Cassie Ann Hodges

by & filed under Ecosystems, NVCA Blog.

Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to Ben Yu, Managing Director at Sierra Ventures.


Ben Yu Sierra VenturesTell us about your firm. What makes it different?

Sierra Ventures is a Bay Area based early-stage venture firm investing globally with a focus on Next Generation Enterprise and Emerging Technologies. Today we are one of the very few firms in the venture industry with a track record spanning over three decades that focuses solely on B2B and deep tech companies at Seed and Series A stages.

Over 37 years, Sierra has built up a vast network of successful entrepreneurs, Global 1000 CXOs, operational executives, and deep domain experts, providing a rich platform for our entrepreneurs around the world. We just announced the closing of our 12th fund ($215M), our third in seven years. Our newer funds are sized to manage small seed investments, while maintaining sufficient additional capital to carry these companies through their journey.

What also makes us different is our unwavering dedication to our entrepreneurs, with the Sierra’s “build together, build to last, and build globally” mentality.

Where did your firm’s name come from?

Sierra Ventures was named many years before we joined. According to Peter Wendell, who founded the firm 37 years ago, he wanted to use a name that would be lasting, not choose a name built around his last name or any other individual people. He had just moved to California and wanted something that sounded grand, lofty and enduring – so the Sierra Nevada Mountains seemed to fit – hence Sierra Ventures.

What defines your portfolio?

We look for entrepreneurs with strong technology and product focus. We use our experience and network to help them turn innovative ideas and breakthrough technologies into impactful and lasting companies. Many of our companies were market category creators.

Next Generation Enterprise and Emerging Technology, or “Deep Tech” companies are our focus, and Seed and Series A investments are our sweet spot. We like to invest early, before the space gets too crowded. The sectors we invest in include:

  • Next Generation Enterprise: AI/ML, Big Data, Fintech, Health Tech, IoT/Infrastructure, Marketplaces, SaaS & Enterprise Apps, Security
  • Emerging Technologies: 5G/Wireless, Devices, Blockchain, Robotics, VR/AR

How is the firm different today than when you first started?

Sierra has always been Founder Focused with a dedicated team that supports the Entrepreneurs we invest in. This is one of our core values. Since Fund X in 2012, the firm management has transitioned to three GPs, Mark Fernandes, Tim Guleri, and myself. We have been working together for over 17 years, building up the level of understanding and trust that allows us to streamline the investment process to be swift and efficient, yet thorough. We “doubled down” on early stage, sharpened the sector focus, and make many more investments per partner per fund than in the past.

In addition, we have added seasoned leaders to our Operating Team who provide high touch support through business development, marketing, strategy, and partner relations, led by our operating partner Jim Doehrman. This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the Sierra Ventures CXO Advisory Board, a consortium of Global 1000 IT executives in Financial Services, Healthcare, Retail, and Technology. The CXO Advisory Board has been a great resource for our portfolio companies and we love being able to provide our Advisors a first look at emerging technologies expected to impact the enterprise. All of our “beyond just writing the check” offerings have grown over the years and we’re proud to continue providing high touch support to our Portfolio Companies.

Sierra Ventures Team


Why is your firm a part of NVCA?

We appreciate the expertise and breadth of the NVCA to support us and our industry with our many non-entrepreneur constituents. The NVCA agenda is our agenda and they help shape the important changes that the industry is making.

Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.

We are based in the Bay Area and have a deep network and investments locally, but we also invest all over the US and globally in countries including Canada, Israel, Japan, Mexico, and Australia. The landscape for us has not really changed from prior years. We believe in investing the right amount of capital at the right stage of company capitalization and see ourselves as “patient capital” – we “Come Early and Stay Late”.

What’s ahead for your firm in 2019?

We just announced the closing of our 12th fund ($215MM) and we’re looking forward to meeting a new wave of talented entrepreneurs building world-changing companies. We will stay the course, deploying a similar investment strategy as Fund X and XI, while augmenting it with additional data centric approaches for deal sourcing.

Sierra Ventures In Action


Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.

    • Driven
    • Founder Focused
    • Networked
    • Approachable
    • Global