4. James Robinson III
& James Robinson IVGeneral Partner & Managing PartnerRRE VenturesLast year: 1
Having raised $1.5 billion in seven funds since its inception in 1994, RRE Ventures stands out for the size and breadth of its venture capital portfolio, spanning seed, Series A, and Series B stages. It invests globally but has a strategic affinity for its home market of New York: More than 50 portfolio companies are based in the metropolitan area. That helps explain RREs sizable commitment to fintech. So does the DNA of co-founder and general partner James Robinson III, who while chairman and CEO of American Express Co. from 1977 to 1993 took such bold steps as acquiring half of Warner Communications cable subsidiary, which had developed a revolutionary interactive television technology that foreshadowed the Internet but failed to fly when it was introduced in the 1970s. At the helm of RRE, the elder Robinson, who turns 81 on November 19, is less concerned about investment stage than about what we have to offer. Stage isnt the subject of the conversation, he says. Its more what we think of the people. Can we help with their sales cycles or partnerships? Can we make a difference and move the needle? RRE has no greater asset in that regard than its general partner, because of his extensive experience and business relationships, says his son, managing partner James IV. The 54-year-old Robinson is also an RRE co-founder, as is Stuart Ellman, who spearheads the firms interests in robotics and was on the board of Business Insider, which RRE exited last year when Axel Springer acquired the media property. The portfolio has diversity by design. Whereas some investors have shunned Bitcoin in favor of blockchain, we have happily invested in both sides and everything in between, for better or worse, says James III. With holdings in both media (BuzzFeed, for example) and blockchain (Chain, Digital Currency Group, itBit, Ripple), James IV isnt thinking only about fintech applications: Blockchain has great potential in digital publishing and content distribution, and a seed investment, Mediachain, offers what it calls a protocol for registering, identifying and tracking creative works online. Whats still lacking, notes the younger Robinson, is à la carte micropayments for the digital goods.
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