What We Do

Illuminate’s focus is on finding, funding and accelerating great founders in the B2B/Enterprise cloud and mobile computing space. We focus on companies building SaaS applications as well as solutions that leverage data and mobility to improve business results. We seek innovative ideas led by talented teams – frequently bringing together diverse perspectives that marry “creative destruction” with new technologies to solve old problems in new ways.

Illuminate is typically a startup’s first institutional investor, but can also be a fit for an established company seeking its first equity financing. Our sweet spot is Series Seed rounds – filling the gap between angel capital and larger funding rounds of traditional VCs. When the timing is right, we collaborate with the best large-scale firms for the next round of financing, but we love lean start-ups that preserve flexibility in their early years.

With three funds under management, Illuminate has been an early investor and board member in deep technology platforms like BrightEdge Technologies (SEO market leader), SaaS applications like Xactly Corporation (NYSE: XTLY) and early market innovators like Influitive (customer advocacy).

If you are an entrepreneur that wants to reinvent business as we know it – let’s talk!

How We’re Different

We’re Not Tourists – We Live Here

·        Our investing team and advisors have spent their careers operating, advising, and investing in the Enterprise/B2B software world.

·        Our investments are thesis based – grounded in relevant experience and leveraging our own research.

We Don’t Just Follow The Herd

·        We recognize that great investment opportunities come in a variety of packages – sometimes looking a bit different from the norm.

·        Our unique approach broadens our deal flow to gain access to all the best teams and their innovative companies – not just a subset.

We are Doers – Not Watchers

·        We’ve been there ourselves as founders, so we love supporting talented teams as they build great companies.

·        You won’t hear a lot of hot air from us – we’ll jump in if we can help or find someone who can.

Our Results Speak for Themselves

·        More than half of our new investments have been referred to us directly from our prior portfolio founders and advisors.

·        Across more than 10 years of early stage investing we’ve gained multiple M&As and IPOs – with not a single washout.

Meet Our Team

Founders Speak

“The refreshing thing about Illuminate is their singular focus on Enterprise Software. With most VCs, Enterprise is part of their portfolio, but with Illuminate, it is 100% of their focus and that shows in their expertise, connections and depth of knowledge.”

Jim Stoneham, Cofounder & CEO Opsmatic (Acquired by New Relic)

“Illuminate has delivered exactly what we were seeking. Cindy’s experience as founder of a SaaS company and seasoned investor in the enterprise software space is invaluable in shaping our success.”

Kristine Steuart, Cofounder & CEO Allocadia

“Illuminate has offered value that goes well beyond typical Board participation – teeing up a host of C-level contacts to accelerate both the time frame and the likelihood of our market leadership.”

Chris Cabrera, Founder & CEO Xactly Corporation (NYSE: XTLY)

“Illuminate Ventures went above and beyond in every way. Their impact was tremendous for the company on a large scale and for me personally as a first time entrepreneur.”

Shanna Tellerman, Founder & CEO Wild Pockets (Acquired by Autodesk)

“Illuminate Ventures has been a great advocate – always offering practical advice. They have helped us to accelerate our business and to better understand how to scale the company overall.”

Lemuel Park – Cofounder & CTO BrightEdge Technology

“Illuminate has provided high quality intros to many partners and helpful insights in subsequent financings. Adding Cindy & an Illuminate Advisory Council member to our board has been invaluable.”

Rami Musallam, Cofounder & CEO CafeX Communications

“It was great to have  Illuminate Ventures as an investor. We quickly recognized the value that Cindy and her firm could bring, allowing Illuminate access to our much sought-after initial funding.”

Kira Makagon, Founder & CEO Red Aril (Acquired by Hearst Corporation)

“There was a lot of demand for Influitive’s seed round. We were impressed with Illuminate’s founder references and have no doubt we made the right decision. Illuminate has been a great partner  – they are there when we need them.”

Mark Organ, Founder & CEO Influitive

“Illuminate’s team has opened their rolodexes to connect us with hard to reach customers and partners. Cindy asks the best questions and is always ready to brainstorm. We love having Illuminate on our team.”

Limor Elbaz, Founder & CEO Peerlyst

“The greatest benefit of working with Illuminate is the amazing amount of knowledge they bring to the table about building an enterprise SaaS company. Their support has been incredible. I would not start another company without them.”

Lei Sun, Founder & CEO Yozio, Inc.

“The  Illuminate Ventures team is extremely hard-working and helpful. They have opened up doors to an incredible list of people who we would have never had access to without them.”

Mike Smalls, Founder & CEO Hoopla Software

“Illuminate Ventures has been with us since the very beginning and has provided incredible support. We continue to benefit tremendously from their mentorship, enthusiasm, confidence, and connections.”

Jim Yu, Cofounder & CEO BrightEdge Technology

“Cindy has been a great mentor and a trusted friend for more than a decade. She has shared great advice drawn from her experiences as an executive, entrepreneur, CEO and venture investor.”

Jim Dai, Cofounder & CEO, CalmSea (Acquired by Coupang)


Stanford Technology Ventures – Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series: An Enterprising Approach to Investment

In this live video interview  conducted on campus at Stanford, Cindy Padnos is interviewed by chaired professor Tom Kosnik. Shares her experiences as both a prior tech startup entrepreneur and as the founder of Illuminate Ventures, an early/seed stage Venture Capital firm. Also available as podcast http://stanford.io/WvhccN.

Why Middle America Can Be Better For Entrepreneurs Than Silicon Valley

My San Francisco Bay Area-based venture capital firm, which has long-focused on investing in enterprise software startups, has explored several of these new entrepreneurial hubs, and recently decided to double-down to emphasize involvement in one such place in particular: the greater Pittsburgh area […]

SaaStr Postcast #39: Cindy Padnos Discusses the Unwavering Power of Predictable Revenue

In this episode with Cindy we discuss: How Cindy made her way into the world of SaaS and later SaaS investing. Why does Cindy think SaaS is a democratizer for entrepreneurship? Is the proliferation of Sales and Marketing tools not a challenge for startups in terms of competing for the same VC dollars? […]

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Cindy Padnos ascended the ladder of success by incrementally climbing down in the sizes of the businesses where she absorbed, advanced, innovated. Eventually, she co-founded her own firm, Illuminate Ventures, and found her niche in venture capital.

Illuminate Ventures on KMTV Game Changers

A recent PWC MoneyTree report indicated a drop in VC funding amount and number of deals since the highpoint in 2015. Two Silicon Valley Venture Capital Managing Partners discuss the recent changes in the funding and valuation models as well as the focus on where a VC can add value. Guests are Cindy Padnos, Managing Partner of Illuminate Ventures and [...]

Facebook-Blind VCs Missed Opportunities in B2B Cloud Investments

Venture capitalists have been blinded in recent years by consumer technologies – but the real opportunity lies elsewhere. In the consumer internet and business-to-consumer (B2C) categories, there have been some dazzlingly large acquisitions – it’s hard not to be mesmerized by deals such as the $1.65 billion dollar acquisition of YouTube less than two years […]