Robin Axon didn’t start out as an investor. He was an engineer working at an international airport when he decided to listen to his instincts and return to business school.
Passionate about finance but not often getting venture capital, Robin began working at a financial institution to understand what it takes to raise capital and see things from a different perspective.
Big surprise: he never left.
Today, Robin is Managing Partner at Mantella Venture Partners, a $24 million seed fund that invests in entrepreneurs developing innovative technologies in the mobile and Internet software industry. They help in product development, business development, marketing, financing and team development.
Robin insists on investing in people and their perseverance, rather than flashy products.
The people he invests in should be “enthusiastic and passionate about the product they are trying to create,” he said. “It’s really about [the founder’s] ability to grow and learn and be a mentor and grow as fast as the company can.”
It is his curiosity and connection with these creators that motivates him to continue to love his job every day.
Robin focuses on the early stages, so he can be part of the development process.
Robin explains,”One of the key features of our investment portfolio is that we can support businesses at the level of profit,” so “if no other investors are interested, we can support the business.”
It is critical that Robin and his team have confidence in the new business they are investing in and see its full potential, even if no one else does.
Since his successful investments in QuickPlay Media, Ritual and Shoppe AI, Robin and his partners have created a brand system to explore with the founders.
Their scorecard consists of eight to ten different criteria that help Robin and his partner decide whether to invest in the founder.
The map varies from person to person and takes into account where people are in their entire business journey. For example, the score of a recent college graduate will have different criteria than that of someone starting a third or fourth year business.
“We’ve spent the last 10 or 12 years working on branding where we focus on the founder’s story, their personality, and what you can take away from a research paper.”
If you combine these three factors, Robin says, you will have “the perfect founder for your portfolio.”