20VC: Benchmark’s Sarah Tavel on Why Investing Success Lies In Small Markets Adjacent To Very Large Ones, Why You Have To Be Judicious On When To Pay Up vs Be More Price Sensitive & Why Crypto Investing Is Like The Early Days of AdTech Investing
Posted on 24th September 2018 by Harry
Sarah Tavel is a General Partner at Benchmark, one of the world’s leading VC funds with a portfolio including the likes of Twitter, Uber, Snapchat, eBay, WeWork, Yelp and many more revolutionary companies of the last decade. As for Sarah, Sarah has led Benchmark’s investments in and currently sits on the boards of Chainalysis and Hipcamp. Prior to Benchmark, Sarah was a Partner at Greylock Partners, where she led Greylock’s investment in Sonder and another (unannounced) company. Before Greylock, Sarah was one of the first 35 employees at Pinterest where she led the company’s international expansion and aided in the closing of the Series C financing. Sarah was also the product lead for search, recommendations, machine vision, and pin quality and led three acquisitions as she helped the company scale through a period of hyper-growth.
1.) How Sarah made her first foray into the world of venture with Bessemer over 10 years ago? How that led to Pinterest and how she came to be a GP at Benchmark today?
2.) Speaking of Sarah’s operating career with Pinterest, Pat Grady said on the show “never has the rate of decay on operating experience been greater”. How does Sarah think about and respond to this? How has operating made Sarah a strong investor? What are the drawbacks that this operating experience can present for investors?
3.) Moving to evaluation, Andy Rachleff, Founder @ Benchmark said on the show, “good team poor market, market wins; good market, poor team, market wins. How does Sarah think about the balance between founder vs market? Why is going after big markets so hard? What should investors look for in a market with that in mind? How does Sarah determine the right time to open up adjacent markets?
4.) There has never been a greater supply of capital in the market than today, does Sarah believe we have an excess supply today? Does Sarah agree with her Partner, Peter Fenton, “no good deal is too expensive in hindsight”? How does Sarah assess her own price sensitivity? How does it depend on the opportunity? How has it changed over time?
5.) Having 2,5000 hours on boards, how has Sarah seen herself develop and change as a board member? What have been some of the biggest learning curves? What are the commonalities in the very best board members Sarah works with? how doe the best entrepreneurs manage and use their boards effectively?
6.) Why does Sarah think that crypto today is very much like the world of adtech in the early days? How does Sarah think about the requirement for specialisation in the space? WIll this be a game for the specialised crypto funds or can generalist VC funds compete?