After five years at the firm, Ariel Sterman opens up on why he believes curiosity and embracing uncertainty drives great investing.
Building conviction is a core skill to being an investor — venture capitalists must gather the evidence and build a case for why they believe a company has what it takes to not just redefine its market, but transform an industry. It requires insatiable curiosity to meet founders around the world, learn the intricacies of a business, and help audacious entrepreneurs bring their visions to life. For Ariel Sterman, Bessemer’s newest partner, asking the right questions is the best part of the job.
“The constant learning and exploration of the unknown is what initially drew me to a career in investing,” says Ariel. “Nothing is certain, especially at the earliest stage. Authentic dialogue with founders helps me build conviction in new sectors and ideas that may have previously been foreign to me. But it’s that very uncertainty that also has me constantly revisiting classic sectors—enterprise SaaS, cloud infrastructure, fintech—with an evolving lens.”
Today, Ariel is a board member at Qwak, Apron, and Demostack, and a board observer at Melio, Hibob, Choco, Upvest, and Sweep. As a partner based in Bessemer’s Tel Aviv office, he primarily invests in Israel and Europe.
His investments extend to gaming, fintech, AI/ML infrastructure, and B2B SaaS, and he actively seeks out SMB-focused companies. “SMBs around the globe face similar challenges––from time constraints to cash flow and fierce competition,” he says. “This is what has pulled my attention to Europe as well in recent years, where there is critical demand for Vertical SaaS solutions tailored for small businesses in nearly every sector and market.”
Strengthening Israel’s entrepreneurial ecosystem
One of Ariel’s points of pride in his Bessemer career is the role he gets to play in Israel’s startup ecosystem.
“It’s hard to find a single theme or sector that has driven the firm’s outsized success in the country,” he says. Ariel’s investments in Israel cover the breadth of the country’s tech sector, spanning from deep cloud infrastructure and SaaS to consumer, pioneering Bessemer’s gaming roadmap locally.
Before joining Bessemer in 2018, Ariel worked in growth equity at Stripes, where he helped the New York-based firm expand into the Israeli market and drove its first investment in the country (Monday.com’s $50M Series C).
“It’s been a career highlight for me to help contribute to the growth of the Israeli economy and tech ecosystem,” says Ariel. “Only recently have startups in Israel proven their ability to scale into independent, enduring businesses. We’re still in the early innings, and I’m grateful that Bessemer continues to be a major player here.”
As a way to share stories across the Israeli tech ecosystem and support founders worldwide, Ariel hosts open conversations with founders on his podcast, The B Sides.
Founders ultimately know their businesses best, explains Ariel. That’s one reason why his approach to investing and supporting portfolio companies is more inquisitive than prescriptive. “I want to hear how founders think, not just what they think,” he says. “And founders can expect the same from me.”