Sherpa Ventures peeks out of stealth mode with first investment

Shervin Pishevar is an unconventional tech investor. As an angel, he was an early backer of companies ranging from Socialcam to Klout to Blackjet to TaskRabbit. After joining Menlo Ventures in 2011, he helped nudge the semi-stodgy firm into consumer investments like Uber, Fab and Tumblr. And then, he surprisingly walked away from a daily role at Menlo a few months back to launch Sherpa Ventures with Scott Stanford, who’d helped lead Goldman Sachs’ investments in the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn.

On Thursday, Sherpa’s first investment will be announced — and, not surprisingly, it’s in the Uber/TaskRabbit vein. San Francisco-based BackOps has a rather unique take on the burgeoning field of on-demand labor that’s also populated by outfits like Exec and oDesk: Its contract workforce focuses almost exclusively on women, whom the startup refers to as “Riveters” in a nod to World War II’s iconic Rosie.

“They have CPAs, they have decades of experience in HR, but they’re living in Utah or Florida, maybe raising their kids and not working,” Stanford said of the Riveters, in his first extensive comments since Sherpa’s formation. (He wouldn’t say much about the firm itself, since he and Pishevar are raising money and since SEC rules — for now, anyway — restrict how much investment firms can promote themselves during fund-raising.)

Scott Stanford

Stanford did, though, hold forth on what he sees as BackOps’ competitive advantage: “More than 1 million skilled women who aren’t working today because the labor market doesn’t support them.” That’s not only a great narrative in this Lean In era, but it’s a compelling value proposition to BackOps’ end users. “A tremendous number of small and medium businesses don’t have people with this kind of experience,” Stanford said.

BackOps clients don’t need to hassle with vetting the temp candidates or bringing them onto the payroll; it’s a lot like the way TaskRabbit and Uber have identified what Stanford calls an “ad-hoc workforce.” The difference, he adds, is that “If you need someone to walk your dog, that’s one level of service. If you need someone experienced and trustworthy to close out your books, that’s an entirely different level of service.”


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