How Upfront Ventures’ Kobie Fuller Keeps a ‘Performance Mindset’

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
Upfront Ventures’ Kobie Fuller​
Courtesy of Kobie Fuller

On this episode of LA Venture, Upfront Ventures partner Kobie Fuller talks about his approach to investing, understanding users’ needs and why he tries to keep a ‘neutral’ mindset.

Fuller is also the co-founder and chairman of Valence, a community and network for Black professionals.

Only four CEOs in the Fortune 500 are Black, Fuller noted, adding that more work needed to be done to empower Black professionals and give them opportunities to meet. This became the mission for Valence.

Valence provides its community of Black professionals more exposure and access to senior-level Black professionals and creates a network to help them get support and advice.

“We take a digital community and connect them with, one, each other. And, two, entities that want to find ways in which they can fund, empower, hire and input [them] on board positions,” said Fuller. “It was an idea that came to me, really, because I was frustrated it didn't exist.”

Fuller started his venture career at Insight Venture Partners, cold-calling and sourcing investment opportunities. In any given week, he’d make around 100 calls to founders he thought might be interested in investing with the firm.

“It's a lot of sales to be quite honest,” said Fuller.

Prior to that, Fuller developed his research skills as the chief marketing officer at Revolve as the company was undergoing a rebranding process, where he took a deep dive through focus groups to understand what people like about the brand. That process came in handy later in his career when, as an investor at Accel Partners, he invested in UserTesting. He still encourages portfolio companies to focus on user testing.

"If you're not understanding the voice of the consumer in a way where you can develop product and design for this,” Fuller said, ”what's going to happen is you're going to wake up one day and realize that you've been leapfrogged by someone else who asked."

Even as a successful professional, Fuller said the color of his skin plays a role in how he’s perceived in a landscape that’s primarily white. “That's just the facts of the matter,” he said, adding that Black professionals still have to work much harder in order to get credit for their efforts.

“I just have to be very aware of what it takes,” Fuller said. “Don't complain about it, and just do it and have a neutral mindset.”

That concept, of the ‘neutral mindset’, came from Trevor Moawad, a personal friend of Fuller’s who served as a mentor to a number of professional Black athletes and investors, including Seattle Seahawks quarterback and investor Russell WIlson. Fuller credits Moawad with introducing him to the concept of the “performance mindset” and the notion that negative thinking has a massive impact on performance.

“If you actually articulate negative thoughts out loud, it actually has a potential seven to 10-x multiplier effect,” Fuller said.

That insight had a profound impact on how Fuller views his challenges. He said it taught him “don't be negative, just be neutral–neutralize the negativity, because that will get you in the mindset around what you actually have to do next, which is focusing on the next step.”

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.