Mayfield Blog

Vasan on The Rise of the Quants

Marina Sun/Shutterstock

I graduated from Stanford in the late 1980s with a dual degree in engineering and economics, and, like so many others of my day, I was drawn to Wall Street. Reaganomics was in full swing, Bloomberg terminals were still in their early days and popular culture was full of colorful characters like Gordon Gekko.

Wall Street was booming and firms were waking up to the massive potential of marrying technology and complex mathematics. Technology was transitioning from PCs running Lotus 123 to firms installing real-time data feeds and legions of Sun workstations. Foundational algorithms like Black-Scholes and binomial pricing models and Monte Carlo simulations were just starting to take hold.

Firms needed new hires with PhDs and Masters degrees in varying complex quantitative disciplines like physics, statistics and mathematics, as well as armies of software developers. The race was on to leverage new computing platforms and combine market data with complex algorithms to create new financial products and trading strategies. These new hires, with the skills to combine programming algorithms and large data sets, became known as quantitative analysts (or “quants”). (more…)

The Dawn Of The Age Of The Software ‘Infrapreneur’

The Earth

The software-defined data center should be a call to all entrepreneurs focused on enterprise infrastructure that the past does not predict the future, but it can be undone by it.

And the past was great. It was great for entrepreneurs and VCs. Categories for hardware-based servers, storage, networking and security were created in the past 30 years that still generate $200 billion-plus in annual sales. The margins were fat, product lock-in was substantial and barriers to entry were high. The game plan worked for everyone and everyone had the same game plan: Focus on hardware.

But that game plan no longer works. Established infrastructure categories are getting disrupted with newer technologies that disaggregate software from hardware, all of which has now been reduced to commodity boxes stripped down to their essential components and nothing more. The innovation now starts (and ends) with software.

Today’s enterprise infrastructure startup leaders need to be focused on pairing innovative software with commodity off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. They are, in essence, software “infrapreneurs.” (more…)

Lyft Pioneers the Ridesharing Movement



We first met Logan and John, Lyft co-founders, in August 2011 when we led the Series A financing.  Many things were different about the company then – it was called Zimride, the value proposition was that of an electronic billboard for short-term ridesharing, the business model was to offer it as a SaaS service to companies.  However, 2 things stood out which remain true of Lyft today – Logan and John shared a vision to make ridesharing mainstream and they were authentic and inspiring storytellers.  Through everything that has followed – the pivot to a consumer app, the expansion into 65 cities, the nurturing of the community, the ability to build a differentiated brand in a competitive market, the growth of their world-class team, and their recent round of financing – they have remained true to that vision.  We congratulate them on their latest milestone and are proud to champion the team at Lyft.

Chaddha’s Answer to the Why India Now Question


I started investing in the technology and tech-enabled sector in India in 2000. I’m a generalist who follows entrepreneurs, rather than sectors or markets. As a result, my investments span across early and growth-stage companies focused on the consumer, enterprise, and infrastructure sectors in India. Some of my notable investments include IL&FS Investsmart, MakeMyTrip, Persistent Systems and Suzlon Energy. Current companies I am involved with in India include, India’s largest matrimony e-commerce site; India Property, an emerging property listing service; and Tejas Networks, an optical networking provider.

Over the last 14 years, I have seen boom and slowdown cycles in India. Clearly, as we enter 2015, India is rising on the world stage (again), with President Obama’s recent visit and predictions (like the recent IMF projection of GDP growth to 6.5%* in 2015), that show it surpassing China to become the most desirable emerging economy.

Current key economic indicators reflect this optimism:
– Year-to-date, the Wisdom Tree India exchange traded fund is up more than 10%, beating the MSCI World Index. Since May, the India ETF is up more than 13%, beating the S&P 500 and the MSCI World;
– Gross foreign direct investment crossed the $200 billion mark (~$225 billion) in 2014 and in recent times, the government has opened up more sectors for FDI investment;
– India is now the world’s third largest economy in terms of purchasing price parity as described by IMF;
– Recent policy actions have resulted in a favorable interest rate of 7.75%. (more…)

Vasan on Start-Up Opportunities in Infrastructure


As we wind down 2014, a wave of innovation is sweeping infrastructure software and providing outsize opportunities for startups.

From the introduction of Amazon Web Services in 2006 and the beginning of infrastructure-as-a-service, to the unveiling of Github in 2008 and the continued expansion of open source software, infrastructure technologies have evolved at a frenetic pace.

There has been the original launch of Hadoop in 2005 and the rise of NoSQL in 2009; the introduction of the iPhone and Android phones in 2008 as computing became mobile and, more recently, the 2012 acquisition of Nicira by VMWare, public since 2007, which ushered in the new era of software-defined everything.

Consequently, buyers and users of infrastructure software today expect it to be infinite in terms of scalability, resilient in the sense of being always-available and immutable as in true to its original state.  Many companies are being formed at all levels of the stack that will grow into giants of the infinite, resilient, immutable software infrastructure (IRIS) era.

Containerization, database domination and the rise of DevOps will all play a part in the infrastructure paradigm, and several startups are emerging as rising contenders in each category. (more…)

Navin Chaddha on Reasons for Optimism During Bubble or Bust

Articles these days are filled with talk of the upcoming winter, caution about start-up spending and tweetstorms advising us to worry. I respect the authors of these points of view, as vanity investing can be a trap in bull markets. It’s also highly valuable to advise entrepreneurs to ask themselves if they are being capital-efficient and if they are providing a product that is a must-have versus a nice-to-have.

However, I think history has shown us that there are reasons to be optimistic even in a slowdown, as great companies are often founded or thrive in tough times. Examples include:

  • HP (founded in 1939), after the Great Depression and at the time of the Second World War;
  • Amgen (1980), Microsoft (1981), Electronic Arts & Adobe (1982) founded right after the recession of the 80s;
  • Cisco, (founded in 1984), but licensed the technology from Stanford & hired their first CEO after the stock market debacle of 1987;
  • Google, (founded in 1998),  whose 2004 IPO was the one bright spot after the Internet bust of 2000.


Changing The Rules Of E-Commerce


In late summer, Mayfield and CRV co-hosted a dinner for entrepreneurs at e-commerce 2.0 companies, including Brit& Co, Dolls Kill, Dropship, Indiegogo, Kiwi Crate, LeTote, Massdrop, Pebble, Peek, Poshmark, The Hunt, Tophatter, Touch of Modern, Trendalytics, Udemy and Urban Remedy. These executives discussed the factors making e-commerce cool again for investors and founders, focusing on how evolving technology and business platforms (primarily through mobile devices, and social media) are changing the rules for the 6 C’s: content, curation, customization, community, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.

New conceptions of mobile and web-based commerce are pushing companies beyond the usual “treadmill of marketing spend versus inventory buildup versus thin margins” that has previously plagued startups engaged in the art of the consumer-facing sale. As mobile becomes more of a balm for e-commerce’s traditional woes, here are a few things that entrepreneurs should consider for their budding businesses. (more…)

Five Factors in Building Giants of the Big Data Era

Giant data

As we enter the second half of 2014, it would be fair to say that big data has gone mainstream, attracting coffee table books, multiple industry landscapes, consumer applications, and large amounts of funding. Having seen many technology cycles during our 45 years in venture capital — including the birth of the PC era, the transition to client-server computing and then web-based computing, and the emergence of the cloud and SaaS models — we have pattern recognition on what it takes for a company to go from startup to leader.

Here are some observations we’ve made about what it would take to build a lasting big data company:

1. Transition from a platform to an ecosystem

One of the clearest ways to see whether a technology platform is taking hold is to look at how fast the ecosystem is growing around it. For example, in the SaaS era, Salesforce rapidly became a giant because of its expansive ecosystem. Big data will be no different.

One thriving big data company that is transitioning from platform to ecosystem is MapR. It is the only distribution for Hadoop that combines the benefits of open source (community innovation, portability and flexibility) with unique architectural enhancements that provide enterprise-grade dependability, security, and performance.

The MapR ecosystem embraces both the flourishing Hadoop open source community as well a rapidly expanding portfolio of partner solutions in the MapR App Gallery. This enables enterprise customers to easily expand and implement their big data initiatives with ready-made, big data utilities and applications.

Another example is MongoDB, an open-source and leading NoSQL database used by companies for a wide variety of applications. MongoDB is building a significant ecosystem of partners across industries. (more…)

Start-ups are finally hacking healthcare

Medical $ - ShutterstockNew companies are going around the traditional “front door” of FDA approval, insurers and healthcare institutions by launching ‘Healthcare 2.0’ companies that target consumers and self-insured employers, upending the health sector through the use of innovative digital and social technologies.

At a recent forum we hosted for founders and leading industry execs playing in Healthcare 2.0, we compared notes and debated which startup business models and go-to-market-strategies have the best shot at permanently disrupting the healthcare business.

This next generation of healthcare startup is first and foremost adopting a business to consumer model that can lead to business-to-business monetization. Successful companies are also combining premium services with extreme convenience, engaging social networks and communities, and experimenting with information coming from the proliferation of wearable devices that are beginning to penetrate consumer markets. (more…)

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…)