Episode Summary

In this episode of Restaurants Reinvented, host Jen Kern welcomes Bobby Yazdani, founder and partner at Cota Capital. Bobby is a tech mastermind, platform builder, entrepreneur and a long-time lead investor in Qu.

We dive into the future of restaurant technology and investment, exploring Bobby’s journey from Tehran to Silicon Valley, where he became a pivotal figure in building platform companies.

Bobby shares his experience from Oracle and his venture into the startup world, highlighting his passion for building and mentoring new businesses. His investment philosophy centers on backing net-new, category-defining companies that align with the future’s direction; something he clearly saw in Qu.

The conversation turns to the restaurant industry’s complexities, emphasizing the need for digital transformation to meet rising customer expectations and operational + process challenges. Bobby’s insight into Qu’s potential demonstrates his foresight in recognizing a pivotal moment for tech advancement in the restaurant sector, and underscoring the importance of this mission-critical industry.


💡 Guest: Bobby Yazdani

💡 What he does: Founder & Partner at Cota Capital.

💡Noteworthy: From Tehran to tech titan, Bobby Yazdani shapes industry futures.

💡Where to find Bobby: LinkedIn

Key Insights

➡️ Championing Pioneers & Category Creators

Bobby Yazdani’s investment strategy is deeply rooted in identifying and nurturing category creators—companies like Qu that carve out new niches within their industries. He looks for authentic visions of the future that are not mere replicas of existing models. His looks for net new companies offering a fresh perspective and solutions that did not exist before.

He has invested in over 200 private companies, including notable names like Google, Dropbox and Uber. 

➡️ Forward-Thinking Approach to Investment

Bobby emphasizes the importance of leaning into the future, a concept that involves a commitment to envisioning and participating in the development of tomorrow’s industries. 

For Bobby, the key takeaway from his experiences is the significance of having a forward-looking vision and an abstract thinking. This  mindset has been a guiding principle in his investments and support for entrepreneurs, fostering a culture of innovation and long-term growth.

➡️ The Cognitive Age & Future of Restaurant Tech

Bobby’s passion for investing in restaurant technology stems from his belief in the cognitive age—a time where the integration of technology in our daily lives is paramount. He sees the restaurant industry at a digital crossroads, where enhancing customer experience and operational efficiency through technology is not just an opportunity but a responsibility.

Investing in Qu, a platform designed to revitalize restaurant tech, was a strategic move to support an industry undergoing significant digital transformation. Bobby feels a strong sense of responsibility to contribute to an industry that is a cornerstone of daily life, employing millions and serving even more, highlighting the critical role of technology in its evolution.

Episode Highlights

From Tehran to Tech Innovator

The podcast dives into Bobby’s background, tracing his journey from Tehran to becoming a Silicon Valley icon. After leaving Iran during the revolution, Bobby completed his education in England and then moved to the United States to join his sister at UC Berkeley. His early involvement with Oracle and subsequent founding of Saba Software laid the groundwork for his investment philosophy. 

The Art of Identifying Potential

Bobby discusses his criteria for investing in companies, emphasizing the importance of an authentic vision and favorable market conditions. He reflects on his history of investments, noting that successful companies like Dropbox and Uber were not only unique at their inception but also benefited from the industry’s evolution. Bobby’s insight into market dynamics and his ability to foresee technological inflection points have been crucial to his success.

“What’s amazing about these companies… they were net new in their categories, meaning that they had an authentic view of what the future should look like, and there were no other companies like them at the time.” 

– Bobby Yazdani

The Digital Revolution in Restaurants: A Really Cool Puzzle

Bobby speaks about the restaurant industry’s urgent need for digitalization. He points to the industry’s complex supply chain, regulatory requirements, and need to improve customer experience through technology. Bobby’s passion for restaurant tech is evident as he discusses the “tug of war” between customer expectations and business productivity, highlighting the opportunities it creates for innovation.

“The rise of the customer expectation on one end, the pressures on the business to constantly improve and automate and scale on the other end. So this is the tug of war that really creates an opportunity. […] There’s a lot to be done here in this industry.”

– Bobby Yazdani

Supporting Restauranteurs

Bobby shares his commitment to supporting restauranteurs. He believes in the American entrepreneurial spirit and the opportunities it presents. Bobby’s approach goes beyond funding to building cultures that nurture reinvention and challenges the status quo. 

“I want to walk into many of the restaurant brands we serve today and see our technology helping employees and customers. It gives me the biggest joy to see that we are part of this industry and serving their customers.”

– Bobby Yazdani

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