Periodically, Sierra Ventures features a member from our team to give a behind the scenes look at the people that make it all happen at the firm. Team members share insights ranging from what they look for when meeting with entrepreneurs, to what books they recommend reading to grow your business.
Featured This Month:
Vignesh Ravikumar – Principal, Sierra Ventures Investment Team
What is your role and focus at Sierra Ventures?
I work as a Principal on the Investment Team and primarily focus on investments in Enterprise Applications and Healthcare/Digital Health companies. Although I have specific sectors I look for when I’m investing, my main goal is to invest in high-quality founders who have a unique insight into the problem they are solving. I love helping talented entrepreneurs scale their companies.
How did you get into Venture Capital?
I’ve always found investing fascinating and when I was at AGC Partners, a boutique Investment Bank focused on Enterprise software companies, I had the good fortune of meeting Mark Fernandes, one of the Managing Directors at Sierra Ventures. I sent him an email after the meeting asking for advice about getting into the venture industry. I was very fortunate that the team had just raised Fund X and was looking to hire. I joined in March 2013 and I’m still here 3 funds and 7 years later!
What 2-3 sectors or trends are you excited about right now?
- Enterprise Apps continue to be an exciting opportunity and we’re seeing 3 broad trends:
Classic software monoliths are being broken down across the board as customers look to buy best-of-breed technologies. Furthermore, Enterprises are looking to buy more software to enable all their employees, leading to a massive wave of opportunity.
- As software continues to “eat the world”, opportunities in Vertical Software continue to accelerate. This is an extension of the “best-of-breed” trend where customers are looking to find products that solve their unique business problems. Entrepreneurs can find opportunities to build big companies by diving deep into sectors like financial services, healthcare, and industrial.
- AI/ML, while a trite expression, is here and enterprise users expect their software to be “smart”. We’re finding that companies that are solving deep problems have the ability to leverage AI/ML to build moats around the data.
What are the top three things you think about when looking at a potential investment?
- As early-stage investors, we’re looking to find companies that have reached or can reach product-market fit. We’re looking to find founders who have a unique insight into their market that gives them an unfair advantage to find product-market fit quickly.
- We look for founders that have tenacity and attention to detail. Great startups are founded by exceptional founders so we pay very close attention to that.
- We try to look beyond the numbers. Early-stage companies are all about building products that customers love to use so we want to invest in companies that have some early indicators that customers love the product and the pain point the company is solving is repeatable.
What are the top three pieces of advice you have for entrepreneurs?
- Be open-minded with customer discovery and ask the right questions. Customer feedback is extremely useful as a tool to help define product and Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy.
- Measure the right things. Vanity metrics or chasing revenue at all costs can lead a company to make the wrong decisions that could cascade down the road.
- Hire the best talent and hire early. Great people set the tone and pace for the company culture and it’s important to set that culture early on in the life of the company. One of our companies that I invested in, Phenom People, is a great example of a platform that can help with this.
If you had to recommend one book to an entrepreneur what would it be?
Start With Why by Simon Sinek. Storytelling is one of the most critical skills that entrepreneurs need to have. Storytelling is important when speaking to customers, employees, investors, and potential hires. Start With Why serves as a good reminder and tool for why and how to tell a story. He has a great TED Talk on the subject as well.
What is your best advice or “life-hack”?
Always be willing to meet people. You never know who you’ll speak to and form a connection with.
I’m a huge golfer (although not a very good one) and I’m always up to play a round!