Illuminate Ventures is an early stage VC firm led by a team of experienced investors with significant operating and investment track records. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the firm targets North American-based high growth, “lean startups” in the high-tech landscape, with a particular focus on Enterprise cloud and mobile computing. We work closely with founders to support them in building truly great companies. We’ve been there ourselves and know that a team-based approach delivers the best results.

The firm also benefits from a “Who’s Who” 40+ person Business Advisory Council made up of some of the most successful members of the global high-tech ecosystem including founders like Donna Dubinsky (Palm Computing, Handspring) and Jean Kovacs (Comergent, Qualix Group), senior corporate executives and board members in companies like Adobe, Dell, IBM, Microsoft and Salesforce.com and industry veterans from firms like Mayfield Fund, Gunderson and Warburg Pincus – all of whom work closely with the firm and with the founding teams in our portfolio.

Illuminate’s investment team is deeply integrated in the venture community where they have built longstanding relationships with successful entrepreneurs and co-investors. Illuminate team members have helped successfully build companies to deliver positive returns through IPOs and M&A transactions both as investors and as operating managers in a variety of sectors including SaaS/cloud computing, Big Data analytics,  business applications, security, technology enabled services, digital media and mobile and wireless communications.

Illuminate has co-invested with some of the leading venture capital and corporate investors in the world including firms such as Alloy Ventures, Altos Ventures, Bay Partners, Battery Ventures, First Round Capital, Hummer Winblad, Insight Venture Partners, Intel Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Rembrandt Ventures, Safeguard Scientifics, Salesforce.com, Sequoia Capital and Trinity Ventures.

Cindy Padnos – Founder & Managing Partner

CindyPadnos-031303 head rbgLeveraging over 25 years of high-tech industry experience, Cindy Padnos is the founder and Managing Partner of Illuminate Ventures. Ms. Padnos focuses primarily in the Enterprise/B2B cloud and mobile computing sectors with a particular emphasis on SaaS applications and platforms, innovative solutions that leverage big data for business impact and new business models that accelerate customer acquisition. Cindy currently serves as a board director or observer for BrightEdge Technologies, ChannelEyes, Hoopla Software, Opsmatic, Peerlyst, Xactly Corporation and Yozio.

Ms. Padnos has been an active member of the venture capital community since 2002. Prior to founding Illuminate, she was a director of Outlook Ventures where she was one of three investment professionals responsible for committing the firm’s $140 million fund. Ms. Padnos sourced and led investments in companies in the IT infrastructure, software/SaaS, consumer Internet and mobile application spaces building a track record of performance.

Ms. Padnos has developed a unique and widely recognized set of skills in the Enterprise cloud computing space as a result of her prior experience as an operator and investor. As a serial entrepreneur, Ms. Padnos helped deliver successful outcomes for several venture-backed start-ups and has participated in raising more than $100 million in venture financing for early stage high-tech companies. She was founder and CEO of Vivant, (Acq. EVLV/ORCL) one of the earliest on-demand/SaaS companies, served as president & CEO for Acumen (Pvt. M&A) transitioning the company to web-based delivery and vice president of marketing at Scopus Technology where she positioned the company for its successful public offering (IPO/Acq:ORCL). She also held senior management positions at IDE, Ingres and at AT&T. Early in her career Ms. Padnos developed her market assessment skills and love of innovation in the high-tech sector as a consultant in the information technology practices of Arthur D. Little and Booz, Allen & Hamilton.

Ms. Padnos received her MSIA/MBA, with honors, from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, with honors, and her AB, magna cum laude, from the University of Michigan. She is currently an advisor to Astia, the Tepper School of Business, CMU’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and UPWARD. Cindy has been named one of the Most Influential Women in Silicon Valley (The New York Times), was selected as one of the Most Influential Women in Technology (Fast Company) and one of the Most Influential Women in Business in the Bay Area (San Francisco Business Times) and as A Power Player in the Cloud (AlwaysOn).

Rebecca Norlander – Venture Partner

Rebecca Norlander joined Illuminate Ventures in as a Business Advisory Council member in 2009 when she was a GM at Microsoft. In 2010, following a nearly 20 year tour as one of the top woman “geeks” at Microsoft – in roles ranging from product developer – to technical strategist to the CTO – to General Manager of the online advertising platform Rebecca was ready to jump into something more entrepreneurial and joined Illuminate as an Executive-in-Residence.

Currently, Rebecca serves as a Venture Partner with Illuminate Ventures. She assists with new investment evaluations, with a particular emphasis on technical due diligence, works actively to help accelerate the progress of portfolio companies and shares significant new deal flow with the firm. She also works closely with Illuminate’s student interns. Rebecca earned her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Boston University, where she was the first alumna to be granted their Distinguished Alumnai Award, and is an active advisor to several early-stage companies.

Ben Bayat – Senior Associate

BenBayatBen Bayat brings more than a dozen years of experience in high-tech product design, engineering management, business development, and sales to his role as Senior Associate with Illuminate. Ben focuses on originating, evaluating, and managing Illuminate’s enterprise SaaS investments.

Prior to joining Illuminate, Ben was the head of West Coast sales for IBM’s networking accounts, where he led his division to two consecutive Sales Eminence awards. As IBM’s site executive in Nagasaki, Japan, Ben led the joint development of Sony’s Playstation 3 microprocessor, earning the CEO-selected Gerstner Award for Client Excellence. Previously, as an aspiring entrepreneur, Ben was a part of two startup founding teams where he learned the challenges of matching product vision with market realities. Ben earned his MBA from the Walter A. Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and a BS in Physics and Electrical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University.

Cliff Higgerson – Strategic Portfolio Advisor

Cliff Higgerson has more than 35 years of experience in research, consulting, planning, and venture investing. Combining the market insight of an analyst with a keen ability to identify blockbuster technologies early in their development, Mr. Higgerson has backed some of the most successful companies in the communications and information technology industries.

Cliff’s recent investments and board seats include Hatteras Networks, Kotura, World of Good, Xtera Communications and Ygnition. Prior investments include such industry leaders as Advanced Fibre Communications (NASDAQ: AFCI); America Online; Ciena(NASDAQ: CIEN); Digital Island (acquired by Cable & Wireless); Digital Microwave, now Stratex Networks (NASDAQ: STXN); Tellabs (NASDAQ: TLAB); MCI (NASDAQ: MCIP); Octel (NYSE:OTL); and Tut Systems (NASDAQ: TUTS).

Mr. Higgerson was a founding partner of ComVentures and a general partner with Vanguard Venture Partners. He has also served as a managing partner and Director of Research for Hambrecht & Quist, and as a special limited partner and Director of the Communications Group for L.F. Rothschild, Unterberg, Towbin. He holds an MBA from UC Berkeley, and a BS from the University of Illinois.

Anne-Marie Roussel – Venture Advisor

Anne-Marie Roussel is cofounder and COO of SeeSpace Ltd. a startup delivering a new TV interface blending broadcast and Internet content together on the TV screen. Anne-Marie has collaborated with Illuminate for several years, first as an EIR and now as an advisor sharing her 15+ years of experience as a technology executive. She is an expert in the transition of consumer technologies to the enterprise.

Prior to Illuminate Ventures, Anne Marie was Head of Acquisitions and Partnerships for Sharp Corporation and earlier she managed the Digital Media and Mobile Communications portfolio for Microsoft’s Entertainment Division including product groups such as Xbox, Windows Mobile and MediaRoom. Previously, Anne-Marie was Vice President at Gartner Group in Paris, France where she was responsible for the creation and launch of Gartner’s “Cool Vendors List” –a yearly round-up of the best and brightest startups in IT and “Gartner Invest” — an advisory service for investors in tech. In her spare time, Anne-Marie is a wine aficionado.

Shanna Tellerman – Venture Advisor

Shanna Tellerman is currently a partner at Google Ventures as well as an Advisor to Illuminate. Shanna founded her first technology company, later acquired by Autodesk, out of graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. The company focused on the democratization of game development by providing a free cloud hosted game engine and marketplace.  Following the acquisition by Autodesk, Shanna was part of the early team responsible for creating and launching the new Autodesk Cloud platform and product line.  This platform and product formed the foundation for Autodesk 360, now the central strategy for Autodesk’s transition into a cloud business. She was responsible for building out the product vision, strategy and product management team for Autodesk 360.

Shanna has been a frequent speaker in the game industry and a thought leader on the topic of women in technology. She has been active in organizations including Astia, Women 2.0, Girl Geeks, Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network.  In 2009 she was named one of Business Week’s best young entrepreneurs.


Pia Camenzind – Chief Financial Officer

Pia Camenzind is a CPA with a 25 year track record of helping set up or improve accounting and reporting processes in private equity firms. Her experience includes managing allocations, capital accounts and compliance with partnership agreements as well as preparation for annual audits and tax returns. Pia’s prior work experience includes 15 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers auditing venture capital firms and venture financed high-growth companies. She has worked with a wide array of VC and private equity firms including Bay Partners, Benchmark Capital, Hummer Winblad, Kleiner Perkins, Onset Ventures and Paul Capital. Ms. Camenzind gained her MBA and BS in accounting at San Jose State.


Pavitra Krishna – UC Berkeley MBA Candidate

Saurabh Goel – UC Berkeley MBA Candidate

Ivan Au – Stanford JD Candidate

Justin Harnoss – UC Berkeley MBA Candidate

Jackie Winterhalter – Vanderbilt MBA Candidate

Branden McIntyre – UC Berkeley MBA Candidate

Jane Zheng – Wharton MBA Candidate


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