When you don’t understand something find a way to locate the documentation or the literature about it that you can grasp. Things are moving so quickly and changing so fast that an understanding of the future possibilities of evolving technology is vital.
Robert Ebert is a technology investor. His background includes 30 years of experience in the finance industry, in investment banking. He was with Deutsche Bank for over 20 years. Prior to his career at Deutsche Bank, Robert Ebert worked at Morgan Stanley for nine years. During his investment banking career, he resided in the four major global financial capitals. He spent 8 years in Tokyo in the 90’s ,in two separate postings , 7 years in Hong Kong most recently , 2 years in New York and 13 years in his home city of London.
As an investor, Robert Ebert is especially passionate about new technologies in the medical field , home security technologies related to the Internet of Things and in solutions for food and water shortages.
During his free time, Robert Ebert’s priority is spending time with his family. He and his wife enjoy traveling and are very committed to wildlife conservation and habitat preservation.
His daughter is currently completing her master’s degree at University College London.
Where did the idea to become a technology investor come from?
I have a network of some very close friends whom I’d met over the years in finance that left investment banking to become technology investors. I saw them continue to be successful and become more passionate–not just about their careers, but about being involved with technologies that can, and will, change the world. I realised the skills they possessed I also had and I was equally driven to try and make positive change in the World.
What does a typical day look like for you? How do you make it productive?
On a typical day, I’m up by 6:00, off to the gym, and then I have breakfast with the family. From 9:00 until early evening, depending on where I am and what is going on in the world, I am usually in a series of meetings, talking to entrepreneurs, looking at new technologies, reading about new products, going over documentation with people, doing due diligence, or checking the legalities of investing in new companies.
Usually, I organize my day so that I have four or five meetings in a reasonably compact area wherever I need to be, whether that’s Barcelona, California, Cape Town, London, or wherever . It’s about organization, but most importantly, it always comes down to meeting great people. That’s always going to be the most productive part of my day.
So, you do international technology investing. Does that mean there are no limitations to where you would be willing to go for the right technology investment?
Yes, that’s exactly right. I go to where the best people are and where they generate the best ideas. You can often find exceptional minds in the most unlikely of places . One has to be flexible and adaptable to source the best opportunities.
How do you bring ideas to life?
That’s a great question. Obviously, something as simple as funding can bring an idea to life. Sometimes, you don’t need to be an investor; you can take a board seat and become a guiding light and just help lead a company to growth without being an equity investor, or you can do both: you can be an equity investor and board member. I like to try and fill the skill-set gaps that perhaps the CEO, entrepreneur, or the founder may have.
I’m not a technologist. I’m probably the wrong generation to come up with the next, big iPhone app, but what I can do, as a technology investor, is share my perspective as somebody who spent thirty years in investment banking and has worked in the four major financial capitals of the world. I have spent decades with the biggest investors, the most significant hedge funds, the largest asset managers, and the most prominent companies in the world. Sometimes it helps to share what I learnt with people who have never been exposed to that kind of environment. Where it is helpful, I like to allow them to draw down on my strengths because their skill set is in a vastly different arena than mine.
I don’t understand the deepest technical parts of what they bring to the table, but I understand them as people, and I understand their product. I understand their vision. They bring the technical aspects, and hopefully I bring other skills to them to help fill in some of the blanks in terms of the construction of a business.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Injectable technology would be the thing that I’m most excited about. Being able to introduce nanobots or miniaturized robots into the blood stream of human beings is fascinating. It’s next generation human-machine connectivity . We won’t be using mobile devices. We won’t need to connect to the Internet. We’ll be able to interact with it through technology that is embedded in our bodies. I know that sounds terrifying, but I think it’s exciting.
Think about what that does to education . Think about the billions of people who could potentially operate on a level-playing field with those who historically have been the most privileged. It’s a game changer.
What would be one habit of yours that makes you more productive as a technology investor?
I am careful, and I am thorough.
What advice would you give your younger self?
My advice to the young Robert Ebert would be, “Be brave. Don’t be so scared. Trust your instincts . They will serve you well .”
Tell us something that was true that almost nobody agreed with you on.
Even in the depths of the dot-com bubble bursting, I knew Amazon was going to change the world. A lot of people didn’t agree with me on that.
As a technology investor, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read. I think it’s vital to do your own research and be thorough. Read all the information you can get on sectors, products, and new technology. When you don’t understand something find a way to locate the documentation or the literature about it that you can grasp. Things are moving so quickly and changing so fast that an understanding of the future possibilities of evolving technology is vital.
Companies like Netflix, for example, saw the future of video viewing was in streaming, long before the technology was there to allow fast data transfer. The people involved with the most successful companies, saw what the next step was in the technology long before others did, so when they built their business, they built it for the future. They future-proofed it at the very beginning.
As a technology investor, if you don’t read, and you don’t embrace change or understand what technology is going to be able to bring to the party in the next two years, the next four years, and the next six years, you will unlikely to be capable or consistently finding the winners.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I wouldn’t say it’s a strategy, but I am very fortunate insofar as I seem to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders. My skill is that I am good at picking people. When you have the best people they make a habit of ensuring that most problems melt away.
What is one failure you have experienced, and how did you overcome it?
My failure has always been that I can be too careful and too conservative. I can become risk-averse especially after any loss. Those are things that don’t play very well in this type of investing when you are looking at advances that can literally change the World.
I have a lot of people in my life who were risk managers in the investment banking field. Even though I was a trader for the first ten years of my career, I was a much more accomplished sales person. The risk management techniques and the ability to bounce back from failure and, to use a colloquial term, to get back on the horse and go riding again is something that, historically, I have not been very good at. To counter-balance that tendency, I have spent time with a lot of friends of mine who are ex-traders from the big investment banks. I am getting an education from them around risk management on all kinds of levels.
I have not totally overcome my shortcomings, but I am learning.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Commit to things you have a passion for. I have rarely met anybody who is great at anything unless they had a passion for it. The people who actually enjoy it are the ones who are good at it. Whether you work behind the counter of the local pharmacy, or you are going to develop the next new anti-cancer drug or build a nanobot that can deliver a micro-dosage of serum to a group of cells in somebody’s throat, people who perform at the highest level are those who love what they do. It doesn’t have to be the greatest or most interesting thing on Earth. If you have pride in what you are doing and you really enjoy it, you are going to have a fulfilling career and a fulfilling life. I would say that about any job or any direction you take.
Find something you can have a passion for. I have met so many people who came into different roles and different jobs because they needed a paycheck. We all need a paycheck. I understand that. We all need to put food on our family’s table, and we need to put a roof over our family’s head. I get that. But if you don’t find a way to have love for it, you will never be great at it. Every single person I have ever met who was at the top of their profession was someone who just embraced it with everything that was inside them.
I would say that about technology investing as well. It is a much, much more comfortable ride when you invest in something you love and have a real passion for. I am passionate about medical technology, I love cyber-security and what is going to happen as the Internet of Things becomes de rigueur in everybody’s household and I desperately want to find solutions to the food and water issues we face .Be passionate.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
It was probably the train fare I gave to my daughter that enabled her to get to her interview for her University College London master’s course. I can’t imagine being able to do something better than help a child get a better education.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I love Twitter. I don’t really Tweet , but I use it as a means of keeping up to date with rapid changes in a market place, understand what people are interested in, in live-time and ensure I am at the forefront of the evolution of people’s thoughts.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The book Thank You for Being Late by Thomas L. Friedman is about the pace of change and how terrifying it is to be involved in this particular era of human existence when things are changing at such a rapid pace When the growth of technology and the ability to cram evermore billions of transistors on a silicon chip now gives us more computing power in a $700 device in our pocket than NASA had for the whole of the lunar launch in the 1960s. Friedman recognizes in the book the strains this environment puts people under and suggests that we need time to be thoughtful and mindful. He suggests that perhaps the World has and is changing too quickly for us to control it.
I feel that he poses fascinating questions to everyone involved in cutting edge technology that could change the way we work and the way we shape our future.
What is your favorite quote?
“ Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead, where there is no path and leave a trail “.
● Read. Technology changes so quickly that a thorough understanding is absolutely paramount to being able to keep up.
● Look ahead. The greatest, most successful minds of our time developed products and services using technology that was not in place when they developed it.
● Commit to things you have a passion for.
● Be brave.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.