Rob Hayes

Partner at First Round Capital

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON December 16, 2015


Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
I'm Rob Hayes, the partner at First Round Capital known for leading Uber's first investment round at a time when people thought the idea was crazy. I also led our investments in companies such as Planet Labs, Square and TaskRabbit. I'm excited to hear from entrepreneurs working on big, bold world-changing ideas.
brettberson@brettberson · I work at First Round.
@robhayes How would you describe what it's like working with all of us at First Round?
Chauncey TK Hamilton@imchauncey · Operations Manager, First Round
@brettberson upvoting your own question, I like your style.
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@brettberson Thanks for asking! I work with the most amazing team of people I could ever imagine at First Round. The partners here often get all the credit externally but the fact is that it is a massive team effort. Plus, getting to haze you every single day of my life will keep me going for another 50 years. #youasked
Heath W. Black@heathwblack
@brettberson #SoftballQuestion
Andrew Graunke@8ndw · Principal, No Capital LLC
@robhayes Most anticipated cinematic event this week: Star Wars or First Round (and why)? #FRCAwakens
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@8ndw Andrew, no contest! #FRCAwakens #BoxOfficeGold!
Hi Rob. How will you divide your time if a user gives you one hour to solve his/her problem? Thanks!
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@juniusfree Hi Junius! I am a VC, so I will spend the entire time calling other people I know to triangulate on the best answer to the question :)
Phil Nguyen@p_ngu · The Daily Water Cooler + Vettery
Hey @robhayes - What is an industry or technology that you feel has received a lot of attention but isn't ready for primetime yet? Relatedly, is there an industry or technology that you avoid investing in and why? Thanks for taking the time!
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@p_ngu I'm not sure about this mobile thing #kidding! Honestly, I think there are two types of founders. Those that find waves to ride and those that create the waves so they can control when and where the ride happens. Elon Musk has done this x2 and I can point to many other founders that have created their own destiny when others thought it was not the right time (Travis, Jack, Sergey and Larry, etc.) So my question is never "is this the right time to build this company" but is "is this the right person to build this company given that this person will also have to build the market."
Phil Nguyen@p_ngu · The Daily Water Cooler + Vettery
@robhayes Very insightful, thanks so much for this great answer. Also, I think hyperlinks are just a fad!
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello y @robhayes ! I was wondering which industry you are feeling excited to be disrupted in the coming year? Any advice for a first time entrepreneur and what is the best way a stratup can get your attention? Thanks!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What is your 'blueprint' for assessing an attractive investment?
Kiki Schirr / 史秀玉@kikischirr · Founder, WeKiki Video Chat Platform
Is there a problem that you think the tech world could help solve that isn't currently being addressed or is thought impossible? and What's your favorite piece of SWAG you've ever gotten? 😝 Thanks for answering questions!
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@kikischirr Thanks for asking! I am currently spending a lot of time thinking about how we feed our population, especially as more and more people are moving back to cities and are also becoming more cognizant of the impact on our well being of what we put in our bodies. There are lots of folks investing in and around agriculture but I believe there are some bigger ideas out there and have been exploring a number of interesting things. And best swag was an original Chumby I received at a FooCamp probably 12 years ago. Loved that thing, although now it sits in the hallowed museum of technology in our offices here at First Round.
Nirmal Raj S@nirmalrajs
@robhayes Few books recommendations please.
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@nirmalrajs Hey there...I'm sorta on Goodreads so you can see some of my stuff there. I'm currently reading Sapiens, which is a fascinating and somewhat nonintuitive history of how the human race came to be. Other than that I am reading emails, blogs, and my guilty pleasure is reading anything and everything about politics :)
Swapnil Nagrale@snagarale · Consultant @ Capgemini
@robhayes What is the least good start up idea you invested in
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@snagarale Awesome question! There are many contenders but I will just say that I am certain I haven't invested in my least good startup yet :)
Jack Smith@_jacksmith · Serial Entrepreneur & Startup Adviser
Hi Rob. You've been at First Round Capital for about 9.5 years now and made some great investments. But judging from your crunchbase/angellist etc profiles you've made relatively few investments for having been at the firm so long. — Is that a fair assertion? Or are there more deals that aren't announced, or do you generally spend more of your time assisting other Partners on deals etc?
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@_jacksmith Hi Jack, thanks for asking the question. I have made a ton of investments in my time at First Round and have been really bad at updating the public profiles like crunchbase and angelist. I, unfortunately, am a terrible self marketer. As I tell people, I came from a school of thought that you should be in a newspaper (and the fact that I reference "newspaper" should give you an idea of how old I am:) three times in your life: birth announcement, marriage announcement, and obituary. But I am trying to get better at it. In fact, I did sorta update my angelist profile yesterday although it is still missing a bunch of stuff. But thanks for the reminder and I will get better.
Jack Smith@_jacksmith · Serial Entrepreneur & Startup Adviser
@robhayes nice. thanks for the insight!
Mikhil Raj@mikhilraj · Entrepreneur, Technologist
Hi @robhayes, Since you one of the early investors in one of the world's biggest marketplace, I guess this question would be very apt for you. The text is little long but I hope you will find it interesting to answer. What do you think of solving environmental and social issues in a sustainable and profitable way through marketplaces. (One such example is Uber Carpool). What do you think can be major glitches that marketplaces can face with great uncertainty. P.S. I am very curious as I too am working on such good thing after working (and selling some) on few core technology ideas.
Krishna Dahal@abhkes_krishna · Co-founder @ Algebra, Inc.
Hi Rob, I am working on Rangeenroute - one stop platform for startups. We are releasing the full version by March 2016. Any tips before going to market would be much appreciated!
Mohsen Khalkhali@mossibat · IoT investor @ Iratel Ventures
@robhayes great to have you here. What is the one thing you recommend a new VC ( I'm a partner) do to foster a young/emerging tech ecosystem (Middle east)?
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@mossibat Mohsen, great question! I believe that there is much you can do to help companies as a VC and building out this capacity in order to differentiate yourself from other investors in very important. But, and a big "but", if you aren't investing in the right companies to begin with it doesn't matter. Many people think VC is a cushy job, and some people treat it that way, but to be successful it is an "always on" endeavor. Be constantly meeting new people, asking who else you should be talking to, find out who has the best access to interesting companies and take them out to dinner, and be constantly vigilant. And when you find an opportunity that compels you, act quickly and aggressively.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@robhayes thanks so much for being here today! 🙌What's the best advice you've ever been given? Flip side, what's the worst?
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi! How do you think about online schools/education? What are the elements missing that can make them grow exponentially?
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@theo_dimarhos I am a big believer in the disruption of education. I believe that at the root of many of our issues today is the fact that we don't know how to efficiently invest in or manage our education systems. When I grew up, the public schools in California that I attended (K through university) were some of the best in the they aren't even the best in the western US. Too many stakeholders, too many questions about what education should look like, and too much waste. So I am a big believer in new online and offline education models. As for growing them exponentially, the best thing to do is to have as little engagement with the current education systems as possible...they will just slow you down as they suck the life force out of you.
Eric Willis@erictwillis · Working on something new
Thanks for doing this AMA @robhayes. You managed Palm OS during the heyday of Palm. What do you think was the team's biggest blind spot concerning the advent of the iPhone? I remember back in 2006 when Ed Colligan pretty much said no one from the PC industry was just going to walk in and build a great phone. And how does your experience from Palm affect the way your choose companies/founders to invest?
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@erictwillis Great question! Just to be clear I was at Palm from 99-03 well before the iPhone was built. That team had plenty of blind spots but the notion of a coming smart phone revolution was not one of them. We all knew that mobile data ubiquity was two years away, the only problem was that it had been "two years away" for over a decade. The carriers had a complete stranglehold on the market and were unwilling to allow anything unique or proprietary on their networks, I believe because they feared becoming simple dumb pipes. I often say that Steve Jobs' biggest accomplishment with the iPhone was not building the product itself, but cramming it down the throat of AT&T without them ruining it on the way. And now the carriers are the dumb pipes they were always meant to be #CanIHearAHallelujah?!
Mahee Gunturu@vanguard_space · Founder of
Hello @robhayes , what are the technologies that get you so excited about that future that you cant sleep at night ? (if at all there are any)
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@vanguard_space Love this question! First of all, I can almost never sleep at night but that is another story (reference above where I talk about my two teenage daughters :) but the best thing about my job is I get to meet founders who are building the future every single day. Not only do single ideas get me very excited, but being in the middle of an ecosystem where most people are focused on improving the lives of others in small and big ways makes it not only so I can't sleep, but I don't want to for fear of missing out on some new amazing idea.
Sehaj Taneja@imsehajtaneja · CoFounder
@robhayes What should a STARTUP focus first on •Market Research and Need of Product or • Product/ Prototype Development and Testing .
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@imsehajtaneja Good question! You gave me a multiple choice question but I will answer with D) None of the above. The first thing you should focus on is a problem that is so important for you to solve that you feel comfortable spending day and night for the next ten years trying to solve perfectly. If it doesn't get over that bar, the chances of you being successful are very, very small.
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Thanks for doing this! When do you think will VR become mainstream and what uses of it are you really looking forward to?
Rob Hayes@robhayes · partner
@theo_dimarhos Thanks for asking about VR! I am not nearly as immersed in the business as my partner Chris Fralic but you should check out his thoughts at