Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Devdutt Yellurkar was recorded in July 2018.
Devdutt Yellurkar, General Partner at CRV, discussed his investment principles. It was an excellent discussion!
Sramana Mitra: The first thing I’d like to do is introduce our audience to yourself as well as to CRV’s current activities, philosophy, and investment thesis. Let’s start there.
Devdutt Yellurkar: I’m still masquerading as a venture capitalist after only nine years into this gig. I got into this after a two-year sabbatical in India. I’ve done three back-to-back startups. All of them were quite successful. Just before the two-year hiatus, I spent eight years building a company called Yantra, which was the first e-commerce platform that eventually got acquired by AT&T, and then IBM. Today, it is IBM’s platform.
We had 700 employees. Half of them were in the US and half of them in India. It was one of the first tech product companies out of India. It eventually got acquired in 2004. Prior to that, I was one of the first employees at an Indian company called Infosys, which I’m sure you’ve heard of. I joined them when they were very small. We grew from there and ran worldwide sales and marketing. The company went public in 1992 in India.
Today, it is one of the most iconic companies out of India. Prior to that, I worked for a startup CEO called Peter Battista who was starting an automotive braking company. We had a wonderful run. We started doing something and eventually ended up doing something completely different. The company went public. Today, it’s part of the German automotive giant Bosch. I had three long runs. I needed a break. I took two years off.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do when you took two years off?
Devdutt Yellurkar: I did nothing. I spent time with my mother, wife, and child in India. A couple of the Board Members from my company invited me to spend time with them. I became a venture partner with a firm called Rho.
Sramana Mitra: That’s not really doing nothing.
Devdutt Yellurkar: Those businesses were a marathon.
Sramana Mitra: Absolutely, intense.
Devdutt Yellurkar: In 2008, CRV decided to call me in. I joined them as a venture partner for a year. I started spending more time with them and figured out whether I wanted to work with younger startups. As you know, CRV is an early-stage platform. The first investment I made was in a company called Zendesk. It is very successful. Today, it has a market cap of $6 billion. I got the bug.
CRV is a fantastic early-stage platform. It is one of the oldest early-stage platforms in the country. We are investing out of our 17th fund. People may not understand the significance of that number but there are very few venture firms in the world with 17 consecutive funds. That is rare because venture capital is just about a band of people getting together and working together. It’s very difficult to do transitions as you move from one generation to the next generation.
CRV has built a phenomenal culture and a phenomenal track record of investing in early-stage technology companies. We bring in people from the industry. We all become partners. Over a period of time, we had this ability to regenerate. We have had tremendous success over the past 48 years now.