In a Silicon Valley technology landscape where young hotshots tend to make their marks with innovative new startups, Farah Giga is different. She began her professional life as a solutions architect at Hitachi Data Systems while earning three degrees from Stanford, then made the move to HP. While there, she held numerous strategic managerial positions and led the integration effort when HP acquired storage vendor 3PAR for $2.4 billion. Now 27, Giga has joined Washington, D.C.-area VC firm Valhalla Partners as a principal.
Giga’s M&A experience while at HP was among the reasons Valhalla hired her, Director of Research Dan Gordon told me recently. “We’re in the manufacturing business,” he explained — as in manufacturing exits for the firm’s investments — and Giga knows firsthand how the process works within large vendors of the type that typically buy storage startups. According to Valhalla General Partner Charles Curran, the firm regularly connects with large storage vendors such as HP, EMC and NetApp, whereas many VCs focus their efforts solely on getting to know the entrepreneurs in which they’re investing.
However, Giga told me, she doesn’t lack in entrepreneurial spirit or know-how just because she spent nine years working for large vendors. She actually wanted to go the startup route out of college, but her career in the corporate world was going too well. Still, Giga said, she did get to do some entrepreneurial work at HP while wearing her strategy and business development hat, only she had a fair amount of resources to work with.
Giga looks like a particularly apt fit at Valhalla, which has made next-generation storage systems an area of particular focus. Among the company’s current investments are Nirvanix, which is really the only game in town for enterprise-class storage in the cloud, and SolidFire, which is targeting cloud computing providers with an all-flash storage array. Previously, Valhalla backed LeftHand Networks, which HP bought in 2008 for $360 million.
She said she’s particularly interested in both cloud storage and solid-state drives as hot investment areas, as well as big data. What she’s looking for, she added, are disruptive companies within these spaces that let IT departments operate faster and better without killing their budgets. Gordon noted that cloud storage and SSDs should be big winners if Valhalla’s larger vision of “video as the new text” plays out. Video, after all, requires lots of storage capacity on the cheap, which the cloud provides, and the performance that SSDs deliver.
It will be very interesting to watch how Giga’s storage-industry contacts and experience — and relative youth — affect Valhalla’s success in these spaces. As Curran pointed out, SSDs especially are gaining traction across industries as everything from virtualization to big-data processing have CIOs thinking about storage performance. And it’s a competitive space: He noted that Valhalla wanted in on Nimble Storage’s recent $25 million round, but was outbid. Artis Capital Management led that round, with Nimble’s existing investors Accel Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital also chipping in.