Sramana Mitra: In this continuum of de-risking, where are you playing?
Yanev Suissa: All of these things are reasonable factors that any VCs would look at including us. But to build an investment thesis of only investing if certain factors exist is not logical.
We invest whether you have revenue or not, whether you have built the technology or not. It depends. If you’re a brilliant engineer in a space that you have expertise in and have worked in and we have either an existing relationship or a faith in your ability to build this, then that might be good enough for us. In other cases, we might say, “This is a really tough market, but this is not necessarily going to win over that. We’d like to see more traction.”
Sramana Mitra:. That gives me an idea of where you’re playing, because I’m just getting to know you. There are a lot of firms who don’t answer the question the way you’re answering. Your take is that every firm answers the question the same way. That is not true because I’ve talked to a lot of firms on a continuous basis.
Yanev Suissa: They answer it differently, but I just don’t think that some of those answers are an intelligent way to look at things.
Sramana Mitra: I’m just trying to understand what you do, how you do it, your sweet spot, and how do you analyze the market demand.
Yanev Suissa: We aren’t a firm that will only invest in specific things. We are looking at the holistic picture. If we like the team, market, and the technology and we believe that you can do it, that all goes into the valuation of course.
Sramana Mitra: The fact that you’re saying that you do that is not what all firms do. There are a lot of firms who won’t touch deals like that.
Yanev Suissa: I don’t disagree, but you asked me if I agree with that. I don’t agree that that’s a smart judgment call.
Sramana Mitra: What about geography? You said you operate out of Washington DC and Silicon Valley but you invest nationally?
Yanev Suissa: We invest in all companies across the country. We have investments in Boston. We’ve looked in Israel. We have a ton of Valley investments. Because we tend to invest alongside some of the big Valley guys, a lot of our deals end up in Silicon Valley. We’re thinking about team, technology, and opportunity and our ability to add value. Those kind of metrics could really exist anywhere.
We don’t think that geography is a necessary hindrance to a company’s growth so we will look in different places. By virtue of not being able to help in a particular market, it might rule out some places but we’re pretty open to looking at all kind of geographies. If it’s an international company, we’re looking for them to target the domestic market.
Sramana Mitra: Talk about your current portfolio. What are the highlights of your current portfolio? What have you invested in and what are your sweet spot investments?
Yanev Suissa: One of our deals is a later-stage deal now called Databerg. We did that with Andreessen and NEA who built the Spark algorithm and created a software layer on top of that to provide an enterprise service to customers using Spark. That’s a very broad platform of data analytics. It applies to all kinds of industries and sectors. It’s very much a commercial company.
All of the data problem that the private sector has, so does the public sector. Another example is we have a stealth company where we literally bet on the team. They don’t have revenue. They’re in the edge computing space. It’s a company called Daisho. There’s not a lot of information about what they do yet although that’s coming. In that case, we bet on the team members, because we know of their history.
They didn’t have the tech built yet but because we have a thesis on edge computing and their thesis and outlook on both what the tech should look like and where the market should go was something that really fit with us, we ended up betting on that team. Soon, the market will probably hear more about them as they come out of the stealth box.
One that’s different is, we invested in Upskill. Upskill used to called APX Labs. They do a software platform for wearables in manufacturing, field services, and logistics. Rather than having employees with tons of papers and using their hands to source data or if it’s something like logging of videos or photos of what you’re doing, they allow you to do that with wearables. They significantly increase productivity and significantly decrease safety concerns. The folks using Upskill are actually on the floor in factories or in an oil field doing safety repairs.