Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to Alex Doll, Founder & Managing General Partner at Ten Eleven Ventures.
Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?
Founded in 2014, Ten Eleven Ventures is the original venture capital firm focused exclusively on cybersecurity. We invest in cybersecurity because of our long history as operators on the front lines of our own security companies – in fact, we’ve been in the business of nurturing and growing security companies for over 20 years. Since our founding, we have made 19 investments (resulting in 6 exits) in 5 countries. Importantly, we are stage-agnostic, meaning we invest both in early and growth-stage companies. Part of our differentiation is our joint investment alliance with KKR, broadening our visibility and opportunity across all investment stages and sub-sectors of the security industry.
Where did your firm’s name come from?
When we founded the firm, we wanted a name that avoided the usual conventions and instead referenced the history of the digital security industry. On our site, you can find a blog post that details our full rationale. Some of the reasons behind the name are quite matter-of-fact (for example, numbers are the foundation of digital security, making up the algorithms and encryption keys that are the basis of how we protect data and systems). Other reasons are somewhat tongue-in-cheek (for example, media coverage on hackers often includes the image of a person in a hoody against a background of 1011 numerical strings, making our brand “subliminally present” in many cybersecurity articles). On a more personal level, it is the birthday (October 11, 1899) of my grandfather, whose name I have as my middle name. So, we named the firm Ten Eleven for many reasons, including the historical references and personal connections behind it.
What defines your portfolio?
Our portfolio is 100% cybersecurity-focused, global and stage-agnostic. Underneath the broad header of security, we invest in several of the 50-70 distinct subsectors of cybersecurity that we track, including hybrid cloud security, third party risk management, IoT security, vulnerability remediation and automation, and security awareness training, among others. We are always looking for founders and companies who are on the edge of the next wave of innovation in security, no matter where in the world they are located.
How is the firm different today than when you first started?
We are currently investing our third (venture-focused) and fourth (growth-focused) funds. We’ve expanded the team to help us do that and to provide more resources to support our portfolio companies. While we’ve always enjoyed helping entrepreneurs turn their technology into great businesses, we think that being there to support the go-to-market plan is more important than ever. With over 2,500 cybersecurity companies out there today, it takes a lot to stand out, be heard, and recruit the right talent to grow your business.
Why is your firm a part of NVCA?
Being part of the NVCA keeps us informed of critical policy changes and provides an outlet for us as members of the venture community to influence proposed policies and regulations that will dramatically impact our industry. The nature of cybersecurity is such that it has a lot of government policy and geopolitical elements to consider, such as the recent CFIUS dialogue that the NVCA has been spearheading. It also allows our firm members to be part of beneficial industry events that help us become better investors and more helpful to our portfolio companies. Individuals at all levels of our firm reach out to the NVCA to understand best-in-class VC practices in strategic communication, legal, finance, and other functions. Also, many of my venture colleagues whom I respect the most contribute to the venture ecosystem via the NVCA, including my father Dixon Doll, who served as NVCA Chairman from 2008-2009. I know how personally rewarding he found his role in helping the NVCA champion the JOBS Act.
Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.
We think that the best cybersecurity companies are found in multiple geographies, so we aren’t focused on investing in any one geography or region. That said, the dynamics of each area are very specific, and we have a lot of respect for local networks and communities. So, we do invest in building deep relationships in the communities where our team members are located (Silicon Valley, Boston, Boulder/Denver, and London). We also travel quite frequently and have strong partnerships in other geographies where there is a lot of cybersecurity activity, including Washington, D.C. and Tel Aviv. Of course, the common thread to the geographies we are focused on is the robust amount of cyber talent found there, often either from a strong military, university/technical or corporate presence.
What’s ahead for your firm in 2020?
As we have just begun to invest our third and fourth funds, we will continue to do quite a bit of sourcing and diligence in 2020. We look forward to looking at more opportunities outside the U.S. We are looking to opportunistically bring in new talent to the firm as we grow in new key geographies.
Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.
Optimistic, thoughtful, nimble, entrepreneurial, global.