EIR Success Story: Raj Vaswani

Brad Elmore

Raj Vaswani

CTO, Silver Spring Networks

One of the reasons I got involved with Foundation Capital in the first place was because they had a notion of swinging for the fences, doing something that matters that tries to change the world.

Raj Vaswani came to Foundation Capital to expose himself to a new side of the business world: “Like many, I had a reasonably good view of technology and business, but didn’t understand how it all worked from the investment side,” he said. While working at @Home Network, Vaswani had met and worked alongside two future Foundation Capital partners. Still in touch a few years later, Vaswani, looking for something new, landed a position as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Foundation Capital.

“Being involved at Foundation Capital on a daily basis and seeing how things work from the VC side rather than through the eyes of an entrepreneur was very interesting and educational – I learned how to think about what you’re doing as being investable versus just a good idea.”

After a few months at Foundation Capital, where Vaswani evaluated companies and helped to advise existing companies within the Foundation Capital portfolio, he found himself extremely interested in the cleantech industry. One new company that was looking for funding was Silver Spring Networks.

“The partners and I saw a tremendous – and yet untapped – opportunity in the smart grid industry in 2003,” says Vaswani. “We saw that Silver Spring Networks had the ability to differentiate from their competitors if they took a slight left turn on their current strategy. We proposed a new direction for the company – to build a network and software platform that would enable the smart grid. The company agreed with our assessment, and not only did Foundation Capital invest, but I joined the company to help them execute the new strategy.”

Warren Weiss, general partner at Foundation, was closely involved in the investment from the get-go, and worked with the Silver Spring Networks team throughout. “The early days were far from easy,” recalled Vaswani. “Building the right platform took time, and several rounds of fundraising, and there were few with the fortitude to invest in what we were doing. But since the investment had emerged from an EIR process, and the Foundation partners had been involved from the beginning, they were committed to helping us stay the course. This was a crucial advantage during difficult times, which nearly every company faces.”

Now, Silver Spring Networks is seen as a highly successful company that is leading the way to revolutionize the energy industry.

When asked how he feels about how Silver Spring Networks has changed the world – for customers as well as for the cleantech industry – Vaswani answers modestly: “One of the reasons I got involved with Foundation Capital in the first place was because they had a notion of swinging for the fences, doing something that matters that tries to change the world. We’ve been at least partially successful – world changing takes a long time – but having the right investment partner along the way has made a huge difference.”