Oct
05
2018
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Former Formation 8 GP Shirish Sathaye joins Cervin Ventures

Longtime venture capitalist Shirish Sathaye has quietly joined early-stage investor Cervin Ventures as a general partner.

Most recently, Sathaye was a general partner at Formation 8, the embattled venture firm co-founded by Palantir’s Joe Lonsdale, Brian Koo (a scion of the Koo family, owners of the electronics giant LG) and former Khosla GP Jim Kim. Formation 8 announced in 2015 that it would not raise a third fund and would begin winding down operations.

Sathaye, who’s been in the VC business since 2001 as a GP at Matrix Partners, then at Khosla Ventures, remains a partner in Formation 8’s sophomore fund. His previous investments include Nutanix, Samsung-acquired Grandis, McAfee-acquired Solidcore Systems, cybersecurity startup Vectra Networks and data storage provider Panzura.

He’d only been at Formation 8 for one year when the firm began to crumble. As we now know, conflict between the firm’s founding partners led to its demise. Lonsdale quickly raised $425 million for a spin-off fund called 8VC; Koo, in a similar fashion, brought in $357 million for Formation Group and Kim followed up with a $200 million fund called Builders.

Sathaye, for his part, had grown tired of the “bigger is better” mentality and opted to leave the business of big VC for good.

He began making angel investments and advising startups at Cervin Ventures, a pre-Series A VC fund focused on the enterprise. It closed a $56 million fund in 2017, its largest vehicle to date.

“Smaller funds, in general, make better decisions,” Sathaye told TechCrunch. “At a larger fund, there are more people around the table to make decisions. I think returns are better when there are fewer people making those decisions.”

Watching funds swell past the billion-dollar mark and investors deploy the “spray and pray” strategy was a turn-off, Sathaye said. Startups have more access to capital than ever before, yet most companies can get off the ground with very little funding, thanks to recent innovations like Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services.

“With AWS, companies can bring products to market quickly and they can reach their customers with much less money,” Sathaye said. “If you look at it just from a returns profile, the smaller funds will get better cash-on-cash returns simply because companies don’t need that much money to be successful.”

Palo Alto-based Cervin is led by two other GPs, Preetish Nijhawan and Neeraj Gupta. It invests $1 million to $2 million in early-stage startups. Sathaye says he’ll be focused specifically on the security, mobile, cloud and data verticals.

May
22
2018
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Parabola raises $2.2 million to simplify programming for employees stuck in Excel all day

While knowledge workers are handling increasingly difficult tasks — ones that may be much easier to handle with just a Python script — Alex Yaseen thinks that in the future not everyone will actually need to learn how to code.

Instead, he hopes that tools like the one he’s building, called Parabola, will bridge that gap between the complex technical problems and otherwise nontechnical employees. Instead of running through massive Excel spreadsheets, Parabola is designed to make it easier for employees who might not be highly technical to piece together the kinds of processes that will help automate mundane tasks that run through each action. The company said it has raised a new $2.2 million financing round led by Matrix Partners.

“The logical version of the future doesn’t look like everyone coding by running Python or whatever language,” Yaseen said. “It’s a very valid opinion, but we talked a lot with various investors about that perspective of the future where all knowledge workers have to increasingly be more productive to compete. We thought about how we could bridge that gap by giving nontechnical people these tools to work like an engineering without being an engineer.”

At its core, Parabola is a more visually oriented way of designing a workflow where users can piece together a complex work problem in a kind of flowchart piece by piece. These are all functions that you might find built into Excel or other spreadsheet tools, like Google Sheets, but Parabola is a tool that is designed to make it easier to automate all those updates into new fields, as well as make the model pretty flexible and easy to manipulate.

Parabola is designed to take those account executives or salespeople that run through hundred-plus-step processes in order to do their jobs through dozens of Excel tabs. Users can figure out how to describe those steps in Parabola and then begin executing them without having to constantly tweak formulas and ensure that everything is operating properly. At the same time, Parabola is designed to ensure that the whole experience feels like a spreadsheet, where making small changes causes the whole data set to update — something that nontechnical users actually gravitate toward, Yaseen said.

“The reason people love using spreadsheets even though they’re not the right tool for most of these experiences, is that they can make a change and see things immediately,” Yaseen said. “Nontechnical people don’t adapt to [an engineering] mindset, they value the process of making a change and everything updating. That’s one of our hypotheses, and other tools don’t give you those options, and therefore are not really geared to a true nontechnical user.”

Still, the whole idea of trying to simplify programming down to something that’s more palatable for a nontechnical user is both a significant challenge and a very crowded market. There are many approaches to the problem, though Yaseen says they target different niches or use cases, like Airtable or Zapier — many of which have raised large sums of money. But some companies have different demands and users may gravitate toward different options, so those aren’t the direct competition. Instead, the competition is larger firms hiring engineers to handle all these processes in the back-end, as well as users just sitting in Excel all day.

May
19
2015
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Meteor Raises $20M To Build The One JavaScript Stack To Rule Them All

Meteor framework The competitive landscape for app development tool providers continues to become tighter, with Meteor Development Group raising $20 million for its stack of frameworks and tools for developing web and mobile applications in JavaScript. Read More

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