Benchmark just hired Sarah Tavel, the first female general partner in the firm’s history
Benchmark’s small partnership has added a new general partner, Sarah Tavel, the firm announced this morning, saying that her “career-long desire and commitment to be one of the world’s great venture capitalists” make her an “ideal addition” to the Benchmark team.
Tavel joins the firm from Greylock Partners, where she was hired roughly one-and-half-years ago as a partner, following a three-year-long stint at Pinterest as a product manager. Prior to Pinterest, Tavel had spent six years with Bessemer Venture Partners, where she rose to the rank of vice president.
Benchmark credits Tavel for sourcing Pinterest and GitHub, while at Bessemer. Longtime partner Bill Gurley says Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann recruited her from Bessemer, he was so impressed with her.
Tavel brings the partnerships to six “equal” partners, Gurley adds in a post about her hiring. (Benchmark is famous for dividing management fees and carry equally among each of its GPs, rather than assigning a higher percentage of ownership to more senior partners as is widely the case at other firms.)
Gurley, a former banking analyst, has been with the firm the longest, having joined Benchmark in 1999. (The firm was founded in 1995.) Gurley’s highest profile board seat currently is as a director with Uber.
Benchmark had also cherry-picked its second-longest serving general partner, Peter Fenton, from a competing firm (as it has with Tavel). Fenton joined Benchmark in 2006 from Accel Partners. His board seats include Yelp, New Relic, Zendesk, and Twitter (whose board he is planning to leave after his current term expires).
The firm’s third-longest serving general partner right now is Mitch Lasky, who joined the firm in 2007; he was previously CEO and chair of Jamdat Mobile, a company that Benchmark funded and that went public in 2004. Lasky sits on the board of Snap.
Matt Cohler, a former VP at both LinkedIn and Facebook, joined the firm in 2008; he sits on the boards of Xapo, Duo Security, and Tinder, among others.
Meanwhie, Eric Vishria — a longtime Opsware executive who became co-founder and CEO of the social browsing startup Rockmelt — joined Benchmark in July 2015 as general partner.
Roughly 14 months ago, Gurley published a post similar to today’s, welcoming a different new general partner, Scott Belsky, the founder and CEO of Behance, an online design community that Belsky sold to Adobe in 2012.
Eight months later, Belsky announced that he couldn’t see himself as a “VC for the next ten years — at least not in the traditional sense,” and that he would become a venture partner at Benchmark instead. Benchmark never commented on Belsky’s transition.
Benchmark has received some blowback in recent years for not diversifying its ranks. In an interview with Recode several years ago, Cohler acknowledged the issue, but said it owed to a lack of diversity in the industry.
“The lack of diversity at this table reflects the lack of diversity in the industry. We’re a very small and very focused and very selective partnership. We would love nothing more than to bring that — because I do think we have a lot of diversity, for four white guys. Believe it or not, we’re pretty different people, with a lot of common ground between us. Diversity with a shared core we think is the most powerful thing that exists, and we would love to add to that on multiple dimensions and would love nothing more than that.”