#MentorSpotlight || Meet Aaron Dubin
“VC’s invest in lines, not dots. In that sense, founders can’t expect an immediate investment, a dot. Rather, they should build a line by delving into a relationship.”
Aaron Dubin was born and raised in Philadelphia and calls his move to Israel a surprise, considering he had never been to or had anything to do with the country before. In 2009, after graduating from high school and in love with entrepreneurship, Aaron made the decision to learn all he could in the place that breeds entrepreneurial spirit — Israel.
Aaron self-enrolled into IDC and earned his BA in business management with a specialization in finance. In his final year, he was chosen to take part in the Zell Entrepreneurship Program, which he calls his crash course in entrepreneurship. The program fosters startups by allowing students to drop their final classes in order to start their own ventures. Everything the students-turned-founders do toward building their businesses counts toward school credits.
With a team he formed, Aaron launched HocSpot — a location-based dropbox aimed at simplifying the way we share files. Rather than having to go through many steps to send a photo, HocSpot makes it really simple to quickly share files via a geo-tagged folder. They were the first at Zell to launch and test a real product, and, after winning first place in a startup competition, were offered investment opportunities, still as students. But the team decided to split up for business reasons rather than continue building the startup.
Throughout school, he found himself approached by students, staff members, or parents about to start companies, who asked him for help editing their English texts. These were often pitches to investors. Aaron would help them improve the writing and insure it sounded professional to maximize their chances of getting the investment.
Working with startups was so great for Aaron that he was sure there must be a business opportunity. Indeed there was. Thus, Aaron founded E Brain, an online consulting firm for Israeli startups, where he helped not only edit English texts, but perfect business plan, revenue models and so on.
E Brain quickly became profitable, but Aaron wanted still more. He wanted to take the next step and help as many startups as he possibly could.
The VC plunge
With the goal of getting exposed to as many startups as possible, Aaron decided to pursue a career in VC, and joined Israel’s oldest and largest VC firm, Pitango, which on average sees 1,000 companies a year.
Pitango manages $1.8 billion in capital across 7 different funds and has 11 partners, but only 1 analyst — that analyst was Aaron. He analyzed companies from MedTech to Cyber Security and helped with the overall investment pipeline. He calls this his “Tironut”, the Hebrew army term for basic training.
When he felt ready to take his next step, Aaron found an opportunity to move forward within venture capital. He joined Innovation Endeavors, an early stage VC fund. Compared to other VC’s, which are funded by corporations and banks, Innovation Endeavors is a private VC fund — that, says Aaron, makes them able to behave in the most friendly way possible with their companies.
They can take more long-term bets because they don’t have external pressure. Instead, they have an investor looking not necessarily only to make a return on his investment, but to impact the world.
To date, the firm has made around 130 investments in NY, The Valley, and Israel.
Aaron’s financial tip for startups
Raise a little and accomplish something small, or raise enough to accomplish something big — just don’t go half way. Best raise 100–200K to prove a product, and then a further 1–2M to take the product to market and really prove its value. Since it’s less about the amount of money and more about the runway, raise enough to operate for 18–24 months.