Mayfield Blog

Tech’s next most powerful role will be dominated by women

No, this is not another pessimistic rant about the lack of women in the tech industry, especially in leadership roles.

I am an optimist, and, as a partner to several marketing technology and SaaS companies, I would like to draw attention to an observation staring us all in the face. There are thousands of women in marketing roles at both technology and non-technology companies.

The most interesting element is that this role has become a technology-driven one with a crucial objective of driving revenue and customer intimacy. Many of these women are poised to excel in a new role that will be a major stakeholder in the C-suite of every company — the chief marketing technology officer, or CMTO.

While female CTOs are still a rarity, women CMOs are not. On one analyst’s recent list of top-10 CMOs in Silicon Valley, six were women. While I have become accustomed to seeing the revolution in marketing and the role women have been playing, I was struck by just how many marketing executives are women. While attending the Marketo customer summit last month, Hillary Clinton spoke about the importance of women attaining leadership roles in technology to an audience of 6,000, of which about 70% were women.

Women have long held key roles in marketing at tech companies, but executives in other departments such as engineering, sales, and business development have often received more recognition. That’s because marketing has traditionally been seen as a “cost center” instead of a “revenue generator.” CEOs worry that they are wasting money on marketing because they have had little idea if it was working to move the needle in terms of revenue. The infamous John Wanamaker quote “Half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half” still keeps many CEOs up at night. As a result, marketing was largely kept out of the C-suite at tech companies because it wasn’t viewed as mission critical. However, there is a big change afoot that is putting the spotlight on marketing’s true value. (more…)

A Wearables Startup Playbook

ChalkboardFew sectors have received as much buzz as the wearables market. From fitness bands and anklet baby monitors, to smartwatches and Google Glass, wearables are fun, cool, and cutting-edge.

The rise of mobile broadband, commodity sensors, smartphone-based companion apps, virtualized manufacturing and supply chain, crowdfunding, and nimble design have converged to make wearables mainstream. With the category now validated as a strategic hotspot for all major corporations and platforms, investors are clamoring to fund wearable tech startups.

In 2013, investors poured $458 million into 49 wearable company deals, according to CB Insights. Year-over-year, deal activity in wearable startups rose 158 percent, while funding grew 80 percent. Companies like Thalmic Labs, InteraXon, Soundhawk, Misfit Wearables, Fitbit, Jawbone and Rest Devices have recently raised significant rounds. (more…)

These three trends will transform how employees use their phones

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Image Credit: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

As an investor in enterprise mobile startups, I meet with hundreds of entrepreneurs every year whose business plans include the “mobile” buzzword.

Many of them are app companies that target consumers or ad networks and platforms that help reach them.

While these are interesting and will certainly yield some unicorns, I think there are even bigger opportunities for startups that leverage mobile technology to solve the most pressing problems for enterprises.

Many organizations are unprepared for the mobile future. The vast majority of knowledge workers own smartphones, and they regularly use them to access apps like Evernote, Dropbox, and Box – whether their companies want them to or not. (more…)

Parikh Shares Advice with Start-Up CEOs

When Ursheet Parikh sold his company StorSimple in 2012 to Microsoft, it was one of the largest deals in the cloud infrastructure sector to date. But that wasn’t the only thing unusual about it.

It was also a fairly large deal for which he played the banker and negotiated the deal. This is not unheard of, but it is an interesting example of how such a process can work in a startup acquisition. Before explaining why and how he handled the acquisition without a banker, it’s helpful to follow how the company developed.

Founded in 2009, StorSimple combined the functions of multiple storage systems — primary storage, backup, archival and disaster recovery — into a single storage appliance that integrated with cloud storage services from companies such as Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft Azure and Google. Parikh, formerly at Cisco, had previous startup experience and started the company with Guru Pangal, formerly of Brocade. The two were a good match to work on StorSimple because Parikh had a strong track record in WAN acceleration and Pangal had expertise in storage.

Early on, the team focused heavily on testing the product with about 40 customers. Parikh believes that some enterprise-focused startups push products out too early. Instead he advises enterprise startups to make sure the product is right before opening it up to the public. “Don’t settle on the product too early. These products take time to bake. It can be a mistake to declare general availability too early – especially before the product market fit is validated.” (more…)

Artisanal Cheese, Cocktails … Now the Artisanal VC?

Reno Martin/Shutterstock

Reno Martin/Shutterstock

Most venture investors say they are hands-on, but now some are taking it a step further and calling themselves “artisanal” VCs. What does this term really mean? Is it just a pretentious moniker that fits into today’s world of “handcrafted” $5 coffee and $4 toast? Or is there actually a new movement happening in the venture community?

While the term “artisanal” may be a bit overhyped, I would argue there is a real change afoot in the early-stage venture industry. There is a curiosity on the part of some VCs to focus on being a part of fewer, higher-quality, handcrafted companies. Investors like myself are now applying the same type of “craftsman” passion and care to help nurture companies from their earliest stages. (more…)

5 myths about the marketplace that mobile strategies busted

mobile-786x305In the era of mobile, social, and the sharing economy, we’re seeing the emergence of next-gen mobile-enabled marketplaces in every ecommerce category, from fashion (Poshmark), to health (Brighter and HealthTap), lodging (Airbnb and HotelTonight), transportation (Uber and Lyft), and real estate (Zillow).

However, we have noticed that several conventional wisdoms surrounding marketplaces are getting disrupted. It’s important to constantly question traditional assumptions whenever new platforms arise, as it’s these disruptions which incumbents often fail to adopt, leaving room for innovative startups to spring ahead in new land-grab opportunities.

Mayfield recently hosted a Mobile Marketplaces dinner with leading entrepreneurs, which yielded several insights.

Myth #1: Online marketplaces have no offline component

Many of the newer service marketplaces feel more like “movements” rather than “businesses,” and actually require very careful architecture of the end-to-end experience both online and offline, including areas such as culture and workflow.

“Mobile is a foundational part of the Airbnb experience. When you travel, you are constantly on the go, so being connected to your mobile device might be your only digital lens into the world,” says Shaun Modi, designer at Airbnb. “How do we design and build a world-class mobile experience that not only satisfies the needs of our users, but fuels growth and inspires more people to join the Airbnb global community? It all starts with culture.

“By focusing on designing our internal culture, it seamlessly translates to the experience we create, both online and offline. Everything from the layout of our office, design principles, team structures, and interview process definitively reflects who we are.”

Modi also says startups should invest internally to inspire employees to have empathy for each other and for their customers. (more…)

A ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ approach to venture capital

Silver liningThe venture capital industry is getting rightsized, with less capital raised and deployed, smaller funds, fewer active venture capital firms, and more regulation. The exit climate has picked up, but is still not at the level required. And valuations are overall more rational, with some exceptions at the later stages or in consumer-facing momentum companies.

However, with the confluence of not one but four big market drivers (discussed below), and the rise of a new technology cycle,  we think this is still a great time to be a venture capitalist or entrepreneur.

Recent VC industry data released by the NVCA confirmed the reality of a welcome flight to quality and rightsizing trend. Key findings include:

  • In 2012, the VC industry raised $20 billion vs. the almost $100 billion in 2000;
  • 92% of this capital went to existing managers (vs. first-time managers) and 48% went to 10 large firms;
  • Overall, about 522 firms are estimated to be active, and some believe this number even lower closer to 100 defined as firms that have made at least 4 investments over the last year;
  • The median fund size for 2012 was $150 million, and the overall deal pace has come down to slightly over 750 investments per quarter;
  • Although some momentum companies are being bid up, valuations are trending lower overall according to Dow Jones Venture Source data. (more…)

Finding the next AWS, VMWare or EMC: Five areas where cloud startups can make it big

gigaom-cloud

In a world where, in the blink of an eye, anyone with a credit card can access what is essentially the largest computer in the world (in the form of AWS), today’s enterprise data centers are starting to look like mainframe systems of a bygone era: clunky, complex, inflexible, risky and expensive to develop and operate.

To keep up, enterprises have had two real choices: deploy their apps and services in third-party data centers, or implement private clouds. Public clouds, while attractive in their utility and cost, have not been a good option due to a lack of control and guaranteed service levels. But a third choice has emerged: the hybrid cloud. (more…)

Embracing a Mobile-First Mentality for a Brave, New World

Mobile-icon-largeWith over one billion smartphones and over 120 million tablets in use today, the PC era has given way to the world of mobile. Consumers, developers and businesses are being presented with innovative products from disruptive entrepreneurs. At Mayfield Fund, we believe that a new world order is being formed, where many mobile-first companies will grow into industry giants. (more…)

The ‘Smart apps’ explosion is happening
right now

app-explosionThere are over a billion smartphones being used around the world today, but most apps running on them are still quite dumb, in that they throw away a lot of valuable information that could be harnessed to serve users better and to provide a better overall experience.

Don’t believe us? Just look at the highly popular apps from Yelp and Amazon. Yelp’s app search ignores your implicit cuisine preferences, which it could easily extract from your prior queries and navigation. Yelp also overlooks contextual factors like weather and time of day, showing “Bars” and “Nightlife” prominently in its Nearby feature, even at seven in the morning!

Ditto for Amazon’s PriceCheck app, which seems to not only ignore your purchase history but also whether you’re searching for that toaster oven from your home or at your local Target. (more…)