ROI in the world of tech historically meant return on investment, but as a people-first investor, I have been looking at it through the lens of the Rise of the Individual. Entrepreneurs who have this as their core mission are focused on giving voice to others, which is a core tenet of our conscious capital philosophy.
True ROI companies go beyond simply building communities to living by them. These companies align their success with the measurable elevation of the individuals their product/service empowers. Their founders are passionate about the specific persona of the individual they are targeting, often having walked in their shoes before. Along the way, these companies become category leaders and valuable companies.
Some examples from our experience include:
- HashiCorp which was founded by two open source developer legends Armon Dadgar and Mitchell Hashimoto and led by CEO Dave McJannet to help practitioners deploy infrastructure in a multi-cloud world, a mission the company has stayed true to. With the mantra of infrastructure enables innovation and a product philosophy codified as the Tao of HashiCorp, the company has grown into the most valuable infrastructure company of the multi-cloud era with a recent round of financing valuing it at over $5 billion, as it powers leading enterprises such as global stock exchanges;
- Lyft, the ridesharing pioneer, which was founded by Logan Green and John Zimmer, who focused on individuals looking to generate income from their ability to drive passengers. By building a loyal driver community, staying true to their needs and providing them with resources, Lyft was able to battle against a much larger competitor and hold a successful public offering which valued the company at over $20 billion post their IPO;
- Marketo, whose founding team including CEO Phil Fernandez, had strong marketing DNA and the desire to elevate marketing professionals from cost centers to revenue accelerators. Their campaign automation tools became the standard and the Marketing Nation community they created grew to thousands of members. Their software ended up elevating the CMO into having a seat at the leadership table and even into the boardroom. Marketo had a very successful public offering, followed by being acquired and spun out by Vista Equity Partners, and subsequently acquired by Adobe for over $5 billion;
- Outreach.io, co-founded by CEO Manny Medina and his team, targets the sales professional, enabling them to become more efficient with an engagement platform that works the way they do. The team was using the software to sell their recruiting services for their prior company and pivoted from a near death experience, realizing that the sales software was their crown jewel. Individual reps and teams have become vocal about their love for the product and are getting Outreach on the radar of companies as varied as Zoom and the Sacramento Kings basketball team. The company recently raised a round of financing which valued them at over $1.33 billion;
- Poshmark, co-founded by CEO Manish Chandra and Tracy Sun is the largest social commerce marketplace for fashion which has grown because of the loyalty of its seller stylist community. The team built the platform as a way for women entrepreneurs to earn income as well as social status as fashionistas. They provided tips and tools to the seller stylists, hosted offline and online events to nurture the community, and took all the friction out of the sales process from shipping to taxes. Their seller stylists are located in 85% of US zip codes, and 1 in 5 people in America are on Poshmark.
- Rancher was founded by serial entrepreneurs Sheng Liang and Shannon Williams who had seen the power of the cloud with their prior company Cloud.com. They had a vision for the future of everywhere computing which required elevating the DevOps/ITops professional from individual contributor to strategic leader. Their Kubernetes product enjoyed grassroots adoption and the community of engaged users propelled the product onto the short list of enterprises. It is pending acquisition by SUSE and today is the most widely-adopted enterprise Kubernetes platform, with 100M downloads, and 30K active deployments across 300 global enterprise customers from Disney to Fidelity Investments to Verizon and beyond.
- Securiti.ai, founded by serial entrepreneur Rehan Jalil who believes the right to privacy is a human right. Their AI-powered solution and a movement toward PrivacyOps empowers compliance officers and other decision makers within enterprises to build consumer trust by quickly responding to requests around their personal data;
- ServiceMax, founded by Hari Subramanian and Athani Krishnaprasad and led by CEO Dave Yarnold, targeted field service technicians – the white van professionals who drive up to fix your cable, home appliances, vending machines or other office equipment. By helping them switch from clipboards to a smartphone or tablet loaded with a mobile/cloud solution and creating a community where none had existed, ServiceMax elevated the efficiency and status of this community. Their software became the standard at global companies such as Coca Cola and GE, which acquired them for $1 billion;
- WorkSpan, founded by serial entrepreneur Mayank Bawa and enterprise leader Amit Sinha, who built a community of ecosystem aces – alliance managers at large enterprises who are freed from the drudgery of campaign management via spreadsheet and are now able to collaborate through an elegant and secure software platform.
Some other companies with ROI as their core mission from our portfolio include Dev.to/developers; Skilljar/customer success managers; and SmartRecruiters/jobseekers and hiring managers.
As we continue to operate in our digital native, remote-first world, I believe that breakout companies will target different personas and grow into the ROI giants of the new age. Some personas that we are looking at include:
- The CFO who is evolving from an ops leader to a strategic planner;
- The employee who is taking control of his/her career trajectory;
- The developer who is growing into more strategic work than day-to-day mundane tasks;
- The security administrator who wants to be proactive about future breaches;
- The GTM leaders – sales, marketing, customer success – who create communities and help realize a founder’s big mission.
We believe that celebrating entrepreneurs whose mission is that of giving voice to others is both a noble and financially rewarding activity – a new definition of ROI. If you are an entrepreneur targeting these personas or others with a passion to elevate their status, we want to hear from you.