By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
This is the thirty-fifth interview in our series on financing for entrepreneurs. I am talking to Venktesh Shukla, chair of TiE Angels.
TiE Angels is an angel investment group formed by charter members of TiE Silicon Valley, the flagship chapter of TiE organization globally.
TiE global is a not-for-profit network of entrepreneurs and professionals dedicated to the advancement of entrepreneurship. It is spread across 55 chapters in 13 countries comprising 2,000 experienced entrepreneurs and business executives and 13,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals as members.
TiE originally stood for The Indus Entrepreneurs, reflecting the South Asian background of the individuals who chartered the organization in 1992. Over time, TiE has come to represent Talent, Ideas and Enterprise, or The Innovative Ecosystems, through its activities and influences, lending a number of meanings to its acronym.
TiE Angels is a group of about 50 angel investors with approximate net worth of over $2 billion and investment focus on Northern California at the time of this interview.
Irina: Hi, Venktesh. Why don’t we start briefly with your personal background?
Venktesh: Let’s go in chronological backward order. I’m the CEO of a venture funded company called Nusym Technology, which was sold in June 2010. Before that, I was in a public company called Magma. I was senior vice-president there. And before that, I was with another venture-funded company called Everypath that was in the mobile Internet space. Before that, I was with yet another startup called Ambit Design Systems. And before that, I was vice-president of marketing for this public company called Cadence Design Systems.
Irina: What do you do now?
Venktesh: I’m spending my time on two nonprofits. One is TiE. It’s a network of entrepreneurs originally from the Indus area. I launched an angel forum there called TiE Angels. We are about 50 angel investors in that group, and if I were to take a casual guess, with a combined net worth of about $2.5 billion; maybe $2 billion is closer.
The idea is to provide entrepreneurs with a platform to connect with angel investors and for angel investors to find an institutionalized process of vetting interesting companies that are looking for funding.
Irina: Where are you based?
Venktesh: The forum is based in Santa Clara, California.
Irina: I understand TiE itself is a global organization?
Venktesh: That is correct.
Irina: What is the geographical focus of TiE Angels?
Venktesh: Right now, it’s just Northern California. We just launched it about two months ago. Gradually, we are going to expand it at least to the entire United States. I think there are some legal issues [regarding] getting investments from countries other than the United States. So, I think those issues need to be sorted out.
Irina: You’re all individual, private angels, right?
Venktesh: That’s correct.
Irina: What is your title in this organization?
Venktesh: Well, in TiE, I’m on the board of directors, and in the TiE Angels, I’m the chair of the TiE Angels. We had seven or eight people on a committee that launched this thing, and I’m the chair of that committee.
Irina: You’re about three months in development, right?
Venktesh: That’s correct. We officially launched in July. We meet once a month. So far, there have been two meetings, and one company has been funded already. The second company is about to be funded. The term sheet has been negotiated and we are about to close that deal.
Irina: What are your sources of deal flow?
Venktesh: Entrepreneurs look around and find out who’s doing what. A lot of it is word of mouth because members of TiE are extremely well connected in the Valley. All of them are approached by people seeking funding. So, this is a way for them to benefit from the structured process and discipline of an institution. People who receive angel funding requests funnel them to TiE Angels, and entrepreneurs who hear about it, they also come to us. It’s both ways. Our members refer the companies, and sometimes entrepreneurs have heard about us and they approach us.
Irina: Do you have a website for TiE Angels?
Venktesh: Yes, we do actually. The way to get there is to go to www.sv.tie.org and then click on the TiE Angels button.
Irina: Can entrepreneurs send you e-mails from there?
Venktesh: Yes, absolutely. It’s very easy. Once you get on this website, there’s a button that says “For Entrepreneurs Seeking Funding.” You click on that button, and it has standardized forms and gives lots of flexibility to entrepreneurs in terms of what they want to upload.