Periodically, we feature a member from our Team to provide a behind the scenes look at the people that make it all happen at the firm.
Featured This Month:
Sri Muppidi – Investor, Sierra Ventures Investment Team
What is your focus at Sierra Ventures?
As a member of the Investment Team, I focus on investments in the Future of Work, AI/ML applications, data infrastructure and analytics, and developer tools.
How did you get into Venture Capital?
During my masters program at Stanford, I immersed myself in the startup ecosystem. I took as many entrepreneurship courses as possible, and I later co-founded an NLP company with a few classmates. We participated in accelerator programs and met many investors. While the company was ultimately unsuccessful, I learned through the experience and gained a better understanding of the venture capital world. During this time I was also a part of the Threshold Ventures’ Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellowship, an entrepreneurship training program designed for engineering students to learn more about venture creation.
As I was finishing up my master’s program, I landed a journalism fellowship at The Economist. At the Economist, I reported on business, finance, and tech, writing about topics like data labelling, product design, and virtual reality. Based on this role and my prior startup experience, I thought that venture capital could be an interesting next step. I liked how venture capital is similar to journalism as you get to explore new trends and ideas, talk to interesting people, and form opinions on the areas you’re researching. I decided to take the leap and explore opportunities in venture capital. I applied for the Investor role with Sierra Ventures and here I am!
What sectors and trends are you excited about?
- Increased privacy regulations related to GDPR and CCPA are forcing companies to focus more on data security. Companies loathe being a headline news story for a data breach – their brand and reputation takes a hit. As a result, there’s been an increase in data security solutions or data security for products, a trend I find really interesting.
- Open-source solutions across data infrastructure and analytics is another emerging trend. While open source solutions like Postgres and MySQL have been in the market for a while, we now see open source more widely accessible across the data stack. This trend is interesting because it allows engineers and data scientists to easily work with the tech and adopt it into their workflows without having to interact with sales teams. We see a lot more open-source core companies starting and doing quite well.
What are the top three things you think about when looking at a potential investment?
- Why is the team uniquely qualified to tackle the problem they’re solving? What unique insight does the founder have that led them to pursue this particular problem?
- I like to spend time digging into the problem the entrepreneur is solving to gauge how painful it really is and whether the team can build a really big company that solves the problem.
- Many founders spend a lot of time building product, especially at the early-stage, but I also look for how founders think about their go-to-market strategy.
What are the top three pieces of advice you have for entrepreneurs?
- Make every interaction count and be prepared – even if it’s a casual encounter – because you never know what the future holds.
- Building a company is difficult – there are tons of high highs and low lows. Set aside time to check in with friends and family, take care of your mental health, and know that you are on your own journey.
- Everyone’s really busy, so be sure to share your appreciation when people give you their time and/or resources. Just a simple thank you, regardless of the outcome, to a customer, employee, or investor is really appreciated.
If you had to recommend one book to an entrepreneur what would it be? Why?
I enjoy reading fiction in my free time. I find that fiction helps diversify my perspective and push me out of my bubble, especially when I feel as though I’m in a rut or if I’m feeling distracted. Some of my favorite books are The Idiot by Elif Batuman, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.
I also enjoy reading The Economist, of course!
What is your best “life-hack”?
Starting work at 6am. There was a period when a friend and I would meet up at a cafe by 6am and get some early-morning work done before the rest of the day began. I found early morning sessions to be incredibly productive. There aren’t the typical distractions from texts or emails, and it’s easier to find flow in my work. I don’t do this as much anymore, but I hope to get back into this routine when things go back to “normal”.
Anything else you want to share?
I love to travel. I previously spent 6 months backpacking through Europe and have had brief stints living abroad in England, India, Oman, Scotland, and Turkey.
Check out these blog posts written by Sri: