A Venture Capital Firm Devoted to Cornell Alums and Entrepreneurs
An interview with the Managing Partner of Triphammer Ventures, a new venture capital firm exclusively for Cornell alums
Steven Greenberg’s connections to Cornell are far reaching. He’s a double alum of the University (Engineering BS ’89, Johnson MBA ’90), a board member for CPIP, and has been an adjunct professor for the Engineering and Johnson schools since 2008. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also from a family of Cornell grads.
It wasn’t happenstance that Alumni Ventures Group tapped him to run their newest venture capital fund exclusively for Cornell alums. Steven sat down with us to discuss his path from engineer to Managing Partner of Triphammer Ventures.
Tell us about your professional background. How did you land in VC?
I ended up going to law school at Stanford in the mid-1990’s and so landed in Silicon Valley at a time of great growth and excitement. Honestly, it seemed like everybody at Stanford wanted to be a VC or work at a technology company. I got the opportunity to do both. I worked for a data networking company that competed with Cisco. Then when I graduated Stanford, I took a position with a brand new $100 million VC fund in Beverly Hills. As the only engineer in the firm, I was the expert who understood all the technology as well as the business models. I spent a lot of time flying back and forth to the Bay area for potential investments.
What sparked your interest in working for Triphammer Ventures?
The more I learned about Triphammer and the Alumni Ventures Group business model, the more excited I got. I believe Triphammer is a unique way for individual, accredited investors to gain exposure to the venture capital asset class, but to do so in a diversified way, alongside the nation’s leading VC firms.
What makes an investment attractive to Triphammer?
One of the most important attributes is the strength of the team. I particularly like to see teams who have successfully built and sold companies before. Other key attributes are having a proprietary product or service, a large target market, a lead co-investor with expertise in the space, marquis customers, and, ideally, strong competitive advantages and barriers to entry. Clearly this is just part of the list, but these are some of the first things I look for.
What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned during your time in VC?
Diversification, diversification, diversification. Seriously, the first lesson is that early stage companies can fail, and so trying to rifle shoot a single company is not a reliable formula for success. By targeting a balanced portfolio, the winners can often cancel out the losers, leading to a better risk/reward ratio. Second, shy away from opportunities where the money is not going into the company, but is a secondary purchase from an insider. Third, be wary of companies trying to be all things to all people. Focus is important to success.
Triphammer Ventures is a network of Cornell alumni investing in Cornell-connected businesses. Click here if you’d like to learn more about venture investing with Triphammer.