You grew up in Silicon Valley. How did that shape your world-view?
I’ve witnessed a few booms and busts really close up. I think it taught me to appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. Growing up in Cupertino, I lived through Apple’s dramatic rise and fall and rise– it definitely highlighted that things can change quickly.
Do you remember any of your first brand ‘loves’ from childhood?
Nike’s Jordan. That was my first memorable experience of brand dominance. No matter where you were from, or where you went, it was (and still is) cool everywhere. That’s a brand with staying power.
Sounds like you were aware of the power of brands from an early age.
It's always fascinated me how brands become such a meaningful part of our lives and help us shape our identity. So if we're able to help entrepreneurs make an emotional connection on that individual level, it's a badge of honor.
What do you like most about working with entrepreneurs?
They’re a special breed— from the founders who intuitively understand their creative vision to operators with the knowledge and hustle to make things happen. The magnitude of obstacles they face every day is overwhelming. These people really practice the art and science of business. I like playing any part in helping their dreams become a reality.
You seem to really understand the spirit and sacrifice involved. Is that because you’re married to an entrepreneur?
She always reminds me that being an entrepreneur is an experience that's earned, like a chef with oven burns— each mark was there before the diner or critic or anyone else showed up. Unless you've done it yourself there's a part of their experience an investor can never truly know.
So what qualities would you say an entrepreneur needs to succeed?
A positive attitude in the face of great odds! (And hopefully an understanding, patient spouse who limits his/her unsolicited comments).
Someone like you, for example?
Connect with Robin on LinkedIn
You’re a child of Chinese immigrants. How has that shaped you?
As an Asian American I lived in two different worlds. I was always trying to bridge the gap between my Chinese family and my Texas roots. I was a naturally social kid and team sports was a great outlet.
So you’re a Texas boy at heart.
I have tons of Texan pride. Rockets basketball most of all, but also Astros baseball and Texans and Longhorns football. I thought 5,000+ folks in the stands for a Friday night football game was normal until I left Texas.
What about food? Texan or Chinese?
Dim Sum for lunch and Fajitas for dinner. (Shout out to Pappasito’s Cantina!)
Sounds like both food and sports help you bridge your two cultures.
I love playing soccer and basketball. I was one of the few Asian American kids out there, so I learned to deal with occasional racism by winning! I wasn’t usually the most talented player but I was always hustling, the hardest working and the most tenacious. Sports taught me how thrive in a team environment. Sadly, I retired my basketball jersey on my 36th birthday.
That’s when you picked up your sticky mat! You’re really into yoga— a good east/west bridge activity!
The young me (and my wife) can’t believe it—but yes, yoga is my new “sport”. I love it and practice almost every day. Even when I’m on the road.
It’s a good way to stay centered with three young kids at home.
I find as a parent you really have to embrace your lack of control. I can’t guarantee their safety, success or happiness. And I can’t make those irrational tantrums make sense. But man, when I come home at night and walk through that door I feel like a rock star! Smiles, hugs, kisses, they’re yelling “daddy!” My wife and kids are everything to me.
How does that translate to your work style?
Control is never the goal there either. It’s about developing deep, personal relationships and supporting the whole CPG ecosystem: our founders, entrepreneurs and brands, (even those we haven’t yet partnered with), brokers, buyers, consultants, recruiters, lawyers— they’re all part of it. Many investors want to prove they’re smarter or more sophisticated than the entrepreneur and exert their control. We just focus on how we can help them. I’m a huge believer in the Karma that comes from doing right by all.
Sounds like you could have been a coach. Or a yoga teacher.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Oh, and namaste!