Venture Capitalist Shervin Pishevar on Patience in Investing

May 15, 2019 - By 

According to the highly successful investor and entrepreneur, Shervin Pishevar, your investment strategy should be a long game. In his own words on Twitter, “Patient capital is the best capital. Founders and companies need time to till their gardens.”

Pishevar has invested in some of the most successful companies to come out of Silicon Valley including HyperloopOne (now Virgin Hyperloop), Uber, Airbnb, Slack, Poshmark, and Ipsy.

He has heavily “tilled” his garden in the last 8 years. Of the different companies that Shervin Pishevar is invested in, two that the world is watching right now are Uber and Airbnb. According to the New York Times, “When Uber and Airbnb go public, San Francisco will drown in millionaires.”

Yes, both companies have taken their time, and this patient strategy has proven to be valuable to investors. 

Shervin Pishevar and Uber

The company was founded in 2009 under the name of UberCab by a computer programmer and entrepreneur after he and friends spent $800 one New Year’s Eve to hire a private driver for the night. In 2011, the company changed its name to simply Uber after complaints from San Francisco taxi drivers and has been credited by many as creating a new category of transportation.

Shervin Pishevar became an investor and strategic advisor for Uber seven years ago. He served on the company’s board as an observer for the next several years. In a recent tweet, Shervin Pishevar shared a blog post that he wrote back then about Uber. In it he said:

“I’m thrilled to announce today that Menlo Ventures is leading a $32m Series B investment in Uber (authorized to extend to $39m), an on-demand car services company that is truly revolutionizing personal transportation.  Travis Kalanick is on stage at LeWeb in Paris at this moment announcing the funding and the launch of UberEurope. We’re proud to be joined with other investors like Goldman Sachs, Bezos Expeditions (the personal investment company of Jeff Bezos) and previous investors like Benchmark Capital and Lowercase Capital. Founded in 2009, Uber has already radically changed how people in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and Boston get around town – and now the company is going global, bringing its service to Paris.

Uber is my largest investment since joining Menlo in June and I am honored to join the company’s board as a board observer. On a personal level, as an immigrant son of a Washington D.C. cab driver who came to this country with nothing and allowed his kids to pursue the American dream, this investment has special meaning for me.” – Shervin Pishevar

As a self-proclaimed unicorn investor, Shervin’s renegade style and patience with his investments will continue to pay off with Uber and other key investments. 

Airbnb Investment


Shervin Pishevar was also an early investor in
Airbnb, the online marketplace for travelers to book lodging and tourist experiences. The brilliance behind this company is that it doesn’t own a single property. Instead, it pairs property owners with those seeking short-term lodging – allowing owners to earn income and travelers alternatives to your typical hotel stay.

The idea for Airbnb came from two roommates in San Francisco in 2007 who couldn’t afford to pay their rent.  Today, it is a global private company with international offices and users around the world that is expected to go public sometime this summer. Shervin Pishevar has been involved with Airbnb since 2014.

Slack – the Collaborative Software Tool

Another company that Shervin Pishevar is invested in is Slack, a collaborative software tool that helps businesses connect their various moving parts.  Founded in 2009, the company now has over 10 million daily users across the globe.

While the exact date that Slack goes public is still unknown, the Wall Street Journal predicts it could happen by June 2019. Unlike some of Shervin Pishevar’s other investments that will have traditional IPOs soon, Slack may do a direct listing instead.

Who is Shervin Pishevar?

Shervin Pishevar is a highly successful entrepreneur, investor, venture capitalist, and founder/co-founder of multiple companies. He has a keen instinct for companies to invest in and the patience to nurture and feed his investments as long as needed to maximize his earnings.

He’s an Iranian-American who migrated to the U.S. as a child in 1981 after his father made Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini’s execution list. Pishevar’s father was a self-taught, entrepreneurial man who rose to become a radio executive in Tehran, Iran’s largest city.

After the Ayatollah came into power, it became dangerous for foreign nationals to be in Iran. So Pishevar’s father, Abraham, used his position at the radio station to help them escape the country – which landed him on the execution list.

Abraham managed to escape to the U.S. and brought his family over, including Shervin, about 18 months later. They moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, which is just outside Washington D.C. where both his parents worked very hard to provide for the family in a new country.

Shervin Pishevar’s family placed a high value on education. Shervin attended a magnet high school while his father drove taxi cabs while working to earn a Ph.D. from Howard University.

After high school, Shervin attended UC Berkley in California with the intent of becoming a doctor someday. He studied molecular biology and received the Presidential Fellowship. While in college, he ran the Berkeley Scientific, which was the first peer-reviewed undergraduate research journal in the country.

However, despite his promising academic success, Shervin Pishevar ultimately decided not to become a doctor after graduation. Instead, he was drawn to technology and entrepreneurship.

Shervin’s Early Years as an Entrepreneur

At the age of 23, Shervin Pishevar started his first company, WebOS. WebOs had Windows-like applications that rivaled Bill Gates. And many investors took notice. Shervin’s company received $10 million in funding.

This experience, along with other companies that Pishevar started and/or funded, gave him his first taste of the world of venture capitalism. He led key early investments including Uber (Series B). Some other notable companies he was a part of include Machine Zone (Series B) Warby Parker (Series A), Tumblr and Getaround. 

Additionally, Shervin Pishevar made 100+ investments himself as a super angel investor. He made a seed investment in Dollar Shave Club, which Unilever bought for $1 billion. And he invested seed and angel dollars into TaskRabbit, Parse, Gowalla, Klout, Milk, Socialcam, Qwiki, Postmates, and Cherry, which was bought by Lyft.

In 2013, Pishevar and his team had the insight to fund Slack, Airbnb, and Zendrive.  But Shervin Pishevar did not limit himself to investing in other people’s companies. He also founded and co-founded a few on his own including HyperloopOne (along with Elon Musk), Webs.com (which was purchased by Vista Print), SGN (now called JamCity) and HyperOffice. In total, the companies that Shervin Pishevar has founded have reached over 100 millions users combined.

Dreams to Support Immigrant Causes

Although Shervin Pishevar found great success as an entrepreneur, investor, and venture capitalist, his immigrant roots gave him to a passion to become a philanthropist. From the time of this very first startup, he supported immigrants causes and charities. He had a strong desire to help others build their dreams in Silicon Valley, and also in their home countries.

In 2008, even before his Presidency, Barak Obama reached out to Shervin Pishevar to help him create his 2008 Technology and Innovation Agenda. Shervin was responsible for using his own lessons and experience to build a comprehensive plan for American innovation that was realistic and empowered all those living here, including immigrants.

Over the course of the next decade, Shervin simultaneously helped build and fund companies while working to overhaul the American immigration system.

Intelligent Immigration

In 2011, Shervin attended the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement to testify about foreign immigrants in the workforce. He told them that he was an immigrant entrepreneur, and a patent holder. And he emphasized the importance and value of this country allowing other immigrant entrepreneurs to do the same – not only on a humanitarian level, but also because it could help drive the U.S. economy.

“I hope my testimony sheds light on why our country needs these individuals – and why we must act with a sense of purpose and urgency – and in the spirit of compromise — to welcome them to our country.” Shervin Pishevar

He especially spoke of the need for an immigrant workforce in Silicon Valley, where Pishevar spent most of his time with his startups and investment companies.  Given his experience, Pishevar pointed out to Congress that there was a high concentration of entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and other high-tech workers in the area who all came to the United States from other countries.

Pishevar told Congress that, like him, while these people were not born in the United States, they believe in the dream and the opportunity that America offers. Not only would their innovative ideas provide these highly skilled immigrants an opportunity for success in the states, it would benefit the country itself.

Shervin Pishevar pictured with his father and brother in 2016. The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is awarded in a ceremony held each year on Ellis Island.

Given his plight and passion to help other immigrants, Pishevar received several distinctive awards: the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Outstanding American By Choice award.

The Ellis Island Medal of Honor was created by the Ellis Island Honors Society and presented to Americans who have achieved outstanding accomplishments in their fields. (The Ellis Island Honors Society changed its name in 2017. Prior to this year, it was known as the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations – NECO.)

By receiving this award in 2016, Shervin Pishevar joined the ranks of U.S. Presidents, Nobel prize winners, and other notable leaders including Muhammed Ali, Madeleine Albright, Vice President Joe Biden, President George H.W. Bush, President Gerald Ford,  Bob Hope, Arnold Palmer, Gregory Peck, Vanda Pignato, Abbas Ardehali, and many more.

This is a highly prestigious award and it is a great honor for anyone to receive it. A ceremony is held each year on Ellis Island, where 12 million immigrants passed through between the years of 1892 and 1954. The award is recognized by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces usually participate in the award ceremony.

Pishevar’s Outstanding American By Choice Award is another prestigious honor. It is given to naturalized American citizens who have demonstrated commitment to the United States through their work, values, and civic participation. The Outstanding American By Choice Award recipients are selected by the United States Department of Homeland Security. Shervin was one of only 100 naturalized American citizens who have received the award since its inception.

Shervin Pishevar and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board

2015 Fulbright Board Member Swearing-In Ceremony

In 2015, Pishevar was appointed to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. The Fulbright program is considered one of the most prestigious international exchange programs in the world. Founded back in 1945, the Fulbright Program works with government agencies, universities, the private sector, non-government organizations, and binational Fulbright commissions to find individuals on a global scale who represent the full diversity of their societies. Nominees of the program compete in merit-based competitions for the award.

Pishevar Finds a Way to Merge His Interests

Throughout his impressive career and philanthropic works, Shervin Pishevar has practiced focus, patience, and perseverance. Although he has made substantial profits over the years as an entrepreneur, he has never had one of his investments go public. However, six of his investments, including Uber, Airbnb, and Slack may go public in the next 6 to 12 months.

But Pishevar is not in in just for the money. He also believes in giving back and helping other immigrants to pursue their dream in the land of opportunity. And he has found a way to merge his two interests. His work has not only included the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, but he’s also served on the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council and served as an Entrepreneurial Ambassador on multiple U.S. Department of State Delegations to Russia and the Middle East.

He’s also been a keynote speaker at the Summit on Entrepreneurship, which took place in Algeria during the President Obama administration. His work with President Obama back in 2008 helped to develop Obama’s groundbreaking Technology and Innovation Plan.

Shervin Pishevar’s Current Philanthropic Efforts

Pishevar uses the money he earns from patient investing to make a difference in this world. He is a devoted philanthropist who donates his time, money, and talents to organizations and charities that he believes in. Some of the charities he currently supports include:

  •         Charity : Water – this organization builds wells and provides clean water to impoverished people across the globe. Shervin Pishevar has seen firsthand the difference clean water can make on impoverished nations. On his 38th birthday, Pishevar raised $43K for this organization by asking people to donate to this organization in lieu of gifts for him.

  •         Malala Fund – Malala Fund works to provide quality education to females in nations where many girls miss out on secondary education. Pishevar serves as an advisor and has hosted fundraisers.

  •         UNICEF – UNICEF is committed to fighting for the rights of children across the globe, even the most excluded and vulnerable. UNICEF currently works with 190 different countries and territories.

  •         1% of Nothing – Shervin launched this project, which encourages entrepreneurs to donate 1% of their equity to charities to create global change.

  •         Build.org – Build.org focuses on teaching youth in under-resourced neighborhoods entrepreneurship skills. The organization’s objective is to reduce drop-out rates in these communities by igniting interest and engagement from these students.

  •         Cyrus Prize – Cyrus Prize was launched by Shervin himself. This organization celebrates Iranian culture and entrepreneurship. The Cyrus Prize awards a grant of $100K to Iranian-born innovators. Arash Ferdowsi, the co-founder of Dropbox, was awarded the first Cyrus Prize.

  •         Invisible Children – Invisible Children is an organization that seeks to protect children who live in war-torn countries. It began with the purpose of protecting children in African countries impacted by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. However, it has expanded its efforts to keep families all throughout Africa safe and protected.  Shervin is passionate about this project and is a leading voice in Silicon Valley on protecting the youth. He’s also traveled to Africa on behalf of this organization, including a visit to Libya with Hollywood actor, Sean Penn.

To learn more about Shervin Pishevar, visit his website or follow him on Medium. Pishevar frequently comments on his life, investments, social issues, and more on his Twitter account.

 

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