Becoming a VC
I'm excited to announce that as of October, I've joined Sigma Prime Ventures full time as Venture Partner. Sigma Prime is a venture capital firm based in Boston, and we do seed and Series A investments in promising startups. My role includes sourcing companies and refining Sigma's mission and message as we look toward the future. If you have an innovative software or hardware startup, especially in promising areas such as AI, I encourage you to reach out to me and start a conversation.
It's been quite the journey that brought me here. I'd like to explain how I got here.
In 2008, I left my job at Microsoft and cofounded a little startup called Localytics. Since then, that little startup has employed hundreds of people, raised $60 million in venture capital, and helped thousands of companies engage with their users. It moved between at least six offices and has been around long enough to see several generations of startups come and go. Localytics weathered the housing crash of 2008 and went through the first Boston class of Techstars in 2009. The engineering team built infrastructure that could handle billions of incoming data points every day. Sales and marketing brought that to thousands of companies. Together, we built products people wanted. I worked with some of the smartest people in the world at Localytics. None of this could have been accomplished without great people and great co-founders. Localytics is now one of the leading providers of marketing automation and analytics for apps.
During the last eight years in my role as Chief Software Architect of Localytics, I had the good fortune to become deeply familiar with running large systems processing tons of data. This experience gave me all kinds of ideas for products that could greatly simplify the management, speed up the querying, and reduce the cost of running large scale data warehouses. For a long time I've dreamed of bringing some of those ideas to market (developing high level analytics and marketing automation at Localytics was a great experience, but my passion was always for the underlying infrastructure and technologies that brought big data to the masses). This year, it came time to act. This February I made the leap out of Localytics and into full time exploration of these ideas. With that, a chapter of my life eight years in the making came to a close and a new one began.
I started doing customer development. Along the way I met a company called TVisions who needed a little advice building their analytics backend. Through TVisions I met Dave Andre from Sigma Prime. TVisions is a Sigma Prime portfolio company, and Dave was advising TVisions. In our discussions, Dave mentioned that Sigma Prime had a fellow program where they invite entrepreneurs to be a visiting member of the Sigma Prime team. Fellows get to participate in the venture investing process but also have the freedom to spend time on their next thing (or maybe find their next thing in a Sigma portfolio company).
Dave introduced me to John Simon, a Sigma partner, and after a few conversations, I happily agreed to spend the summer as the next Sigma Fellow. Sigma has deep connections and experience investing in data driven companies. I knew it would be advantageous to have their help while working on my ideas. They set me up with a desk, for the rest of the summer I went to their office to listen to pitches and weigh in. I also observed a few board meetings. Moreover, I got to meet a great bunch of people and learn a ton. Up until that point, I had only experienced venture from the perspective of a founder. Now I got to see if from the other side.
As the summer unfolded, my ideas evolved. I started to realize that my concepts for improving data warehousing were really just a piece of something much bigger - the general movement toward machine learning and AI (I'd like to do a more thorough write up of what I learned over the summer, but for now, I'll leave it at that). I wondered if there were ways to have a bigger impact, to work across the ecosystem instead of tinkering with one piece.
I didn't quite have the answer, but when Sigma asked me out of the blue about joining full time, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Venture investing, if done right, could be a way to have a bigger impact than just building my one piece of technology. I could instead support a whole spectrum of companies, offering something unique coming from a deeply technical background, having started a data driven company, and having a history building scalable infrastructure. That's the realization that brought me here today.
Looking to the future, I believe that good things are coming for Sigma and advancements in life changing technologies. I'm also bullish on Boston's ability to create companies in areas like AI, machine learning, robotics, and IoT. We have some of the best universities and talent in the world, with heavy investments from companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook.
Wrapping up, my full faith and support goes out to everyone at Localytics. Keep building great product. Thanks to everyone that helped me vet my ideas over the summer, including those of you at Sigma, but also everyone I met in Boston, Silicon Valley, and abroad. To the team at Sigma: let's do this.