Our team is made up of experienced investors with significant track records of entrepreneurial and operational success. 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.
Illuminate’s investment team is deeply integrated in the high tech community where we have longstanding relationships of trust with successful entrepreneurs and co-investors. We've helped build companies from the ground up through successful IPO and M&A exits as investors, advisers and as operating managers. Our experience across the enterprise software category is broad - including SaaS business applications, cloud computing infrastructure, data analytics, security, IIoT, technology enabled services and mobile and wireless solutions.
Our co-investors and those that come in to lead follow-on financings in our portfolio include some of the best VCs and corporate investors in the world - in firms like Battery Ventures, First Round Capital, Foundation Capital, Insight Venture Partners, Intel Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Salesforce.com, Sequoia Capital and SoftBank.
Leveraging 25 years of high tech industry experience, Cindy Padnos is the founder and Managing Partner of Illuminate Ventures. She focuses primarily in the Enterprise/B2B cloud and mobile computing sectors, with a particular emphasis on SaaS applications and platforms, solutions leveraging data for business impact and new business models that accelerate customer acquisition. Cindy serves as a board director for Bid Ops, BrightEdge, CafeX, Hoopla Software, and Pex.Read More
Cindy has been an active member of the venture capital community for more than a dozen years and has helped raise and deploy $100's of millions in venture financing for early stage tech companies. Prior to founding Illuminate, she was one of three investment professionals at a $140M Series A-focused firm where she sourced and led investments in companies in the IT infrastructure, enterprise software/SaaS and mobile application spaces.
Cindy 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, adviser and angel investor. As a serial entrepreneur, she helped deliver successful outcomes for several venture-backed start-ups. She was founder and CEO of Vivant, (acquired by EVLV/ORCL) an early SaaS company, president & CEO for Acumen (private M&A) and vice president of marketing at Scopus Technology (IPO/then acquired SEBL/ORCL). Early in her career Cindy developed her market assessment skills and love of tech innovation as a management consultant in the IT practices of Arthur D. Little and Booz, Allen.
Cindy received her MSIA/MBA, with honors, from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University and her AB, magna cum laude, from the University of Michigan. She is currently an adviser to Astia and the Tepper School of Business. Cindy has been named one of the Most Influential Women in Silicon Valley (The New York Times) and was selected as one of the Most Influential Women in Technology (Fast Company).
Jennifer is a Partner with Illuminate Ventures. In this role, Jennifer identifies and leads new investments (with a particular interest in companies in the Pacific Northwest), assists with due diligence efforts, and provides strategic and operational advice to Illuminate portfolio companies. In addition, Jennifer creatively fosters strategic relations with Illuminate’s extended B2B Enterprise network - including our Advisory Council and business school interns. She currently serves as a board director for Hoopla Software.Read More
Jennifer is an accomplished B2B software executive with over 25 years of experience building new categories, and executing product and go-to-market strategies in SaaS companies. Prior to joining Illuminate, Jennifer held executive positions in a string of companies where she helped deliver successful exits (PlaceWare acquired by Microsoft; DocuSign IPO, SmartSheet IPO, Flowroute acquired by West Corporation). She brings that experience set to the Illuminate team and portfolio. Jennifer received her MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurial Studies from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA, and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Oregon.
Rebecca Norlander joined Illuminate Ventures 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 - Rebecca was ready to jump into something more entrepreneurial and joined Illuminate as an Executive-in-Residence. Four years later, having caught the entrepreneurial bug, Rebecca co-founded a successful healthcare-related software company, Health 123, that went on to merge with a peer company in 2017.Read More
Today, Rebecca serves as a Venture Partner with the firm while running all of software engineering at HP. She assists with new investment assessments within her domain areas, works actively to help accelerate the progress of selected portfolio companies and shares significant deal flow with the firm. Rebecca earned her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Boston University, where she was the first alumna granted their Distinguished Alumnai Award and is an active adviser to several early-stage companies.
Cliff Higgerson leverages his more than 35 years of experience in research, consulting, planning, and venture investing as a Special Adviser with Illuminate. Combining the market insight of an analyst with a keen ability to identify blockbuster technologies early in their development, Cliff has backed some of the most successful companies in the communications and information technology industries.Read More
Cliff’s recent investments and board seats include CaféX Communications, Hatteras Networks, Kotura, World of Good, Xtera Communications and Ygnition. Prior investments include such industry leaders as America Online; Ciena (CIEN); Digital Island (acquired by Cable & Wireless); Stratex Networks (STXN); Tellabs (TLAB) and MCI (MCIP).
Cliff was a founding partner of ComVentures and with Vanguard Venture Partners. He also served as a managing partner and Director of Research for Hambrecht & Quist and as a special limited partner and Director for L.F. Rothschild, Unterberg, Towbin. He holds an MBA from UC Berkeley, and a BS from the University of Illinois.
Students In Residence
Since 2016, Illuminate has collaborated with Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business to offer a Student in Residence program. The program is designed to provide hands-on learning for MBA candidates interested in entrepreneurship and Venture Capital. Each year 4-6 students are selected to participate in this exciting program.
Each year Illuminate welcomes MBA and JD Students from local campuses into our class-year internship program. This typically includes students at:
UC Berkeley's Haas School, Wharton (West Coast), and both Stanford GSB and Stanford Law