Welcome to Step by Step, a 5-part series from Future Commerce to help walk you through how to launch and grow a successful business. This season, we're talking about funding. Today is episode 3. Robin Li joins Phillip & Brian, Principal at GGV Capital, to talk about discuss the process of raising venture capital and an initiative called Evolving E.

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Show Notes:

Main Takeaways:

  • Robin Li from GGV Capital joins Phillip and Brian in the third episode of Future Commerce's Step by Step.
  • New York is becoming a hotspot for DNVB and retail portfolio companies, and GGV is leading the charge
  • "Founders have to have their own vision and you as a Venture Capital partner are there to help them execute and make things happen."
  • Is Shopify the new Main Street?
  • Robin has some pretty amazing advice for brands who are thinking about finding a venture partner

Introductions And Career Changes: Meet Robin Li From GGV:

  • Fun fact: Robin actually started her career out as a special education teacher with Teach For America before going to business school.
  • Then while interning at Qiming, one of the top venture capital firms in China, Robin met Hans Tung, who happens to be one of the most prominent VC's in the world, with a spot of Forbes's Midas List.
  • This led Robin to learn everything she could about venture capital in both the United States and China, as she spent that entire summer stationed in Bejing.
  • Robin stayed in venture while being back in business school, leading her to work at Flextronics for the last quarter of business school before ultimately returning back to GGV, where she has worked for the last five year years.
  • Robin was originally located in Silicon Valley, which was the heart of venture capital for a long time, but is now in New York (since last year) because New York has become the center for DNVB brands and retail portfolio companies.

New York's Ecosystem is Changing: GGV is Leading The Charge:

  • New York has long been associated with industries like finance and real estate, mostly massive legacy brands, but according to Robin, this is all beginning to change, and New York is being rebranded as a hub for retail, entrepreneurship and tech companies.
  • In fact, just a few years ago, GGV only had three or four portfolio companies in New York, and now, that number is over thirty.
  • These companies include fitness brand Peloton, lingerie, and lifestyle brand Lively, and GGV's portfolio companies in New York and everywhere span multiple industries.
  • Brian says that while New York has always been a bit of a retail hub, GGV has become very invested in DNVB's, or "new retail".
  • Robin says that retail, especially in e-commerce are massive categories right now, and those tend to be very big in New York, especially because social media, and the talent to power it is very big in New York.

Eevolving E: The Bridge Young Brands Need to Move Forward:

  • One of Robin's ways of helping brands and entrepreneurs is an initiative called Evolving E (Evolving E-commerce) that she founded Ryan Darnell who is the managing partner at Max Ventures, as a way to connect all the moving parts in entrepreneurship, and the entire thing started as a meetup.
  • Evolving E has since expanded and has become a bridge for entrepreneurs and young brands in multiple aspects of e-commerce.
  • Now, Evolving E hosts multiple online and offline series, masterclasses, and events, like the recent summit Evolving E held that is in it's fourth year.
  • An example of a recent masterclass: Recently Evolving E did a masterclass on TikTok which is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms, and this can really help younger brands with in-house marketing that don't have access to the massive marketing largesse that legacy brands do.
  • Evolving E has morphed into a massive community consisting of everyone in the e-commerce ecosystem.

Marketplaces Are Changing: Serendipity Can Now Be Found Online:

  • One topic that Phillip points out that has been discussed on Future Commerce is the idea that malls are dying off and that the old idea of the marketplace is dying.
  • But new marketplaces are forming, especially in some of GGV's own portfolio companies like Poshmark, and StockX, both companies which host internal communities as well.
  • And speaking of marketplaces, we are seeing a reemergence of neighborhood-esque shops, both online and in-store thanks to platforms like Shopify.
  • Brian wonders if Shopify has become the new Mainstreet?

Landing on Venture Capital: Aligning With Portfolio Founders:

  • Who are the founders that GGV as a firm are looking to work with?
  • "In many ways, we are the believers behind the believers, we  are looking for globally-minded founders who are looking to change the world"

Brands mentioned in this episode:







As always: We want to hear what our listeners think! Are you at the stage where your brand is looking to partner with a venture capital firm? What are you looking to gain from building a relationship with a venture partner?

Have any questions or comments about the show? You can reach out to us at info@futurecommerce.fm or any of our social channels, we love hearing from our listeners!