Business Startups Venture

Ex-Mayfield Partner Launches New $40M Seed Fund

After 20 years as a partner at Mayfield Fund, Robin Vasan has branched out with a new $40 million fund, Silicon Valley-based Mango Capital, focused on seed investing in enterprise software startups.1

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Vasan joined Mayfield in 1998 and invested in dozens of companies over the past two decades while in that role (including Riverbed Technology, Marketo and Centrify, to name a few). But by the summer of 2017, Vasan realized he wanted to pursue his “passion to work with technical founders as they form their initial product and market strategies.” So he started the process of leaving Mayfield to form Mango Capital, named after Vasan’s nickname for investing in what he describes as “mango” seed rounds in the $3 million to $5 million range, to do just that. As the firm’s sole general partner, Vasan plans to make 20 to 25 investments out of his new fund, which formally closed earlier this month. (Crunchbase News reached out to Mayfield for comment but did not hear back by the time of publication.)

“My plan is not to build a big firm,” he said in an exclusive interview with Crunchbase News. “I think my smaller size is a competitive advantage. All of the top firms are raising $500 million to $1 billion in every fund cycle. That requires them to have a very specific strategy in how they invest that capital.”

Vasan formed Mango Capital late last year after formally leaving Mayfield to fill in a gap left by the larger firms, which he believes “don’t want to make $1 million to $2 million seed investments.” And, Gené Teare’s recent piece examining seed and early-stage funding corroborates that.

To Vasan, this spells opportunity. Within enterprise, he’s particularly focused on the key themes of web/presentation, devops, network and security.

So far, he’s invested in more than a dozen companies, including:

  • HashiCorp, focused on open source cloud automation.
  • Netlify, a platform devoted to modern cloud website operations.
  • Gatsby, a modern web publishing platform.
  • Armorblox, an advanced email security startup.
  • NS1, a global domain network security service.

Future funds will likely remain in the $40 million range, Vasan said.

Been There, Done That

Vasan was an engineer before he was a VC, noting that he graduated from Stanford University during the “client-server era.” He spent the next 10 years as either a founder or executive of software companies.

“I wrote a lot of code,” he recalled.

That experience combined with his background as an investor gives him the ability to empathize with the founders he’s currently working with, and investing in while offering them strategic guidance, he said.

“I can help entrepreneurs with product strategy and help them navigate the landscape of how to fund their company,” he said. “There’s a lot of risk in investing in first time technical product founders. And that’s a risk a lot of Series A firms don’t want to take. I saw that firsthand.”

But Vasan is eager to take that risk, having been in similar positions himself decades ago.

“I think there are some amazing products that are being innovated and designed, and I know how these founders feel,” he told Crunchbase News.

For his part, Vasan is excited about not having to compete for deals with big firms like he did during his days at Mayfield. Instead, his goal is to work with them.

“I don’t need to be piggish in the amount of capital I’m trying to put into companies,” he told Crunchbase News. “I can be highly collaborative because my fund size is small and my average check will total about $1 million…I’ll help firms through that process of either finding great seed investors alongside me or great series A investors.”

So far, Vasan is finding it “really refreshing” to be investing without being attached to a larger firm.

“It makes for a more authentic relationship with entrepreneurs. It feels more personal, rather than being a corporate thing,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, there’s huge value to the bigger VC firms, which have gobs of resources. But I do love the autonomy I have now.”

Photo Courtesy of Mango Capital

  1. Disclosure: Mayfield is an investor in Crunchbase, the parent company of Crunchbase News. Crunchbase’s investors are listed as part of its Crunchbase profile. For more about Crunchbase News’s editorial policies on disclosure, see the News team’s About page.