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Joining DCVC

After years of incredible work at our portfolio companies, Alan Cohen has joined Data Collective as a partner.

I clearly remember meeting Matt Ocko and Zack Bogue over 6 years ago when I was joining Illumio. Supporters of the company from its founding, they were different: at the time, DCVC was less focused on the raging IT infra­struc­ture wars — as the enterprise re-platformed from client-server to cloud archi­tec­tures — and more catalyzed around how machine learning and deep tech impacted every industry. From day one, their partic­i­pa­tion in our company dwarfed their check size: always generous with intro­duc­tions or counsel, whether it was in the o’dark thirty” morning call hours — within which all entre­pre­neurs live — or a coaching session at one of their houses at 11 pm, handy with a glass of pinot or two fingers of good bourbon.

DCVC met my criteria for a winning team: a team that wanted it more. They were investors and operators at the same time. That mattered to me. They could break down the evolution of a technology market from the sub-atomic level to how products would play out in the market. Almost immediately I begged (and they agreed) to become a tiny LP in Fund II, and then I put my head down for the next five years to work on Illumio, a tremendous ride with a dream team.

Over subsequent years, I watched from a distance — a little enviously — as the DCVC deep tech portfolio took off, the funds got larger, and the brand reputation grew. From the outside looking in, it was all rockets, robots, AI, microbes, satellites, compu­ta­tional biology — effectively science fiction to me — and it was improving the planet as well as the bottom line. I could only admire it from afar, like sailor contem­plating a shoreline as he was steaming past on a ship.

What you leave behind is not what is engraved on stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. 


I came to Silicon Valley twenty years ago after stints in the government and IBM. After several years at Cisco in its heyday, I caught the startup bug and spent 15 years learning what it is like to become family with great founders and winning teams. We tore down the old and built up the new Internet infra­struc­ture:

· At Airespace we pioneered the winning centralized Wi-Fi platform that today powers over 50% of all enterprise wireless;

· With the amazing team at Nicira, we drove software to eat the hardware network infra­struc­ture and caused a revolution

· And most recently, at Illumio, we moved the security control point in the data center and cloud from the physical network to the application and replaced manual admin­is­tra­tion with intelligent algorithms. The company became the leader in a new category of network security called microseg­men­ta­tion.

It has been an exhil­a­rating ride. Yet as Illumio grew larger and more successful, a different set of triggers went off for me: I wanted to spend more time on emerging industries that would shape our future. On multiple occasions, I led teams that went from PowerPoint to shipping billions of dollars of product. But I had another itch to scratch. I did not want just to leave a mark on the next 5 – 10 years of computing; I wanted to help shape the next 50 years of our planet.

When I reached out to Matt and Zack last year, they were just as generous and open with their time and counsel about the various moonshots in the portfolio as they were in during the dorm room years of Illumio. I started working with some of the great portfolio companies like Evolv (which reduces the active shooter threat in our society) and Kentik (which is the only way to have network and security visibility in the hybrid, cloud native world). Then it hit me: DCVC is Spencer Trask to the world’s next Stark Industries. Would they need another set of hands to pull an oar?

In joining DCVC I am taking on a new, renewed mission. I get to partner with mission-focused tech­nol­o­gists and entre­pre­neurs to bring a greener, more efficient set of new 21st century industries. And, perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to create a brighter legacy for our children and their children afterwards.

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