Tribe Capital recently named Boris Revsin as a Managing Partner at the venture fund. But little has been written about the entrepreneur turned investor, who went from dropping out of college to start his first company at the age of 19, to helping lead investments at a $1.5B fund.
We recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Revsin to learn about how he was able to level up at every stage of his career with an entrepreneurial mindset, and how he now uses what he has learned about building businesses to identify the most promising technology startup founders.
The first indication that Revsin had that college might not be for him was when he noticed that most of the classes he was taking weren’t helping him build applicable real-world skills.
“I would up wake up most mornings not really motivated to go to my computer science classes, and instead wanted to spend my time building websites and apps”
He observed that for many of the more privileged students, college was essentially a very expensive way to have a little fun while buying yourself time to get serious and get a real job.
By the time most of his peers were selecting their majors he and his co-founders were getting busy cold-calling local businesses to buy ad-space on his new college directory site and hiring a dozen interns for what would become his first company, CampusLIVE.
Eventually he got so busy building this company, that he decided to drop out of school to pursue it full-time. The decision ended up paying off as Revsin and his team went on to raise millions in funding, and build the business until the company was acquired and rebranded to Breaktime Media in 2015.
After a two year stint as a co-founder of his next company, VentureApp (now rebranded and pivoted to HqO), Revsin along with his partner Julian Jung, decided to dive into the growing, but at the time in 2016, less hyped up crypto space with their new venture The Game Theory Group, a research and media group that paved the way for them to become experts in the blockchain technology they invest in today.
During his tenure at Game Theory Group, Boris had been building his sourcing network with multiple personal investments in the space. That’s when he met Republic. Republic was interested in creating a parallel product to their existing flagship crowdfunding product, this time for accredited and qualified investors. The founders of Game Theory Group agreed to roll their business into this new venture, now named Republic Capital, and focus on sourcing and syndicating fin-tech and crypto investments.
One benefit of developing a founder and operator mentality, Revsin said, is that you become comfortable with building something without knowing how the finished product will look. That skillset of constant and rapid experimentation and understanding of how to react to what the market is telling you when building a product, gives you the confidence and stamina to do things that other people simply won’t do.
While building Game Theory Group, and during their tenure at Republic, Revsin and his partner Jung would spend their days chasing down the smartest students they could find, those building projects out of schools like MIT, Harvard, and BU.
“The problem with some consultant and big company folks going into VC is that they have little interest in grinding it out to get $50K checks from Limited Partners and hunt for deals that others may miss.” Revsin remarked.
But that kind of grinding-to-learn mindset is what helped Revsin and his team at Republic Capital to adopt a new model of investing into the early stage frontier tech and crypto investment space through Special Purpose Vehicles raised for specific investments from Limited Partners, allowing them to be more nimble in funding deals.
What started off as a few $50-$100K checks into student founded ventures, has become a group of syndicated funds with almost $1B under management as of the beginning of 2022.
This more flexible model of investing also allowed Revsin to invest in opportunities that others may have overlooked.
In early 2020, as the global pandemic was underway, Revsin had become adept at finding opportunities in legacy industries that were becoming reinvented. Thinking back to his college experience, he became interested in the underinvested education sector, and was looking for companies that were at the frontier of developing new higher education models.
As the pandemic made it clear that online education and micro-credentials were becoming a real alternative to traditional higher education, with enrollments continuing to fall year over year due to skyrocketing tuition costs, Revsin decided to invest in an early stage investment round of an alternative tech-education company School16.
“I was looking to do more education deals, and couldn’t find a single investable opportunity because most of the EdTech companies out there were just an enablement for what already exists in the industry, vs. a re-imagination of what education will look like in the future.”
At the time of Republic’s investment in early 2021, School16 had only been around for about 6 months, but had already successfully launched courses across Sales, Marketing, Operations and Product Management for the new generation of professionals who were looking to break into lucrative tech careers without learning how to code, or spend years and 10s of thousands of dollars at traditional degree granting programs.
Revsin believes that being a founder and operator gives him an advantage when finding investment opportunities because he’s able to see around the corner and anticipate the ups and downs of a startup. He learned to find founders who were good at developing a narrative for their vision of the world, but would be open to learning from the market and adapting along the way to reinvent their business.
He would find founders building products and getting traction at the frontier of technology, education, crypto and more, and then use data, patterns and his understanding of market dynamics to put their vision of the world into context of what the future might look like.
This philosophy, and the desire to work with entrepreneurs and operators is what drew Revsin to Tribe Capital.
Founded in 2018 the company developed a data-informed investment strategy by building their own quantitative analysis tool that takes in raw data from startups to help Tribe evaluate deals and in turn provide invaluable insights for their portfolio companies.
This investment methodology has enabled the venture fund to provide top decile returns to investors and grow their fund to $1.5B in capital.
Last month, Revsin joined their team as Managing Partner to lead investments in primary and secondary markets, and grow their recently announced incubator called Tribe Crypto Labs.
Throughout his career, Boris Revsin was able to “level-up” quickly every few years through self education by immersing himself into the industries he was interested in, and rapidly learning and reacting to the market to build something that hadn’t existed in the past.
He charted his own path outside of the traditional education model by building skills across communication, sales, and product development, and recognizing opportunities for innovation in industries that had largely remained unchanged for decades.
Although self-admittedly he would not be able to achieve what he did without the ability to commit to years of “grinding it out” with each new venture, his experience is a testament to the new reality that successful careers of the future will be defined not by the passive learners but by the builders and entrepreneurial risk takers who have the fortitude to try something new, even when the outcome is uncertain.
Disclaimer: The authors are affiliated with School16, a company mentioned in this article.