Technology has revolutionized the way people live, work and communicate with each other. More specifically, social media platforms like Facebook & Instagram are changing the way we do business. Instagram is adding more seamless integrations to shopping, such as product tagging and live shopping on stories. In order to provide the best experience for users, data collection is key.
While adspend is a huge incentive for social platforms to improve results for advertisers, it’s this social aspect of innovation that appeals to many entrepreneurs looking to invest in social media and tech startups. Founder & Chairman of the venture capital firm Jovono, Evan J. ZimmermanFor this reason, Zimmerman is attracted to social media and tech. Zimmerman, who has invested in many tech- and social media-based businesses, says that he is driven to make things that are not already there.
Zimmerman has invested in startups that utilize technology to solve complex problems. His first investment was Zeekit which he sold to Walmart last year for more than $200 million. “There are many different layers to tech investment, including identifying market fit, market pace, and risk mitigation,” says Zimmerman. “But focusing on social technology that improves people’s lives is what I invest in.” For example, when Steve Jobs originally started Apple one of his missions was to help the blind. “There’s a social impact in a lot of these technologies,” Zimmerman explains. “Technology changes humanity’s capabilities and, therefore, our ability to influence the world around us.” Jovono also invested early in breakout companies like Paragon, a Y Combinator-backed startup, and Sofar Ocean, which is backed by Union Square Ventures. Zimmerman shared these key insights with me about what to look out for in an investmentable, upcoming venture.
How to identify potential
To understand how social technology will shape the future of business and which markets may be ripe to attract new players, it takes intuition and a lot more knowledge. Zimmerman first started Jovono to target young companies. “Once we got our first big success or two, more prominent companies started letting us in and more co-investors decided to seek us out for their deals,” he elaborates. “A lot of people say ‘I would have invested’ in a deal they could never get into. That is easy to believe. We can prove it with actual investments.” Jovono still invests primarily in early-stage companies with a strong community on social media, but they have since moved on to investing in growth-stage companies with the potential to disrupt the world while helping others. Jovono invests in amazing founders, from many backgrounds by focusing more on their potential and abilities than hype.
Making a Big Impact on the Mundane
Tech investment isn’t always about glamor. Tech investment doesn’t have to be all about glamour. It could also involve promoting low-key projects that can help millions. Zimmerman recently invested in a company that does notarization. Although it may seem uninteresting, Zimmerman says this is one of his most important investments. “Notarization is something that you don’t think about because it costs like 25 bucks,” he says. “In reality, in the US alone, there are over a billion notarizations or 30 million registered notaries.”
Even the prosaic can form the critical infrastructure of daily life for millions of people through technology, it all goes back to the social impact and company’s potential. Much like how social media sites host billions of users and connect family and friends from all across the world; Zimmerman explains, “If a family member has a really serious health issue, and out of bad luck, they are immobile but had to urgently notarize a document, it would be difficult to go and find someone to do this for them, right?” After some research, Zimmerman discovered that there is only one company that facilitates online notarization. He was interested in the potential investment and the benefits the company offered to people with disabilities, injured or elderly.
Technology is a social accelerator
Technology is at the heart of many global problems. Zimmerman uses climate change to illustrate how technology is implicitly bound by social problems. “Climate change is, in many ways, a technology problem,” he says. “Society is working on making solar so cheap, that you would be stupid not to use it. And if that is how it works, then you know that people are going to decide to be more environmentally friendly rationally.”
Zimmerman admits technology can be a game changer, but Zimmerman recognizes that social issues are more than new inventions. “I think it’s also about people realizing they need to advocate for progress and new tech like with social platforms which connect and shape the world. Instead, you see people doing things like going to their legislatures, going to their governors, going to their congresspeople, and saying, “There’s a technology that can help with this particular social issue,” but advancement is typically faced with scrutiny and restrictions from the government for tech and social media startups. Zimmerman says. “While technology can’t solve every problem, it can certainly be a great enabler.”