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1Mby1M Virtual Accelerator Investor Forum: With Dafina Toncheva of US Venture Partners (Part 6)

Posted on Saturday, Nov 24th 2018

Sramana Mitra: If you start with the intent of doing that, that addresses some of those issues. My last question is, you have talked about Checkpoint at the beginning. Checkpoint is a relatively older investment of USVP. How about newer investments? What are you really proud of and why? What is it about those companies that made you proud?

Dafina Toncheva: I like all my investments, even those that didn’t work out. One that I should mention is a security company called Prevoty. There’re a lot of unusual things about that company. I invested in them three years ago. They’re an LA-based company. You don’t see many security companies out of LA. LA is not the place you think about when you think about cybersecurity. But I found the company very compelling. It was building real-time application security.

We invested three years ago. It has been a long ride in some ways. The market was early so we had to wait it out. The founders had to deal with some really unpleasant founder lawsuit, which nearly cost the company’s life. It was very expensive and it took a long time. The guys just persevered. They kept finding the right early adopters. They were very clear on the value proposition. The technology was really incredible. The customers who were using the service were very excited and happy.

Get this. They were prepaid three years upfront. These were large companies. What happened was the company just announced, three days ago, that it’s getting acquired. It is getting acquired by Imperva, which is a public company out here. We used to be the Series A investors in Imperva. We were the first institutional investor. We’re no longer affiliated with Imperva. The initial team that we backed isn’t in the company anymore. Imperva announced on Thursday that it is buying Prevoty. I’m really happy with that one. I’m really proud of how the guys managed themselves over the last three years.

Perhaps another company that’s worth mentioning that I’m very proud of is my second investment as a venture capitalist. It’s Cloudflare. I led the seed round in Cloudflare. It was a million and a half. I was at Venrock. We took the entire round. The company now is over $2 billion in market cap and doing well over $150 million in sales. That was just less than eight years ago. That is probably one of the most successful companies that I have been involved with. We took it from zero to probably the largest CDN companies in the world today. That started in Utah.

Sramana Mitra: Utah is actually producing a lot of entrepreneurs. We are seeing a lot of Utah companies and some very good ones. Pluralsight has been an excellent success story. Of course, it all started with Omniture.

Dafina Toncheva: That’s right. I love going to Utah. I love the entrepreneur community there. It’s a vibrant place and a lot of great talent there. I enjoy spending time there.

Sramana Mitra: I have one last question about women and entrepreneurship. What is your perspective? There has been a lot of discussion on this topic. How do you synthesize what is going on? Is there bias?

Dafina Toncheva: I’m really glad to see changes. Women entrepreneurs are getting more funding. They’re getting more attention. Women investors are also getting more attention and more airtime. When I went to college, I was one of a handful of women that studied computer science and applied math. When I went to Microsoft, I think I was the only one in a team of 50. It’s nice to see things changing and more women being part of the entrepreneur community.

I think we just need more success stories that can motivate more women to join. Also, more success tends to place the focus on women in those areas. We’re going through interesting times and I’m excited for the changes ahead. Everybody gets to benefit from more women in technology and more female entrepreneurs. The diversity that it brings is beneficial to everyone involved.

Sramana Mitra: I don’t know what years you were in Computer Science program in the US. I was at MIT in the 1993 to 1995 timeframe. I was actually a Ph.D. student. I started a company and I left. At that time, we had very few women. That number has improved. At MIT at least, women in computer science improved greatly.

In general, women in computer science has improved. That is really the core issue. Unless there are more women trained in technology and will have gone through the real technology programs, you can’t really expect them to go start technology companies.

Dafina Toncheva: That’s right. I was at Harvard between 1998 and 2002. There were probably more women than at the time you were at MIT. It wasn’t significantly better. The numbers are looking much better these days. It’s really nice to see women joining the investment community and the community being more accepting. That’s what gives me so much hope.

Sramana Mitra: Absolutely. On that very positive note, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.

This segment is part 6 in the series : 1Mby1M Virtual Accelerator Investor Forum: With Dafina Toncheva of US Venture Partners
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