Venture firms can come and go, as anyone who lived through the boom and bust of the late ’90s internet bubble can attest. Some firms have staying power, however, and among these is Mayfield, founded 50 years ago, just ahead of Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital (both founded 47 years ago) and Menlo Ventures and New Enterprise Associates, which celebrate their 43rd and 42nd birthdays this year, respectively.
Indeed, to ensure it continues to stick around, Mayfield decided it was time to strengthen its bench as it sailed into 2019, and its newest partner toward that end is Patrick Salyer, most recently the CEO of Gigya, a Mayfield-backed company where Salyer started as a VP and who, on his 30th birthday, three years into his tenure with the company, was asked by its board to take over as CEO.
Given that SAP spent $350 million in 2017 to acquire Gigya — it helped online properties manage customer identities and profiles and raised roughly $100 million from investors) — that decision seems to have panned out. We had a quick exchange with Salyer earlier this week about the experience, as well as asked what he’ll be focused on now as a first-time VC.
TC: Why were you asked to take over Gigya three years into career with the company, and what was that transition like?
PS: I had been one of the first employees and had established myself as a business leader on the team. We were going through a pivot from an advertising-focused business to a SaaS enterprise business, and the previous CEO had stepped down for personal reasons. This was an incredible opportunity but a trying one as a first-time CEO, as I was suddenly in charge of people that used to be my peers or even senior to me.
TC: Any interesting details you can share about how that acquisition by SAP came together a year and a half ago?
PS: We also found ourselves working together on a long list of shared customers. As time went on, we both realized that what we could accomplish together outweighed what we could do apart.
TC: When did you start talking with Mayfield about joining as a partner, and have you ever invested before as an angel investor?
PS: I’ve been 100 percent focused on running a startup for the past seven years. This next career move is as much about the opportunity to work with the team at Mayfield as it is about joining venture. Along my journey, I realized how lonely the founder-CEO role can be. I couldn’t have imagined navigating this without great people surrounding me and in particular, the investors at Mayfield, so when Navin [Chaddha], Mayfield’s managing director and one of my previous board members, brought up the idea of joining Mayfield, I was super excited about the opportunity to take my own learnings and serve other entrepreneurs in the same way.
TC: Will your focus be on cybersecurity? What’s your mandate at Mayfield?
PS: I’m going to focus on B2B companies, primarily in the applications versus the infrastructure space, given my experience over the last decade.
Beyond that, I want to keep an open mind and follow great entrepreneurs who want to grow into world-class CEOs. There are many interesting areas of focus I’ll look forward to digging into. For example, I’m very intrigued on the impact of privacy, including regulation like GDPR and changing consumer sentiment, and how that creates opportunities within B2B.
TC: How many deals will you be expected to lead each year?
PS: The firm makes 8 to 10 investments a year, but there’s no target or quota for each partner.
TC: How will your own experience as a CEO of a venture-backed company influence how you talk with founders?
PS: It starts with empathy. Running a startup is the hardest job in the world. My own experience was anything but a straight line, requiring multiple product pivots, go-to-market changes, management team rebuilds and tough fundraises. This can be the case even during the “ups,” where you know something bad can happen around the corner, but it especially can happen during down periods, when you think it’s all your fault. I am hoping to encourage CEOs to take the long view.
I also learned so much from being part of a CEO coaching group — both through guidance from the leader and from my peers — and I plan to share that playbook with other CEOs.
Finally, I had the opportunity to get a deep understanding of achieving product-market fit and go-to-market approaches, as Gigya went through multiple pivots; I hope to draw from those experiences.
TC: What did you learn as the CEO of a venture-backed company that you want to avoid doing as a VC?
PS: I’m fortunate to have a wealth of operating experience as a startup CEO to draw upon, but I also need to realize that every business and market is different. It’ll be important to keep a beginner’s mind as I meet with entrepreneurs.