EVCA Leadership
May 31, 2023

Leadership Spotlight: Cybersecurity Vertical Leads, Zain Rizavi of Ridge Ventures and Mustafa Neemuchwala of NEA

Isaac Snitkoff
EVCA Fellow

The EVCA leadership is dedicated to building community across and empowering the next generation of venture capitalists through an array of activities—from hosting events, knowledge sharing, and connecting others. This EVCA Leadership Spotlight Series is intended to help the broader community get to know what's going on behind the scenes at the EVCA, as well as highlight the valuable contributions of those individuals who make the EVCA possible. Accordingly, it's a great privilege for us to announce this EVCA Leadership Spotlight on our very own EVCA Cybersecurity Vertical Leads, Zain Rizavi of Ridge Ventures and Mustafa Neemuchwala of NEA.

Zain Rizavi, Principal at Ridge Ventures

Zain Rizavi is currently a Principal with Ridge Ventures. Zain currently focuses on security, infrastructure, developer tools, and enterprise application software. While at Ridge, he's backed Channel99 a B2B Martech Company. Prior to Ridge, he was an investor with Pelion Ventures, which focuses on early-stage enterprise investments. Where he sourced the following investments: Macrometa, Presidio Identity, Otto, Open Raven, and Harmonic. Previously he was on the Special Projects team at Cloudflare. The Special Projects (SPX) team works on a wide range of tactical and strategic projects which included Cloudflare’s entry into China through a strategic partnership; conducting strategic acquisitions; managing strategic partnerships with major cloud providers and finding commercial opportunities for Cloudflare’s new products and technologies. During his time at Cloudflare, he helped with the S2 Systems Acquisition, helped launched the Cloudflare for Teams product line, and managed strategic partnerships with storage and compute partners. Zain received a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Utah. Outside of work, he's an avid reader and cyclist.

EVCA: Could you explain more about what you do in your role as a Cybersecurity Vertical lead at EVCA?

Zain: I co-lead the Cybersecurity vertical responsible for cultivating and engaging fellow investors (of all stages) who focus on Cybersecurity. In our role, we engage the community by hosting fireside chats with tenured security investors, hosting several cyber-focused events throughout the year, and sharing relevant research about cybersecurity and future trends.

EVCA: What made you interested in taking a leadership role at EVCA?

Zain: I joined EVCA in 2021 during the exuberance of private markets and a pandemic-induced world. EVCA was a solid medium to meet fellow investors, peers, and ultimately friends simultaneously embracing the same career (and life journeys), all while being cooped absent in in-person meetings. The ability to participate in the community prompted me to want to take a leadership position; considering my background, having worked at Cloudflare, I viewed it as a natural position to take and give back to.

EVCA: What is your most contrarian view on an existing or emerging technology trend?

Zain: I'm not sure if it's contrarian by any means, but within the world of security, the most elite vendors in the industry quickly reach product parity and build world-class go-to-market teams. As a result, that's how they win the category. For most of the security industry, it's less about product innovation but rather about distribution. In line with product innovation, product lifecycles also tend to be shorter (compared to other industries) due to the constant evolution of new vulnerabilities, increase in new attack vectors, and ineffective human errors that always continue to happen. Hence the heavy consolidation in the industry.

Mustafa Neemuchwala, Senior Associate at NEA

Mustafa Neemuchwala is a lifelong developer turned investor at NEA, partnering with daring founders building generational companies from seed to IPO. He is especially passionate about AI, cybersecurity, developer, data, and technically differentiated application software & fintech. Before NEA, Mustafa advised on $58B+ of tech M&A at Qatalyst Partners working closely with management teams across developer, cybersecurity, data, infra, fintech, deep tech, and consumer internet. A proud Texan who grew up in the Dallas suburbs, Mustafa graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, studying fundamental & quantitative finance, liberal arts (Plan II), computer science, and mathematics.

EVCA: Could you explain more about what you do in your role as a Cybersecurity Vertical lead at EVCA?

Mustafa: I co-lead the Cybersecurity vertical, hoping to create a community for emerging investors spending time in cybersecurity (whether solely or as a portion of their time) – our community includes fireside chats with tenured partners, discussion of emerging trends & innovation, events at conferences, and more that you’ll have to join the vertical to find out about!

EVCA: What made you interested in taking a leadership role at EVCA?

Mustafa: EVCA is the leading community for passionate emerging investors and helping activate that community seemed exciting/rewarding, particularly in a fast-changing theme like cybersecurity that often spans many other domains (based on what channel/scope/people you are securing)

EVCA: What is your most contrarian view on an existing or emerging technology trend?

Mustafa: One debatably contrarian view given the concurrent rise of venture capital is that the power of incumbency has dramatically grown over the last few decades. We now live in a world where incumbents have 1) petabytes of data, 2) easy-to-apply machine learning, 3) digital (product) analytics & feedback/experimentation loops to reduce drift from customer needs (vs the past, not that there’s no drift), 4) paranoia & fear about the innovator’s dilemma, and 5) global/very broad coverage /distribution without the same magnitude of pockets of the past (esp in the more physical economy of the past) where someone could get started in a geography where the incumbents of elsewhere weren’t present and then expand into the incumbents’ native places), 6) more $$ in cash and stock by an order of magnitude than the past, 7) founders/visionaries running many companies versus only optimizers or career managers who couldn’t reinvent companies, 8) network effects and duopoly/monopoly markets, among other advantages. But the reason I remain excited about the opportunity as a venture capitalist is because tech entrepreneurship appetite (shots on goal) has continued to rise directionally over time, it’s cheaper and faster than the past to get started with abstractions across cloud infra, payments, digital distribution channels, etc., customer empathy & sharp focus as a startup can still help win in new markets or best-of-breed categories (though debatable how many things really fit there), and because greater incumbency power means larger/longer lasting growth/cash flows/exit values.

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