Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Ann Winblad, Winblad was recorded in December 2014.
Ann Winblad, Co-founder of Hummer Winblad, is one of the most successful women VCs in our industry, and as I mentioned in my introduction, I have never heard her whining about bias against women. One of the most encouraging things she discussed today is how her firm is sourcing interesting ventures from all over the world, not just Silicon Valley. Mulesoft, one of their hot portfolio companies, had its CEO based in Malta, originally!
Sramana Mitra: Ann is a legend in our business. You will hear a lot of whining about bias against women in the industry. I’ve never ever heard Ann whine about any of that. She is successful in her own right as a venture capitalist. She is the most successful female venture capitalist in the industry. We’re going to have a conversation in general about what she sees in the industry in cloud computing in particular.
Then we’ll talk about some of the issues vis-a-vis women and entrepreneurship. You’ve been in the industry for a long time. You’ve seen the full evolution from the 90’s all the way till now. Where are we in the history of entrepreneurship and history of venture-funded entrepreneurship?
Ann Winblad: I started my career as an entrepreneur myself. I started my first company the same year that Microsoft started. That was a long time ago in 1976. That was a seminal time for company creation. Apple started after that. Oracle started about that time as well. It seemed even at that point in time that we pretty much discovered everything. Today, we’re at a really interesting place for technology and for entrepreneurship.
We talk about it as web scale infrastructure. That web scale infrastructure is globalized and commoditized at the developer level. This means that the cost of building a company is far less than it was even for me where I had to go out and buy some computers that cost about $25,000 each. As a result, there’s an explosion of innovation globally both at the enterprise level and the consumer level.
We are seeing this creation happen in Silicon Valley, specifically. In the US, $30 billion of venture capital was invested this year with 60% of that going to California. Here, it is still the Mesopotamia of company creation. The rest of the world is doing pretty well. I just came back from Stockholm where they’ve had a number of billion dollar exits in software companies, both consumer and enterprise. I’ve recently been to Berlin. The same situation there. Most of our companies are global.
One of our largest companies here in San Francisco is Mulesoft, which is into web scale integration and has several hundred people in Buenos Aires. It’s quite exciting to see the ability for any entrepreneur to start a company. Capital creation is now part of this web scale infrastructure with crowd funding platforms and entrepreneurs who believe that if they are successful not just here in the US, they should give part of their earnings back to creating other entrepreneurs. We are at a very flourishing time for both technology and entrepreneurs.
Sramana Mitra: What is your personal investment thesis today? As a venture capitalist, what kinds of opportunities are you looking to invest in? What sector? What types of businesses?
Ann Winblad: It’s called a focused fund meaning that we do have specific strategies that we use for investing. We start all of our investments at the A round. That means that many companies that come to us have no capital or seed capital. We invest in all business to business opportunities, primarily those that are aimed at the enterprise. At the enterprise, we have two levels. There’s the core software infrastructure that includes development tools, data center infrastructure, integration, and security. On top of that, we’ve always been investors in analytics. That is going quite well right now.