Meet the five new faces at Lightspeed.
When we’re not investing, we’re obsessing over hiring.
At Lightspeed, we know our ability to help founders build enduring businesses is directly related to the strength of our team. As we grow the scope of our investments across geography, sector and stage, we need to also grow our team.
In order to better serve entrepreneurs, we’ve welcomed new members and diverse thinkers to our consumer, enterprise and growth investing teams, as well as our operations team. Today, we’ve added five more exceptional team members to the Lightspeed family: David Baga, Mercedes Bent, James Ephrati, Anoushka Vaswani, and Rytis Vitkauskas.
Adding new team members is about so much more than a resume — as we’ve spent time with each of our new hires, we’ve learned about their values and have come to know that they are a perfect fit for the culture of our firm.
Below is some background on David, Mercedes, James, Anoushka and Rytis, and what they will focus on at Lightspeed…
David Baga, Chief Operating Officer
As the firm’s first COO hire, David brings years of operational experience in high-growth companies to Lightspeed. His career spans enterprise and consumer businesses at all stages, from ideation to billion dollar run rates all the way through to IPO. Prior to joining the firm, David was Chief Business Officer of Lyft where he built the strategy and division responsible for winning enterprise customers, strategic partners and city partnerships. It was a kernel of an idea when he started, but today, it’s grown to become over a quarter of the overall Lyft business.
Prior to Lyft, David held positions as CRO of legal startup Rocket Lawyer, the leading provider of legal help to small businesses, and spent seven years at Oracle where he built sales teams that delivered record-setting results. David’s worked with exceptional leaders and learned volumes about company building. He’s an asset to founders, with valuable knowledge to share and lessons learned from his experience — both failures and successes — as a seasoned operator. We’re thrilled to welcome David as a proven leader who will build upon the Lightspeed history of success.
Mercedes Bent, Partner (Consumer)
Mercedes’ path to VC is a true convergence of her prior life experiences — a childhood surrounded by inventors, studies at Harvard and Stanford, finance roles at the Federal Reserve and Goldman, managing P&L at startups in VR and EdTech, and her long-term goal of empowering communities she cares about. She began her venture capital career at Owl Ventures before joining Lightspeed. And having launched a business herself, she knows the respect that founders deserve. As an African-American of Bermudian, Grenadian, and Colombian heritage with roots in the South, diversity and inclusion is something she’s passionate about. In her words, she realized she “didn’t have to wait on the sidelines and keep hoping more women and Black and Hispanic founders got funded.” She became part of the solution. That discovery led her to Lightspeed’s consumer investing team and we’re so happy it did.
James Ephrati, Partner (Growth)
James was born in France and lived in Paris for the first twelve years of his life before moving to Los Angeles. He’s no stranger to venture — prior to Lightspeed, James worked at Battery Ventures for several years, focusing on growth and buyout investments in vertical SaaS, IT infrastructure, and consumer industries. At Battery he helped invest in Mews Systems, Curve Dental, and WebPT’s acquisition of BMS. And prior to a career in venture, he worked at Moelis & Company, an investment bank, where he advised software and communications equipment companies on M&A and strategic alternatives. Before Moelis, James held roles in Risk at Citi in New York, and in Asset Management at Bedrock Group in London. He joins Lightspeed’s growth practice to help lead the reinvestment platform and invest in fast-growing consumer and software companies.
Anoushka Vaswani, Partner (Growth)
Growing up in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Brussels before moving to the United States, Anoushka has always embraced looking at life from multiple perspectives. And she’s seen both sides of the spectrum within the venture industry. Before Lightspeed, she was an investor at Matrix, supporting entrepreneurs raising their first rounds of funding, and then at SoftBank with entrepreneurs deliberating multi-billion rounds. She also served as the third product manager at MasterClass, while the company experienced meaningful scale. Anoushka began her career working with technology companies at Goldman and McKinsey, where she led the firm’s first project with Facebook on the launch of internet.org. At Lightspeed, Anoushka focuses on investments in growth-stage companies within FinTech, enterprise software and infrastructure.
Rytis Vitkauskas, Partner (Europe)
Based in the U.K., Rytis joined Lightspeed to help build out our European presence and global platform alongside our partners in India, Israel and China. He’s been part of the European tech scene as either entrepreneur, venture or angel investor for over a dozen years. And he learned his entrepreneurial lessons early in life; at age 14, he started his first company, a white box PC assembly business. Later on, after his studies as a proud first ever Lithuanian at Harvard Business School, he joined Summit Partners to invest in the leading tech companies in Europe, backing the likes of Avast (LST:AVST) and Acturis. After a while, he left VC to start another business, a mobile ticketing software company called YPlan, which raised capital from some of the top VCs globally and ultimately was acquired by the leading lifestyle media group, Time Out Group (AIM:TMO). After a short sabbatical, he found himself back as a VC at a European fund Target Global, and now, at Lightspeed.
Please join us in welcoming David, Mercedes, James, Anoushka, and Rytis to Lightspeed.
— Jeremy Liew & Ravi Mhatre