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Batphone

Long before Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, George Clooney, Val Kilmer or even Michael Keaton donned the cape, Batman was Adam West. He starred in the Batman TV show of the 1970s, which was one of my favorites as a kid. In the show, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon used a special Batphone to dial up Batman (aka Bruce Wayne) and Robin (aka Dick Grayson) whenever something was about to go down in Gotham City. In a flash, Batman and Robin would dawn their superhero suits and speed off in the Batmobile to take on the enemy, rescue the citizens of Gotham and save the day.On the Batman TV show of the 1970s, which was one of my favorites as a kid, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon used a special Batphone to dial up Batman (aka Bruce Wayne) and Robin (aka Dick Grayson) whenever something was about to go down in Gotham City. In a flash, Batman and Robin would dawn their superhero suits and speed off in the Batmobile to take on the enemy, rescue the citizens of Gotham and save the day.

At Lightspeed we invest in the entrepreneur and the first thing we do is install a Batphone. Not a big red rotary dial phone; thankfully, technology has evolved since the 70s. What I mean is we strive to be the entrepreneur’s first call. The Batphone model has been in place at Lightspeed for decades — since our inception. And it works. It allows our founders to have a direct line to us, and lets us respond with urgency and engage with founders when, where and how we can be most impactful. Like Batman and Robin, we’re in the service of our citizens…and our service goes far beyond capital.

Over the years we’ve had the privilege of working with amazing founders and helping them grow from infancy to IPO or acquisition in many cases. We know the scrappiness and the elbow grease required. And the importance of not just thinking like an entrepreneur, but rolling up our sleeves and being an entrepreneur — to be builders of great companies with great founders.

With this in mind, I’m thrilled to welcome both Brian Kasser and Meredith Kendall to Lightspeed — two fantastic individuals who are true builders. Brian joins Lightspeed as our Partner in charge of executive level talent for Lightspeed and our portfolio of companiesMeredith joins as Vice President of Marketing to lead marketing initiatives for Lightspeed overall and support the marketing efforts of our founders and their teams. We are thrilled the Lightspeed family of entrepreneurs will be able to leverage Brian and Meredith’s deep expertise. We recognized their high IQ and EQ immediately, and we’re excited to see our portfolio companies put both to good use.

BrianK

Brian Kasser most recently led the global Software and SaaS Practice for Russell Reynolds Associates, based in Palo Alto. His experience includes working with publicly traded and venture-funded technology companies with a significant focus on CEO, COO, President and Board level assignments, as well as senior-level/worldwide sales, financial, corporate development and marketing functions. Prior to joining Russell Reynolds Associates, Brian worked at Salomon Brothers, Lehman Brothers and Thomas Weisel Partners, where he joined at the firm’s inception in early 1999. Brian received his undergraduate BA degree in economics from Vanderbilt University. He received his MBA in finance from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. (Fun fact: While at Vanderbilt, Brian played Varsity Football for the Commodores and also served as the Interfraternity Council President).

Brian understands that the companies in our portfolio are only as strong as the women and men who lead them. A Silicon Valley native, for years Brian has been in the business of high stakes match-making, with the mission of bringing the right talent to the right company at the right time. He comes to Lightspeed with 13 years of executive search experience placing hundreds of leaders in many of the tech industry’s top organizations, both in Silicon Valley and worldwide. His track record combined with his deep network of influencers and innovators perfectly positions him to evaluate the skills, expertise, leadership, and culture fit required to help build our portfolio companies for the future.

Meredith

Meredith Kendall was Head of Communications at Hulu where she led external communications for the company across key areas including corporate, content, product, advertising and distribution. During her more than three years at Hulu, the company developed its first Hulu Original series, received its first Emmy nomination, and grew its U.S. subscriber base to over six million users. Meredith is most proud of growing the communications team threefold during her tenure. Meredith started out at Google HQ on the Global Communications & Public Affairs team. She joins us from The Pramana Collective, a communications consultancy where she worked with founders and companies across a wide array of industries — from video and social messaging platforms, to drones and high speed transportation. Meredith is an angel investor in Color Genomics and Munchery and sits on the advisory board for zkipster. She holds a Masters in Communications and Bachelors degrees in English and Music from Stanford University. (Fun fact: Meredith was a talent manager on American Idol seasons seven and eight.)

Meredith brings a unique perspective on marketing and communications to Lightspeed, having sat both inside and outside high growth, high profile companies. Meredith is a masterful architect of stories, and has helped many a founder find their voice, and many a team find their True North by providing strategic counsel and tactical advice based on her experience of what works, and equally as important, what doesn’t work. She goes in search of non-obvious creative solutions to the communications challenges that a founder and their team will inevitably face in their growth cycle.

We’re not building an army of service people at Lightspeed. When you call Lightspeed, you’re getting Brian or Meredith at the other end of the Batphone. At a time when a lot of VCs are being louder in what sometimes appears to be more self-serving than entrepreneur-serving, Lightspeed is taking a different approach — the Lightspeed approach. We’ve been head down, fighting the ground war shoulder-to-shoulder with our founders. And now, better equipped than ever, we remain at the ready on our Batphone.

You can reach Meredith at meredith@lsvp.com, and follow her on twitter@meredithkendall and Medium.

You can reach Brian at bk@lsvp.com, add him on LinkedIn and follow him on twitter @briankasser.

 

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Identifying and hiring great talent is one of the hardest and most important parts of building a company and setting it up for success. While finding great talent is hard enough as it is, retention is even harder. We live in the age of LinkedIn and Glassdoor. The best performing companies and CEOs know this — your best employees are constantly being courted by recruiters and competitors, and if you drop the ball on talent management, you drop everything. This problem becomes even more acute when you factor in a new generation of millennials entering the workforce, who expect to be treated with more transparency and equity than any generation before them.

Talent management. Why is it so hard? And what’s the solution? Enter Rajeev Behera and Reflektive. From the first time I met Rajeev in late 2014, I was impressed with his vision for a modern talent management platform. In his previous role as a product exec at Playdom (also a Lightspeed company), Rajeev scaled his team from 0 to 100 employees and realized quickly that the existing range of HR solutions were outdated, hard to use and did not actually help with talent management, rather they helped with HR process management. In particular, Rajeev felt that the current state of employee feedback in the form of an annual performance review resulted in employee frustration, and a disconnect from the company and the team. So when it was time for him to move on from Playdom, he decided to build a talent management solution that would truly be helpful to employees and companies alike. And Reflektive was born.

Rajeev’s core thesis with Reflektive is three-fold:

  1. Talent management and development is one of the most core functions leaders at companies undertake. Great employees have multiple job opportunities, so they optimize not for monetary rewards, but a sense of purpose and career growth.
  2. Talent development should not be a once a year process; it should be continuous in nature and be more than a one-way manager-to-employee feedback. It should be part of a company’s culture and DNA, rather than merely a process.
  3. In order to have continuous talent development at scale, companies need to deploy technology that removes all friction from such communications.

Accordingly, Rajeev and his team at Reflektive built a beautiful solution that offers a frictionless way for employees to give and receive feedback from their colleagues, and manage their individual goals. Reflektive started as a continuous peer feedback application, but over the last year and a half they’ve built out a comprehensive solution that includes periodic performance reviews, goals management and employee surveys.

At Lightspeed, we have always believed that talent is one of the most critical ingredients of success for any organization. So when Rajeev shared his vision with us last year, we knew we wanted to partner with him. And today, we’re thrilled to announce our Series A investment in Reflektive. We’re not the only ones who are excited about what Rajeev and the team at Reflektive are building. Reflektive, while still young, already has been adopted by some of the largest and fastest growing enterprises such as Pinterest, Twilio, SquareTrade, Thumbtack, Glassdoor, Quantcast, UltraGenyx, AltSchool, and Flatiron Health amongst others.

The long term vision doesn’t stop here. Rajeev ultimately wants to build an end-to-end talent management solution that enables CEOs and team leaders to empower, communicate with and mentor their employees. We’re excited to see what Rajeev and the team at Reflektive build over the coming years.

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At Lightspeed, we talk a lot about entrepreneurs that have the “X-factor.” The X-factor is the uncanny cleverness and ingenuity an entrepreneur possesses that gives him or her the ability to capture the power of an idea and transform it into a incredibly valuable product…and ultimately an incredibly valuable company. The rare breed of entrepreneurs that possess the X-factor are called X-men or X-women.

One of my early encounters with X-men was with Gaurav Dhillon and Diaz Nesamoney who transformed the data warehousing industry at Informatica. Data warehousing at the time was a services-intensive business where most projects failed. Enter Gaurav and Diaz. They reasoned, why build a massive intergalactic data warehouse and why do it by using code? They went to business department heads and said: “Forget about waiting for the corporate data warehouse initiative. With our product, define the analytics you want and be up and running with a data mart in 90 days.” Gaurav and Diaz transformed the data warehousing market overnight. Competitors followed suit over the next couple of years. Showing their X-men powers, they then announced the ability to weave their data marts together into large data warehouses. Gaurav and Diaz had anticipated this move and built the right architecture in their data marts right from the start. Competitors could not readily re-architect their products especially with their existing base of legacy installations. Game over. Even after more than 20 years, Informatica still dominates the space.

Enter Vincent Yang of EverString. When I first met him two years ago, I knew I was in the presence of an X-man. Vincent was a mathematician who grew up in China. After graduating from Jiao Tong University, he went to work for JP Morgan in Hong Kong and then was hired by Summit Partners to prospect (cold call) investment opportunities in China. After some exploration, Summit decided not to pursue investments in China but told Vincent he could keep his job and call on U.S.- based companies. The problem was that Vincent’s English wasn’t very good and he had to compete against his colleagues from Yale, Princeton, Stanford, etc. But X-men are not easily deterred, and Vincent responded by using his mathematics background to build a software system that combed the web and applied algorithms to uncover investment prospects. Instead of making 100 calls like his colleagues to find an opportunity, he would only have to make 20. Vincent thrived and had a very successful career at Summit.

Vincent Yang, EverString

Then while at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Vincent took this basic idea and thought why not apply this to any B2B company — use data science to help any B2B company identify its best customer prospects. That was the genesis of EverString. Using his X-man vision, Vincent saw that leading scoring was just the tip of the spear of a much larger opportunity. He built an architecture which anticipated the bigger follow on ideas. That allowed EverString quickly to introduce predictive lead generation capability — not to just score leads, but to generate new leads. Competitors have tried to cobble together a competing offering, but are held back by their underlying architectures. This vaulted EverString into a leadership position early on.

A number of months ago I got together with Vincent over breakfast. He revealed to me his concepts for EverString’s next move and some breakthrough data science that could make it reality. Over the next few months, Vincent and his extraordinary team honed the ideas into a ground-breaking new product. Today EverString is unveiling it: the EverString Audience Platform. (You can read more about it at www.everstring.com).

With this new platform, the B2B marketer defines a segment (i.e. audience) he/she is pursuing and the lead scoring and generation is all performed vis-a-vis that segment. This is essential because marketers work everyday — from positioning to messaging to creative to targeting — in the context of segments. Before, leads were scored or generated in isolation, and marketers could not then act on them in concert with their day-to-day activities. The new product greatly enhances the power of lead scoring and generation. Extending beyond that, EverString uses data science and machine learning to discover new segments that a marketer may not be aware of explicitly. For instance, a marketer may be simplistically marketing to segments defined by geography and vertical. EverString’s data science uncovers segments that are delineated by the target customer’s growth rate, increases in hiring, use of a competitor’s product, or other dimensions that may not be obvious to the marketer. By targeting these segments, the precision and effectiveness of marketing activities is greatly increased.

With this breakthrough capability, EverString will be able to expand its markets, increase customer value, expand price points, sell higher and broader in customer accounts, and accelerate sales cycles. Vincent, the X-man, has changed the game again, catapulting EverString forward and creating separation from competitors. This is the work of X-men — peering into a murky emerging market, capturing the essence of customer needs, and continually innovating breakthrough products that create sustained market leadership.

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Takipi.

Over the past few years, there has been an incredible revolution in the way that software applications are built and run. The Cloud has simplified and accelerated time to development, Big Data has made applications smarter and more predictive, and …

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March and April are the most exciting months of the NFL offseason.  Free agency begins in March and the NFL draft takes place in April.  As a fan, you get to watch your favorite team add new players as they …

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I joined Lightspeed ten years ago. It’s been an amazing ride. We announced $1.2bn of committed capital in our latest fund family last month and four of us have been listed on the CB Insights/NY Times list of top 100

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I recently watched the movie “The Intern” starring Anne Hathaway as CEO of an eCommerce startup and Robert DeNiro as her “senior intern”.

It was a fun movie, and I thought it might also be fun to look …

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I once witnessed a first-time entrepreneur pitch his very early stage startup, vision, and product with so much passion, precision, and authority to a well-recognized Global consumer goods brand that the CIO agreed to a POC (proof of concept) even …

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One of my favorite things about the tech industry is that reputations and relationships matter. Unlike Wall Street, or Hollywood, people in the tech industry pay it forward and treat each other well.  This isn’t just Northern California touchie feelie; …

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By: Will Kohler and John Vrionis

Datos logo 2

http://datos.io/

We are thrilled to be partnered with Tarun and Prasenjit, founders of Datos IO, who just announced their Big Data recovery solution for customers of scale-out databases such as Cassandra and MongoDB.

Early …

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