- Bloomberg Beta | Venture Fund
- Twitter – @roybahat | 19,000 followers
- Personal Blog | “Also Roy Bahat”
- LinkedIn | TED Talk | This Week in Startups | TechCrunch
Roy Bahat has been around. His experience is vast, from working in the gaming industry to government, he’s now applying his experience and knowledge to the future of work at Bloomberg Beta. I was very much appreciative of the amount of homework he did on me! Usually, interviewees do little research, but Roy’s first question to me was: “What do you want your listeners to get out of this?” – A perfect question, as I believe that the future of work includes the future of video as a mechanism for founders and entrepreneurs to understand the people behind the money. We’re here to understand the people. While audio podcasts are good… they just aren’t good enough into today’s video-first mobile-first world. I’m really glad to have been able to connect with Roy, I knew it was going to be a great interview!
Starting the Bloomberg Beta fund almost 8 years ago now, the original goal was to improve how people do work. I posited that we’ve changed a lot of things in the last decade, we’ve helped people improve their lives, healthcare, education, and communication platforms… but have we really improved the way we do work?
“Our lives as shoppers, as family members, as friends, have been so improved by technology, and at work… people are still using Word Perfect.”Roy Bahat | VC Hunting S2E9
This was the beginning thesis of Bloomberg Beta, but it quickly emerged that artificial intelligence was the area of technology that would vastly improve the world at work today. This is where Roy and his team are focusing their efforts now after Roy’s partner came back with over 2000 AI startups that are doing their best to improve the way people work with technology:
“We became the first VC fund to raise our hand and say that we want to focus on AI and that drew us into the conversation around the effect of automation on work. Work is going to change for everybody. It’s more than just using Slack and Airtable. Productivity tools are the future of work for us, we think it’s about a broader question of how does work change throughout the economy.”Roy Bahat | VC Hunting S2E9
I’m not a seasoned expert on artificial intelligence by a long shot, but I’ve certainly been exposed to plenty of forward-thinking technology in AI and machine learning, even using some of it as an engineer for my last startup. Whenever I think about AI in the context of life and work, I have come to the conclusion that AI is a relatively boring arena. Why? Because good AI and machine learning are invisible. They are technologies and tools that should be so ubiquitous and user-friendly that the user often doesn’t even know they’re using it! It was nice to know that Roy was relatively in agreement with me here:
“When people think about artificial intelligence they often think about robots. My favorite take on it is similar to the ideas in the book Prediction Machines and they say that the best way to look at AI is that it allows you to predict things better. That is what AI does. Whenever you use Google, it’s predicting what you will click on. Google is kind of the first AI company.”Roy Bahat | VC Hunting S2E9
The common path of any type of technology, when it becomes useful, is that it becomes boring and we normalize it in our everyday experience. This also is part and parcel of the rise of user-tools that allow regular entrepreneurs to leverage powerful technology without knowing any code!
“You no longer need to be a scientist to get the value out of AI and prediction tools. This is similar to Web 2.0 companies today, where you no longer need a ‘scientist’ to build a website. Anyone can do it now. The same thing will happen with AI, where real people are creating real business value, real value for other human beings without being scientific. We will see no-code AI in the future, and we want to meet those founders!”Roy Bahat | VC Hunting S2E9
Gathering my thoughts, I did my best to summarize where Bloomberg Beta is going with their thesis, is it mostly focused on AI or is it broader than that?
“AI is a technique within the future of work, but only a third of the companies we invest in now have meaningful prediction as part of their short term plan. Yes, all companies are going to be AI companies! But in the short term, most are just trying to build a product that’s useful.”Roy Bahat | VC Hunting S2E9
I wanted to dig into an area of Roy’s personality that I found fascinating and exciting at the same time. It’s clear that Roy is a student of people and desires to continue to learn more about the world around him. This is very much part of the reason why I love interviewing people like Roy!
When it comes to understanding the world at work, Roy spent two full years traveling the world understanding what people at work need, want, and desire. He wanted to make sure that he’s not missing the bigger picture, now that he’s successful and can be ‘above’ the rest of the world. I appreciated this conceit! During his time on a study called the Shift Commission, where they studied the 10-20 year future of work, that no matter where you are, we’re all looking for the same things:
“We found the first thing that people want is safety. They want safety before they want more money. The second thing they want isn’t ‘meaning.’ They want dignity, which can be defined in two ways. First, it means self-respect, and secondly, it means being part of a whole, belonging. I think the reason why work is noble is because we believe it’s necessary. Dignity and stability are the two pillars of work today.”Roy Bahat | VC Hunting S2E9
Part of Roy’s studies of humanity included a trip to prison.
“Here is the fucking cool thing about entrepreneurship. Because you don’t need permission to be an entrepreneur, it’s the only job for which you cannot be fired.”Roy Bahat | VC Hunting S2E9
Not only did Roy find out that inmates can be the best entrepreneurs, but they also had some of the best ideas! For those who have been to prison, Roy found that many of them are great entrepreneurs, just choosing to go the illegitimate route. According to Roy, they have a natural cultivated talent to sense the opportunity and to smell money. There clearly were a lot of things to learn from those in a different type of system.
To Roy, the only difference between a prison entrepreneur and your average-run-of-the-mill entrepreneur is where they started:
“There are a bunch of things we need to evolve if we’re going to succeed as an industry. One of them is that tech people have this view that we live in this world now, it’s so great, anybody can go on YouTube and listen to Peter on VC Hunting and understand how to reach a VC, and it’s true on one level. The tools are so much more widespread, and it’s also true that if you apply the effort you’re more likely to succeed. The problem is that point of view often discards the fact that most of the successful entrepreneurs started out rich. I mean, look who gets funded. It’s obviously biased! If we want a system where the best ideas, where the system is as fair as possible, a meritocracy, we have to look at those starting conditions, that is the only difference.”Roy Bahat | VC Hunting S2E9
My only wish from this interview is we had more time. Roy is a busy man, and he had a hard stop, but there were so many more areas that I’d love to talk with him about, from his time in the gaming world to government work, and even cutting the cable.
I did, however, get the opportunity to share with Roy my current favorite Netflix show, which I’ve tweeted about before! If you haven’t seen it, go see Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. It’s just so damn cute.
It was my pleasure to host Roy Bahat in this interview. I look forward to following up in a future season and I can’t wait to see what else he has brewing in the world of AI and the future of work!
Enjoy my retrospective!
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It’s a fine day for a hunt.