Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to Nino Marakovic, CEO and Partner at Sapphire Ventures, to learn more about his firm.
Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?
Sapphire Ventures partners with visionary teams and venture funds to build companies of consequence that significantly impact how we work, collaborate, and consume.
For nearly two decades, Sapphire has been investing capital, resources and expertise in innovative startups and technology-focused venture funds around the world. With more than $6.8B in AUM, Sapphire Ventures has three distinct strategies:
- Encompassing investing in rapidly growing enterprise companies.
- Next gen early-stage consumer companies.
- Early-stage VC funds.
With team members in Austin, London, New York, Palo Alto, and San Francisco, Sapphire is well-positioned to help scale companies and venture funds, elevating them to become global category leaders.
Sapphire has its roots in enterprise technology investing. The firm has invested in more than 120 companies, achieving 20+ IPOs and 40+ M&As since becoming independent from SAP in 2011. IPOs over the past year include JFrog and Sumo Logic, and M&As include Punchh, Convercent, Portworx, Retails Solutions, Auth0, AllyO, and Segment.
Sapphire has a dedicated Portfolio Growth platform that delivers value to portfolio companies day in and day out. We measure our effectiveness by the impact our support delivers, which is why we take pride in an NPS score of 90 from our portfolio CEOs.
Where did your firm’s name come from?
Sapphire became independent following its spin out from SAP in 2011. We rebranded to Sapphire Ventures, and intentionally chose a name that pays homage to our heritage while also signifying our independence.
What defines your portfolio?
Sapphire spans three investment platforms:
- Sapphire Ventures invests in high-growth, expansion-stage technology companies across the globe. The key sectors we cover are: Business & Vertical SaaS; Data, Analytics & AI; DevOps, Open Source and Cybersecurity; and Fintech, Healthcare and Consumer.
- Sapphire Partners is our fund investing arm that uses an evergreen-like funding structure to invest in venture capital funds that focus on early stage technology investments.
- Sapphire Sport is a first-of-its-kind fund investing in early-stage technology companies that power the next generation of consumers at the intersection of media, gaming, health & human performance.
How is the firm different today than when you first started?
Sapphire started as a small mid stage investor in enterprise technology and has significantly ramped up its team, investment scope & pace and AUM over the years. Today, Sapphire celebrates a decade of experience as an independent VC firm, investing in companies throughout all stages of growth across enterprise and consumer technology areas, as well as early-stage venture funds.
In addition, Sapphire launched a Portfolio Growth team composed of experienced professionals who have spent years as operators at SaaS startups and technology enterprises. The team is critical to helping our portfolio companies meet their business goals in the areas of business development, go-to-market, talent, marketing or capital markets.
Why is your firm a part of NVCA?
NVCA is a leading organization advocating for the future of innovation and the startup ecosystem. We are proud to be associated with a group that serves as a voice for entrepreneurs and is committed to expanding education and facilitating relationships among venture capitalists and startup founders.
Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.
We invest in the U.S., Europe, Israel and India. A few trends apply across all geographies currently:
- It’s highly competitive, with hundreds of high-growth firms and startups in all of these regions and across every investment stage. In addition, valuations and round sizes have grown substantially.
- This is a trend we’ve seen for some time, but it’s only gaining momentum: It’s no longer enough to just put money into a company. VCs have to add significant value as an investor. And not just once the term sheet is signed, but long before the deal closes.
- Startups are staying private longer for a number of different reasons, presenting VCs with more opportunities to invest.
What’s ahead for your firm in 2021?
Despite an unprecedented 2020, we’re expanding our headcount, having hired 10 new employees, bringing our firm total to more than 60 employees. We’re seeing incredible momentum and an uptick in investment pace compared to previous years, and announced earlier this year that we raised $1.7B across multiple funds. We’ll be ramping up our investments in Series B through IPO enterprise technology companies in the U.S., Europe, Israel and India and will expand our value-add services with our newly-launched Centers of Excellence.
Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.
- Dedication to winning
- Agile and supportive
- Authentic relationships
***“Assets Under Management (AUM)” represents Sapphire’s Growth Strategy Regulatory Assets Under Management (RAUM) as of 12/31/2020 per ADV filed March 2021; “Total Investments” represents all Sapphire direct growth investments made since the firm’s inception in Jan 2011 to March 2021; “IPOs & M&As” represents all Sapphire growth investments that have had an IPO or exit from the firm’s inception in Jan2011 to March 2021; “IPOs & M&As” over the past year represents all Sapphire growth investments that have had an IPO or M&A exit from March 2020 to March 2021.
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Sabrina serves as the Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the National Venture Capital Association, where she leads the communications strategy to strengthen the voice of the U.S. venture capital and startup community. As a leader with 20+ years of strategic communications experience, Sabrina is instrumental in amplifying NVCA voice on pro-business policies that help create American jobs and support America’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.