Courage is Destiny.
This motto from my elementary school has guided me throughout my life and to this day as I back visionary entrepreneurs. I believe one can achieve whatever she or he aims for, by taking thoughtful risks with courage. In its purest form (and ignoring the frenzy that we at times participate in), Silicon Valley embodies this mindset. With trust and courage, we focus on increasing the pie for all, not just carving out a bigger slice for ourselves. This is why I do what I do, backing great founders with technical insights as their first investor.
As an investor, I have had the unique privilege of watching passionate founders start with a small seed and go all the way to IPO, creating disruptions in huge markets. I’m excited to share my thoughts about one team starting such a journey – Isima. Isima represents a couple of firsts for me – it is my first Big Data investment and the first one of my second fund. I had known Monish through our mutual Stanford networks but never worked together. Monish and his co-founder, Darshan approached me in early May of last year, and it was instantly apparent that they were onto something big. I dropped everything to work rapidly on my diligence and offered them a term sheet before the weekend. While making quick decisions around technology opportunities is my specialty, allow me to explain the nuances in this case.
An atypical founding team
In my opinion, the most critical determinant of a company’s success is the team. Monish and Darshan are both first-time entrepreneurs but had deep experience in the problem they wanted to solve. Darshan had literally lived the problem as Head of Products at DataStax. They also have that unique combination of self-confidence and modesty that never veers into arrogance, yet allows them to defy conventional wisdom. The claims in their investor deck were all based on first principles – I loved it! Over rapid-fire diligence, I confirmed that they had identified a once in a 25-year disruption targeting a multi-billion-dollar market. And, they had the ambition to go for it! It is this combination of ambition, education, experience, and no-holds-barred out-of-the-box mindset that made it an easy decision for me to become the first investor in Isima.
A market begging for solutions
A company cannot succeed without a good market. While, Big Data is a decade-old market; its fruits haven’t delivered ROI, except at the web-scale companies that pioneered the technology. In my diligence, it became clear that Isima’s offering bi(OS)™ and its vision, represented the best path to cross that chasm. Moreover, Isima’s founding team had already engaged with multiple prospects including some Fortune 500’s for whom there was an immediate ROI. This sealed the deal for me.
The character backbone
Finally, the way Monish and Darshan do business is also worth highlighting. I was not aware of this at the time, but when I made the offer to lead a seed round, they already had another term sheet for a larger Series A. But they were thinking for the long term! Avoiding the glitter of a larger headline number they chose my smaller offer for which I am grateful because we both believe Engineering Capital was the right first partner for Isima. It’s rare to see this intellectual honesty in founders, and I am honored to have had this experience.
The path forward
Since the day I funded Isima, my conviction continues to deepen. The trepidation that always accompanies a decision with incomplete data is now gone. Isima has signed multiple contracts, got bi(OS)™ into production for high-value use cases and – the bottom line – blew away their 12-month bookings goal in 4 months! We were all happy when Darshan’s former boss Ken Denman reached out on behalf of Sway and pre-empted their Series A round.
Courage is destiny, and I believe the team at Isima have combined courage with execution and are creating a once in 25-year disruption. They are focused on the customer, frugal in their execution, and intellectually honest. Their creation, bi(OS)™ can deliver the best ROI for enterprises aspiring to realize the data-driven vision. It’s going to be a great decade partnering with Monish and Darshan to scale Isima, and I will be standing behind them cheering them on to ever greater heights.
build different™. be different™.