Tribe Capital recently appointed Boris Revsin as managing partner of the venture capital fund. But little has been written about the entrepreneur-turned-investor, who went from dropping out of college to starting his first company at the age of 19 to helping lead investments in a venture fund. $1.5 billion.
We recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Revsin to find out how he was able to progress through each stage of his career with an entrepreneurial spirit, and how he now uses what he learned about building businesses to identify the most promising technology startup. founders.
The first indication Revsin had that college might not be for him was when he noticed that most of the courses he was taking weren’t helping him learn skills that were applicable in the real world.
“I woke up most mornings not really motivated to go to my computer classes, and wanted to spend my time building websites and apps instead,” he said.
He observed that for many of the most privileged students, college was essentially a very expensive way to have a little fun while taking the time to get serious and find a real job.
When most of his peers were selecting their majors, he and his co-founders were busy cold-calling local businesses to buy ad space on his new college directory site and hiring a dozen interns to what would become his first company, CampusLIVE. .
Eventually, he got so busy building this business that he decided to drop out of school to pursue it full-time. The decision eventually paid off as Revsin and his team continued to raise millions of dollars in funding and grow the business until the company was acquired and renamed Breaktime Media in 2015.
After a two-year stint as co-founder of his next venture, VentureApp (now rebranded and pivoted to HqO), Revsin and partner Julian Jung decided to dive into growth, but at the time in 2016, less hyped crypto space with their new venture The Game Theory Group, a research and media group that paved the way for them to become experts in the blockchain technology they invest in today.
During his tenure at Game Theory Group, Boris had built his supply network with multiple personal investments in the space. It was then that he met Republic. Republic wanted to create a parallel product to its existing flagship crowdfunding product, this time for accredited and qualified investors. The founders of Game Theory Group have agreed to integrate their business into this new venture, now named Republic Capital, and focus on sourcing and syndicating fintech and crypto investments.
One of the benefits of developing a founder and operator mentality, Revsin said, is that you become comfortable building something without knowing what the finished product will look like. This skill set of constant and rapid experimentation and understanding how to react to what the market is telling you when creating a product, gives you the confidence and stamina to do things that others don’t. just won’t do.
While founding Game Theory Group and during their tenure at Republic, Revsin and his partner Jung spent their days hunting down the smartest students they could find, those who built projects at schools like MIT, Harvard, and DRANK.
“The problem with some consultants and some big companies that get into venture capital is that they have little incentive to do so to get $50,000 checks from sponsors and to seek deals that others might miss,” Revsin said.
But that kind of grind-to-learn mindset is what helped Revsin and his team at Republic Capital embrace a new investment model in the early-stage tech and crypto investment space through special purpose vehicles raised for specific sponsor investments, allowing them to be more nimble in funding deals.
What started as a few $50-100,000 checks in student-founded companies has grown into a group of syndicated funds with nearly $1 billion under management as of early 2022.
This more flexible investment model also allowed Revsin to invest in opportunities that others might have overlooked.
At the start of 2020, as the global pandemic was underway, Revsin had become adept at finding opportunities in legacy industries that were reinventing themselves. Looking back on his university experience, he became interested in the underinvested education sector and sought out companies that were at the frontier of developing new models of higher education.
As the pandemic made it clear that online education and micro-degrees were becoming a real alternative to traditional higher education, with enrollment continuing to decline year on year due to soaring tuition fees, Revsin decided to invest in an undergraduate investment from an alternative technical education company School16.
“I was looking to do more education offerings, and I didn’t find a single investment opportunity because most of the EdTech companies out there were just an enablement for what already exists in the world. industry, about a reimagining of what education will look like in the future,” Revsin said.
At the time of Republic’s investment in early 2021, School16 had only been around for about 6 months, but had already successfully launched courses in sales, marketing, operations and product management for the next generation of professionals who were looking to embark on lucrative technology careers. without learning to code, or spending years and tens of thousands of dollars in traditional degree-granting programs.
Revsin believes being a founder and operator gives him an edge when finding investment opportunities, as he is able to see around the corner and anticipate the ups and downs of a startup. He learned to find founders who could develop a narrative for their worldview, but who would be open to learning from the market and adapting along the way to reinvent their business.
He would find founders building products and getting traction at the frontier of technology, education, crypto and more, then using data, models and his understanding of market dynamics to put their vision of the world in the context of what the future might look like.
This philosophy and the desire to work with contractors and operators is what attracted Revsin to Tribe Capital.
Founded in 2018, the company has developed a data-driven investing strategy by creating its own quantitative analysis tool that takes raw data from startups into account to help Tribe evaluate deals and, in turn, provide insights. valuable information to its portfolio companies.
This investment methodology has enabled the venture capital fund to deliver first-decile returns to investors and grow their fund to $1.5 billion in capital.
Last month, Revsin joined its team as managing partner to lead primary and secondary market investments and grow its recently announced incubator called Tribe Crypto Labs.
Throughout his career, Boris Revsin was able to “level up” quickly every few years through self-education by immersing himself in the industries he was interested in, and learning and reacting quickly to the market to build something that did not exist in the past.
He forged his own path outside the traditional education model by developing skills in communication, sales and product development, and recognizing opportunities for innovation in industries that had remained largely unchanged since. decades.
While he admits he wouldn’t be able to accomplish what he did without the ability to commit for years to “improve” with each new venture, his experience speaks to the new reality that the successful careers of the future will be defined. not by passive learners, but by builders and entrepreneurial risk-takers who have the courage to try something new, even when the outcome is uncertain.
Disclaimer: The authors are affiliated with School16, a company mentioned in this article.