What: Tola Capital
Who: Sheila Gulati, managing director, and Stacey Giard, principal
A Microsoft past: Gulati and Giard have worked together for more than 16 years, including 10 at Microsoft. The pair soaked up information about the software industry, then left to start a firm that invests in enterprise software companies. “You can’t learn more about enterprise computing anywhere else,” Gulati said of her tenure at Microsoft.
An evergreen fund: Tola, founded in 2010, manages more than $341 million in two funds, raised from endowments and foundations. The investment firm added about $90 million to its fund this month. Tola now has five companies in its portfolio and looks to invest between $5 million and $25 million in each company.
Tangible results: Gulati and Giard like to invest in software companies that are making a direct impact on the industries they serve. Many use data to predict outcomes and find trends. “We want a tangible opportunity for an enterprise to get better,” Gulati said.
Ethical detection: The Tola team recently invested in Denver-based Convercent, a software company that helps businesses comply with regulations and internal policies. The company runs a hotline for employees to report problems they see in their own companies. Cloud-based software helps these employees, who generally are part of compliance teams within large companies, see trends and identify the root causes of potential problems, Convercent CEO Patrick Quinlan said. The software helps serve teams that have not been well-served by technology in the past, Giard said.
Historic hideout: Tola Capital offices are in a house on Capitol Hill that used to host several law offices. On East Denny Way and Belmont Avenue East, it looks just like any other classic Capitol Hill home, but has a moving past. Literally. The former owner relocated the house from downtown Seattle when it was set to be demolished to make room for the Convention Center. Now, Tola’s offices blend right in to the historic neighborhood feel. Gulati says clients sometimes are confused when looking for it because they’re expecting a more traditional office complex instead.
Seattle deals: Tola Capital hasn’t invested in any companies in Seattle, though its team members have participated in angel investing in the region. Tola is looking for growing companies in Seattle, which Gulati calls a “great town” for cloud computing. The four-person Tola team is hiring two people and plans to keep growing in Seattle.
— Rachel Lerman