EVCA Spotlight
March 6, 2024

Meet Casber Wang, Partner at Sapphire Ventures

Samantha Huang
Principal at BMW i Ventures

Casber Wang is a partner at Sapphire Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in growth and expansion-stage B2B SaaS companies. Casber grew up in Wuhan, China and moved to the U.S. to study at UC Berkeley for college. Back in those days, circa mid-2010s, Silicon Valley was hopping with the rise of consumer app companies like DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft. It wasn’t long before Casber caught startup fever himself and co-founded a company called Etch PRM, which was focused on providing a personalized CRM tool. The company secured some early funding, and his co-founders, both fellow students, dropped out of college. Casber considered leaving school to dedicate himself full-time to the enterprise, but a combination of “immigrant mentality” and witnessing the difficulties of startup life held him back. So there he was, in his final year at UC Berkeley, no longer working full-time on the startup and with no hard plans of what he wanted to do post-college. He decided to follow the path of many ambitious, determined students of elite colleges. He went into investment banking as an analyst Bank of America Merill Lynch. During his two-year tenure there, he had the opportunity to work on MuleSoft’s IPO. Casber’s talent as a young analyst was palpable, and the CEO of MuleSoft was sure to introduce him to Sapphire Ventures. Casber ended up joining Sapphire Ventures as an associate, making partner within a rapid five years. 

In speaking with Casber, you’ll find someone who exudes an effortless calm, a preference for talking with facts rather than embellishments. You quickly get the feeling that he is where he is today by nothing other than a combination of hard work, determination, and a deeply curious mind. As for what he enjoys in his free time, Casber is an avid reader, with an inclination for nonfiction and biographies and a penchant for buying more books than he can read. He counts himself as a “big sports fan” and likes to watch a variety of sports that include basketball, football, soccer, and tennis. He is a sommelier, a skill that he says he picked up during the pandemic to have a “good excuse” to drink good wine. When asked where he saw himself in a decade, Casber was quick to pronounce his love for his job. He couldn’t see himself anywhere else and spoke with enthusiasm about driving the future cycles of technology innovation, one investment at a time.

Sam: You had a stellar rise at Sapphire, starting out as an associate and getting the bump to partner in just five years. Could you share more about that experience?

Casber: I’d like to say it’s been a combination of grit, determination and hard work, but beyond personal efforts, it’s been a little bit of right place, right time. I joined Sapphire in early 2018, and since then, we’ve seen one or two notable market cycles. There was a stretch of time (early 2018 – mid-2019) when the software asset class, especially in the growth stage, was relatively undiscovered. There was a lot of attention on consumer apps, as well as a lot of capital in software, but it wasn’t proportional to the potential of the asset class. Then, in mid-2019, we saw a rise in crossover funds coming over and investing in software. We also saw early-stage funds raising growth funds and competing with traditional growth funds. So certainly market dynamics played a contributing part over the past couple of years – just as they do now. 

Market aside, I’ve been really fortunate to learn from some very bright minds – both from my colleagues at Sapphire (where we value mentorship and excellence) as well as industry peers. The first investments I sourced and led at Sapphire helped me carve a path for myself as an investor focused on infrastructure, data and analytics – and at the end of the day, it helps when you just genuinely love what you do.

Sam: What was your first job ever?

Casber: So my mom runs a bunch of restaurants and my first job ever was actually a busboy for our restaurants. It was a tough job requiring a long day on my feet. I bussed tables the summer before college, as well as during college. It was a great experience and one I credit for excellent character-building.

Sam: What lessons would you take away from your career to impart to the next generation of VCs?  

Casber: You can break down what is important for this job roughly into the following stages: sourcing the deal, conducting diligence, picking the right deal, and Board-level work. Of course, this all depends on the type of platform you’re at because there’s so many different types of firms, all with different strategies. At Sapphire Ventures, we run a pretty concentrated picking strategy. We really go deep from a thematic perspective, and one of the things we really care about is the CEO. By contrast, if you’re at a volume-based shop, you might really care about having a large sourcing pipeline. Perhaps you wouldn’t take many in-person meetings but just do Zoom all day to drive up the volume of startups you talk to. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You should have a good understanding of your firm’s strategy and really align yourself to that.

Sam: Looking back, do you think you would have done anything differently?

Casber: I think I would have done a lot of things slightly differently. But I also feel like if I didn’t make those mistakes, I wouldn’t have learned and known what to do better the next time. That said, thinking about my adventure so far, one of the things I wish I would have done differently is not being afraid of my own power. For example, earlier in my career, there were many times where I wanted to voice my opinion  but passed on the opportunity because I didn’t feel I had as much experience as the others sitting around the table. I probably should have spoken up because on the upside, I would have said something very smart, and on the downside, something stupid and forgotten. I wish I had more confidence in those days. So yes, that’s probably one thing I would take back. It would be to just trust my own work earlier on.

Sam: What is a typical “Casber deal”? What does it look like?

Casber: I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m a growth-stage investor focused on enterprise B2B SaaS, and oftentimes I have proof points around product or market, or some numbers to validate my investment. When I think about what my prototypical deal looks like, there are different categories. At my stage, price plays a pretty big factor because I need to think about what the downstream impact is from an exit point of view. I wouldn’t say there is a prototypical deal that I really try to pattern match. The startup could look like a really hot company that has everything right and just needs more capital to pour on the fire to grow faster. Or the company could be a bootstrapped outfit with a scrappy CEO who needs help building the management team. Rather, I think more about being intellectually honest when I underwrite a deal and understanding its risk/reward implications. 

Sam: Where do you see yourself in a decade or two from now?

Casber: Hopefully I’m still doing this. I really enjoy my job and am fascinated by both aspects of the role--technology and investing. We’re going through some real changes in the industry. There’s a lot happening at the macro level (not to mention a platform shift) And a ton of new innovation sparking both value destruction and value creation. So yes, I’m excited. I look forward to seeing what new innovations the future brings.