Why I joined Costanoa Venture Capital
Last week I joined Costanoa Venture Capital as an Operating Partner. My charter is something I’m very passionate about: helping companies define their market entry and sales strategy, then building and enabling their sales organizations to execute against that strategy.
- I’ve worked with the Costanoa team before, specifically Greg Sands and Mark Selcow. They are smart, hard working, humble, and great at what they do. In this age of the connected world it makes sense to work with people you know who share similar interests and values.
- Costanoa is lean, agile and and focused with a clear mission. They invest in early stage, business facing applications and infrastructure that are looking to disrupt traditional markets. Costanoa’s team provides resources and advice to help build the foundations of each company for maximum impact.
- The companies in Costanoa’s Portfolio are in rapid stages of growth with great products and compelling visions. Creating a sales strategy, building the initial sales team, then building on that foundation, is just as crucial as having a great product and compelling vision.
The role of Operating Partner is new for me and is a big change from what I’ve done previously. I’ve been a part of a sales organization for the past 20+ years. I spent almost three years at Sumo Logic and prior to that I guided Merced Systems growth to an acquisition by NICE. I’ve worked at large companies like Microsoft and PTC, as well as start ups like Inktomi and Groove Networks. I’ve enjoyed the variety of different industries and stages of growth, and had both success and setbacks in my career. I believe all these experiences will translate well as a sales and business development subject matter expert.
Coincidentally, the Operating Partner role, specifically for sales, is something that’s evolved and gained more importance over the past five years as the volume and velocity of early stage companies has increased. My mission will be to work directly with Costanoa’s portfolio companies:
- To help develop and refine their sales strategy. Product-driven companies can create exceptional value but growing the company requires figuring out what problem you’re solving in the customer’s eyes, how to define and articulate customer value, and how to differentiate from competition (including the ever-feared alternative “do nothing”). As Mark Cranney from A16Z wrote, products don’t sell themselves. I’ll help companies build the tools and processes to sell their products, and make sure these strategic discussions occur as the companies grow and evolve.
- To help build their sales teams. This is perhaps the greatest challenge of an early stage company. Getting the right profile of business development reps, inside and outside sales reps, sales engineers, customer success managers, sales operations staff, and sales leaders is critical. It’s more than just filling the role. It involves knowing the profile of your business, matching the skills to that profile, and deciding the knowledge, skills and temperament of the team you want to build. Pattern matching those skills can make (or break) an early stage company.
- To improve sales performance by leveraging Best Practices and Playbooks. The final piece of the sales puzzle is enablement and development. I’m hoping to leverage best (as well as worst) practices to give companies a Playbook to work from. There’s no “one size fits all” model so it will be a collection of content, advice and tools that their sales and operations leaders can leverage as they grow. I’ll also help them craft their sales foundation and operations as they move from Start Up to Scale Up (a great term — and playbook — from Brian Halligan, CEO at Hubspot).
I’m excited to be with a group of people as passionate as I am about building lasting, valuable companies with great technology and purpose. I’m thankful for all of my past opportunities with some great companies I’ve been lucky enough to work for, and all of the mentors I’ve had along the way, and hope to leverage this in my new role.
P.S. — The Costanoa office is in downtown Palo Alto which is possibly the coolest location ever for a high tech start up. The coffee per square foot ratio is off the charts! I hope to have many, many cups of coffee with partners, peers and entrepreneurs over the next few years!