Eric Chiu is the co-founder and president of HyTrust, a virtualization security company. He has more than 13 years of experience in high-tech management and finance. Most recently he was the VP of sales and business development for Cemaphore Systems. Prior to Cemaphore, he led business development activities at MailFrontier (acquired by SonicWALL) and mySimon (acquired by CNET Networks). In addition to his start-up management experience, he was a venture capitalist for Brentwood Venture Capital (now Redpoint Ventures) and Pinnacle Ventures, a venture fund he co-founded. Prior to Brentwood Venture Capital, Eric served in the M&A Group for Robertson, Stephens and Company. He holds a BS in materials science and engineering from UC Berkeley.
Sramana: Eric, let’s start off with your personal story. Where are you from, and what kind of background leads up to the HyTrust story?
Eric Chiu: I am a traditional engineer who went to Berkeley for my undergraduate degree. I grew up in the Bay Area, and when I graduated from college, I went into investment banking. It was unusual for me because I had planned on going into academia. I found that my personality was not geared towards research and academia and decided to go into investment banking. That was one of the biggest changes that led me on the path I am on today. I consider that experience to be my MBA.
I went from being a wet-behind-the-ears engineer into one of the boutique investment banks, Robertson, Stephens and Company, that was based in San Francisco. I was on the M&A team, and I did a lot of modeling, number crunching and looked at financials in great detail. I provided fairness opinions for companies that were merging. It was fantastic and it was high energy. I worked 100-hour weeks, but the professionalism and business acumen I learned there was exactly what I needed.
After investment banking, I went into venture capital at Brentwood Venture Capital. I worked with some of the best venture capitalist out there. It was a fantastic period. When I joined in 2007, we were doing a deal every two to three months. I got to see the full process of meeting a set of entrepreneurs and getting a better understanding of their idea in the market. I was able to do the full due diligence on the deal. We were closing a new fund every two to three years. Toward the end of my time there, in late 1999, the dynamics changed dramatically. We were doing two to three deals a month, companies were going public or getting bought left and right, so we were making great money. A lot of discipline was going out the window as well.
It was a great time from the standpoint of entrepreneurs. If they had an idea, then they were able to get access to funding. They could get that idea out to the market. One of the companies I funded was mySimon, where we did a $10 million investment in the company as part of a $20 million round. I invested in the company and joined them as the director of business development. That was great because it allowed me to get a lot of experience on the sales side and create new sales programs.
As you can imagine, that was the heat of the market, and we were bought for a fairly large sum of money. My experience was very positive. I got to do a lot within an entrepreneurial team and make good money at the same time. That led me on this track of startups. My next move was to a security company called MailFrontier, and after that I went to Cemaphore in the disaster recovery space.