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From 60 to over 650 in 5 years & $250 Million in VC funding, meet Cherry Miao

Thought leaders, disruptors, innovators and top players in their field – sourcing the best, most inspiring speakers is one of the things we love best about our jobs! We are so excited for who will be joining us on the SAAS NORTH stages this year, we wanted to give you a little teaser of who you will hear from…

 

Meet Cherry Miao. Cherry joined Accel as a VP in 2018 and is focused on a portfolio of high-growth technology companies. Prior to this, she helped build Lightspeed HQ from 60 people to 650+ over five years! She was pivotal in their $250M+ in venture financing, three acquisitions, and heading up their Data team.

 

We had a chance to sit down with Cherry ahead of her joining us at SAAS NORTH this year and ask her about her own journey and some of what she will be sharing at the conference: 

 

-Why does “The Growth Playbook” matter? 

Cherry –  Entrepreneurs have so much to think about day-to-day as they do the incredibly difficult work of building their businesses. I’m hoping that The Growth Playbook will offer everyone a chance to step back and reflect on what’s driving value today and what the SaaS success stories of the last few years can tell us about where to allocate time and resources.

Do you pursue growth at all costs or is it better to grow slower but more sustainably? How do you think about adding ancillary business lines to your core business, moving international, or moving up or down-market between SMB and enterprise without these efforts becoming a distraction or weighing down your valuation? 

 

– What are the three defining moments of your career?

Cherry –  I was about a year into my second job in private equity and it was very clear to me and the folks I worked with that I wasn’t doing well. The firm is notoriously detail-oriented, and having been more or less a philosophy major in college I just didn’t have the accounting or finance background to deliver models at the intense level of detail required (example: I once was asked to model every individual salary for a 500+ person company).

After an absolutely brutal year-end review, I decided that I could either give up and coast for the remainder of the year or dig in, swallow my pride, and go back to the basics. I chose to recommit, and quietly taught myself accounting and finance basics from the ground up. After an all-nighter to deliver a particularly complex and custom model, I had three important moments:

  • The partner I worked on that model for told me it was ‘perfect,’
  • My 2nd year-end review featured a different partner telling me that she would keep in mind how I responded to that initial feedback for her own professional development.
  • After that experience, I knew that I could experience failure, look it in the eye, and say “maybe today, but not tomorrow.”

 

 

 

The second, was my decision to forego business school (the very well-trodden path and expected next step as a private equity associate — I had taken the GMAT and everything) and instead get some ‘real-world’ experience as an operator. I wanted to build something instead of focusing on financial engineering. That led me to take a 75% pay cut and a role at a then-60 person company I had never heard of, Lightspeed HQ, which of course is now well-known as Canada’s largest tech IPO in almost a decade.

And the third, was deciding to leave Lightspeed to join Accel. I honestly had no intention of leaving Lightspeed (where I had been for about five years and was fortunate enough to work on some very high-impact projects like raising $250M of venture capital, acquiring companies that expanded our product offerings, and starting a data team) when Accel approached me with the opportunity to join their team. At the end of the day, what convinced me was the opportunity to share my experience of living through the hyper-growth of a company going from 60 people to IPO in five years with a new generation of entrepreneurs and hopefully ease their path along that same trajectory. 

 

Do you have a company or individual who inspires you? 

Cherry – Accel has had a few IPO’s and exits this year that have been major wins for the firm. The afternoon of one of those IPO’s, I was on the road when I got a message from one of our general partners. Huh, I thought to myself, I’m surprised he’s not off celebrating somewhere. Quite the opposite in fact — I opened my phone to a message asking me if I’d ever been in touch with a company he’d heard through the grapevine might be promising. At that moment, I fully appreciated how much he loves doing what we do. For him, it’s not about the financial returns or ringing the bell at an IPO — he truly and completely loves technology, investing, and finding the best companies in the world to back. 

 

How do you combat burnout?

Cherry – Gratitude is the best antidote to burnout. I have really long days/weeks/months sometimes, but at the end of the day, I realize it’s an enormous privilege to be able to spend my time interacting with and supporting incredibly talented and passionate people who are building the future. 

Join us for Cherry’s Keynote and Q&A: “The Ultimate Growth Playbook: Everything You Need to Know About SaaS Megatrends

See more of our 70+ speaker and 40+ sessions here and don’t forget to buy your Early Bird tickets today!