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Best of Bootstrapping: What Traditional VCs are Looking for with Scott Sandell, NEA

Posted on Monday, Jun 7th 2021

If you have been bootstrapping and think you are ready for investors, you need to learn how investors think. First, please study our free Bootstrapping course and Investor Introductions page. Then start looking for entrepreneur – investor fit. Today I introduce you to Scott Sandell.

Scott Sandell, General Partner at NEA, is one of NEA’s star investors. He has been named to the Forbes Midas list every year since 2007, and has been involved with eight Unicorn companies including Salesforce.com, Workday, Webex, Tableau, and others. During our conversation in 2015, Scott discusses, specifically, Webex and Tableau in quite a bit of depth. In both companies, the scrappy, capital-efficient management of those businesses were striking!

Among Silicon Valley’s venture firms, NEA holds a special place in my own entrepreneurial journey, being the first VC firm that I successfully raised funding from. Oddly, at that time in the late nineties, the fact that my company was doing product development in India was considered unacceptable. Of course, all that changed in due course, and today India is firmly established on the startup map, as are China, Europe, and many other nations. NEA was an early adopter of the global entrepreneurship trend, and has offices in India and China. They also invest elsewhere in the world, where they don’t have offices. You can listen to the podcast interview here and the entire roundtable program here:

Sramana Mitra: Scott, it’s a pleasure to have you. What thrills me is that NEA is the first VC fund that I ever worked with.

Scott Sandell: It’s great to be on your program. I’m just thrilled to see what you’re doing. You were ahead of your time, I suppose, in the same way I was investing in WebEx and Salesforce before anybody coined the term SaaS. I remember going to a conference where I was invited to speak about SaaS and I didn’t know what it was. Similarly, you figured out that entrepreneurship was going to happen everywhere.

Sramana Mitra: You just gave me a segue into one topic that we should probably start with. It’s this concept of being ahead of time. I have a tendency of being ahead of time. I’ve been ahead of time with every single company that I’ve done. By the time I got to this one, I already realized that I had this tendency to be ahead of time, so I decided not to put this on a venture capital clock. I had offers for VC money and I didn’t take it.

So far, we have run a bootstrapped profitable company for the last four years. I know two of these case studies that you have invested in – Tableau and WebEx. Both entrepreneurs have used this technique of bootstrapping first and raising money later. Can you talk about what you saw when they came to you?

Scott Sandell: They’re both wonderful stories. In the case of WebEx, I went to see Subrah in 1998. They had bootstrapped the company. In fact, it originated as a different company, which they sold to somebody else and then bought some of the IP back. It was a fairly long journey before they got to the concept that we all know today as WebEx.

At that point, they were able to raise some money from Jan Baan who was a fantastic supporter of theirs. That was probably considered the Series A. We came along in what would have been the Series B. At that time, they had launched the service we now know as WebEx about six months earlier. It was growing very nicely. I want to say, in the first quarter, they maybe had $50,000 in revenue.

In the second quarter, they had $100,000. They were on their way to $250,000. I met them in the middle of the third quarter. To me, what was obvious about WebEx is that, first of all, the market was speaking. It was growing very fast. It was one of these services that I always try to look for, which are things that are really easy to use and have tremendous value to a lot of people. That was certainly the case with WebEx. It was also the first company, which introduced me to the concept of virality.

I had never invested in a company before where the very use of the product introduces it to other users. Of course, that’s naturally the case with WebEx. In early days, it was even more pronounced because the service was used by salespeople to make presentations to their prospective customers who were often other salespeople. It just grew like crazy without any marketing whatsoever in the early days. They spent quite a lot of energy and money building the brand that we know today, which is the only brand ever retained after an acquisition by Cisco.

Our conversation continues here.

This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping


. Bootstrapping to an Exit
. Why is Bootstrapping Important?
. How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently?
. Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings
. Excess is NOT Required for Success
. Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later
. Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies
. The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit
. Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping
. Bootstrapping to Unicorns
. Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million
. Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue
. Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million
. Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy
. How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million
. Bootstrapping with a Paycheck
. How Algo.ai CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan
. Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses
. How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million
. Bootstrapping with Services
. How The Intern Group CEO David Lloyd Bootstrapped to $13 Million
. How Passageways CEO Paroon Chadha Bootstrapped from Indiana
. How SmartBuyGlasses CEO David Menning Bootstrapped to $50 Million
. Death by Overfunding
. How RainmakerForce CEO Mack Sundaram Bootstrapped Decisively to $5 Million+
. How FormAssembly CEO Bootstrapped a Virtual Company with a Paycheck
. TimeSlips CEO Mitch Russo Bootstrapped to Exit with Sage
. The VC-Entrepreneur Compensation Disbalance
. BioConnect CEO Bootstraps with Sophisticated Strategic Maneuvering
. Tremend CEO Marius Hanganu Bootstraps from Romania
. Gesture CEO Jim Alvarez Bootstraps to $10 Million
. SproutLoud CEO Bootstraps to $30 Million from Florida
. Tuft & Needle CEO Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Co-founders Bootstrap Linguamatics to Over $10M from the UK
. Ownership Matters
. Vainu Co-founder Mikko Honkanen Bootstraps from Finland
. Entrepreneur Couple Bootstraps to $10M from Colorado
. Power2Motivate CEO Bootstraps to $80M from Canada
. Financial DNA CEO Bootstraps to $10M+ from Australia
. Big Barker CEO Bootstraps a Niche E-commerce Brand
. PrecisionLender CEO Bootstraps to Over $10M from North Carolina
. Master Bootstrappers with Over $1B in Exits
. Ultra Mobile Founder Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Bootstrapping a Two-Sided Marketplace to $10M
. Can You Bootstrap a Virtual Company to Over $5 Million?
. Capital Efficient Entrepreneurs Turn $1M into $80M
. Discussing the Journey Through Failure to Success
. From a Small Town to $12 Million
. Bootstrapping to Y Combinator and $10 Million Series A
. Bootstrapping a Marketplace to Over $10 Million
. Freightwise Bootstraps to $33 Million
. Bootstraps First to $5M ARR, Raises $10M Later
. Bootstraps in Europe, Raises Money and Goes Global in the US
. English Major Bootstraps a Tech Company
. Bootstraps with a Paycheck to $15M from Tennessee
. Queue-It Bootstraps from Denmark to the US
. Bootstrapping A Virtual Company To $25M
. ActiveCampaign CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $40M
. Alteryx Bootstrapped with Services to a Public Unicorn
. Inspyrus Bootstraps Using Services to an Awesome Business Model
. CEO Bootstraps Using Services to Millions from Russia
. Wiredrive CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $10M
. Scaling to Over $10M by Bootstrapping Using Services
. Bootstraps Using Services from Poland to a US SaaS Company
. ButcherBox CEO Bootstraps a Perishable Meat Business to Significant Scale
. Waveform CEO Bootstraps to $8M
. Bootstrapped Entrepreneurship from Estonia
. From Laid-off Engineer to Successful Startup CEO
. Imagine Easy Solutions CEO Bootstraps to Exit
. BannerBuzz CEO Bootstraps to $35M
. Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to Scale
. Bootstrapping Using Services from Wisconsin
. Best Tactic for B2B Startups
. Bootstrapping by Piggybacking from Romania
. Bootstrap First, Then Scale with VC Funds
. Bootstrap to +$10M First, Raise Money Later
. Madwire CEO Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later to $120M
. Bootstrap Using Services First, Raise Money Later
. Wonderful Bootstrap with a Paycheck Story
. RushOrderTees CEO Bootstraps to $23M
. Bootstrapping with Freemium and Free Trials to $13M
. Bootstrapping, Pivoting, Gaining Liquidity, Scaling to $100M+
. Bootstrapping with Affiliate Marketing
. Bootstrap to Exit, Bootstrap Again, Then Raise VC Money
. Bootstrapping Using Services to $12M
. Bootstrapping an Ad Tech Company from Paris
. Bootstrapping a 100% Virtual Company from Ireland
. MiQ CEO Bootstraps with Services from London
. Bootstrapping to $8M During the Covid Crisis
. Bootstrapping a Marketplace from Brazil
. Bootstrapping Using Services from Sweden
. What Should Startups Do To Raise Seed Capital in 2021?
. EdTech Unicorn Bootstrapped First from Canada
. Coalition Technologies Co-founders Bootstrap to $10M
. Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to $10M from Atlanta
. Bootstrapping a SaaS Company with a Paycheck and Scaling
. Bootstrapping with Services to $20 Million
. Onit CEO Bootstraps First, Raises Money Later
. Pura Vida Founders Bootstrap to $130M
. Lawline CEO Bootstraps to $10M
. Bootstrapping a Technology Product Company from India
. Codesigned CEO Bootstraps Using Services
. Rukkus CEO Follows Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later Strategy
. Bootstrapping and Managing a Successful Pivot
. Ukrainian Entrepreneur Bootstraps to Global Scale
. Bootstrapping a Niche E-Commerce Venture
. Bootstrapping Planon to $100M from The Netherlands
. Co-founder Bootstrapped with a Paycheck from Indiana
. Bootstrapping an Education Company
. Bootstrapping an IoT Company from North Carolina
. Serial Bootstrapper Bootstraps to $27M
. Bootstrapping Identity Automation Using Services from Houston
. Bootstrapping ProjectManager.com from NZ, Scaling in the US
. Bootstrapping to $15M in Three Years
. Peruvian Entrepreneur Bootstraps to $200M
. JotForm Founder Bootstrapped with a Paycheck
. WeGoLook was Bootstrapped from Oklahoma
. Bootstrapping AutoClaims Direct to $15M
. Meltwater Founder Bootstrapped to $200M
. Bootstrapping to $20M From London
. Synechron CEO Bootstrapped to $300M
. Unique Vintage was Bootstrapped with a Paycheck
. Toptal CEO Bootstraps a Virtual Company to Scale
. Bootstrapping to $45M from Chicago
. Vacasa Co-founder Bootstrapped to $100M
. Bootstrapping Infinitely Virtual All The Way
. Bootstrapping to Exit Discussion with David Lambert, Right Side Capital Management
. Bootstrapping a Healthcare IT Company to $100M
. Discussing Seed Rounds with Cindy Padnos, Illuminate Ventures
. Auction.com Bootstrapped to $180M in Online Real Estate
. Discussing the Silicon Valley – India Corridor with Naren Gupta of Nexus Venture Partners
. Bootstrapped with a Paycheck to Techstars and Acquisition
. Discussing People vs. Market with Jon Staenberg, Staenberg Venture Partners
. Bootstrapping a Highly Profitable Company in Social Media Marketing
. Discussing Investments in Indian Startups with Anand Daniel, Accel Partners
. Bootstrapping an Evergreen Business from Oregon
. Discussing Startups in Africa with Osayi Igharo, Ripple VC
. Investing in Concept Stage Startups with Matt Holleran, Cloud Apps Capital Partners
. Serial Entrepreneur Bootstrapped Two Startups to Huge Revenue
. Discussing Investment Strategy With Deepak Jeevankumar, Dell Technologies Capital
. Bootstrapping Hotelplanner.com to $20M with Intelligent Financial Engineering
. Discussing Investing Across Sectors in India with Swapna Gupta, Qualcomm Ventures
. Bootstrapping Cleverbridge From Germany
. Discussing Open Opportunities with Hemant Mohapatra, Lightspeed Venture Partners
. Bootstrapping E-commerce Company Fun.com
. Discussing Seed Rounds with Bruce Cleveland, Wildcat Venture Partners
. From Friends and Family Funding to $30M Exit
. Discussing the Evolution of the Indian Startup Industry with Sasha Mirchandani, Kae Capital
. Lean Company Bootstraps to $7M
. Saatva Co-founder Bootstrapped a $25M E-Commerce Company
. Looking at Terms with Heidi Roizen of Threshold Ventures
. ADDA Co-founder CEO Bootstrapped with a Paycheck in India
. Duda Co-founders Bootstrap with Paychecks
. The Importance of Building Value with Shomit Ghose, Onset Ventures
. Get Real Health Founder Bootstrapped Using Services
. Bootstrapping Unique Vintage Using a Paycheck
. Discussing E-commerce Startup Trends with Daniel Gulati, Forecast Fund
. Bootstrapping a Digital Startup with a Paycheck
. Discussing Seed Stages with Amir Banifatemi of K5 Ventures
. Bootstrapping Avelead Using Services from Atlanta
. Founder Bootstrapped a Big Data Company Using Services
. Discussing Future Unicorns with Warren Weiss, Foundation Capital
. Founder Bootstrapped Axosoft with a Paycheck
. Raised a Series A with $10 Million in the Bank
. Discussing Unicorn Investments with Ravi Mohan of Shasta Ventures
. Bootstrapping a $7M Company in Houston
. A View into Pre-Seed Funding with Gaurav Jain, Afore Capital
. Bootstrapping to $13M in Niche E-commerce
. Discussing European Startup Funding with Alastair Mitchell, EQT Ventures
. Founder Bootstrapped Category Leading E-commerce Company Shoplet
. Discussing Trends With Yanev Suissa, SineWave Ventures
. Founder Mark Organ Bootstrapped Eloqua and Crowdfunded Influitive
. Sourcing Global Ventures with Ann Winblad of Hummer Winblad
. JAM CEO Survives Covid with a Bootstrapped Venture
. E-commerce and Investing with Tod Francis, Shasta Ventures
. How An Entrepreneur Couple Bootstrapped RuffleButts To $5M
. TextMe Founders Bootstrapped an App to $10M
. Bootstrapped Journey of a Child Entrepreneur in India
. Discussing Alternatives to Traditional Venture Capital with Bryce Roberts, Indie.vc
. Solo Founder Bootstrapped Wingify to $7 Million in India
. Co-founder Bootstrapped a SaaS Company in India
. Bootstrapped MindTouch to $12M+ and Exit
. Mobiliya Technologies was Bootstrapped Using Services
. What Traditional VCs are Looking for with Scott Sandell, NEA
. Bootstrapped Srishti Software Applications with Services from India
. How Robust SaaS Company RateGain was Bootstrapped from India
. Bootstrapped eGroup to $20M in Charleston, South Carolina
. Gravitant CEO Bootstrapped Using Services to $15M in Venture Capital
. CEO Bootstrapped Sitecore Using Services from Denmark
. Co-founder Dan Hermann on Bootstrapping Paint Nite
. Founder Krishna Kumar Bootstrapped App Orchid Using Services
. Bootstrapping a Web Hosting Company to $60M
. Bootstrapping CloudSense with Services on Force.com from London
. Bootstrapped Book E-Commerce Business BookPal
. Student Entrepreneurs Bootstrapped a Zero-Logistics E-Commerce Company to $19M
. Bootstrapped to a High Growth Inc. 500 Company
. Bootstrapping Using Services and Scaling Using Content Marketing
. Bootstrapped from London, Went Public and Scaled to $450M
. Bootstrapped Credit Card Processing Business Payscape
. Bootstrapped TEOCO to $175M with Services
. InRule Was Bootstrapped Using Services

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