Venture capitalist Rob Hayes, 39 has joined First Round Capital, a venture firm that invests mostly in early-stage Web 2.0 companies. He has just left Omidyar Network, the venture firm founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Rob will be based in San Francisco, giving a West Coast presence to a firm led by the East Coast’s Josh Kopelman. Rob has invested in companies like Digg, Krugle, Wikia and Metaweb. We caught up with Rob last night:

SiliconBeat: Why did you leave Pierre Omidyar’s outfit? They’re really focused on social good and he has a lot of money. Wasn’t that the dream job?

Rob: Omidyar Network is a really an amazing place, and there’s nothing else quite like it. The decision to leave there was a very difficult one. I’ve done a number of deals with Josh. And the idea of building a physical presence out here, to match the virtual precence he has in terms of his portfolio was impossible to turn down.

SiliconBeat: What’s so great about Josh’s portfolio?

Rob: He has 30 companies in his portfolio. Seventy percent are on the West Coast. Ninety percent of his capital is deployed on the West Coast, the great majority of that in the nine-county [SF] Bay Area — which is not surprising because it’s a technology seed investing firm. Josh and another one of his partners were on the plane 22 times a year. There’s a reason why his blog is called Redeye. This is about having the opportunity to focus on what I really love: early-stage technology companies, with guys I think are the cat’s meow, and $200,000 a time.

SiliconBeat: $200,000 at a time? Pierre isn’t doing that?

Rob: Pierre is a guy who has $12 billion over a life time; there’s no way to do that only $200,000 at a time. Omidyar is going to have to move up the food chain and start working the later rounds. The average deal size was going up, from a few hundred thousand when I arrived two years ago, to $2 million when I left.

SiliconBeat: What’s the big lesson you learned at Omidyar?

Rob: The big lesson is this notion of self-empowerment — when you find interesting business opportunities where the key drivers of the business are where people are achieving self- empowerment. That’s the same cycle that drove eBay. Those types of companies are really fun to invest in. The message resonates with those entrepreneurs and you can be a really successful investor in those companies. It’s not about the non-profit or the social impact necessarily. It is people acting in their own self interest.

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