On February 25, Arif from Lightspeed Venture Partners dropped by Bootup to talk with local entrepreneurs about Lightspeed and the Valley culture. As a Canadian and member of the C100, a non-profit member organization comprised of experienced Canadian technology leaders, Arif wants to see tech hubs like Vancouver flourish. He kicked things off last Thursday with some background information about Lightspeed and the entrepreneurial and VC ecosystem in the Valley.
“We think big. We think long term.”
Lightspeed closed an $800M fund in 2008 and are focused primarily on early stage investments including Seed (less than 1M), Series A(syndicate deals) and Series B (10M). When they invest at an early stage they look at the total capital needed for the entire investment and leave the door open for follow on rounds. Arif said that because of the size of their fund, they shoot for companies that are going big and focus on growth over early M&A targets. Therefore, it may take 8-9 years to get a significant return on an investment.
While the last two years have been hard for raising capital and VCs are still being cautious, Lightspeed has money to invest and has also done roughly 8-10 global investments. Many Valley VCs, who invest early like to be in close proximity to the companies they fund, which can be a challenge for us in Vancouver looking to attract attention from investors on Sand Hill Road but the right team + market makes a difference. And those are the two things Arif looks at first. He is also actively looking for the right company to fund in Canada.
The Valley – It’s a Culture of thinking Very, Very Big!
When Arif was a student at Waterloo, he was thinking about what companies he would be working for upon graduation rather than becoming a CEO at the start of his career. In the Valley, he said students have a totally different mindset. Entrepreneurship and the notion of creating companies that are defining is rooted in the culture. For instance, a strong program at Stanford encourages students to choose an entrepreneurial path and University professors are encouraged to take leaves of absence to build on their research. Some profs like Rajeev Motwani, who mentored Larry & Sergey may even take equity in companies. These types of programs contribute to the strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and open culture in the Valley.
Arif also shared a few tips on meeting with VCs:
- Don’t bother cold calling or knocking on doors.
- Tap your network to get warm intro’s to investors you are interested in meeting.
- Be sure to check out the VC’s portfolio before you reach out to make sure they are not funding a competing company.
- If the partner or associate you meet with likes your business, you will be brought in to pitch multiple partners and if they still like you after that, they will talk about you at their partner meeting, which always happens on Mondays.
Many thanks to Arif for joining us, sharing his insight and being a voice for Canadian entrepreneurship in the Valley.