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Mobility trends: Q&A with tech venture specialist Vitaly M Golomb

Judy Lin, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

Vitaly M Golomb is a technology investment banker with over 20 years of experience on all sides of the table as a venture-backed CEO, venture capitalist, M&A, and financing advisor. Golomb, who hosts a popular podcast on mobility, will be the host of the fireside chats with MIH Alliance CEO Jack Cheng and Monika Mikac, CBO of Barcelona-based QEV Technologies and former COO of Croatian EV startup Rimac Automobili at the "Asia Venturing (II): Tech-Driven Mobility" event to be hosted at 8am Taipei time on August 10, 2021.

Golomb shared in a pre-event interview with DIGITIMES about his experiences as an investment banker and venture capitalist, as well as his insights into future mobility trends.

Q: You have established outstanding careers as an investment banker, startup advisor, investor, and entrepreneur. Name the deals or investments that make you proud today and why?

A: I'm most proud of helping Rimac Automobili raise the financing round and create the first joint venture that set it on the trajectory to today. The company is set to become a true global leader in the next generation of high-performance cars and, even more so, become a top-tier supplier of its technology to the industry.

My career can be compared to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Where most start in investment banking, as of today, I somehow ended up there. By profession, I'm a designer. As a teenager, I taught myself all of the tools and was the youngest employee in the history of Kinkos (now FedEx Office). I started my first company later with my father in the same space and put on raves as a high schooler. While in college, I started my career in user experience design in a dot-com company.

I then went on to 15 years as a Founder/CEO and later joined HP to start its corporate venture arm. Venture deal-making led me to create a boutique investment bank with a partner, and I merged my practice with Drake Star Partners in 2020. Through the years, I'm proud of having advised and trained hundreds of entrepreneurs and many investors. There are many success stories I've been fortunate to be a part of all over the world.

Q: You served as an advisor to Rimac Automobili and helped it secure the first fund-raising round. What qualities did you see in Rimac and his team at that early stage that they might become what they are today?

A: A particular advantage inexperienced teams sometimes have is that they don't know what the industry has already written off as "impossible." I met the Rimac team when they were eight crazy kids working in a garage and somehow managed to put together a prototype for the world's first electric hypercar. They've had the vision and the grit to do whatever possible to make it a reality.

When Silicon Valley VCs refused to pay attention, we shifted focus to industry investors who could better understand the significant impact potential of Rimac's technology.

Q: SPAC (a special-purpose acquisition company) was talked about by everybody these days, and Canoo, a US EV startup, merged a SPAC to be publicly listed in the stock market. We heard a lot about the advantage of using SPAC to tap into the capital market for a startup, but what are the pros and cons of SPAC and IPO for investor exits? Any suggestions or strategies that corporate VCs can leverage the SPACs to invest in startups?

A: SPACs have been around for some years but have been seen as a somewhat exotic instrument on the fringes of the capital markets. With the attention these financial vehicles have gotten recently, suddenly, there is a robust and liquid market for them.

The hype phase has already passed us in Q2, and we expect a return to a sustainable volume of deals being made going forward. SPACs allow companies to effectively go public earlier, faster, and with more certainty. This provides an exit opportunity for investors sometimes years earlier and gives companies substantial cash to accelerate and pull forward their development plans. It is also essential for companies to get strategic investors onboard as part of the SPAC transaction (typically in the PIPE phase) as they will be long-term holders and partners for them.

Q: Now without a doubt, E-mobility will be BIG for decades to come, but e-mobility is not limited to electric cars. What are some other E-mobility possibilities that you think need more attention from investors?

A: Electric passenger vehicles have been the recipient of a lot of attention and investment. There has been tremendous growth in the percentage of sales, and yet we are still in the low single digits of overall market share. I'm excited about the transition, and we are just getting out of the starting blocks.

Hydrogen has been getting more attention lately and seems to have high potential in long-distance trucking, where the routes are predictable, and batteries will be too heavy to be practical.

Several EVTOLs (electric vertical take-off and landing) have gotten attention after many years in stealth development. Though the market for air taxis is yet to be proven, they've attracted a lot of attention for their potential. Interestingly, all have been looking at battery-powered flights so far. I expect many will be hybrid or entirely hydrogen by the time regulations are in place and the first commercial flights take place.

Also, in aviation, some conventional airplane manufacturers are looking at hydrogen and very well may be the first ones in the air.

I'm probably most excited (and biased) about the all-electric HyperloopTT system. I've been advising the company for several years and have been privileged to get a closeup of the technology development process. HTT's design generates more electricity than it uses and will positively impact the environment. It displaces short and middle-distance flights and allows people to live further out from dense urban environments.

(Editor's note: "Asia Venturing" is a series of monthly roundtables with roadmaps to the future focusing on the hype vs the reality of Asia's supply chain-boosted innovation ecosystem, jointly powered by DIGITIMES and Anchor Taiwan.)

Q&A with tech venture specialist Vitaly M Golomb

Tech venture specialist, Vitaly M Golomb
Photo: Vitaly M Golomb

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