Currently ranked: 4
Previously ranked: 4
When RRE Ventures was formed in New York in 1994, the city was still a small town for venture capital. Deals were so scarce that “we had to be on planes,” recalls co-founder James Robinson IV. The action was concentrated on the West Coast, where RRE kept an office in the San Francisco area before the dot-com bubble burst in 2000.
That was all “pre-fintech,” says Robinson.
Today the firm, co-founded by Robinson’s father, James III, and general partner Stuart Ellman, has more than enough to keep it busy both locally and across the country. And though RRE’s portfolio of about 110 companies spans such sectors as media, space, and robotics, financial technology is particularly prominent.
“All my life I have been fascinated with change and the way people, companies, and governments respond to it — or don’t,” says the elder Robinson. “The biggest basket in which change occurs is in technology, whether you are talking about Bitcoin and blockchain or fintech, virtual reality, or robotics.”
RRE, which helped put New York on the venture capital map, has also been a leader in promoting the city’s fintech ecosystem. Beyond the firm’s investing in companies, RRE’s participation in such programs as the FinTech Innovation Lab helps New York challenge Silicon Valley’s historical supremacy. The firm, which has attracted $1.8 billion in committed capital since inception, maintains a pace of six to eight deals a year in its primary portfolio, and perhaps a few more than that in a slightly larger seed portfolio.
For its primary portfolio, RRE and Citi Ventures in March led an $11 million series B round for personal finance app Clarity Money. And in October, RRE led an $8 million series A round for HYPR Corp., a developer of a biometric authentication system that lowers the risk of hacking by decentralizing its data storage.
Although some investors may choose to specialize narrowly in fintech, the elder Robinson believes the breadth of RRE is an advantage. “It allows us to see everything,” he says.
Timing is also important. The partners at RRE, which is now deploying capital from its seventh fund, think they got robotics right by investing in Clearpath Robotics and Jibo in 2014 and Ready Robotics in 2016. In cryptocurrency and blockchain, the venture capital firm has direct investments in BitPay, Chain, Paxos Trust Co., Ripple, and Digital Currency Group. It is closely watching quantum computing, but has yet to take that leap.