I am excited to announce that Evan Tana has joined South Park Commons as our newest Partner. Aditya and I have had the pleasure of knowing Evan for nearly two decades and have wanted to work with him for nearly as long. It’s a privilege to finally call Evan a colleague, and a huge win for the entire SPC community.
Evan is not a new name at SPC. Since early 2022, he’s been a Visiting Partner in the SPC Founder Fellowship, mentoring startups at the earliest stage and helping us build the fellowship into the best -1 to 0 program in the world. The SPC Fund bears Evan’s touch as well, featuring stellar co-investments like The Graph, Unit21, Material Security, and Gamma.
Evan started his career at Digital Chocolate and Loopt, pioneering the mobile gaming and social mapping space. He was on the founding team at Shopkick, leading as VP of Product Management to over $15M in revenue before a $250M acquisition by SK Telecom. Post-acquisition, Evan founded Sparks Mobile, later acquired by Dropbox, where he spearheaded several product initiatives. As an investor, Evan has backed and advised over 120 companies, including Patreon, Shift, Zenly, OpenPhone, Karat, Audius, and more.
The SPC team got a preview of Evan’s engaged mentorship style in the Founder Fellowship. We can’t wait for the rest of the community to experience the same. This addition is fantastic news for the SPC Fund, for our team, and for the community members who will benefit from Evan’s extensive experience and support.
I got the chance to introduce Evan at our recent community All Hands. Our conversation showed why we’re so excited to have him join SPC. Check out the recap below.
What led you into tech?
Evan: I've always been excited about technology and building. A little anecdote, in middle school I was lucky to go to a really well-resourced place in San Francisco. Sixth grade we had a computer lab with 30 PowerMacs and internet, so we messed around a lot, pirated software, played Marathon and Doom. But one of the projects we created was a penny drive to raise money for victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. We recognized that we could actually do this nationwide. So we created this website, got hundreds of schools to participate with us in this nationwide penny drive and ended up raising $30,000. We got to meet Al Gore, the whole bit. What was magical about it was this idea that technology can connect us all.
Tell us about the areas and markets you know best.
Evan: The quick investor answer is I'm a software generalist. I like SaaS, especially end user multiplayer SaaS. I like consumer services. I like the whole thread of vertical SaaS and digitizing offline industries. I love marketplaces, both consumer and enterprise. So that would be the investor way to bucket me.
The more personal version ties to my first anecdote. I get most excited with multiplayer products—connecting different people around how they communicate, how they play, how they transact, how they work together. That's my sweet spot.
When you evaluate investments, what are you looking for?
Evan: What I'm really looking for is a strong narrative around, at a high level, why? Fundamentally, what is the unique insight that drives this? That's the thing we should all be asking ourselves in -1 to 0. What's the unique insight you can speak to with authority?
Second is, why now? What has fundamentally changed in the ecosystem that allows this to happen?
Third, why you? I'm a big believer in Founder-Market Fit. There are founders out there who just really like the game and they could work on anything and be successful. That's great. But I historically have been drawn to people who have a personal narrative that brought them to a problem because it's hard as hell and they know.
From partnering with the Founder Fellowship, it's been interesting to watch fellows go through the ebbs and flows and the idea maze and be most successful when they eventually come back to something with a more clear 'why you?'
What is something you've learned that you lean on daily?
Evan: I consider myself a pretty positive person, but I've had a longish career and I've had patches that were rough. A useful mindset I learned through and after the rough patches was changing how I frame self-critique, from "I should have done that" to "I wish I had done that." To aspire to do better, but not beat yourself up. I don't use that daily because thankfully I'm in a great spot right now, but it's a useful practice that I think is helpful especially in this industry.
What's something you're looking forward to working with members on?
Evan: I've been fortunate enough to be in different leadership positions, hired and fired and tried my best to inspire. One of the things I've learned over time is when to push and when to pull in terms of critique, pushing on the gas, supporting. Ultimately, if you want to be really effective, you need to have the person on the other end be ready to receive whatever you need them to receive. You can't be at 100% gas all the time. You have to learn how to coach others in your role as leaders of your own startups. I like helping founders learn how to do that and I look forward to doing the same with SPC members.