After a few years away from venture capital as a partner at Mobius Ventures, Heidi Roizen re-enters the Silicon Valley elite group of VCs as she joins 27-year-old firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) as venture partner.
In a way, she's come full circle as DFJ was one of the VCs that invested in Roizen's company she co-founded with her brother Peter Roizen, called T/Maker, in 1983. It was essentially the start-up that ushered Roizen into the high-tech entrepreneur ecosystem.
I'm super excited for Roizen, not only because we carry the same last name (she's my aunt through my husband Ezra Roizen), but because there are a few women represented in the venture community, though DFJ has done a good job putting them in senior roles. Jennifer Fonstad is a managing director at DFJ.
Roizen won't be focusing on any particular sector for new investment opportunities, but rather she'll be spending time providing mentorship and guidance as a board member to several DFJ companies.
"Part of the reason DFJ is bringing me on board is to help their existing portfolio," said Roizen, in an interview. "So I will probably be doing more of that time-wise than deal prospecting. However, I've continued to get deal flow given my other continuing roles at Stanford and on boards, and I am excited to now be able to bring some of that to DFJ, when it makes sense."
DFJ, which currently has seven managing directors in the U.S., and one in India and China, as well as three Managing Directors at DFJ Growth, has backed over 600 companies, including Skype, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, Box, AdMob and Hotmail. The last fund it raised was in 2010, for a total of $350 million. And, the team primarily focuses on early-stage rounds.
In recent years, Roizen, who's also on the board of Tivo, has focused on giving back to the start-up ecosystem by teaching entrepreneurship at University of Edinburgh and Stanford, where she received her undergraduate and MBA degrees. In 2008, she also founded Skinny Little Things, which was mainly a side project. She also kept active in the start-up world by advising them. "I've independently gotten involved with a few companies -- SoFi, Aromyx, Socialize, Prysm -- that have raised capital or are out raising now, so I've kept my fingers in things," she said.
"Fundamentally, it is the same business," she added. "You are still looking for big ideas and passionate people with talent, drive, and domain experience (although sometimes that does not matter as much since the domains are new!)"
Prior to spending time in academia and advising start-ups, Roizen had a more formalized role in the venture world as a Managing Director at Mobius Venture Capital from 1999 to 2007.
No stranger to venture investing, Roizen got her start in Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur herself with T/Maker, which created popular software like ClickArt and WriteNow for Macs. The company bootstrapped for six years until it received about a million in funding from Hummber Winblad and subsequently about $500,000 from DFJ, while Roizen was five months pregnant. The company grew to $15 million in sales and was sold to Deluxe for $20 million in 1994, about 11 years after it was founded.
Turns out backing a pregnant woman wasn't so bad. Said Roizen: "I give Tim [Draper] and DFJ great credit for 'seeing past my belly' and backing the person, and it turned out well for them."
Here's a picture below of Roizen and the T/Maker crew.
(From top left to right: Sonja Roizen, Royal Farros, Dana Schuster, Mike Schuster, Foster Beigler, Robert Simon, Bob Sprague, Connie Clark, Bill Parkhurst. Bottom left to right: Ann Duval, Heidi Roizen, Bill Duval, Jay Friedland)
More Q&A with Roizen below:
Q: You've been an entrepreneur before, why be a VC?
Roizen: I absolutely loved being the co-founder and CEO of T/Maker, it is super internally rewarding to run a company, though it is also a tremendous amount of work and I have great respect for anyone who has the job of CEO of a startup. But, at this point in my life, rather than spend all my waking hours at one thing, I'm finding it is very rewarding for me to spend chunks of time doing different things, albeit all in the silicon valley ecosystem. I enjoy my board work at TiVO and Prysm, and also love to teach the next generation at Stanford. While I enjoy doing 'mentor capitalism' and have made a few small angel investments, I missed the dynamic of working with a team and frankly also the leverage one gets being able to put more money to work than what I have in my own piggy bank. DFJ is a fantastic fit, i have known many of the partners for a long time (Tim and I were in the same freshman dorm at Stanford and have been friends ever since. We even ran a company together between college and grad school!) DFJ (well, they were DF then) invested in my company. I've sat on boards with Tim and with Jen Fonstadt. I think they have a great culture and are very pro-entrepreneur. They were also willing to be flexible about letting me continue my other boards and my work at Stanford. It really is a great fit from both sides, now like any venture, we have to get some mileage on the road together and figure out where I can be of most value to the team and the portfolio.
Q: You spent a year at Apple, what was that like and what did you learn?
Roizen: Joining apple after being a mac developer company was an interesting experience and I'm really glad I did it. after more than a decade dealing with them from the outside, it was incredible to be on the inside. And because it was such a difficult time for the company that made it all the more interesting. At the time, Apple was one of the few companies that put so much importance and energy behind developer relations (I was VP WW Dev relations) and now that has become so key to so many companies who are trying to establish platforms and attract developers to their ecosystems. I learned a great deal that I believe is all the more relevant in today's world, where everything is interconnected to everything else. the technologies and the platforms change but the fundamental business dynamics remain the same.