Earlier today, Redpoint announced its first partner hires since 2009. One, Tomasz Tunguz, came from within, apprenticed in classic VC fashion as he rose through the ranks. The other, Ryan Sarver, was a more unusual hire. Sarver formerly ran Twitter’s platform and has no institutional investment experience.
For Redpoint, this was a significant shift. “Most of the founding partners at Redpoint had been home grown if you will, started as associates and then became partners,” Redpoint co-founder Geoff Yang says.
If you spend two seconds in Silicon Valley, you’ll hear the whispers that times they are a’ changin in venture capital. There’s Fred Wilson predicting that venture won’t exist as we know it in another 25 years. There’s AngelList introducing syndicate deals so angels can raise VC-size chunks of change. There’s Kickstarter wiping out the need for seed from institutional investors.
Redpoint is tackling the changing tide in part by shifting its hiring strategy and integrating people with product or entrepreneurial backgrounds into the partner mix. “A good firm can’t stand still,” Yang says. “Given how much the venture business has changed in the last 15 years, firms have to reinvent themselves.”
Redpoint’s first entrepreneur partner was Satish Dharmaraj, founder of email startup Zimbra, back in 2009. The firm was testing the waters. “When we first brought in Satish as a partner from the outside we realized maybe it was time, that the model was changing” Yang says. “Having people with direct operating experience would be a good glance to people who have grown up in the venture business.”
Redpoint’s experience with Dharmaraj went well, spurring the firm’s current addition of Ryan Sarver from Twitter. It’s worth noting that Redpoint also brought in Jamie Davidson, formerly VP of Product Development at Hotel Tonight, as a Senior Associate. Neither hires have previous institutional venture investing experience (unless you count internships).
Yang added that as Redpoint goes forward, it will continue to both bring people in from the outside and grow talent from within. The need for outside talent comes from the fact that competition over deals has increased, and great founders can be found in unlikely places.
“Because companies are being started from everywhere it’s important that someone’s network is current and diverse,” Yang says. He’s hoping that Sarver and Davidson will provide a boots-on-the-ground view of the best up-and-coming companies. Much has changed in the last 10 or 15 years, and a lot of the entrepreneurs Redpoint backs now are first time entrepreneurs. As a result, Redpoint benefits from having partners with operating experience, who can offer advice and product suggestions.
“It’s in response to how the market is changing,” Yang says. “We have a strong group of partners, but bringing some fresh blood in and constantly reinventing the firm is the right way to go.”
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