From the Rockies to the Valley — Justin Darcy’s Trail into Tech
Justin Darcy is currently the Rockies ISV & Alliances lead at Salesforce. His background includes experience as a founder and leader in B2B sales. He’s an early FundersClub member (joining back in 2012) and has a personal portfolio of over 60 companies.
How did you find your way to doing ISV and Alliances at Salesforce?
I was running B2B channel sales for a global telecom in San Francisco and became increasingly frustrated with the red tape and bureaucracy that came with working for such a large company. A friend of mine told me about an opportunity on the Salesforce AppExchange team and the incredible amount of growth and innovation coming out of the Salesforce partner ecosystem. I had always admired Salesforce as a company but thought of them as just a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) company. I had no idea that there was this vibrant ecosystem of partners developing really interesting IP on top of the platform. This August it will be four years at Salesforce, and I can say without hesitation that joining the company has been one of the most challenging but rewarding aspects of my career. I work with ridiculously bright people and for an organization that continues to innovate at a speed unthinkable for its size.
Though now you’re living in Denver, what initially brought you from the University of Colorado out to the Bay Area?
A few jobs after graduating from The University of Colorado at Boulder (Go Buffs!), I had the opportunity to work for a Denver startup owned by Steve Case called Exclusive Resorts. I had been promoted to run sales on the west coast and when asked if I would move to the Bay Area, I jumped at the chance since I had always wanted to live in San Francisco to be closer to the tech scene.
What lead to you to co-founding Centurion Retreats and what did you do in your time there?
After five years at Exclusive Resorts, I was looking for a new challenge. Exclusive had been an incredible ride but went through a rough period during the Great Recession . On a work trip to LA, I had a chance meeting with a local entrepreneur who was interested in starting a company focused on executive retreats. We spoke for a few hours and shared the same vision for what a potential company could look like. The day after our meeting, I called her up and said I wanted to be her co-founder and within days, I was focused on the new venture. I spent the next several months working 18-hour days trying to get the company off the ground. I wore many of the proverbial hats including sales, marketing, business development and managing the development of our website. Ultimately the company never got off the ground but I learned several important lessons including how critical it is to find business partners with different skill sets and people that you've worked with previously. I also developed a deep appreciation for what founders go through when launching a business – the stress, pressure, self-doubt, isolation - all of the emotions that come with startup life.
What initially drew you to investing in startups?
I’ve always been an early adopter of technology and have a passion for seeking out products and services that make my life easier and advance industries by an order of magnitude. Startup investing has allowed me to take advantage of my ability to find trends as well as leverage my existing network and expertise to add value to my portfolio companies.
What learnings have you taken as an entrepreneur that you’ve been able to to use or take into consideration when investing?
As someone who has gone through a failed startup, I look for founders who demonstrate true grit and an unyielding desire to succeed against all odds because I understand just how difficult it is to be successful. An example of this came from one of the first companies I invested in as an angel investor via FundersClub, a company called AnyPerk. I remember nearly passing on the company but decided to have lunch with Taro (one of the founders). After hearing Taro’s story of how he and his co-founder slept in their car in a Taco Bell parking lot during the early days of starting the company, I had to invest. It demonstrated to me that they were willing to do whatever it took to be successful. The company raised a $8.5M Series A last year, so my instincts haven't let me down.
Do you have an investing philosophy? If so, what is it and why have you chosen it?
In the spirit of playoff hockey (which is on right now), I’ll quote Wayne Gretzsky who famously said, “I skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”.
Are there any particular startup trends that currently have your interest?
Fred Wilson wrote an article recently about how the second mobile revolution will come from the 2.5B people living in undeveloped or emerging countries. I’ve invested in two transportation companies (via FundersClub) that are riding this trend: Zoomcar India (which is growing rapidly as a result of the smartphone proliferation among the middle class in India) and Wundercar (which is an on-demand carpooling service in emerging European countries and Manilla). I think we’ll continue to see massive growth in these countries not just in the transportation sector but other areas like Telemedicine, Agriculture and Financial Services.
If you had followed your childhood dream job, what would you be doing right now?
Either a professional tennis player or actor.
Where’s your favorite place to travel?
Right now I’m actually enjoying not traveling. We built a very comfortable home in Denver and though we just came back from Hawaii and have a few trips planned this summer, I’m looking forward to spending time in beautiful Colorado.
Is there anyone you lookup to or that has influenced who you are today? Who are they?
Leading up to Mother’s Day, I was thinking more about how my mom shaped me. She’s dedicated her life to helping others and I think I get the same pleasure helping founders achieve their goals.
About the FundersClub Spotlight Series
The FundersClub community is comprised of highly-accomplished technology and business leaders from across the spectrum of industries and geographies. We periodically highlight selected investor and entrepreneur members of our community to share their stories and learnings and foster broader discussion and engagement around startup investing. If you have a tip on who to profile next for the FundersClub Spotlight Series, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.