Posts by Mark Suster


Whew!

We’ve been dying to tell you all for a while that we had raised a new venture capital fund and of course given SEC filing requirements the story was somewhat already scooped by the always-in-the-know Dan Primack a few weeks ago.

We raised $280 million. Our last fund was $200 million but as you may already know since we raised that fund we added new partners Greg Bettinelli and Kara Nortman and Venture Partner Hamet Watt – all of whom are busy looking at new deals for the firm in addition to Yves Sisteron (the founder), Steven Dietz (also part of founding team) and myself.

The speaks to the continued confidence in the venture capital markets and as I had predicted some time ago the VC markets right now are a great place to invest – especially relative to other places to put one’s money.  I knew eventually people would realize that the Kauffman Report and all the talk of VC returns were rear-view mirror analyses. If you want to understand how the VC industry is changing there is a great primer in the link.

Wait, didn’t you just raise a fund?

Well. Our last fund we raised was in 2012 and we began investing it in April of 2012.

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I spend a lot of time with startups and thus hear many companies talk about their approach to sales and their interactions with customers. From these meetings you can really tell the leaders that care deeply about their customers and those the look down on them. Given customers & sales are the lifeblood of any organization you’d imagine everybody would respect their customers. You’d be very wrong.

I was thinking about it this week through some snippets of recent experiences.

Starting with a positive. I had dinner this week with a top new customer at one of our enterprise software investments. I wish I did more enterprise software investing because when I attend meetings like this I realize that this is my core DNA – rolling out business software solutions to customers. The entire dinner was a discussion of what it would take for our software to help this customer be successful, what he liked about it and where we needed to improve. It was a personal discussion and you could tell that our senior leaders and he shared friendship as well as respect and admiration.

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“It stops today.”

I spent the entire day yesterday in a deposition so I was offline from the world around me – a rare day of no email, no social media and even no news. I had been awake since 5am, returned home from work at 9:15pm and was exhausted with my only goal of decompressing and tuning out from the world.

I could not.

I barely slept last night. I read that a grand jury chose not to indict the police officer responsible for brutally killing of an unarmed black man: Eric Garner. I simply couldn’t believe it was true. I don’t remember feeling so angry at injustice in a very long time. I first saw the video of the police aggression towards Eric Garner when it was released and you probably did, too. If you haven’t re-watched it – as hard as that may be – please do.

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This week I wrote about obsessive and competitive founders and how this forms the basis of what I look for when I invest.

I had been thinking a lot about this recently because I’m often asked the question of “what I look for in an entrepreneur when I want to invest?” I look for a lot of things, actually: Persistence (above all else), resiliency, leadership, humility, attention-to-detail, street smarts, transparency and both obsession with one’s company and a burning desire to win.

In the comments section a clever question popped up about whether I would have invested in myself before I became an investor.

My first response mentally was, “Of course!” but then I realized I didn’t even need to answer the question. I had invested in myself for years. I quit a very well paid job at Accenture with very little time remaining before making partner and took a risk of having no job security at all. We had raised a $2 million seed round, which meant taking almost no salary so we could afford to hire staff.

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Obsession. The drive to succeed at all costs. When second place isn’t good enough because we live in winner-take-most markets. The desire to be better than anybody else in one’s field.

This blog started from a series of conversations I found myself having over and over again with founders and eventually decided I should just start writing them.It would often make my colleagues laugh because they’d hear me like a broken record and then the next week read my ramblings in a post.

Last week’s obsession was about obsession itself.

10 days ago I saw the film, Whiplash, which is one of my favorite films of the year. I would be shocked if it doesn’t win at least one Oscar. I won’t have any spoiler alerts here, don’t worry.

The protagonist in the film, Andrew, is a drummer and the story is his experiences in his freshman year of one of the most elite music conservatories in the country. He wants to compete to be the lead drummer in the competitive ensemble and study under Terence, an obsessive instructor who is hell bent on winning competitions for the school.

I absolutely loved the film. I loved the music.

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