You may be one of those people who enjoy going through and watching older episodes of your favorite shows. If you love ABC’s Shark Tank as I do, you understand that many of these episodes are still entertaining and educational even as time goes by. During your next round of viewing the show, you may come across an episode with Chris Sacca during Season 7. Although the billionaire venture capitalist has invested in massively successful companies like Twitter, Uber, and Instagram, many people outside of Silicon Valley may not know much about him.
Born on April 12, 1975, Chris Sacca stands as one of the most influential figures in the venture capital landscape. In this article, we’ll give you some background about Sacca and take a look at some of his most memorable Shark Tank moments.
Early Life and Education
Chris grew up in Lockport, New York. His family wasn’t wealthy, which gave him a grounded perspective on life and the value of hard work. He attended The State University of New York at Buffalo for his undergraduate studies. Later, he pursued his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center. It was during his time in law school that Sacca accrued over $12,000 in student debt – a debt he soon turned into profit by playing the stock market. This early brush with investment would come to define much of Sacca’s career.
Career Beginnings and Google
Post-graduation, Sacca began his career in Silicon Valley, initially as an associate at Fenwick & West. However, a fortuitous stint at Speedera Networks allowed him to dabble in business development and M&A, preparing him for his next major role.
In 2003, Sacca joined Google. This was a pivotal period in both his career and the tech behemoth’s history. Google, during the early 2000s, was transitioning from being just another tech startup to a dominant force in the industry. Sacca was right there in the thick of things.
Upon joining Google, Sacca served in several positions. One of his early roles was as the Head of Special Initiatives. This role essentially gave him the leeway to venture into newer territories for the company, beyond its primary search engine business.
One of the most significant initiatives Sacca became involved in was Google’s foray into the telecommunications sector. Recognizing the potential of wireless communications, Sacca spearheaded Google’s bid to acquire vast tracts of wireless spectrum. The idea was not just to diversify Google’s holdings, but to fundamentally change the way the telecom industry operated. He also co-founded the company’s New Business Development team.
Sacca’s vision for innovation wasn’t just limited to business strategies and acquisitions. He also championed Google’s culture of fostering creativity and thinking outside the box. He was known for his ability to see the bigger picture, which was essential in guiding Google through a time of rapid growth and market evolution.
Venture Capital Stardom
Leaving Google in 2007, Chris founded Lowercase Capital. This venture capital fund would soon become one of the most successful in history. Sacca’s eye for spotting potential unicorns was uncanny. He made early-stage investments in companies like Twitter, Instagram, Uber, and Kickstarter, to name a few. These investments, particularly in Uber and Twitter, skyrocketed his net worth, making him one of the richest venture capitalists in the world.
Chris was not just an investor; he was often a mentor and advisor to many startup founders, guiding them with his insights and strategic thinking. His distinctive cowboy shirt became a symbol of his unique approach to venture capitalism – a blend of savvy business acumen and an easy-going, accessible demeanor.
Here are some of his most notable investments:
- Twitter (X): Sacca was one of the earliest investors in Twitter and continued to invest in multiple rounds. He also played an advisory role in the company’s early days.
- Instagram: Before its $1 billion acquisition by Facebook, Instagram counted Sacca as one of its investors, making it another lucrative investment for him.
- Uber: Sacca’s investment in Uber turned out to be exceptionally profitable. He invested in the company when it was valued at just $60 million, and Uber later attained a valuation of tens of billions.
- Kickstarter: The crowdfunding platform has revolutionized crowdfunding for creative projects.
- Twilio: A cloud communications platform that has grown significantly since Sacca’s early investment.
- Stripe: The payment processing company Stripe is among the most successful fintech startups, and Sacca saw its potential early on.
- Lookout: A mobile security company that garnered significant attention and investment, including from Sacca.
- WordPress (Automattic): The company behind the popular content management system and blogging tool WordPress was another of Sacca’s successful bets.
Notable Shark Tank Moments
1. The Fight Over Brightwheel
One of the most notable moments from Sacca’s visit to the Shark Tank was his fight with fellow billionaire Mark Cuban over a company named Brightwheel. Entrepreneur Dave Vasen pitched his company that offered a way for parents to stay connected to their young children. Brightwheel allowed teachers a way to update parents on the happenings of the kids while they are in preschool. The app also made it easier for teachers to track and report the activities of their students. Vasen came into the tank asking for $400,000 for 4% equity.
Vasen’s strong pitch and impressive figures attracted the interest of Kevin O’Leary, Mark Cuban as well as Sacca. Sacca agreed to give the entrepreneur $400,000 for 4.48 equity. However, Vasen asked if he would be willing to partner with any other shark. That’s when things got ugly.
Sacca replied that he didn’t need any other sharks because of his value in the tech space. Since Brightwheel was an app, he felt there were no other sharks that added any value. That’s when Cuban took offense. He told Vasen that outside of Silicon Valley, Sacca’s name doesn’t mean much and that it was his name and connections that could get Brightwheel into more areas and schools than Sacca.
The two went back and forth for a while. That was when they agreed to split the deal for $600,000 for 6.67% equity.
2. Barbara Is Not a Fan of Sacca
If you pay attention to Barbara while Sacca is on the show, you can see that she isn’t really a fan. In fact, she says that he is her least favorite guest on Shark Tank. In one interview, Corcoran said ” He is so arrogant and full of himself that I just want to go over there and knock him right off his chair”.
She would later go on to describe the difference between successful people who are confident and those who are arrogant. She points to Cuban being confident and accepting of people. While she recalls that Sacca was the opposite. She claims he is more judgmental of others.
Retirement and Return
In 2017, at the age of 42, Sacca surprised many by announcing his retirement from venture capital and startup investing. However, in 2021, he returned to the field of investing. This time, however, he decided to focus on climate change with his fund called Lowercarbon Capital.
Sacca is one of the richest and most successful sharks to appear on the show. Although he may have rubbed several regular sharks the wrong way, his business acumen and abilities cannot be denied.
Photo credit: Richard Pyrker