Amy Cheetham and Tony Liu join Costanoa’s investment team.

As Costanoa approaches its eighth birthday, we are more than ever convinced that our unique approach to venture investing is just what the market needs. We strive to discover the best early-stage, product-driven companies — and serve their founders as an authentic partner throughout the startup lifecycle.

Of course, like any company, Costanoa is only as good as the people behind it. That’s why I’m proud to announce the addition of two highly talented people to our team: Amy Cheetham and Tony Liu.

Amy is an experienced investor, who combines strong analytical skills with a competitive drive honed as a…


Recently, the board of a startup I sit on was facing an important decision. The company was raising a new round of funding, and we had the happy dilemma of choosing between four compelling offers. Everyone had a strong opinion of which was best, none of which were the same. Around the table, people were saying things like:

  • Firm brand matters more than anything else. We need a well recognized name to become part of the leadership.
  • The only thing that matters is how this new partner will fit into our team.
  • Capital is a commodity. We should only care…


When I was in business school, I made a lot of great connections (including one with my wife) but only learned two tangible things. Both came from Stanford’s famed accounting professor, Jim Van Horne: 1) cash is more important than your mother, and 2) you need an investor with not only deep pockets but also long arms. In other words, you always need liquidity to pay the bills; and you need investors who will be willing to help you when necessary.

When it comes to SaaS and other subscription businesses, however, another rule is nearly as important: Churn is more…


Michelle, Lindsey Wilcox (Fellow ‘18), Pamela, and Casey

After two years of success with our Costanoa Access Fellowship program, we thought it was time to go bigger and better. This summer, we’re offering not only an MBA/grad student fellowship but an additional undergraduate one as well.

The Costanoa Access Fellowship addresses an obvious shortcoming in venture capital today: our industry has far too few members of underrepresented groups and that has important downstream effects for founders. …


The Jefferson Odd Fellows Lodge will be remodeled into a new office that will employ 25 to 35 full time workers.

While most of us live in a highly connected world, twenty-three percent of American households do not have a high-speed Internet connection. Moreover, six in ten people living in rural areas feel their values don’t align with those living in cities. If we all think the world looks like Silicon Valley, we should think again.

And while more than half of all farms do not make a profit, farming communities have a slightly higher median household income than the US as a whole. …


GARY WAGNER PHOTOS

I recently detailed the reasons why boutique firms have uniquely compelling value propositions for startup founders — we bring focused capabilities, specialized expertise, and a deep emotional commitment that are hard to find at multi-stage, multi-sector funds (also known as the bulge bracket firms).

However, like any product manager, I also recognize that there are always tradeoffs in design choices. The biggest challenge of our focused strategy lies in being able to contribute meaningfully to the later stage rounds of our existing portfolio companies.

Because we feel it’s important to stand behind our companies as they grow, we took a…


For the last 14 years, I’ve regularly heard people exclaim, “The world (especially the VC ecosystem) is awash with liquidity.” Both founders and VCs themselves are gorging themselves on an abundance of cash. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that if a little money is good, a lot of money must be better. Some founders are drawn to big funds because they assume “brand advantage” will help them get customers (mainly false) and recruit (maybe). But equating success with the size of a round is akin to feeling validated when one takes out a huge mortgage. It ain’t free.

Many…


A summary view of the cluster giving the operator an ‘at-a-glance’ view of the cluster health, key performance indicators, and access to custom views.

I’m thrilled to announce our investment in Pepperdata, a company whose product embodies our thesis that great AI applications need great managed data.

We’re big believers in the idea that building and managing the data stack is critical to the success of efforts to build world-class AI applications. Many of the world’s biggest and best AI-driven companies already use Pepperdata to help their Hadoop and Spark clusters perform at the high levels they need to manage demanding applications for e-commerce, voice applications and consumer banking at massive scale. Performing at this level stands out because of what it enables in…


Express Store

It isn’t often we see the the progress and trajectory that Roadster has delivered over the last year. Investors sometimes talk about the “Oh, s**t!” board meeting when they finally see what they actually invested in. In this case, we had the “Oh, wow!” experience. Roadster provides the modern auto dealer a digital storefront to make car buying easier and more efficient for customers, dealerships, and OEMs. The team’s combination of deep commerce experience and automotive knowledge informed its vision to to satisfy the demands for a modern, omni-channel experience.

In the last year, we have seen a rapid adoption…


Focal Systems is helping retailers tackle their biggest challenges through deep learning & computer vision.

When Costanoa opened its doors in late 2012, the data revolution was underway. Thanks to the intersection of the internet, mobility and cloud computing, the ensuing information explosion generated unique opportunities for entrepreneurs to deliver products that create and transform industries.

I have seen a lot of changes in the start up landscape in the six years since we opened our doors (or arguably our laptops), but two things have remained true:

1. Delivering extraordinary customer value requires deep understanding of the existing business process. In other words, “ #AI ” is not a substitute for excellent product management.

2. To build a uniquely valuable company driven by machine learning or artificial intelligence, the data strategy is every bit as important as the algorithm.

AI Should Solve Problems that Need Solving

As we sometimes do, let’s start at the end.

  • Even if you’re an “AI person”, you need to get out of your bubble and see what businesses are…

Greg Sands

Founder and Managing Partner @costanoavc.

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