Spotlight Series: Renata Quintini of Lux Capital Offers Insights About Successful Founders and How Tech Can Transform Humanity

Renata Quintini is a partner at Lux Capital, working primarily with founders who are interested in transforming the future of humanity through health, food, happiness, cognition, creative computing, and longevity. Prior to joining Lux Capital in early 2017, Renata was a partner at Felicis Ventures, where she worked with startups that define new realities, markets, and business models, including Planet (satellites), Cruise Automation (acquired by GM), Dollar Shave Club (acquired by Unilever), Bonobos, MetroMile, Swift Navigation (autonomous vehicles), Survios (VR), and Rigetti (quantum computing). She was a panelist at our AI in the Connected World event on June 30, and took some time to explain her approach to investing and her vision for the future of AI.

At Lux Capital, one of the things you mention as criteria for investment is that companies should be helping people live well. Can you explain what you mean by that, and how that ethos translates across industries? How do you evaluate companies based on this criteria?

At Lux, we are excited about the future that technology is allowing us to craft, where we can sense, build, and control things that were unfathomable ten years ago. Humanity is developing superpowers — conquering space, water, physics, and biology. So, at Lux, we look for founders who get excited to tackle these complex and highly interdisciplinary problems so they can achieve a bigger end goal. These founders are extremely mission-driven and see technology as means to a bigger end; they have an undeniable sense of purpose.

It is not a formulaic approach, but rather another lens in our dialogue and it comes down to a judgment call. Similar to how Jeff Bezos puts customer experience at the center of everything they do at Amazon, be it big or small.

In a LinkedIn post from January, you mentioned the importance of human connection, sometimes with technological support. What kind of role do you see AI playing in connecting people?

Technology is flattening the world. Connectivity, new user interfaces, and transformative platforms are changing the way we live and interact. When it comes to human connection, I see AI having the biggest impact in helping us make better decisions by quickly handling tremendous volumes of complex data at scale and giving us unbiased and objective responses.

AI will allow us to have more personalized and relevant experiences. Today, more inputs are sensed and measured across many aspects of our lives, from online preferences to genetic data. AI can parse through all these 0s and 1s and transform them into personalized and actionable insights about ourselves, and the things and people we care about.

Additionally, AI is lowering the barrier for creative expression, as computers become co-creators in the generative process, such as in design and music.

AI has proven useful across many industries, from customer service to search tools to autonomous driving tech. What industry are you most excited to see AI implemented in? How can AI help people live well?

I’m more excited to see companies leverage subject matter expertise with AI and human judgment, than in naming specific industries. We should reframe the conversation from “AI or humans” to “AI plus humans,” where one augments the other and counters each other’s weaknesses.

Computers will outshine humans when it comes to processing large amounts of information and running complex scenarios. But they do so in a very narrow context and in a repetitive fashion. On the other hand, humans will always outshine computers when it comes to judgment, creativity, and emotion. The human “software” allows us to learn patterns and concepts with a small amount of data and enables us to apply these learnings across different tasks, which computers can’t do.

This powerful combination will help people live better by giving us more objective data and inputs to our inherently biased decisions and processes, augmenting our pattern recognition capacities and making us less prone to errors, and allowing broader and faster access to solutions and tech where expertise is concentrated in a few people, like medical diagnostics, for example.

Are there certain characteristics that you look for in founders that you believe are key to a successful investment? What traits do successful entrepreneurs share and how do you identify them as an investor?

I like to check for “founder/market fit.” What is it about you, your story, skills, and experiences that make you the right person to be working on this particular problem. The most successful founders I worked with could crisply and clearly explain the problem they were going after and present a solution that unlocked a unique insight.

They identified something that others didn’t and such a secret would be very hard to replicate. These founders also had the right balance between ambition and humility, being certain that they could accomplish the impossible while knowing they had blind spots and needed to surround themselves with people better than themselves. They also have strong opinions and intuition but check their gut with data. They experiment fast and always. There is a curiosity and “inevitability” about them that is contagious.

Read our other Spotlight Series Q&As from the AI in the Connected Future event:

Q&A with Ann Crady Weiss

Q&A with Shireen Yates

Q&A with Linda Pouliot

The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the interview subject and do not necessarily reflect the views of Qualcomm Ventures.