Time once more for Elevator Pitch, where top tech investors talk about the kinds of deals they're looking for -- and the kinds of mistakes entrepreneurs should avoid. This week, we've got Steve Harrick, who joined Institutional Venture Partners back in 2001.
The Yale and Harvard graduate's investments include Aerohive Networks, CafePress, eHealth and MySQL -- the last of which was bought by Sun Microsystems for $1 billion.
Q How'd you get into this racket?
A I worked at Netscape during the summer of 1996, between years in business school. That experience served as my introduction to California and the West Coast technology community. I loved it -- and planned to return to Netscape as a product manager, when a venture firm in Boston pulled my resume from the (Harvard Business School) resume book and asked me to interview.
When I asked why they were interested in me, they responded: "Because of your Internet experience." To which I replied sheepishly, "It was only four months." Their quick response -- "That's four months more than anyone else has." I accepted the job as an associate and began my venture career in 1997.
Q What do you like about VC?
A I enjoy helping entrepreneurs create businesses of sustainable value. When this is done right, the result is a wonderful, innovative place to work -- and several thousand jobs supporting families.
Q What kinds of pitches are you looking for now?
A Rapidly growing, differentiated, high-margin businesses, competing in large markets. I recognize that I am not the only one looking for these.
Q What's the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make?
A Putting any objective ahead of hiring great people. Technology companies are defined not only by their intellectual property but by the people who work together to deliver, sell and position that IP.
Attracting great people during each phase of a company's development is fundamental to success.
Q What's the next big thing going to be?
A Utilizing the decade's worth of technological advancement in low-cost, efficient computing power to extract actionable information from large data sets.
Q Yours is a late-stage firm, so you're probably not getting cold calls from investors. How do you source most of your deals?
A We take a proactive approach to identifying the companies that are executing most effectively in the marketplace and show the most promise. We then approach management of those companies directly and work with their existing investors to create a financing that benefits all involved.
Q IVP was founded by Reid Dennis back in 1980. In the dot-com era, a group of partners spun out to form Redpoint Ventures. How has your firm thrived over the years amid changes?
A We selected a strategy that addressed a need in the venture landscape and complemented our aggregate skill set as a partnership, then stuck to it.
We work diligently for our companies after we invest, and we view ourselves as consistently constructive partners -- with each other and with the entrepreneurs we finance.