We launched Defy in 2017 with the goal of building a firm to focus on early stage venture investing. One of the things that we’ve naturally been doing is leveraging our network of incredible CEOs and entrepreneurs to help us better understand key questions when evaluating new companies. Who better than an active CEO to give us insights into how their industry is operating. Often times, when those investments move forward, they will co-invest and even become an advisor to the company.
Because this has been such a successful pattern for us, we’ve decided to formalize it in what we’re calling our “Defy Sage” program. Venture partner, operating partner, entrepreneur in residence, advisor etc, so many names and so many different implementations, so we decided to simply give our unique relationship it’s own name — a Sage.
A “sage” is someone wise through reflection and experience and we thought that perfectly encapsulates what these active operating executives bring to Defy. As talented multi-time operators, seed investors, and current CEOs, Defy Sages bring their operating experience, domain knowledge, and networks to help our portfolio.
We’re proud to announce two long-time friends of the firm who have joined us as Sages: Brian Lee and Sujal Patel. We have known and worked with both over the years and are excited to work even more closely with them as we build our portfolio.
Brian is one of the world’s leading experts in building consumer and commerce brands. He’s a reformed lawyer who saw the opportunity to revolutionize the legal market to help people who couldn’t afford or deal with the traditional system by creating LegalZoom from scratch. As the first CEO, he grew revenue to well over $300m and successfully sold the company multiple times. As a serial entrepreneur, he with his wife Mira, co-founded ShoeDazzle as a revolutionary way to customize fashion. He grew the company to $100m in revenue and merged it with JustFab. Following the birth of his first child, he partnered with Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan to create The Honest Company, the leading healthy product company in the world. As CEO, he grew the company to $300m in revenue in 3 years.
Most recently Brian co-founded and partnered with Kobe Bryant on the creation Art of Sport and several other emerging companies. Brian was named one of the “25 most notable Korean-American entrepreneurs” by Forbes magazine in 2009. In 2014, he was commended as the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year by EY Entrepreneur of the Year.
Before his startup career, Lee was an attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and a former manager at Deloitte. Lee attended Servite High School in Anaheim, graduated with a B.A. in Economics/Business from UCLA and received his J.D. from UCLA School of Law. Brian has been a close friend and supporter, working with the Defy team for over a decade.
Sujal is a leading technology executive with deep expertise in networking, infrastructure and security. Sujal founded Isilon Systems in 2001 with the vision that the rapid proliferation of unstructured, file-based data would necessitate a shift away from traditional storage architectures and toward a new, scale-out paradigm. In 2006, Isilon completed one of the most successful initial public offerings of the year, with a market capitalization in excess of $1 Billion. From 2007 to 2010, Sujal, as CEO, led Isilon during a period of profound growth, improving operating margins from -37.5% to +20%. Isilon was acquired by EMC in December, 2010 for $2.5 Billion, the largest acquisition in EMC’s history. Sujal served as the President of EMC’s Isilon Storage Division from the acquisition until November, 2012, driving significant revenue growth, market expansion and organizational scale. Prior to EMC and Isilon, Sujal served in various engineering roles at RealNetworks, Inc., in part as chief architect behind the company’s second-generation core media delivery system.
Sujal holds nineteen patents in the areas of storage, networking, and media delivery, is a well-known speaker on entrepreneurship, and has received a variety of industry awards. He graduated from the University of Maryland College Park in 1996 with a degree in Computer Science. Sujal first worked with the Defy team 10 years ago and has continued to collaborate with us over the years.
We look forward to building out our portfolio, team, and Sage program as we continue to grow.