Rob was born by the beach next door to what would become the Trump Casino empire in Atlantic City. And, unfortunately, just as his surfing skills should have been peaking, he and his family moved to Arizona. Recognizing that being in the desert would make it hard to become much of a surfer, Rob decided to focus his energies on landlocked sports like golf, at which he did reasonably well, obtaining a college scholarship. However, Rob jokes, “It was a good thing I studied — a golf career surely wouldn’t have worked out so well.”
Instead, Rob got his first taste of technology working in marketing at an early stage Silicon Valley-based semiconductor company called VLSI Technology. He eventually became a product manager for PC products for VLSI, which enabled him to experience what it was like to sell complex solutions to customers like Apple and IBM.
“VLSI Technology was a great first job, exposing me to the complex world of technology and the transformational impacts it has on society. Despite the great experience, I knew I wanted to become an investor and decided it was time to head back to school to get an MBA.” In 1988, Rob packed his bags and headed back east, attending the MIT Sloan School.
Focused on honing his finance skills, Rob worked his summer of business school in Leveraged Buyouts/M&A for Michael Milken at high yield powerhouse Drexel Burnham. Despite surviving the summer of 14-hour days (and then long nights of partying in New York and LA) and receiving an offer to return to Drexel full time, the stock market crash of October 1989 took Drexel and Milken with it.
“I got a call in February 1990 from the recruiting partner. She said, ‘um, Rob, I have some bad news…you’d better look for another job, we’re going under.’”
So, Rob put his investing desires on hold and joined the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), where he worked primarily in high-tech with telecom companies. Despite his deep interest in technology, Rob missed the real ownership of outcomes.
“BCG was a great ‘doctorate in business’ but it didn’t take me long to miss having real ownership over the outcomes – be they good or bad.”
In 1993, after a couple years at BCG, Rob joined Fidelity Investments in their private equity area, primarily working with start-up COLT Telecom, among other young companies.
In 1996 COLT went public and at the same time the venture capital arm of Fidelity was going through a leadership transition. Rob was offered a leadership role there, and thus began his career leading Fidelity Ventures.
“It has been amazing to observe and be involved in the world of principal investing as it has changed since the mid 1990’s. Although the industry has developed and matured, like the technology landscape itself, so much opportunity still exists in private investing.”
With the help of Anne Mitchell, Rob’s first hire, they formalized the objectives and key areas of focus for Fidelity’s venture efforts, helped established the brand, grew the team, and invested in many interesting technology companies.
“I saw how technology transformed our customers when I was at VLSI, and I see everyday how our portfolio companies continue to transform the industries they touch.”
In 2010, Rob helped to found Volition Capital. “We are passionate about partnering with founders and helping them in any way possible - a commitment we call Capital +.”