Viviana is a General Partner at Felicis, bringing over 20 years of experience designing and building brand categories for successful cloud/SaaS and enterprise social companies. Her expertise includes scaling go-to-market SaaS teams, messaging and positioning, category creation, freemium product strategy, and sales enablement. An experienced angel investor, Viviana previously served as an operating partner and advisor at Emergence Capital. She held leadership positions in marketing at Yammer, Salesforce, Platfora, and Zenefits. After Yammer’s $1.2B acquisition by Microsoft, she became its head of marketing for enterprise social, which included Office 365, Skype, and Lync. She has a BS in Operations Management & Information Systems from Santa Clara University and enjoys spending time with her family and traveling internationally.
Buyers are busy, and they will pay attention to the company that looks, acts, and feels different.
What was your childhood like and how did it impact who you are today?
My parents emigrated from outside Guadalajara, Mexico, over 50 years ago. There was no opportunity for them or formal education, and they wanted a better life for my siblings and me. My mother got her GED and became a teacher’s aide, and my father started a landscaping business. He couldn’t read or write English, so I would help with the bills and the accounting. As kids, my brother and I had a favorite activity—taking things apart and studying what made them work. Sometimes I would just admire the design, and sometimes we would fix it. This desire to deconstruct and figure out how something works and how it can be designed better is something I’ve done throughout my career.
What’s a misconception most founders have about creating a GTM function?
Most founders think their product sells itself. When I interviewed at Yammer, the CEO told me he wasn’t sure why he needed marketing. Yammer had a flywheel and was gaining a lot of users. But they didn’t have much monetization, so that’s what I worked on—building a robust marketing engine that drives revenue. Another misconception typically comes up regarding category building; many founders aren’t sure why they need to do it. So I tell them what could happen if they don’t do it versus if they do it right. That gets founders excited because it frames their business at a whole other level. It can be an enjoyable exercise!
How do you work with founders?
I aim to be very available as the “first call” in pivotal moments, and love going deep on critical areas. My talks with one founder I backed are free-form and wide-ranging. His company is still reasonably early, and it’s a competitive market. We’ll mind meld on how to beat and unseat the competition, brainstorm on strategies, or talk about the timing for a new campaign. My general advice is to always know your company’s Achilles heel. Find a way to turn it into your strength, and at the same time, learn your competitor’s biggest weakness and find a way to use that to de-position them.
When founders with a product-led growth GTM motion come to you, what’s the first thing you discuss with them?
I ask them to unpack their funnel with me. What’s the first thing people do when they come to the product? Are people sharing it, are there growth loops? At first, I just want to understand what they’re building, why they’re building it, and what value they are delivering. Then, I get excited envisioning the path to scale. For many PLG, open source, or developer companies, it can take a while to get to $1M ARR. Once you do, you want to get to $50M ARR within four years. If you want to be a top decile company, that’s the pattern to follow.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an investor?
I’d be an architect or fashion designer. I read a lot on both industries and find them fascinating. They’re both about building, deconstructing, and navigating trends, which are all aspects I love about my work now. I firmly believe that human creativity can be endlessly applied.