Jason Spievak | [Top UCSB Entrepreneur Series] Growing Multiple Billion-Dollar Companies and Solving the Global Food Poverty
Jason Spievak
Smart Business Revolution

Jason Spievak is the Co-founder and Managing Partner at Entrada Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm on the California Central Coast. Entrada Ventures focuses on disruptive innovations that have the potential to reshape markets. Jason is also a longtime investor, board member, and an executive with Apeel Sciences, which is reinventing the multitrillion-dollar global fresh produce market.

Prior to that, Jason was Co-founder and CEO of Invoca, a leading provider of marketing automation technology for inbound phone calls. They were backed by some big names in the venture capital community like Accel Partners, Upfront Ventures, and Salesforce. Before founding Invoca, Jason was CFO at CallWave, where he led the company’s successful IPO in 2004. He has had an esteemed experience throughout Silicon Valley in various different venture capital firms. He also teaches a startup class in UCSB’s Technology Management Program.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Jason Spievak, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Entrada Ventures, about Jason’s strategies for growing multibillion-dollar businesses. They also talk about the story behind the founding of Apeel Sciences and how disruptive technologies impact venture capital funds.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Jason Spievak talks about the current state of the venture capital space
  • Why Jason and his partners put a geographic limitation on their venture fund
  • The challenges of setting up a venture fund in Santa Barbara
  • Jason explains how Invoca was founded and why he decided to step down after eight years as CEO
  • What red flags should you look for when scaling a company?
  • How James Rogers came up with the idea for Apeel Sciences, why Jason joined the company, and how that transition from tech to the food industry impacted him
  • How disruptive technologies influence Entrada Ventures and other venture capital fund companies
  • Jason talks about his work at UCSB, the peers he respects in the venture capital world, and those he appreciates for his achievements
  • Where to learn more and get in touch with Jason Spievak

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we asked today’s most successful entrepreneur to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

Welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. And it’s such a privilege every week to talk to smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of companies ranging from Netflix to Activision Blizzard, Lendingtree, Open Table, Ace Software, and many more organizations like YPO, EO. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And this week, I’ve got such a privilege to talk to Jason Spievak. He’s the co-founder, managing partner of Entrada Ventures, which is an early stage venture capital firm on California Central Coast. And we connected through the UC Santa Barbara community. We’re both alumni of that esteemed institution, and Jason and Entrada focus on disruptive innovations, which has been quite the topic lately in recent months. They focus on disruptive innovations that have the potential to reshape markets. He’s also a longtime investor, board member and executive with Apeel Sciences, really interesting company, which we’ll get into talking about, which is really reinventing the multi trillion dollar global fresh produce market and a really important topic. 

Prior to that he was EOC and Co-founder of Invoca, a leading provider of marketing automation technology for inbound phone calls. And they were backed by some really big names in the venture capital community like Accel Partners, Upfront Ventures, Salesforce, as well, you’ve heard a couple of those. And prior to founding Invoca, he was CFO at CallWave, where he led the company successful IPO in 2004, and has had an esteemed experience throughout Silicon Valley and various different venture capital firms. He also teaches a startup class and UCSB is Technology Management Program. And, Jason, such a pleasure to have you here today. We had a chance to chat previously. But you know, we’re recording this in April of 2021 is such a weird time to be to be talking because we have had such a strange year and yet, business is going through the roof. What are you seeing right now? That’s hot in the market? Let’s just start start there. And and then we’ll go backwards. But what are you seeing right now in terms of the venture capital? world? It seems like there’s just an almost an endless supply of capital, like there has been at other times in our history. Is that what you’re seeing?

Jason Spievak 3:00

Yeah. And John, thank you for having me. So there’s, there’s some interesting trends evolving in the venture capital space, and not even the early stage venture. We’re seeing it and private equity later stage, a lot of sovereign wealth moving into the markets. Now, I would say that, that despite all of the disruption and challenges of COVID over the past year, I think that capital is as cheap as I’ve ever seen it in my career right now. And you mentioned Hey, there’s lots of money everywhere. The old joke was that, you know, if you wanted to raise money in Silicon Valley, you go shake a tree and 100 VCs fall out. And if you don’t see one you like, right, go shake another tree. And so I’ve I have long thoughts, and have encouraged entrepreneurs to have this perspective, that the scarce commodity in that entrepreneur investor relationship is not the capital. Right? There’s lots of green money out there. The having been on both sides. Now. The, the sort of the FOMO on the investor side of Gee, I’m gonna miss a killer deal. A killer investment opportunity far exceeds that fear of an entrepreneur thinking I may not be able to raise enough money enough operating capital, the scarce commodity, there is not the money. Right? There’s a there’s trillions of dollars sitting out there, making 1% looking for opportunities to beat inflation. And without those smart, motivated, driven high integrity, hard working passionate entrepreneurs, that money sits there making 1% Right, so the scarce commodity and there is not the capital, it’s not the venture investment. It’s that next, Elon Musk, it’s that next Mark Zuckerberg, right? And so we look to invest in ideally visionary founders working on truly disruptive opportunities in large markets. That sounds amazing. It’s incredibly hard to find. We’ve been fortunate to work closely with a few of those in our career so far, but I would agree with you Money is the cheapest it’s ever been. And when that barrier when that that hurdle comes down creates the risk of lower quality companies getting funded at higher valuations, right, I think we are seeing some of that. And I

John Corcoran 5:13

want to get around to asking you about your involvement in the university and how that has helped you with being in touch with the startup community. But one interesting fact about your fund is that you put a geographic limitation on it. Right. So talk a little bit about what that has done, how that’s had an impact on you, and why you decided to make make a geographic limitation?

Jason Spievak 5:37

That’s a great question. And it is a flexible criterion for us when it serves its purpose. The few folks last me here, and they’re good friends of mine, business school buddies, and all that, you know, how’d you become a VC right after being an operator for so long? And the short answer that probably no one likes to hear is we just decided to do it. And where that came from, was, there’s a group of us here in the Santa Barbara, or sort of greater Central Coast community here that are pretty active early stage investors, right angel investors, and we’ll, we’ll pull our money together and strengthen numbers, and we’ll find great deals to do. And we’re then able to leverage the relationships we have with later stage venture capital funds, your A, B, and C stage VC funds that we have relationships with, to help Shepherd those companies through future rounds of capital. So we’re sitting around going, Hey, you put x 100,000 a year into startup investments, and so do you and so to you, and so to you, why don’t we each put like five years worth of money in a bucket, put a name on it, and call it a venture fund and establish that first stop on the Central Coast, early stage capital, because there really is no institutionalized early stage technology venture capital here on the greater California Central Coast. So that grew from a little idea of just a few million of our own money to inviting friends and, and that scale to what the likely end up being 40 to 50 million and sort of total assets under management for Entrada Ventures one. And with that, we’ve been able to essentially put the shingle out and become that first stop for entrepreneurs here in the 805. Looking for capital. Now we do invest outside the region, we’ve made a couple of extremely compelling investments, one in Berkeley, one based out of Denver, one in LA, that come to mind off the top of my head. But for the most part, I’d say more than half of our investment has been here in the 805

John Corcoran 7:29

is funny, you know, when you and I went to UCSB, it had a bit of a party school reputation. And now we’re sitting at the university still has a bit of a party school reputation, but also has an amazing engineering program also has a lot of Nobel laureates who are teaching in the program. But I imagine when you started this, you know, doing something for the first time in any category is hard. Were there people that said you’re crazy to launch a venture capital fund focused on the 805.