LA Venture Podcast: Upfront Ventures' Mark Suster on the Primary Job of the Venture Capitalist

On this week's episode of the LA Venture podcast, hear from Mark Suster, managing partner at Upfront Ventures, as he explains why he thinks the best time to talk to founders about fundraising is three to four months after their last fundraise.


Key takeaways:

  • Inclusion in the hiring process means hiring women, introverts and people that don't fit the traditional chest-pounding VC mold.
  • There's a lot to be learned from watching people get what they want done with sugar and honey -- without being rough about it.
  • Most VCs get into the business because it excites them to help an entrepreneur in his or her journey and spend a disproportionate amount of their time doing just that. But that work is secondary to the VC's primary job -- which is to return capital.

When you look at the great women of our industry...it seems somehow that women had to quit their firms and go raise their own funds in order to be in power. And the model for our industry has got to be different.


VC is like a pimple on the butt of the whole world of investing. It's such a tiny, tiny, tiny thing that we do here that we think is so self-important. But the real money is like things like public markets and commodities and, you know, currency and all the big dollars.

— Mark Suster

Mark Suster is the managing partner at Upfront. He previously was the founder and CEO of two successful enterprise software companies, the most recent of which was sold to Salesforce.com where Mark became vice president of products. Prior to being a founder, Mark was a software developer at Accenture where he lived and worked in Europe, Japan and the U.S. Mark is a graduate of UCSD and has an MBA from the University of Chicago.

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On this week's episode of LA Venture, hear from Marcos Gonzalez, the managing partner at Vamos Ventures, a seed-stage venture fund which invests in Latino and diverse founders. Over half of L.A. County is Latino. A relatively new fund, investments are in the range of $100,000 to $500,000. Seems like a great time to be investing in this community! And, Vamos is hiring...

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El Segundo-based telemedicine technology provider Cloudbreak Health and Florida-based UpHealth Holdings, a digital healthcare provider, announced they will combine and go public via a SPAC in a deal that values the combined companies at $1.35 billion.

Named UpHealth, Inc., the new company aims to streamline online health care by becoming a single provider of four different services: telehealth, teletherapy, a health care appointment and management system and an online pharmacy.

UpHealth runs healthcare platform Thrasys Inc. and MedQuest Pharmacy, along with two other behavioral health companies. The merger with Cloudbreak, which under the pandemic expanded their interpretation services to remote medicine, will give the new company a foothold in almost 2,000 hospitals.

"What we wanted to do was form a business that could really be a digital infrastructure for health care across the continuum of care, right from home to hospital," said Jamey Edwards, the co-founder and executive director of Cloudbreak. Under the agreement, he will become the company's chief operating officer.

GigCapital2 expects the merger transaction to close at the start of Q1 2021. UpHealth will be publicly traded under the ticker "UPH" on the New York Stock Exchange. UpHealth's integrated care management platform serves over 5 million people, and is expected to reach 40 million over the next three years, according to the company.

Jamey Edwards, Cloudbreak

Jamey Edwards, co-founder and executive director of Cloudbreak

COVID-19 caused a meteoric growth in the use of telehealth services. In February, 0.1% of Medicare primary visits were provided through telehealth. In April, that number was nearly 44%, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"Key stakeholders have seen and responded well to the benefits that telemedicine can bring, but they need a more comprehensive, integrated solution," said Al Gatmaitan, who has been named the co-chief executive officer of UpHealth. "This is what UpHealth focuses on, the adoption of digital health solutions well beyond the pandemic crisis."

The deal with the blank check company GigCapital2 gives the two digital health companies access to a wider network. UpHealth and its family of companies operate in 10 countries and their pharmacy has 13,000 e-prescribers in the U.S.


UpHealth will use the Cloudbreak platform as part of their global telehealth services to provide patients with round-the-clock care under a variety of specialties, including telepsychiatry and tele-urology. UpHealth also has contracts internationally, to provide country-wide care in India, Southeast Asia and Africa.

Edwards joined Cloudbreak in 2008 when it went from public to private. It has raised $35 million in venture funds, most recently in the first quarter of this year scoring $10 million from Columbia Partners Private Capital.

Ryan Edwards, the co-founder of Happier Camper, said he's asked all the time if his company leans on influencer marketing to promote their vintage-style trailers beloved by millennials.

With a waitlist six months out and demand growing from hotel-weary travelers, he said it isn't a priority yet.

"We almost don't need to," said Edwards.

That's because the $25,000 to $50,000 custom trailers have been a hit with a loyal fan base, and rising demand during the pandemic has only helped. Orders for compact trailers at the lower price end, including Happier Camper's 75-square-foot camper, are growing as newbie road trippers look for COVID-safe travels.

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