Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Alok Nandan was recorded in September 2019.
Alok Nandan, General Partner at Emergent Ventures (USA), discusses explainable AI in the context of his fund’s investment focus.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing you to our audience. Tell us a bit about your background as well as a bit about Emergen Ventures.
Alok Nandan: I joined Emergent as a General Partner in 2017. I had spent 15 years as a product guy in enterprise software companies, both big and small. I started my career in Microsoft up in Seattle. I was there for seven years. I was one of the founding product managers of Azure.
I moved to Silicon Valley about eight years ago. I was lucky to be part of a couple of startups here. One was a company called Yumi Network. I joined them when they were about 50 people. In a couple of years, they went to 500 full-time people and listed on the NYSE in 2013. I was lucky to be part of that IPO.
After that, I was part of another startup here in Menlo Park called Tempo AI. This was incubated in Stanford Research Institute. We were building Siri for the enterprise. In fact, the inventor of Siri was on the Board of this startup as well. We were a small startup of about 10 people.
After about two and a half years, we got some traction in the sales vertical. A lot of salespeople would use it. After about two and a half years, Salesforce acquired us. I was in Salesforce for a year as a Director of Product.
Around that time, I started helping early-stage startups. That’s how I ended up in venture capital. I’m delighted to be here. Emergence is an early-stage fund. We do enterprise software investments only. We are based in Silicon Valley.
Our typical check size is up to a million dollars. Think of us as the first institutional check into a company. We are very hands-on. Given my background, I roll up my sleeves and work with the entrepreneurs to get them to their first three to five customers.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s double-click down a little bit on Emergent and the specifics of the fund. How big is the fund?
Alok Nandan: Fund one was started in 2016 as a $25 million fund. We’d do about 12 to 15 investments out of this fund. About $1 million is invested in the seed round and a similar check in the follow-on Series A. Our model is to lead the seed round. That’s what we have done for 10 companies already.