Friday Letter: Yes you can learn about people when meeting them over Zoom

Mark Sherman of Telstra Ventures found that investing in Springboard in a virtual deal could be done. It just required a lot of phone calls.

This week, I wrote about how VCs are deploying capital during a pandemic and how that impacts their due diligence.

Of course, there were a lot of notes left on the cutting room floor that didn’t get into the final version.

I was particularly struck, for instance, by Mark Sherman’s approach at Telstra Ventures. I met Sherman in person pre-pandemic, of course, and visited his office on Market Street in San Francisco. By the way, the firm’s office was once one of the old corporate sites for Chevron when that energy company was everywhere downtown, but that’s a story for another day.

I found Sherman to be very likable in person, and he told stories of a lot of other VCs and entrepreneurs, many of whom I’d met. No surprise there: Sherman has been a longtime VC, once working as a GP at Battery Ventures (2000-10) and later joining Hidden Lion Partners, an emerging growth equity firm. He also has ties to Monk’s Hill Ventures, which I’ve written about a few times, including the firm wrapping up its second fund.

In my recent Zoom call with Sherman, he said that physical interaction with entrepreneurs is an important part of the VC/entrepreneur relationship. So I was curious how his ability to connect with people in real life translated to investing under quarantine.

He told me a story of how he got to know co-founder and CEO Gautam Tambay before Telstra made an investment in the company in a deal that was entirely virtual, except for one socially distanced coffee meeting. Sherman said the two held a ton of calls on Zoom, and Sherman said Tambay speaks well and is thoughtful. He also mentioned his EQ, or emotional intelligence.

“It’s hard to pick up on someone’s EQ over Zoom,” Sherman said. “But as a VC, you want to get a sense from the entrepreneur you’re backing and if he is the type of person who will carry people, and the company, over the hill. Tambay can.”

Sherman also referred to the start-up entrepreneur as a “lighthouse guy.” He explained this meant that Tamblay was “a strong founder and a beacon for goodness.”

In early August, Telstra then led an investment in Tambay’s edtech company Springboard, which raised $31 million in a series B round.

You can read my story on virtual due diligence here.

I love to hear stories that detail how GPs and LPs are finding ways to get work done. Let me know what you think or if you have a similar story to tell.

You can reach me at and I’m open to voice and video calls.