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In This Issue
Week of 07/23/2018
Vol. 23 Issue 24
The Next Wave of Venture Investing
A Fire Conversation With Yanev Suissa, Dafina Toncheva, and Mark Gorenberg
Hosted by Ray Rothrock
- About Yanev Suissa
- About Dafina Toncheva
- About Mark Gorenberg
- About Ray Rothrock
Ray Rothrock: Good morning, everyone. It’s good to see everybody. My name is Ray Rothrock. I’m going to chair this wonderful panel; we’re going to talk about VC. I’m not sure how it applies to the century scale [referring to a recurring theme of century-scale breakthroughs], because VC funds are really on the order of 10 years at a time, but we’ll do our best.
With me this morning is Yanev Suissa. He is the founder of SineWave, a venture capital firm based in Washington, DC; Dafina Toncheva – she’s with US Venture Partners in Menlo Park- and Mark Gorenberg with Zetta Partners, in San Francisco.
So I’ll let each of you sort of do your advertisement about your fund, what your fund thesis is, and just why you are here. Yanev?
Yanev Suissa: Alright, I’ll start. I’m Yanev; nice to meet you. SineWave is a new firm based in Washington, DC. A sinewave is a graph that looks like this [gestures a wave motion] – it’s a hill connected to a valley. So it’s Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley. It’s also a rollercoaster ride, so it works that way too.
And what we do is, we always invest in kind of early-stage companies in a syndicate with one of the top firms in the Valley, in companies where the public sector could be a sales vertical or where you need to figure out the public sector. So our thesis is that public and private overlap more and more, and so we look at commercial startups only – so we don’t do anything focused on the government – where we could help unlock that potential for those companies to make a bit of a difference. So that’s what we do.
Rothrock: How many people are you?
Suissa: SineWave is about 10 people. We have about $60 million under management, a little over $60 million. And we’re in our first fund now.
Rothrock: Great, thank you. Dafina!
Dafina Toncheva: Good morning. Thank you for having me here; it’s a pleasure. Thank you, Ray, for inviting me and for putting me on this panel.
My name is Dafina; I’m one of six partners at US Venture Partners. USVP is on the other end of the spectrum relative to Yanev’s fund. We are a firm with a very long history in the Valley – the firm is as old as I am, actually – and I think that’s a great asset and a great benefit. The firm has built an institutional DNA around early-stage investing. It has seen a lot of cycles. We’ve learned from those cycles. We are now in our 11th fund. Ten of our funds have been positive returners for our investors. We invest in four sectors: enterprise software, security, consumer, and healthcare and healthcare IT.
Rothrock: Great. Mark?
Mark Gorenberg: Ray, thank you, of course, for inviting us here. We really appreciate it. I’ve been in venture now for 27 years, and a huge believer in focused funds. It became clear by 2013 that software itself had become a commodity, and it was really the data and algorithms added to software, giving the software learning value, that was where the entire industry was going.
So in 2013, we started a fund. We called it “Zetta” after the zettabyte. And we only invest in what we call “artificial intelligence for business.” We have $185 million under management, we invest typically after the angels and before the Series A, and we’ve made 21 investments. Two of those companies have been acquired by Google, and two of them now have become unicorns.
Rothrock: Thank you, Mark.
This is a pretty interesting crew. We’ve got a new fund trying to connect the hill with the valley; we’ve got a staid, fantastic firm in the Valley who’s got a partner who is younger than the fund is; and we’ve got Mark, who’s watched software develop.
So, if you could: this is all about where the future – where the investment is, and so forth – we’ll take it in reverse order.
Mark, you touched on some of your investment thesis. Could you give some examples of some of those companies and what problems they’re trying to attack?