Mike Rothenberg has always been interested in entrepreneurship. Now, the 28-year-old is running a one-man venture capital shop, Rothenberg Ventures, with $5 million to invest in startups.It’s similar to what Joshua Kushner did a few years ago when he started Thrive Capital. Then, Kushner was 25 and he put his money in 15 startups. He’s since raised a few larger funds and invested in startups like Instagram.
TechCrunch’s Josh Constine interviewed Rothenberg about how he hustled his way to the $5 million fund. Rothenberg was a couch surfer who had to network from coast to coast to create his dream job.
Here’s how he did it.
At Stanford, Rothenberg ran a program called Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders. He wrangled tech leaders like Marissa Mayer and Mark Zuckerberg and asked them to speak with students about startups.
Rothenberg often asked them how they became successful. The usual reply was, “You might fail at whatever you do, so you might as well dream big, because then if you succeed, you succeed big.”
Rothenberg took that advice to heart. He founded a 25-person tutoring company in college, started a real estate fund, then went on to Harvard Business School. In May he decided to go for his dream of starting Rothenberg Ventures.
Like any strapped-for-cash entrepreneur, Rothenberg tried to live as efficiently as possible while seeing the fund through. “I rented out my apartment, wasn’t paying a lease anywhere, and traveled to six different cities to meet 50 investors, 50 potential LPs, and 50 entrepreneurs,” he tells Constine. “I slept on couches so I didn’t have to get a hotel room the entire summer.”
After months of meetings, 14 limited partners committed $5 million to Rothenberg Ventures. The LPs range from investors, such as DFJ’s Brandon Farwell, to wealthy individuals. The LPs are from Massachusetts to California on down to Texas.
Rothenberg thinks his young age actually helped him win over LPs. He tells Constine, “Almost all my deal flow comes from entrepreneurs, people at Stanford with me, people at Harvard with me. I know a lot of people our age. The average age of my LPs is significantly older than me, and they don’t necessarily have access to these deals.”
Rothenberg is still working hard now that he’s raised his fund, and he’s already backed seven startups. His portfolio includes a sports media company, Chat Sports, and a clothing startup called Chubbies.
When asked why he didn’t get experience at another firm before taking a leap of faith, Rothenberg replied, “I think it’s wrong to think you’re necessarily going to learn the most by paying your dues. People who work at a big company aren’t engaged. That’s a slower trajectory. But if you’re young and jump in, sure you’re going to make a bunch of mistakes but you’re going to learn quickly.”
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