How We Invest
We believe in quality over quantity so we only make 6-8 investments a year across our entire fund. This means we can focus on the success of the companies in our portfolio and give the 1-1 attention they deserve. We’ve been the first check in and the lead investor for over 80% of the investments we’ve made so far. Typically we take a board seat as part of that investment.
How Much We Invest
We have a broad early-stage mandate meaning we can lead seed rounds of $1–2 million or go all the way up to leading rounds of $5–8 million. With the rare exception, we don’t write checks smaller than $500k. We also reserve a significant part of the fund to follow-on our investments in later rounds.
What We Invest In
We invest in technology companies that are taking advantage of mobility and data. Mobility to us means not just the rise of the smartphone as the dominant computing platform, but also new technologies such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) that are shaping new markets. Data also doesn’t just mean Hadoop, it means companies that are helping others take advantage of the huge surge in all different types of data being collected (from commerce to commuting).
Why We Are Different
We invest as a team, meaning when you get one of us, you get all of us with deep conviction. The small number of investments we do and the larger check sizes is not typical of most early-stage funds. We are the largest single LP/investor across both our funds and firmly believe that this, along with our sub-$100m funds, aligns us with both the interests of our entrepreneurs and our LPs.
Our Three Questions for Every Investment
You must be mission-driven, passionate, and looking to go the distance. You don’t necessarily have to be domain experts, but the burden of proof is higher when nobody from the team comes from that industry. Location is also important as we find we aren’t as helpful when we’re not consistently meeting with entrepreneurs face-to-face. We largely invest in Bay Area start-ups or those within an hour or two plane flight.
The “Why Now?” is meant to help us understand the market conditions. What about the state of the market or technology now makes it possible for you to have global impact?
Finally we also force ourselves to ask the “why you” question going the other way. What is it about Signia’s expertise or network that can help this company succeed? If there isn’t an obvious answer to that question then we’re not the right investor.
Our Values: Humility and Transparency
We value humility from our entrepreneurs and it’s only fair that we hold ourselves to the same standard. Part of being humble means that we never imagine that we are solely responsible for the success of any company. We prefer to work behind the scenes and have the credit go where it is rightfully due: to the founders and their teams!
We are transparent and direct with our portfolio companies and measure our success partly by how much our entrepreneurs call us vs. how much we call them. Transparency is also not just for the companies we invest in, we do our darnedest to provide feedback to every entrepreneur we meet. It important for us to make sure everyone walks away feeling like they gained something by the meeting, even if they didn’t get the answer they wanted.
Our Model of Service
We don’t outsource like a bigger venture firm might do. We think of ourselves like a start-up and so all of us get our hands dirty. In our careers we have run product, sales, marketing, BD, ops, engineering, finance, and been CEO many times over. So when our friends and family ask us what we do everyday, we tell them it’s part investor, coach, therapist, consigliere, marketer, designer, recruiter, and anything else one of our portfolio company needs.