I’m thrilled to introduce Tony Liu as Costanoa’s newest Partner. A data scientist and product manager at heart and by training, Tony has also become an amazing investor. His superpower is finding and connecting with the kinds of deeply technical founders we love, sometimes before they have a company or even a well-formed idea for one.
Investing this early requires the ability to identify best-in-world talent and to help investigate and shape their ideas as they turn into companies, which Tony is uniquely able to do. Having started his career as a data scientist at Amazon and Turo, he then moved on to build products for other data scientists like him at Databricks. So he understands data infrastructure and developer tools – and the kinds of people who need them – at a cellular level. This has pushed our investment approach “down the stack” and to places far beyond Silicon Valley.
But he’s not just a big brain (although he’s definitely that). If his training and hard skills are what gets him in the door with founders and helps us understand their value proposition, it’s his softer skills that make him a trusted advisor.
Unquestionably the most patient member of our team, Tony spends a lot of time listening thoughtfully to founders to understand both what they’re trying to build and what it can become. This ability (one of the most underrated skills in venture), plus his deep understanding of developer tools and data/ML infrastructure, enable him to be a real sounding board and trusted advisor for new founders as they clarify what they want to build and what end users need in these spaces, sometimes months before they have a company we can invest in.
He’s built a pathway with prospective technical founders who can come to him with or without a specific idea. He’s often the first (and occasionally the only) VC a founder has met with. He dives with them deep into the nuts and bolts of customer discovery, testing and refining hypotheses, picking the right customer/persona in an org, and even helping on advising on company formation.
As a result, he’s an extraordinary magnet for – and identifier of – the best technical and product talent. Founders love Tony because he gets them. He understands and cares deeply about the spaces in which they operate and the tools they’re building, which has led to investments like Coiled, Noteable, Jitsu, Rerun, Sync, which just announced in TechCrunch last week and several more that we’ll announce over the next couple of months.
As Sync’s co-Founder and CEO, Dr. Jeff Chou, put it:
As a first time founder of an early-stage tech startup, I found Tony and the rest of the Costanoa team to be an invaluable asset to our go-to-market strategy. Tony’s wide knowledge of the cloud infrastructure market really shortcut a lot of questions we would have had to spend months solving. His supportive attitude and understanding of the early-stage startup world made it an easy choice. His unwavering and honest support during both the highs and lows makes him an incredible ally. Tony’s work ethic and network in the cloud infrastructure world mean he’s more than just advice; he makes active contributions to what our company needs.
But he also adds to our team in a bunch of other ways. Tony’s the guy if you need a good restaurant in San Francisco or any city he’s ever been to (adding Paris to that list later this week, as he heads out on his long-delayed honeymoon.) As a proud Kiwi and an All Blacks fan, he’ll for sure be the only Costanoan up all night watching the rugby World Cup next year. But he also loves to do deep dives into … let’s just say “interesting” fads. Just ask him about his EMS workout resistance suit and the million electric shocks he withstands to get a more efficient workout. Better him than me.
As you can tell, we’re so glad to have Tony on our team and now a part of our partnership. His clarity of thought, focused expertise, and product skills make us better at data, ML and dev infra than we’ve ever been. He helps us identify interesting early markets and trends, builds unique relationships with founders as they work together through key questions and sees things that others don’t. If you’re an extraordinary technical talent and thinking about starting a company, Tony would love to talk with you. His email: firstname.lastname@example.org.