Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to Jason Pressman, Managing Director at Shasta Ventures.
Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?
At Shasta, we offer the only dedicated platform for early-stage enterprise software companies. We believe that helping companies launch their products and build their teams is a core component of what early stage venture firms need to do. We offer an extensive go-to-market platform, called the GTM Trek, which gives early-stage entrepreneurs the tools, advice, workshops and networking opportunities needed to launch their products into market and prove their business models. We’ve worked with hundreds of founding teams to improve their product development, sales and marketing, fundraising and hiring efforts. It’s a major initiative of ours. And one we’re extremely proud of.
We focus on enterprise software companies that use data, artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to create smart applications that empower people and make them more effective, and ideally happier, at work. We call it smart software for the enterprise. We typically invest in companies with early revenue and help them scale to $10M in revenue and beyond.
We’re an early-stage venture firm that partners with entrepreneurs who are passionate about building epic products and amazing experiences that change the way we work – for the better.
Where did your firm’s name come from?
Mount Shasta is our namesake. It’s a prominent Northern California landmark and the source of much of the water in our state. We chose the name because the peak is beautiful and for us, it represents long-lasting qualities and our desire to help entrepreneurs scale to new heights.
What defines your portfolio?
We partner with entrepreneurs who are maniacally focused on building great products and are really thinking through how those products interface with the user in a powerful and compelling way.
Our enterprise portfolio is comprised of a large number of companies across the software ecosystem with a particular emphasis on applications, infrastructure and security. One of the key characteristics across our portfolio is that we invest early in companies building applications that are getting smarter using combinations of data, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to empower people to make better and faster decisions and ultimately do their jobs better.
How is the firm different today than when you first started?
When we first started, we had multiple focus areas including consumer and connected hardware. Over the last few years, we’ve made a decision to focus on enterprise software. It’s what we do really, really well. We understand the market, the customer and the major decision points needed to successfully scale an enterprise software company and set it up for success. We believe that focused expertise is key to being a strategic partner for today’s software entrepreneurs.
We’ve always had an entrepreneur-friendly, company-building perspective. We’ve focused on helping entrepreneurs figure out how to best develop, execute and fund their go-to-market (GTM) strategy. Over the past five years, we have grown and formalized our practice to provide more structure and resources for our portfolio companies. Called the GTM Trek, we now have eleven operating executives, a large body of content, ongoing department-focused workshops and regular networking events – all specifically designed to help founding teams build and execute their go-to-market strategies. This is a major initiative of ours and distinctive among early stage venture firms.
Most of the entrepreneurs we partner with iterate a lot in order to build a product or service that enables them to grow their businesses at scale. After 15 years of working with companies like Anaplan, Appsheet, Apptio, Glint, Steelbrick and Zuora, among many others, we know how hard this can be and our GTM Trek platform is designed to help companies scale faster and more efficiently.
Why is your firm a part of NVCA?
The NVCA does tremendous work on behalf of the industry by focusing on some of the key issues that are defining the ability for entrepreneurs to build great companies.
It’s critical to have an organization that continues to conduct lobbying efforts, on behalf of our industry’s interests, with state legislatures and the Federal government and make sure there’s an environment that continues to allow entrepreneurs to flourish. In today’s climate, it’s more important than ever for an organization like the NVCA to evangelize the significant role technology plays in the U.S. and the global entrepreneur ecosystem with its ability to create new jobs and products and help drive the global economy.
Tell us about the current VC landscape in your opinion
The venture landscape has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. It’s become significantly more competitive with a lot more firms and a lot more money in the ecosystem.
There are several forces at play. First, there are now a significant number of firms that have raised very large funds and are deploying $25 to $100M or more per investment in growth stage rounds.
Yet, at the same time, many firms have vacated the early stage sector — the Series A and early Series B level. Many venture firms today focus either on seed investments or on a broad, diversified strategy that invests small amounts across a range of sectors. Typically, there’s not heavy involvement with the companies. That gap in the early stage sector is where we believe you can help entrepreneurs the most.
As the venture ecosystem has grown increasingly competitive globally, specialization and expertise in a specific area has become even more important. Today’s entrepreneurs have lots of choices. They’re looking for venture firms to provide meaningful value so they can grow their companies thoughtfully.
What’s ahead for your firm in 2020?
At Shasta, we’ll double down on our initiatives and help our portfolio companies grow. We’ll continue to invest in brilliant entrepreneurs who are maniacally focused on building great smart enterprise software products with early revenue. We will continue to expand our GTM trek platform and help our entrepreneurs grow and scale their companies.
Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.
Entrepreneur-first. Dedicated. Thoughtful. Collaborative.
Cassie Ann Hodges serves as Director of Communications at NVCA where she leads NVCA’s strategic communications, branding and content development, and media efforts to better support and empower the venture community, startups, and entrepreneurs. She also oversees the NVCA StratComm Peer Group network and programming.