Dafina Toncheva


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A very recent addition to the team, Dafina, confesses some envy towards entrepreneurs, “because they are so brave, constantly beating the odds with a relentless conviction in their ideas and abilities”. To bravery and perseverance she adds that creativity, incurable optimism, a willingness not to fit in, and the desire to leave a mark define the successful entrepreneurs Dafina has encountered. Her colleagues in turn describe her as empathetic and intuitive with a tendency towards impatience, when results are not realized.

Ironically, “beating the odds” and incurable optimism describe, to a large extent, Dafina’s life experience. A teenage emigrant from Bulgaria in 1998 she arrived alone in the U.S. without guarantees, but with a relentless conviction to succeed. Leaving her homeland was “much more difficult than I expected because, like most of the entrepreneurs I meet, I was focused on the upside possibilities and was really not prepared for the difficulties I would inevitably encounter in a new place”. Yet, she parlayed her determination and talents into degrees at Harvard and Stanford, positions with leading corporations and a successful early career in technology investing.

Dafina joins USVP from Tugboat Ventures, where she was a principal investor since 2010. Prior to Tugboat, she spent two years at Venrock, where she helped expand the firm’s investments in the areas of SaaS, virtualization, security, infrastructure and enterprise applications. Her investments include Cloudflare and Aria Systems, both high flying leaders in next gen enterprise software.

Before becoming a venture capitalist, Dafina held positions in development and product management at Microsoft, where she focused on authentication systems, digital signatures and business workflow. She worked on MSN Live ID and MS Office, and co-authored several key patents. Dafina has served as a Director at MATRIXX Software Inc. and Risk I/O, and as a board observer at PGP, Imperva, and Cloudflare. She earned a M.B.A. from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a B.S. in Computer Science, magna cum laude, with special focus on cryptography, efficient algorithms and database systems from Harvard University.

When asked why she chose USVP, Dafina replies, “I’ve known several members of the USVP team for many years and I admire the firm’s culture built on high integrity, persistence and relentless commitment to entrepreneurs. My early experience here has shown me that they also work very closely together, taking on each other’s challenges in any ways that can help the firm to succeed”.

An avid reader, Dafina singled out Paulo Coehlo’s classic, The Alchemist as transformational because it reinforced her faith in optimism. “The book leads you to the conclusion that if you want something bad enough, the world will conspire to help you achieve it.” This is a notion she shares with most of the entrepreneurs she encounters.