Rob Biederman has gone from founding his own startup to leading a $100M plus venture capital firm that is eager to fund great entrepreneurs, even at the pre-seed stage.
On the Dealmakers Podcast, Biederman talked about the first step in any good business outcome, fundraising, and what’s even harder than raising capital. Plus, co-founder and board dynamics, where to invest now, what he’s been putting his fund’s capital into, and the $105M glass of iced tea.
Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.
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From School Business Plan Competition To Serving Fortune 100 Customers
Rob Biederman was born in NYC, close to Central Park. As his family began to expand, they moved out to the suburbs for more space.
From a young age, he says that he was always obsessed with getting to solutions. He really took to math and science in school, which he says felt like solving puzzles and playing games. When it came time for college, he chose Princeton and economics. Which really ended up pushing him down the path toward business.
After graduating, he ended up in investment banking with Goldman Sachs, and then at Bain Capital.
At Goldman, he says that he learned the fundamentals of finance, and how to work very hard, with a very intense team. Moving to Boston, with Bain, he found a great team that was serious about improving the companies that acquired through revenue growth.
He says that is where everything good comes from. Adding that “the first step in any good business outcome is having a product or service that the customer wants to buy, at a reasonable price, and making sure that that’s a defensible value proposition.”
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Studying At Harvard Business School
Bain put him through business school at Harvard. Even though he had toyed with some small business ideas in his youth, this period really helped to demystify entrepreneurship and make it feel much more accessible and possible.
One class project gave them $5,000 and up to eight weeks to start a company. Competing teams went after ways to create revenues fast. Like selling t-shirts. Rob’s team looked at their own experiences, and what markets they knew. They struck on the idea of making consulting services more accessible and affordable for smaller businesses.
It took off. Before long, they were getting inbound interest from big companies like GE and Coca-Cola. Things really began to grow when they outsourced their business development.
Then when COVID lockdowns hit, many more businesses woke up to the fact that it was so much easier and more profitable to utilize remote contractors. Making them another success story that really thrived and was able to ride the tailwinds of the pandemic and remote work trend.
Cofounders & Board Dynamics
Although Biederman’s startup began with more cofounders, it really ended up being him, and the current CEO, Pat, who took it through the eight years he was most actively involved in the company.
In spite of your blinding passion for a venture, you really never know where other people will be in their lives years down the road. Making how you set up equity to vest is one of the most important elements of forging a company. Which often happens over a four-year period.
Fortunately, even though not everyone rode the whole distance, he says it all worked out amicably.
While he and Pat have even had high-energy conversations about tactics and short-term decisions, and certainly disagreed on occasion, they stayed united on the long-term vision. Which kept them working together.
On the journey, Catalant raised $130M. Including investors the likes of Mark Cuban, Greylock, and Highlander.
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Ultimately, Rob stepped up to a chairman of the board role, with Pat becoming the CEO. It’s a board that Biederman is very appreciative of. One which is very aligned. One which looks to tackle challenges together in unison, rather than working against each other.
An experience that he has certainly carried forward to his new projects today.
From Founder To Fund Manager
Eventually, Rob became more and more interested in investing again. Once Catalant was in a good place, and the board got on board with his idea, he set out to look for ideas.
What he thought would be a couple of months off being a ski bum, ended up with bad snow, and him not being able to bear watching all the great investments pass him by.
Over a glass of iced tea on a porch, he ended up finding a partner who helped them raise a $105M initial fund to become a VC firm themselves. Today, Asymmetric Capital is actively deploying that capital into early-stage startups.
While parts of the VC ecosystem have become increasingly crowded and competitive, Asymmetric chose to go after the more neglected pre-seed stage and focus their efforts there.
Often even before entrepreneurs have formally created a company. Though Rob does state that they anticipate participating in follow-up rounds with their portfolio startups in the future.
Not only do they work to differentiate themselves by the effort they put in to help their founders be successful, but he says that they really focus on the people, even more than the idea.
The truth being that oftentimes ideas end up flopping, but if you invest in a great team, they will find something else or a new angel to apply themselves to.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Fundraising is fast and easy, hiring is not
- Dropping out of Shark Tank
- Finding product market fit
- Being transparent with your investors