VC pro focuses on fundamentals

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While many women have risen to prominent positions at dot-coms, nearly all of the top venture capitalists funding these companies are men.

A notable exception is Theresia Gouw Ranzetta, a partner at VC giant Accel Partners and a member of the board of Accel-KKR Internet Co.

A marketing and consulting veteran formerly with Release Software and Bain & Co., Gouw Ranzetta has in recent months emerged as one of the leading b-to-b venture capitalists. Among the high-profile ventures she has worked on are McDonald Corp.'s planned b-to-b exchange and

In an interview with BtoB, Gouw Ranzetta sounded off on the state of the b-to-b IPO and stock markets, and how she is looking harder than ever at a prospective investment's path to profitability.

BtoB: Some b-to-b stocks have been performing better since Ariba Inc.'s favorable earnings report was released. Do you see the b-to-b stock space and IPO market regaining its luster anytime soon?

Gouw Ranzetta: First of all, if you look at the markets, I have no idea what anything will be like. Six to 18 months ago, well, it was an unprecedented time for b-to-b stocks, though I do think there are signs that the market is coming back.

For b-to-b IPOs, what you're finding is that there's much more of a focus on progressing in business fundamentals. People are looking a lot harder at the business's progress to date. We here are especially looking hard at the path to profitability.

The b-to-b exchanges will have to start showing much greater liquidity and more transactions. And they will have to start getting revenue streams beyond core trading.

BtoB: Do you view potential b-to-b company investments differently than before the market drop? Are you more selective than, say, a year ago?

Gouw Ranzetta: We're staying on the same Accel-KKR track. The market has been good to us. Starting 18 to 24 months ago, we were being approached by Fortune 1000 companies looking to start Internet businesses. And we're still getting approached.

But the market's weeded out those seeking a short-term gain by creating a separate stock. Also, we benefit because people see it's a lot harder to start [an Internet unit of a big company] than just starting a business.

BtoB: Before joining Accel Partners, you were on the other end of the business, as a marketer and VP of business development for Release Software, a venture-backed company. And you've consulted for Bain & Co. How have these stints helped you in your current role?

Gouw Ranzetta: The most recent experience at Release Software taught me about being an entrepreneur and about having a role in getting venture financing. It also taught me how to interact with board members. At Bain, working on multiple projects simultaneously is parallel to what we do here.

BtoB: Accel-KKR Internet Co. helps Fortune 1000 companies start Web units. Several other firms, including Bain and Goldman Sachs & Co., are also focusing on this marketplace. What can you offer that they can't?

Gouw Ranzetta: First of all, it's good that there are other companies doing what we do. That's market validation. And the thing that we offer beyond the venture capital is human capital. We can offer start-up resources and help recruit senior executives to the team. The second part is being strategic, being a sounding board and making introductions for our portfolio companies.

BtoB: What part of your job keeps you awake at night?

Gouw Ranzetta: All of it. I think for the most part it's a very exciting time to be in the VC business. I think, though, that for me personally, keeping me awake at night is hoping that I'm doing the right thing for the entrepreneurs in the companies we invest in. They have the hardest jobs in the process. I remember what that's like.

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