VC Corner Q&A: Matt Carbonara of Citi Ventures

Matt Carbonara is a Managing Director at Citi Ventures and works with entrepreneurs innovating in enterprise IT, cybersecurity, customer experience, and marketing. He strives to create win-win scenarios that provide customer engagement and product feedback for high-potential startups while motivating innovation and business transformation for both Citi and its clients.

Prior to Citi Ventures, Matt was at Cisco where he led investments and acquisitions in the areas of enterprise networking, collaboration, and IoT as well as in the country of Israel. He also has investment experience from Comcast Ventures and TeleSoft Partners.

And prior to becoming a venture capitalist, Matt was employee 10 at Terayon Communication Systems, a Sequoia and Lightspeed-backed startup that went public. There he architected and designed application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) before moving into product marketing and product management.

— What is your / your fund’s mission?

As strategic investors, Citi Ventures champions and partners with entrepreneurs who are defining the future of financial services and enterprise markets.

We invest in five key areas that we believe are critically important to the ecosystem surrounding the banking experience. Those include:

  • Financial Services & FinTech
  • Data Analytics, Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence
  • Commerce & Payments
  • Security & Enterprise IT (including Cloud and DevOps)
  • Customer Experience & Marketing

— What is one thing you are excited about right now?

What excites me right now is the pace of innovation among entrepreneurs. The creativity and innovative mindset we’re seeing today, particularly in the enterprise IT and financial services industries, are driving a much faster pace than even just five years ago.


— What are the 3 top qualities of every great leader?

When evaluating companies, I always look for leaders who have a clear vision for their company, drive for team building and company culture, and value honesty and transparency.

— What was your very first investment/when? And what struck you about them?

My first investment was in Matrix Semiconductor in 2003. The company was disrupting the multi-billion-dollar memory market, but it was the leadership team that truly stood out to me and drove our investment decision.

— What is one question you ask yourself before investing in a company?

I always ask myself, “Would I want to be a part of this team and dedicate myself to its effort?” I’ve found that my answer is a test of my conviction for the opportunity. It helps identify the quality of the team, the magnitude of the problem the company is looking to solve, and ultimately, its ability to attract additional talent and capital.

— What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?

Is this an investor relationship I envision for the long-haul and will they help me move my company forward?

— What do you think should be in a CEO’s top 3 company priorities?

From my experience, CEOs should consider the following priorities:

  1. Build your company direction, strategy and culture, and ensure its communicated across the entire organization.
  2. Put time and resources into the well-being of your employees’ personal and professional growth.
  3. Strategically raise and allocate your company’s capital.

— Favorite business book, blog or podcast?

  • Book — Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
  • Podcast — Invest Like the Best with Patrick O’Shaughnessy

— What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

Coaching my daughters in sports is my favorite pastime.

— Who is one leader you admire?

John Chambers, CEO of JC2 Ventures (former CEO & executive chairman at Cisco), and Chuck Robbins, current Chairman and CEO at Cisco, are two leaders I admire equally. Their leadership and decision-making have inspired me throughout my career.

— What is one interesting thing most people won’t know about you?

My interest in venture capital came from the first startup I worked for. Our CEO scheduled an all-hands meeting (for all 13 of us at the time) to celebrate and pass around our Series B financing check. The excitement and determination from not only our CEO but everyone in the room sparked a passion in me to pursue the career I’m in now.

— What is one piece of advice you’d give every founder?

As a founder, there are so many distractions and decisions blocking the way to success. All I can say is don’t lose focus on your vision. Don’t forget, it’s what got you this far.

Startups interested in an opportunity to pitch Citi Ventures can apply here.

VC Corner Q&A: Matt Carbonara of Citi Ventures was originally published in Startup Grind on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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