major position from 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway and great investors and folks that really understand private equity.
Bill Pescatello (07:31): And so having partners understand the right way to build this was really key doing this the right way, and I think getting us excited about doing it together.
Bill Pescatello (07:41): And so as we thought about building our own fund versus doing with Kraft Heinz, what really got me excited about working with Kraft Heinz is the ability to work with the fifth largest food and beverage company in the world would give us access.
Bill Pescatello (07:54): Proprietary data, industry networks, real advantages. We weren’t just a check. There’s plenty of checks out there today and before COVID-19 this whole crisis the valuations and the amount of money in the market was real, it was disturbing. And so thinking of starting a fund in 2020 or let’s say 2019 before this happened and just being another fund, it’s a scary prospect. I mean putting your own personal money in there and what are those funds going to that vintage year going to look like in five to eight years. You know?
Bill Pescatello (08:27): I had confidence in the team and with myself what we were doing that we could do well, but I was also very, I was really self aware of what the data looks like. And even really smart folks and great funds, I think there’s a chance that they can struggle if they don’t have that clear advantage in that.
Sean Ammirati (08:43): So for Evolv, just how would you summarize the strategy and how you leveraged Kraft if you were kind of pitching an entrepreneur. And then I want to then after that, talk about the Kraft perspective on it as well, the Kraft Heinz perspective.
Sean Ammirati (08:54): But first when you’re marketing to entrepreneurs, how do you talk about what you are beyond a check?
Bill Pescatello (08:59): Yeah. Yeah. So one, I mean the number one thing first in terms of having access to a company that does over $25 billion in sales, has global operations, and again, the fifth largest food and beverage company in the world, we can be really meaningful partners in a lot of ways, right? Companies that we invest in, we have the opportunities to put in our warehouses and factories. From the freight, for example, I think Kraft Heinz spends let’s say almost a billion dollars a year or something close to that.
Bill Pescatello (09:29): These are already very large numbers. You need very meaningful partners for the companies in those spaces. And so by working with them we can give them access. Right? And at least put them in front of the right folks. I mean the other piece too is when we deal with Kraft Heinz, you know what we’re trying to do is solve some of the issues and problems that they have internally.
Bill Pescatello (09:46): And so it’s win-win. And even when we were doing diligence with potential companies, it’s great as I think it’s a very good use of their time. And sometimes a lot of times founders get sick and tired of just talking to another VC fund. And let’s be honest, the hit rates for funds investing companies can be as low as 1%. Well, when we’re talking to companies, one it’s about investment but we’re also making connections internally. And we can be a great sales lead for some of these emerging companies and put them inside our very large organization where not only where we’re talking about potential investment, but this is going to materialize into very large contracts for a very big customer that they can be a part of.
Bill Pescatello (10:24): And so one, that usually what I’ve found is it’s hopefully a win-win in that one, we can make those companies better connected within a very large potential customer. And then two, there’s investment opportunity. We’re doing that work while also vetting them as a potential customer. And so we’ve seen that work pretty well. And then I would say also in terms of the structure of the fund, the other piece that we’ve done on purpose is we have a strong view also that this needs to be purely financial.
Bill Pescatello (10:49): And that’s the other piece that’s important, right? There are a lot of corporate venture funds where it’s off the balance sheet. It’s more about strategic benefits than it is financial return. And that’s great. And I get it, right. So I get this question all the time of “Wait, you’re doing $25 million in sales, you guys are investing $10 million, you know, sorry, $100 million over, let’s say a five year period or a three to five year period. You have a two or three X. Like, what does that do to the Kraft Heinz stock price? Like why even bother with their turns? You should be focused more on the strategic side.”
Bill Pescatello (11:27): And I think you have to look at it both ways because I don’t think there’s a strategic fund will last unless you’re returning capital back to your company and are a good use of capital on that side. So you have to prove out and have the ability to give returns. And the funds that don’t work out are ones that get lost and more qualitative, you know? Qualitative measures and are looking to add innovation. Then it becomes more about what looks good than I think what’s right for their LP and the company that they’re representing.
Sean Ammirati (12:01): Sure. And you’re an LP in the fund too, I guess you’re the GP, but you’re an investor in the fund as well, right? So you have financial interests in making sure there’s a financial return here as well in Evolv.
Bill Pescatello (12:11): Yes. Yes. And that was something actually and to Kraft Heinz’ credit and they’re our partners when we set this up, that was actually a very important part. And the number one thing they pushed back was having us put more into the fund person and that makes a ton of sense. And they know again for whatever dollar amount we put in, it’s going to hurt us more if we don’t do well than it is Kraft Heinz in terms of how our investments do. And so it really puts our skin in the game and if we’re promoting or pushing something internally, trust me like we believe in it because our own dollars are there.
Bill Pescatello (12:47): And I think sometimes that’s missing with other Corporate Venture funds … or is too often I think Corporate Venture funds are rewarded just for doing deals and volume versus returns. And especially in an environment where our exits in general, if they’re within five years, let’s say the average term is probably eight years, how long does the average Corporate Venture investor stay at these companies? Right?
Sean Ammirati (13:14): Yeah.
Bill Pescatello (13:14): And if you know how they’re going to do or actually have the results for like eight years, how do you tie it to that? How do you not make it more of a, “How do I build up my resume, do a lot of volume and make it look good,” versus actually return capital? And for us being purely financial fantasy tied to our investments, making it personally, we are a very, you know, the incentives are aligned and we’re working, you’re working I think the right way for Kraft Heinz and RLP just like any financial VC is.
Bill Pescatello (13:44): And I think again, I think that’s very important is you need two components. You need to be financially tied to the results and be aligned with your LPs. And at the same time, again on the other side of it, I think it’s really important and you need to be tied to the organization and pull up all the benefits that are there for their insights, whether it’s access, whatever it is that gives you an advantage of utilizing a strategic partner to get better results than the average fund.
Bill Pescatello (14:12): So you have better information. You have better access. You can be more value added. And I think if you tie in the best of the financial VCs and those incentives and make it align plus tie in all those advantages you have of having this huge multibillion dollar organization behind you that you can leverage, you know, that’s the perfect world if you can pull it off.
Bill Pescatello (14:33): There are a lot of pitfalls. A lot of people fall through them. But if you can do both together and do it right and I think we did that really well at NBC. And we had a great top [inaudible 00:14:42] fund role over at an NBC. If you can do that it works out really well. I know always felt when I was at Peacock Equity, which is our NBC bond, I always felt like I was playing with stacked deck. And if we’re doing this right and we structure it, I want to feel like I’m playing with a stacked deck.
Sean Ammirati (14:57): So how does Evolv play with a stacked deck? Like unpack that a little bit for people who may be understanding that conceptually but thinking, okay Peacock, I think it’s pretty straight forward because most people understand NBC and the portfolio companies you gave: ad tech, marketing tech, digital media, right? But how does Evolv do the same thing? What’s your stack deck?
Bill Pescatello (15:20): Yeah, I mean I think you start out with… One of the first things I think is you get better access. Like a lot of people look at funds and have you talked to LPs that are looking at it, one of the things, do you have a proprietary deal flow? Are you seeing things that other people don’t have? Do you have access to things that maybe you are going to get? And I think number one we do get incredible access because people want to work with Kraft Heinz. Startups want to get into our ecosystem. Even if we are doing outbound, and I love, again, I love being vertically focused. So we’re focused on a very [inaudible 00:15:53] in this industry and we can cut off 80% of the world and just focus on what matters to us.
Sean Ammirati (15:57): Sure.
Bill Pescatello (15:58): Within that, when we’re looking at where we’re investing thematically and looking at specific areas, the response rates for us reaching out to companies has to be like 99%, or as close to 100% as you possibly get. Even if they don’t care about taking venture investment from anybody, they want to know what you’re thinking or if there’s something behind that or if there’s a deal there. And so that’s the one thing as we’ve found that we get incredible access. So the ability to see as many deals as possible. We feel like we have a clear advantage versus Bill Pescatello Ventures, or if we did something else under our own name. We definitely get way better access than we would otherwise.
Sean Ammirati (16:37): Yep.
Bill Pescatello (16:38): Two, I think we’re smart. And my view is like we should be the smartest people on the table in the spaces that we’re playing, right?
Bill Pescatello (16:45): There are plenty of great funds out there. A lot of them are horizontally focused and do all various things, different areas. We’re thematic and we’re going to very strict area. We have people that have spent decades in certain spaces and we’ve leveraged that. We’re testing technologies internally. And I have data that pure finance funds don’t have, or if they do, they’re probably relying on diligence calls and talking to customers. But we’re dealing with people that we know well, we built those relationships and credibility. Then I think we’re getting better information in our walls where we get the testings before we buy sometimes.
Bill Pescatello (17:21): We get to talk to folks and seeing all the various competitors. And again, I think we’ve got better information, better feedback, better access. And then the final piece is can we be more value added? Right? And I think with our network, one is within Kraft Heinz. The other one is, you know, we work well and we’ve got relationships with whether it’s AB InBev’s of the world, whether it’s Nestle, Unilever, we’re competitive with some of those folks. We’re all looking for the same sort technological tools. And we really do feel like we can help each other out and take those learnings and all be smarter.
Bill Pescatello (17:57): And so if we invest in the company one and we think it solves the problems, we’re going to get results. We’re going to blow it out through our entire organization and really promote them and try to help them grow here. But outside of that, we’ll also try to promote it with all our colleagues and the people that we know well and kind of share some of the information that we’re seeing to really expand and make it larger.
Bill Pescatello (18:17): And when companies are thinking about taking money from us, having Steve Sanger as my partner, myself, having us put our own personal money in it. And also Kraft Heinz being very focused on, “Okay, we’re going to evaluate from your IRR or what’s the return you’re going to have?” We are a hundred percent incentivized to blow it out and really grow big companies, not just put walled gardens around emerging companies and just keep them for Kraft Heinz. But how do we make them as large as possible and get the best results and build the biggest companies we can.
Sean Ammirati (18:46): Have you guys made any investments yet at Evolv?
Bill Pescatello (18:49): Yes, we made five so far.
Sean Ammirati (18:51): Okay. So on those five investments, do you have, you know, sometimes CVCs have kind of special terms like “right of first refusal” or anything like that or because of this financial incentives it’s pretty vanilla terms?
Bill Pescatello (19:06): We don’t have a ROFR in a single deal. And when we started this fund I had… this was something I believed very strongly in and we came to agreement in the start and the only way we do it is we agree to this is we don’t want a ROFR in any of our deals.
Sean Ammirati (19:17): Okay.
Bill Pescatello (19:20): This is not about special rights. We want to work with the best companies and make the best investments where the best companies that can make the biggest impact. You know, you need to have standard industry terms to win those deals or else you’re going to get kind of, you know, buy second rate, probably second rate company is, and that’s not what we’re looking for. We want to work with the best.
Sean Ammirati (19:38): Within your focus area?
Bill Pescatello (19:40): Within our focus area.
Sean Ammirati (19:41): Which I think leads to the next question then. So what are, you know you talked about one example, but how would you define the themes or the focus areas for Evolv?
Bill Pescatello (19:49): Yeah, so basically there’s four key areas that we look at, that we break it down in. The first one is food tech. So the food tech is basically any technology goes into production of new food products. So think plant based alternatives, cell-based meat, those sort of companies, Impossible, Beyond that sort of thing. The next one is industrial technologies. And honestly that’s probably where I spend the most time. And so those technology that’s going in their warehouses or factories, or huge industrial players.
Bill Pescatello (20:18): And when industrial 4.0 and all the new innovations that are happening, how can we be meaningful investors and partners in that and see the next level with technology that are coming? Sales and marketing tech is the next big area. Honestly, we’re a huge consumer brand, a marketing company, so that’s similar to where we’ll be at. And the last one is kind of new consumer models looking at things and how the space is evolving. Like Instacart back in the day it would be an example of that.
Bill Pescatello (20:40): Consumers are buying food and food related products in different ways.
Sean Ammirati (20:44): So consumer models specifically in retail then?
Bill Pescatello (20:47): Yeah. Yeah.
Sean Ammirati (20:48): Okay, makes sense.
Bill Pescatello (20:48): So we invested in a company called Zippin, which would be an example, which would basically be providing a cashierless checkouts for the Amazon Go-type model. They’re changing the way or looking at new ways consumers are kind of buying products and they are providing that sort of solution.
Speaker 2 (21:04): Okay. So proxy for the Kraft Heinz side. So I think at this point it’s a pretty good perspective on sort of what the entrepreneurs get. Why this was compelling to you. If you were representing sort of the Kraft Heinz side of it, why do you think they’re excited about being partners with you and Evolv?
Bill Pescatello (21:22): One, I think we bring something different to the table. You know, I know in one of the reasons why I talked about some of the areas we’re investing in, one of the areas I didn’t say is emerging brands, because we’re not. Like we’re technology based investors and myself and our team, this is what we’ve done a whole career. Like if Kraft Heinz wants to invest in emerging brands, they have smarter people than us, right? Like they have people living these brands, that are seeing everything and that are there every day. They should do that. We’ve got Corp Dev groups, we have business leaders across various line items. They should do that. We should not.
Bill Pescatello (21:54): But what we have seen is how do you invest in and adopt technology in emerging spaces? You know, I think we’ve built out a very good network over our careers and know who great co-investors things. And so we’re seeing a lot of things on those technology side and I think we bring a very technology, emerging technology perspective.
Bill Pescatello (22:12): And how will you find those new emerging platforms of your working better and be really focused on that. And so having a team, again let some ways are seeing things earlier, the other pieces were Series A, Series B, even as a Lightbank I spent eight years mostly doing seed. And I think if you’re a large CBG company like Kraft Heinz, you probably shouldn’t be focused mostly on like seed and early Series A because you talked to every emerging company, it’s going to be really hard for you to focus and you get lost.
Bill Pescatello (22:41): You probably should be talking more at a later stage. But having a different team like ourselves and making investments and know when there’s emerging companies that are popping up. But also, okay these are guys you should talk to. And I think we do a good job of validating what’s real, what’s not real.
Bill Pescatello (22:56): And help folks on the business side be more efficient in terms of those emerging companies they’re working with and who are the ones that again, they should probably be spending more time on versus “Okay, there’s 12 companies like this, not differentiated. There’s some issues here. You know, I think we would do a pretty good job of identifying pretty real time what are those emerging companies that are emerging and who do we need to be focused on as they start happening.”
Sean Ammirati (23:21): Excellent. So I think, so it’s $100 million fund. You and your, you have a co-founder right? That started it with you? Correct?
Bill Pescatello (23:28): Yeah, so I started the fund with my partner, Steve Sanger.
Bill Pescatello (23:32): He was a part of the senior management team at Grubhub. So when I started this other piece too is I’ve been in general venture investor… digital media type companies or NBC. When I was a Lightbank, we did everything from dating apps to like supersonic jets. Like we did literally everything. And Steve was, again, it’s really worked food tech his entire life, you know? And so I really wanted a partner that was really industry specific, that’s lived in this space, who live, breathe, ate this all the way through.
Bill Pescatello (24:03): And I think you bring in someone who’s been investing for over the last 10 years and didn’t really focus on the venture community and that ecosystem and partners. And again, I think I’ve learned a ton in terms of venture investing in general and building out the network, hopefully do it successfully. I really wanted that industry specific partner.
Bill Pescatello (24:20): That I could rely and count on and who’s been extremely useful. And he spends a little bit more time on the pure food tech side, which I gather we balanced each other very well. And again, any, anybody who builds a team, I think you got to be really thoughtful in terms of what each partner brings and how you’re more than kind of the sum of the parts. And I think it’s worked out really well, at least the first 18 months. And I’ve known Steve for a while. It’s been a great partnership and I think we both bring a lot of different skill sets on the table where we hopefully compliment each other. And so again I think you look at our team, the thing that we feel greatest for and it’s for people.
Bill Pescatello (24:52): So the great thing about our team that we’re excited about is you know, people have that prior experience. This is not a group of folks who are in business development are trying to figure out how to do venture, yo. It’s either people have lived in the startup community or been doing venture for years. So we’re not learning on like Kraft Heinz’ dime and you have this is a team that’s done it before. And it’s really been invaluable to have a team again who has that experience and we’ve been off and running ever since we got started, which has been, which is an awesome.
Sean Ammirati (25:21): That’s awesome. One more kind of specific question then I’ll finish with a couple of questions I ask everybody. So the last specific question and people may be listening to this years down the road, given the evergreen nature of this content, but we’re recording this right in the middle of the COVID pandemic and I’m curious from where you sit, how do you think this pandemic and then likely recession is going to impact Corporate Venture and Venture overall?
Bill Pescatello (25:49): I think it will be particularly rough in Corporate Venture because the first thing that people cut, right, when times get tough are quote unquote like non-critical pieces of the business. Right? And I think again, I think venture investing and what we’re doing is extremely important for the long run of companies like Kraft Heinz. And we’re certainly internally and throughout the organism we’re committed to what we’re doing. But I understand how most corporations work and you can look at the history, right? A corporate venture. And when times get tough, you just see a lot of these funds actually get shut down. Because if you’re going to lay off, you want to keep the critical positions there. And if you get savings from things which might show up and five years, you know, five years plus. In recessions, you’re very… companies become very short term focused.
Bill Pescatello (26:37): So, unfortunately I think a lot of companies are actually cut back on their corporate venturing investments. I think that’s a mistake. I think we’re going to see some great investment opportunities in the quarters in the years to come. Whether the market falls off a cliff or not. I mean, I think things got ahead of themselves when you look at valuation, the money in the market before this all happened. And I think a time where people are a little more conservative, realistic is a good thing for the market. And so we’ll see what’s there. I think the other thing that’s interesting is the world’s going to be different after this. I mean capital market ramifications is one thing and you know what the money come going into the market looks like. But there’s other quotes, especially for like someone like Evolv and Kraft Heinz and even kind of the food industry.
Bill Pescatello (27:31): I think we’re fortunate in a certain things and the investments we made actually are probably do pretty well on a post COVID-19 world. Like we invested in a company called Fabric, which basically does the e-commerce fulfillment around the grocery space. So basically automating, picking items within a grocery store behind the scenes for pickup or delivery. So you don’t have to have like Instacart, get folks kind of going up and down the aisles. It’s all automated and doing it. E-commerce in the grocery category, I mean it’s being accelerated by years.
Sean Ammirati (28:01): Right.
Bill Pescatello (28:01): People are getting used to buying online for the first time or really relying on it more than ever. So where we were going to be before is probably, again, there’s probably three years ahead of where we thought were going to be. And so people are going to have to invest even faster in some of those technologies to enable it. And I think you’re starting to see that. And so we’re excited that this literally our last investment before this whole crisis was exactly in that space. And so I think you’re going to see things like that.
Sean Ammirati (28:26): Awesome. Are you guys still actively looking at deals right now? Or do you hit pause for a little while? How are you guys kind of reacting internally to this crisis?
Bill Pescatello (28:34): Yeah, I mean we’re trying. We have a consistent approach, right? But my view is always when things are really good, be careful, you know what I mean? Just try to be consistent in what you do. Right?
Sean Ammirati (28:44): Yeah.
Bill Pescatello (28:45): In the good times, a bit invest, in the bad times also. You know, we’re being worked through investing consistently through it. Obviously we’re being very mindful of the things we’re doing. And there’s certain categories, like things within restaurant services for example, you just got to be a little more mindful of where you’re investing right now. We’re looking to have a consistent approach. We have a multiyear fund and we’re looking to do this for years and not decades. And so again, we want to kind of be in the market at all times and so we’re trying to keep it consistent approach.
Sean Ammirati (29:16): Cool. All right, last two questions that I like to ask everybody. So the first one is go back to when you’re coming out of business school and the career you’ve had. Fast forward to today, imagine that there’s someone like you coming out of business school thinking, “Okay I want a career in venture.” What advice would you give him or her?
Bill Pescatello (29:34): I had no idea where kind of I would end up to be perfectly honest. Like I think I’ve been very lucky and fortunate. And I think the best thing that happened to me and any advice I’d give someone coming out of business school is try to find the right people. I know it’s cliche, but try to work for people you think are going places, that you can learn from, especially when you’re young. You know? And again, I think it’s more about the people, the brands than anything else. And for me, I worked my butt off out of business school and for the teams that I worked on and I think I bought credibility with those folks.
Bill Pescatello (30:10): And I think I was fortunate enough to work with the right people that even you look at my opportunity that I got when I was at Lightbank and worked with Eric, Eric Lefkofsky, Brad Keywell is really driven by I think the work I did for Paul Lee who was my partner and the guy I worked under when I was at NBC. And I was just very fortunate to work with someone like that who brought opportunities with me because I did a really good job and you can count on. So I think if you work your butt off for the folks around you and you surround yourself with people who are talented, who you think are going places, that’s the best thing you can do.
Sean Ammirati (30:41): Awesome. And then the last question, if people want to kind of follow along, where’s the best place to follow you? Social media or websites or anything like that?
Bill Pescatello (30:51): Yeah, I mean Twitter. Again, where we blog every one of our, the deals that we do. So if you ever see us ever make an investment in a space, you’re interested in the category that you were doing, go on Medium check out were our thoughts on those deals and you’ll see the information there or you can find me on Twitter and kind of see my kind of shorter form kind of takes on some things that are going on.
Sean Ammirati (31:14): Awesome. We will get those in the show notes. I really appreciate you making the time to be able to join us today. This has been fascinating. Couple of takeaways for me for sure. So thanks for making the time today.
Sean Ammirati (31:31): I hope you enjoyed this episode of Agile Giants. If so, consider sharing it with a friend and if you think it’s worth five stars, which I hope you do, please go to iTunes and rate it so that others can find this content as well.
Join the discussion