Rob Belcher understands the difference between borrowing and selling equity.
His journey has been a circuitous, but interesting one. Rob has a clear understanding of himself as an extrovert, a trait that enhances his leadership. He also shares how important it is to be a leader with interpersonal skills to build relationships. What does that include? Balance.
As Rob says, it’s all about giving and taking just enough for everyone to be happy.
Getting to know new industries after school can be a great way to discover parts of yourself.
Recognize what is the energy you have when you are working.
Quizzes based on psychology say a lot about oneself.
Leaders must have interpersonal skills.
You must have relationships that want you to grow.
Life needs a balance between giving and taking.
About Rob Belcher
Rob Belcher is the Managing Director of SaaS Capital. His specialties include debt lender and startup executive, venture capital, investment banking, and economic consulting.
Before starting his position at SaaS, he has been part of Lighter Capital (2010-2014) as their Senior Executive at a venture-backed SaaS lending company, where he pioneered non-dilutive royalty-based debt instruments and completed 60 financings. Rob was also part of Voyager Capital (2010), as their MBA Intern for this West Coast venture capital firm. He assisted with 2 investments and 1 exit. And finally, he was part of Wood Mackenzie’s team (2003-2008) as their commodities analyst for Edinburgh, Scotland-based energy research and consulting company.
PeopleStar Podcast Intro: Welcome to the PeopleStar podcast. We deliver leadership perspectives from industry experts on their people, architecture, routines, and culture as they solve HR's newest challenges. And now your host, Julie Rieken.
Julie Rieken: Hello, it's Julie Rieken, host of PeopleStar podcast. Super excited, today we've got Rob Belcher of SAS Capital. They are a fantastic partner in providing alternative forms of growth capital to companies that are looking to do new and better things. Rob, I'm so excited to have you with us here today.
Rob Belcher: Thanks, Julie. It's great to speak with you, always.
Julie Rieken: Yeah. So we have so many things that we could talk about here, but you have done some things I think that are pretty interesting. This idea of alternative growth capital is relatively new. And I'm just wondering, was this always your vision? Did you intend to start this? How did you get here?
Rob Belcher: Yeah. So that's great and a good intro on me, I guess, is that no. So we lend money to software companies, is our business, is our day-to-day job. And it is certainly not how I started my career. But it's interesting because there are ties to my long background, my deep career. So I studied natural resource economics in college and then went and worked for a commodities research firm. So we did price and supply and demand forecasting for oil, coal, natural gas power. And that was my, I grew up in Denver and my whole family is in the energy industry, and that's what I knew and was excited about it and understood it. And I'd seen the ups and downs and knew there was opportunity there, but challenges. And so I wanted to be in the energy industry, that was sort of the goal, and it was great. And I really enjoyed it and had an amazing early career and kind of was trying to figure out what was next and decided I would do an MBA to sort of mostly actually increase my accounting knowledge, that was one area I knew economics really well, but I didn't know any finance or accounting and wanted to go a little more deeper there and then probably go work at a, one of the big energy companies and do project development, or maybe a private equity firm and do infrastructure development. And I wanted to be, I was on the East Coast at the time, I wanted to be back out west, and so I ended up in Seattle at the University of Washington, where there is no energy industry. So as a connection point or a network, that was a fail. But I did serendipitously stumble into technology and finance with a couple of internships and where I ended up post-business school was really interesting. It was a venture-backed startup that was working on funding companies at the time. They've since focused on software and technology, but at the time it was anything. We funded a milk ice cream company, a bouncy house rental company, like all kinds of crazy stuff early on with a loan structure that was based on royalties. So the companies would pay us back through a percent of revenue every month. And this has ties to the energy industry because this is how oil wells and gold mines are financed, is anything that has a big upfront cost that then has very, very high gross margins on the back end. So you raise a bunch of money, you got to go develop a gold mine or the oil well and then to pump out the oil at the end of the day is very cheap and there's lots of cash from selling the oil, right? And so you can share the profits from that to pay back the investors. Similar idea, the bouncy house company, right, they have really seasonal revenue, they only rent bouncy houses in the summer, and so they pay a lot of money back in the summer and in the winter they don't pay anything because it was tied to their revenue stream. And so that was what we did. Again, they've since sort of tweaked things after I left, but that was the early days of that, and it opened my eyes to this alternative structure and we started getting into technology a little bit while I was there, and then I joined SaaS Capital, which is focused very much only on software as a service companies. But lending to them, which I love because I learned early on at that business that let, borrowing money as an entrepreneur, there are companies, so early days, I'm kind of rambling, but this is all tied together and it's all really exciting. And I love this stuff, early on venture capital days, you know, you had this idea and you needed to go buy servers and you need to hire people, and the only thing you had was your idea and your equity in the business. So you'd sell equity to a venture capitalist, right? Nowadays, it's relatively cheap to spin up some AWS instances, Amazon Web Services, and just start coding and build a little bit of a business or an app or something. And so there are these businesses out there that are creditworthy, that have assets, namely revenue and customers in a real business, pretty early on that didn't exist 10, 15, 20 years ago. And so there's alternatives, so you can borrow money instead of having to sell equity. And I love that. And that's, then, I, you know, from after helping grow Lighter Capital, then I joined the founder of SaaS Capital and have been building that for the last seven years, and I'm big into the ethos of borrowing as opposed to selling equity. So that's how I got here, but it's a little bit circuitous and I love what I do, but it's very different than what I started doing, obviously.
Julie Rieken: Totally is, and it is circuitous. It's always interesting to think about how people get started and then how they end up where they are. And one of the things, a thread I'd like to pull on, is this idea of energy. You started off in the energy industry and then you were working with capital for bouncy house companies, which also take a lot of energy to be in a bouncy house. And now I'm wondering about you as a leader. Here you are. You're courageously going into a new field. What gives you energy to lead this kind of a new thing or what gives you energy personally? Let's follow the energy thread.
Rob Belcher: Interesting, Julie. Good question. Really good question. I would say energy, I had never made that connection before, but I am an energetic person, an extrovert, ENFJ, there's a great BuzzFeed, now more tangent for you, there's a great BuzzFeed Myers-Briggs as animal types that I highly recommend everyone go check out. It's amazing and it's dead accurate. My animal is a dog, and so I want to wag my tail and lick your face. And that's the type of person I am and it's dead on. It's like, yep, that's me. It's pretty amazing. Like there's owls and octopus and beavers, and it's great. You should, everyone should go check it out, if you know what Myers-Briggs is. It's amazing. And so that's the dog and the energy. Like, that's, it's you're dead on. And that's how I've always been. And I actually think that's part of why … it definitely plays into my career transition is I build relationships very well and can adapt like I didn't know anything about credit or banking before business school, but met people, learned, you know, had energy for the business we were doing and for the mission we were on. And that, that has been a very important part of my career in my development, for sure.
Julie Rieken: For sure. And it seems like you've mentioned a couple of things and I just want to think about, I mean, I know that in your organization at SaaS Capital, you help lead this, of this new method of growth and you're building that. And that puts you not only in a leadership position within SaaS capital, but maybe in the industry as well. And I'm wondering, and you mentioned the idea that your spirit animal is a dog and that you are an extrovert. Are those the things you would consider your superpowers as a leader? Or what would you consider your superpower as a leader, whether it's in the industry or whether it's you just personally?
Rob Belcher: Yeah, it's a good question. It's hard. I don't think anybody wakes up thinking they have a superpower, and I certainly don't. But I'd say one of my traits that's the strongest and seems to resonate the most with people is those interpersonal skills and building relationships. And the ENFJ, almost to a, almost to a fault, wants to make other people happy. And that's been great for building relationships. There's a fine balance, obviously, as an investor is, I don't want to make you so happy that I lose, right, that I give away money for free and you run off to Mexico or whatever with all my money. But there's a balance there, but that has been an important part of my life, is building those relationships wanting you to succeed. So another great resource is a book by Adam Grant called Give and Take, which I think is a great way to, I had already kind of been living this, and it was awesome to read it and be like, oh yeah, this makes so much sense, that the people that succeed the most give, now again, there's that balance. You don't give away your time, and I don't have the good quotes from it, but there's, he sums it up really well. It's the fine line between giving yourself away and sort of being a doormat, he doesn't use those terms but that's my word, versus giving your time and your effort and sharing, and sharing in success and being a sharing leader versus taking, right, and being just a net absorber of energy, of credit, of success, or whatever it is. And those people end up not doing as well in a long term. And so that's how I kind of already have been, just my personality have been already leading me the way, but I have refined it and continued to grow in that sense, and that's tying it back to what you said in our industry and our business, you know, we're partners with our companies, we want them to succeed, they need to pay us back at the end of the day, but we're helping them grow and helping them succeed, and they're borrowing money to grow their equity value, and so it's awesome to see our entrepreneurs use our money and then go sell down the road for a lot more money than they would have if they'd raise equity today. And then they come back and they say, hey, I just made a bunch of money, can I invest in your fund? I really like what you do and I want to help other companies, right, and that's amazing. And then, you know, our brand is to be a leader in the marketplace for SaaS companies. And so we do a lot of things like this, this kind of thing, research to a lot of data on valuations and growth rates and retention rates for software companies. And we push that, we put that up for free on the web. And that's, we're giving that out in exchange for you understanding that we're more expert in this field, and maybe you might want to work with us one day.
Julie Rieken: I love the things that you put out on the web. So many resources we've utilized, you know, the retention rates for SaaS companies, growth rates, so many great resources from your organization. So thank you for that, for helping, helping organizations like ours grow. I just have one off the wall question for you before we wrap and you mentioned that your spirit animal is a dog. Do you have a dog and will you tell us about the dog?
Rob Belcher: So I have, I have two things I need to share with you. One is my spirit animal is not a dog, but the BuzzFeed thing tells me that I'm a dog based on my Myers-Briggs deal. My spirit animal, you'll be happy to know is a hummingbird, which is probably even more energetic.
Julie Rieken: Energetic!
Rob Belcher: Yes. So I had, I had to get that in there, didn't mentioned it before. And yes, I'm much more of a dog person, dog all the way, I have a 12-year-old Australian shepherd who is fantastic. Her knees are a little bit arthritic at the moment, so she's not as energetic as she used to be, but she was, she had high energy for a long, long time, that's for sure. But yes, love dogs.
Julie Rieken: And what is her name?
Rob Belcher: Kora.
Julie Rieken: Kora.
Rob Belcher: With a K. And we actually spent so, we got our dog, sort of our fur baby before we had kids. And so we spent at least four or five X time on a dog name than we did our kid's names, for sure. And so we researched the dog name heavily, and Kora, with a K is an Aboriginal Australian word for companion. And we found that on Google searches and she's an Australian shepherd. So we were, we were like, that's the one, Kora.
Julie Rieken: Perfect.
Rob Belcher: Yeah!
Julie Rieken: What a nice match. This has been a super fun and interesting conversation, Rob, I appreciate your time today. All the best to you, to Kora, to SaaS capital, we'll put some links on the web and appreciate your time today!
Rob Belcher: Great. Thanks, Julie. This has been fun as well for me, so thanks for your time and we'll talk to you soon!
Julie Rieken: Ok. Adiós.
PeopleStar Podcast Outro: Thanks for listening to the PeopleStar podcast. For the show notes, transcript, resources, and more ways to get a seat at the table, visit us at Trakstar.com/Podcast.