Back to the Not-So-Dark Side

Shawn Carolan
Sep 8, 2016 · 3 min read

Today I’m excited to announce my return to Menlo Ventures as a Managing Director to lead our consumer technology practice following my time as Founder and CEO of Handle. My friends jest that I “returned to the Dark Side”, and while far from a galactic battle of good vs. evil, the decision was one I pondered for months and was finally able to make confidently.

Menlo has a clear mission to invest in companies that make an impact, and the opportunity to serve entrepreneurs on their missions is a privilege. I’ve been fortunate to lead investments in and work with the teams at Uber, Siri, Roku, Playspan, IMVU, TeleNav, Yume and more, and am excited to discover who I’ll have the chance to work with next.

Birthing a company out of nothing teaches you many lessons, but none are more valuable than the importance of great people and how they work together. Menlo’s team dynamic has been shaped over decades and feels very special. I’ve been lucky to benefit from mentorship by former partners like our Founder Dubose Montgomery who incubated Gilead Pharmaceuticals, and Sonja Perkins, one of the most successful female venture capitalists. I’ve benefited from the decades of insights Doug Carlisle and John Jarve have shared and will continue to as they co-invest the current fund before retiring. I shared a fruitful period with Shervin Pishevar as we locked arms and lasered in on consumer together. Most important of all when thinking about the next decade plus of my career is who I’d be working with day in and day out: partners Mark Siegel (who hired me in 2002), Pravin Vazirani, Venky Ganesan, Matt Murphy, Jordan Ormont, Tyler Sosin, Sandeep Bhadra, and Steve Sloane plus the rest of the incredible staff is who I wanted to go into battle with. It’s an honor to return and work alongside such a talented, passionate team that is poised to win as we learn from and grow with each other.

As anyone who knows me will attest, I’m a tireless optimist and the future I see is even brighter. We’re continuing to hire at Menlo and will add another consumer-focused partner and two associates. We’re doubling down because we see the landscape for investment in a very exciting state:

  • Great platforms to build on: iOS, Android, Amazon Cloud, Heroku, Firebase, Azure, Roku
  • Amazing ingredient technologies that will revolutionize many markets: natural language processing, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, instant apps, computer vision, wearables, IoT, bioinformatics
  • Powerful APIs to speed time-to-market and improve methodically: Uber, Twilio, Stripe, Recurly, Heap, Fabric, Swrve, Shippo
  • Unprecedented ways to grow: Facebook (ads & viral), Twitter, Instagram, email, FB Messenger, Whatsapp, WeChat, Snapchat, AppLovin
  • Robust content providers for us humans to learn and share best practices: Udemy, First Round Review, Nearpod, Medium, Wordpress, Codecademy, CodeHS, General Assembly, Philz, BlueBottle, Coupa Cafe, Starbucks

I’m seeing a robust ecosystem of entrepreneurs, mentors, and fellow venture capitalists that have learned from experience it’s so much more powerful to share insights and work together to build great things that solve real problems than horde learnings and starve ourselves of camaraderie. Silicon Valley lives by the mantra of our future president that “It takes a village” and as a technology ecosystem, we are in really strong shape.

Even Handle, which fell short of my initial dreams, has found a dedicated group of customers and most importantly a future in Kris Gellci, a star engineer with great product instincts who will carry the company forward as it’s new CEO. The magical tool that cures our information overload and helps us all spend our lives on the important things still does not exist and it’s great to see him continuing forward to crack the nut. I’m deeply grateful to all of the Handle team members, investors, collaborators, friends, family and especially my wife Jennifer that supported me on the journey.

There’s so much more I want to write and things I want to do but the last lesson I’ll share is that good ideas, while important, are nothing without great execution. It’s time to stop talking and start doing, so stay tuned for more in coming weeks, months, years, and decades.

More on Menlo Press Release, VentureBeat, SV Biz Journal, WSJ Pro & Gage’s Take

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