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150: Magdalena Yesil: Investing in Salesforce, The Cloud & Smart Women

May 11, 2018
Unceasing curiosity and a penchant for problem-solving can pave the way to becoming a legend of your own right. How can a love for discovery spell long-term success? In today’s episode, Magdalena Yesil tells the story of how her hunch-driven risk-taking has made all the difference in her entrepreneurial career.
“Sometimes we discover things we can deliver on—that’s success, and sometimes we discover things that we just can’t deliver on, and that’s failure.” - Magdalena Yesil
Three Things We Learned
  • Problem-solving skills are for life
Magdalena has always been fond of problem-solving when she was in school and university. The challenge of taking on more difficult, headache-inducing problems with the awareness that she is improving her efficiency has always kept her going. It’s no different to how she looks at problems in the context of her career, and while there are some that she just can’t solve, she has learned long ago how to not take it to heart and keep going knowing that she’s growing.
  • Oftentimes startups get started because they have a hunch
People will sometimes have a feeling that an industry might act a certain way, that it might need something that they can create. By jumping on-board, they get to see how their product fits the market, and if everything aligns, then success is guaranteed. All that wouldn’t have been possible if they didn’t get driven into action by a hunch to begin with.
  • Entrepreneurship is a different kind of discovery
We can allude to business endeavors like how people fell down before discovering whether a species of mushroom is edible or not, but at the same time we can’t. Ten companies before us can fold, but what makes a great startup is the confidence that we might hold the elusive answer. Sometimes this trust in our capabilities is all that we need to actually succeed because after all, everything is a series of discoveries.
When we take on a problem, life or business-related, we often have the hunch that we can find the answer. This naturally comes with a curiosity as to what lies on the other side, which naturally leads to discoveries of what works. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.
Pioneering Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor Magdalena Yeşil came to the United States in 1976 with two suitcases and $43, blind to the challenges she would face as a woman and immigrant in Silicon Valley. Today, she is best known as the first investor and a founding board member of Salesforce, the now-multibillion dollar company that ushered in the era of cloud-based computing. 
Magdalena Yeşil is a founder, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist of many of the world’s top technology companies, including Salesforce, where she was the first investor and founding board member.
Yesil is a former general partner at U.S. Venture Partners, where she oversaw investments in more than thirty early-stage companies and served on the boards of many.
A technology pioneer, Yeşil founded three of the first companies dedicated to commercializing Internet access, e-commerce infrastructure, and electronic payments.
UUnet, CyberCash, and MarketPay earned her the Entrepreneur of the Year title by the Red Herring magazine. Yeşil is a founder of Broadway Angels, a group of female venture capitalists and angel investors. She is currently working on her fourth startup, DriveInformed, a technology company bringing trust and transparency to the auto finance industry. She serves on the board of directors of RPX, Smartsheet, and Zuora.
Magdalena is an immigrant to the United States from Turkey and is of Armenian heritage. An avid hiker and sailor, she lives in San Francisco, California.