Part III: Seeing Through The VC’s Eyes: What’s The Next Big Thing?

Mark Nardone

Raju Rishi is a venture partner at Sigma Prime, one of the country’s leading venture capital firms. With more than 20-years experience as a technology entrepreneur and executive, Raju knows what it takes to develop an idea, create an early-stage company and develop it into industry-leading company. PAN Communications EVP Mark Nardone recently sat down with Raju to discuss evaluation criteria, trends and the next big thing. This is the third installment of a three-part series.

What are some of the biggest trends that you are watching unfold?

There are quite a few interesting trends, but there are several that I’m particularly excited about.

Marketing technology is one. A sea change has been taking place across the marketing landscape. Not so many years ago, 30 percent of the “selling process” was contained in advertising and marketing, and 70 percent of the “selling process” was contained in sales. Now, those ratios have switched, with buyers spending considerable time educating themselves online prior to engaging a sales rep. As such, marketing tools and software have become and will continue to become hyper-critical. We will see innovation and growth in this sector, as businesses allocate more and more budget toward marketing and demand compelling solutions. Gartner, for instance, predicts that’s CMOs will outspend CIOs on IT in a few years. At Sigma Prime, we’re very bullish on this space and have made several recent investments, including Ceros, Contently and Blue Conic.

(Also on prSPEAK: Raju Rishi Seeing Through the VC’s Eyes Part II)

And as the customer experience becomes more critical to a brands success – will data play a key role?

Absolutely. We continue to see the growth of big data solutions. There are challenges, however, in a few areas. First off, quality of the data is important, so data collection needs to be supplemented with data cleansing. A bigger issue, however, is the shortage of data analysts. They are critical resources in framing the problem being solved and connecting the data stacks. Innovative startups will couple big data solutions, with automated analytics, and ultimately automated actionable analytics – tying those analytics directly into the customer’s core systems. For now, I think it’s too big of a challenge to build this as a platform across every industry, so we’ll likely see this happening in a verticalized manner at first.

(Also on prSPEAK: Raju Rishi Seeing Through the VC’s Eyes Part I)

Which industry do you think will take advantage of this first?

I think retail will likely be one of the first. There’s a lot of big retail business with lots of structured data. You’ll hear about an interesting investment we’ve made in this space shortly. I actually think retail will innovate on many fronts, call it Retail 3.0. The Retail 2.0 revolution was the result of brick and mortar businesses being supplemented with e-commerce solutions. Retail 3.0 will add several dimensions of depth, including in-store consumer mobile engagement, multi-device/multi-channel attribution and engagement, and deep personalization.

We are in for a fast and furious ride – but as long as we keep the customer front and center, these innovative startups will have staying power and/or interesting exit strategies!


Over the course of his career, Raju has founded two companies, held executive leadership positions at both early stage and Fortune 50 companies, and served as a strategic advisor to numerous startups, two of which he helped to successfully exit. Raju held senior positions with Rave Mobile Safety, SwiftReach Networks and Vettro. He also held numerous executive roles at AT&T, and Lucent. Raju is passionate about technology, his wife & children, and helping entrepreneurs to create great businesses.

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