Wildcat Venture Partners & The Traction Gap Framework

Well, I know it has been quite some time since my last post – some of you have emailed me asking what’s up.

As you will soon read, I have had a few things on my plate over the past year and a half since InterWest Partners made the decision to go forward as a healthcare only venture firm. That decision set in motion many cascading events for me and my partners.

First — I found myself going through some of those “stages of death” emotions — anger, denial, and finally acceptance as I realized my time with the firm would be involuntarily drawing to an end as I am not a healthcare investor.

When I joined InterWest on June 6, 2006 — 10 years ago —  I thought it would be the last “thing I would do”, that I would retire from the firm with 25 years on the operating side and at least 15 years on the venture side under my belt. This decision had cut short my personal plans by 5 years. How dare they!!!

While I had hoped to be a successful venture investor, when I started I really knew very little about the business. Siebel Systems used no venture capital and even before Siebel I was too busy as an operating executive with Apple and Oracle to visit “Sand Hill Road” to get to know the venture firms beyond a few annual visits. 

My partners at InterWest taught me a lot as I began to build a brand and franchise around early stage enterprise SaaS investing. I was very fortunate to work with great partners and to develop a franchise with my now good friend, Doug Pepper. Doug and I invested in Marketo when it was just an idea and three founders. This turned out to be a signature investment for InterWest – generating around $345M in gross proceeds for our LP s- which subsequently enabled us to develop a deep portfolio of valuable MarTech portfolio companies. 

After the firm announced its decision, Doug and I tested the waters to see if LP’s might have an interest in a 2 person venture firm focused on Enterprise SaaS with our track record. But, after a couple months we realized it was going to be a tough, long slog. So, Doug elected to join Shasta Ventures with some friends he had known for many years — I am very happy for him! But…that left me with some decisions.

I tried retiring 15 years ago and found that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I just don’t have enough hobbies to keep me busy. I learned that I “need” to work — maybe not full-time — but at least enough to keep my mind busy and my feeling of self-worth intact. So, retiring wasn’t an option, at least not for me at this moment in time.

I looked at a few well-known venture firms but quickly realized I wanted to create something new, not join something someone else had created. I wanted an opportunity to create a firm where I could help to shape it with my own thoughts and contributions. With Doug going a different direction, I was pretty disappointed.

That is when I ran into Bill Ericson, a very successful GP with Mohr Davidow, at the grocery store. We both sit together on a board of an early stage software company. We got to talking and Bill said that he and 2 other GPs from Mohr Davidow were starting a new firm — Wildcat Venture Partners – and he asked me if I might be interested in exploring an opportunity to join them as a founding partner!

So began a year of meeting and talking with the other founding investing partners, Katherine Barr and Bryan Stolle. Bryan and I have known each other for many years. He is a former operating executive, and a very good one, not to mention a superb investor as well. I found Katherine to be extremely bright and engaging, and a successful consumer investor — I do not invest in consumer and I have a great deal of respect for the people who can find the needle in the haystack in that sector.

Last week, all those discussions and planning culminated into the launch of Wildcat Venture Partners, an early stage venture firm, where we have introduced a unique way to think about, invest in and manage early stage companies through the Traction Gap Framework

It isn’t easy to create a differentiated position for a venture firm; all have bright people, have done great things and have capital to invest. But, we believe that Wildcat, as ‘the Traction Gap firm”, has carved out a unique position for itself in the venture industry.  And, apparently, we did a good job making this point — Wildcat Positioning. The media picked up our release  as well as many social media outlets. 

I encourage you to read the Traction Gap Framework paper referenced above and come to our Traction Gap events. We need your contributions to change the conversation about early stage companies from “financing rounds” to something far more meaningful, company maturity stage. This is what the Traction Gap (TG)  is all about and we need your help to add to and build a compendium of metrics and data to help companies to traverse the gap. We will be announcing the Traction Gap event series shortly where we will discuss the 4 TG architectural pillars and strategies and tactics you can use to build them. I will post how you can register as soon as we have the registration page live. 

In a sort of ironic twist, we are moving our offices from Menlo Park to San Mateo in September. My new office looks out at the former Siebel HQ (now occupied by Sony Playstation). I was very fortunate to be a part of the founding executive team of that phenomenal company. I have equally high expectations for my new venture with Wildcat Venture Partners. 

  • Hi Bruce

    Congratulations on the great success at Interwest (in shaping Marketo and others) and thanks for all the thought leadership in the MarTech, Sales, Operations areas.

    Wishing the very best with Wildcat Ventures !!.