HomeInterviewsMonta Vista Capital, Interview with Founder & Managing Partner Venktesh Shukla

Monta Vista Capital, Interview with Founder & Managing Partner Venktesh Shukla

Venktesh Shukla - Founder & General Partner
Venktesh Shukla – Founder & General Partner

Monta Vista Capital, a Mountain View, CA-based seed-stage venture capital firm focused on B2B startups, recently launched its third $48m fund.

Some weeks later, Founder & Managing Partner Venktesh Shukla replied to our questions about his background, the firm and the overall strategy, and shared with us some thoughts about startup founders and the future of the tech landscape.

VCWire: Hi Venktesh, can you please tell us a bit more about you? What’s your background? 

I am an accidental VC. After my experience working for a few big companies, I moved to a startup after frustration with the amount of time spent in the big company on meetings and HR issues. Luckily that startup was a huge success that whetted my appetite for more such adventures. Some of those adventures were a success and some of them were not. My last startup was indeed a learning experience, and I decided not to jump into another company for at least 18 months and do my diligence before taking a new assignment. In between, to fill the time, I started an angel investor group in Silicon Valley under the umbrella of TiE.org called TiE Angels. We had 100 investors within two months and went on to become one of the most active angel investor groups in the Valley. It turned out that I was one of the most successful investors in the group. To my own surprise, I loved the experience of being an investor much more than running a company. So, I started Monta Vista Capital.

VCWire: Can you introduce Monta Vista Capital? 

It is a Silicon Valley based VC fund that invests only in seed stage – frequently pre revenue – startups. Unlike other seed funds of this size which tend to be a one person show, we take a team approach to investing. We have a five person investment team and two of them are deep technology experts. Now we are investing out of our third fund. 

VCWire: What is your overall strategy to investing?

We invest only in US based companies. We typically invest in three areas. First is technology infrastructure for cloud, cyber security and data. The second is vertical SaaS for specific industries. And, finally, in digital transformation of big old industries like mining, shipping, retail etc. We typically invest $1 million to $2.5 million and we tend to be the first institutional investors in a company. We do not invest in Ed Tech, Agriculture, Bio/pharma, crypto or FinTech. 

VCWire: Beyond capital, how do you support startups?  

This is where the fund stands out. We are company builders and work closely with the entrepreneur in helping set the company culture, initial recruitment of key employees, helping them with Go to Market strategies and in introducing them to initial customers. Our entrepreneurs tend to have a close bond with the Fund and volunteer as our ambassadors and force multipliers. 

VCWire: What do you like to see in founders?….And what don’t you like to see in them? I mean, is there something which impresses you at a first glance?    

First, we want to see deep domain expertise in the founders. We also like to see a degree of conviction in them in their ideas and in their world view. It is a fine line between conviction and stubbornness and that is a judgment call we have to make. We also want to see if the founders can attract high potential employees. And of course, we want to see some track record of success in their previous endeavors. 

VCWire: Please, tell us a bit more about the portfolio. You can list five startups whose paths have made you particularly proud.       

We are very proud of the bets we have made and the success of the portfolio companies that is a consequence of those judgment calls. From the first Fund, the big winners are Aviatrix, Tekion, Cequence Security, Tatari and Captiv8. From Fund II, the big winners are likely to be Duplo Cloud, MotorQ and Lightbeam. 

VCWire: Which sector/s would you bet 2 cents in the next five years? 

Almost every sector of the economy is going to be transformed in the future by the combination of cloud computing and Generative AI. What we look for are entrepreneurs who have unique insight in how these technologies could be marshaled to transform the way business is done today. In other words, no sector is going to be immune to massive change going forward. We will stick to the areas that we are good at – one: tech infrastructure for cloud, cybersecurity and data; two: vertical SaaS; and three: digital transformation of big old industries.