Why this technology veteran plays the long game

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When investing in start-ups, it's important to avoid short-term thinking, one technology industry veteran told CNBC.

Ali Rowghani, a former executive at Pixar and Twitter who is now a partner at Y Combinator, told CNBC that he's focused on big-picture industry shake-ups centered around the smart phone — not on the short-term ups and downs of the business cycle.

"We'll see ups and downs in earnings, ups and downs in business cycles, no doubt," said Rowghani. "But what we're also seeing is technology really infiltrating and changing every crevice of the economy ... We're very much playing the long game when it comes to what we're doing at Y Combinator."

Close to a 'really profound transformation'

Sam Altman of Y Combinator, September 23, 2015 in San Francisco.
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The investments in ride-sharing and self-driving cars are examples that Rowghani said have long-term implications for the economy, particularly in terms of urban design and energy infrastructure.

"I think we're on the verge over the next five to 10 years of a really profound transformation in terms of the way basic movement within cities and within our country works," Rowghani said. "That's most of all been created by the fact that smartphones, powerful computer devices, are in everyone's hands, which allows products and services to be delivered to consumers in an entirely new way."

Rowghani will run a new fund that invests in and mentors later-stage start-ups, president Sam Altman tweeted last week. Rowghani will help scale-up members of the Silicon Valley powerhouse, which has already mentored hundreds of start-ups.

Rowghani also sounded off on his view of the Valley, including the coverage around companies like Twitter, where he was formerly a COO, and Pixar, where he was CFO. At the time, he rubbed shoulders with industry darlings like Jack Dorsey and Steve Jobs.

Dorsey was recently appointed permanent CEO of the social networking platform that's endured turmoil in the past year and a half, with shares trading down almost 38 percent over the past year. Rowghani said investors need to be patient as Dorsey tries to put the company on the right course.

"He's got an ability to make people believe, both inside the company and outside the company," Rowghani said. "At the heart of it, Twitter is going to be around for a long time. It's part of the fabric of how we communicate in real time, one to many, on mobile platforms around the world."

With a new movie having debuted on the life of late Apple executive Steve Jobs, Rowghani said he's also patiently waiting to see the full impact of Jobs on the technology world.

"I think the best book about Steve's life and business legacy, and the best movie maybe even, hasn't yet been made," Rowghani said. "A lot of his impact is still ahead of us and yet to be seen."