Norwest Venture Partners, which raised its 14th and largest fund to date when it closed on $1.5 billion in February, in May expanded its consumer internet investment team, adding Priti Youssef Choksi as a partner.
Choksi joins from Facebook where she spent nine years in various executive roles, including leading the company’s M&A efforts. Prior to Facebook, she spent six years at Google in strategic- partnership roles.
At Norwest, she works closely with Managing Partner Jeff Crowe and Partners Parker Barrile and Lisa Wu on the consumer team to make multistage deals.
A month into her new gig, she met with VCJ in the firm’s new South Park office on Second Street. She hit the ground running, meeting with entrepreneurs and getting to know the lay of the land.
Q: You’ve helped build and operate companies in your professional career, but you haven’t invested. Why did you move from corporate development into venture?
A: Jeff had courted me for a year and during that time I met with the team [at Norwest] and realized it was great cultural fit for me. I’m really excited to build out the consumer investing team and continue to work with entrepreneurs.
What I enjoy the most is working with entrepreneurs. Previously, it was with companies and founders who were looking to sell or partner, and now I’m working with entrepreneurs to help them raise money. But the concerns are similar, such as hiring, finding office space, raise funding, manage growth.
Q: When do you expect to announce your first deal?
A: That was another appealing part of joining Norwest. There’s no pressure here to meet a quota and invest in a certain number of deals.
I don’t expect deal flow will be an issue. Four weeks in, I’ve realigned my network, telling people I’m here and CEOs I know are telling other CEOs. I’ve been busy meeting a lot of people.
I want to and expect to see many companies and we can be patient before announcing investments. That’s how it was when I worked on M&A at Facebook. It was less about the number of deals and more about their impact.
Q: You’ve worked closely with entrepreneurs over the years. Whyat are their biggest challenges?
A: Entrepreneurs are always hiring and worried over that, no matter where the company is in its life cycle. Or its product-market fit if they’re at that stage. The challenges are different for seed-stage investors than for others. Serial entrepreneurs have different challenges than first-timers.
I was previously in corporate development at a streaming-media startup called eScene Networks, which eventually sold to Inktomi. But before that, we grew eScene to 39 employees and I remember when we were worried about making payroll. That’s one of the concerns that entrepreneurs regularly face.
Really, the stuff that keeps entrepreneurs awake at night is getting ahead of what’s next, anticipating where the puck is going or where their business is headed. Founders face many forks in the road and my job, which is part psychiatrist and part partner, is to guide them through that journey.
Q: What sectors are you looking at?
A: Various consumer internet companies. I don’t want to put companies in a box or a label. You can’t learn what makes them unique if you put them in one sector or another.
Q: Norwest raised its largest fund to date this year. Does that help bring in deal flow and interesting entrepreneurs?
A: This is an amazing time to be a founder of a tech company. There are so many ways to raise funding and launch your company, whether it’s through seed funding or you can go to an ICO or crowdfunding.
Plus, so many firms provide value-added services, like Norwest. The good news for founders is that they, hopefully, can be selective and find the best investor for them. I view that as my job to work closely with entrepreneurs through the pros and cons and find the right fit with an investor.