Not all venture capital veterans like the idea of venture capital.
But Sanwal recently changed his mind. CB Insights announced a $10 million Series A funding on Monday led by tech-focused venture firm RSTP.
Sanwal says it's time to invest in the company's core data products and the 60-employee company will triple its 15-person sales team. But Sanwal isn't yet thinking about the company's end game, such as whether to eventually pursue an IPO or an outright sale.
"Who knows?" he says. "Right now, it's just build and sell."
Sanwal declined to comment on CB Insights's valuation.
Sanwal has seen his share of VC flameouts. He had been manager of American Express's $50 million Innovation Fund, and VCs and banks are among his clients hungry for intel on the latest VC deals and trends.
His data-as-a-service business helps its clients understand private companies, their investors, and acquirers. For VC and banking clients, the company tries to help with finding their next deal by presenting them with relevant data. It uses the same information to tell B2B companies who their next customer should be.
"If you're in corporate strategy or competitive intelligence, we want to be able to tell you what Google's strategy is using data," Sanwal says.
Since 2010, CB Insights been funded through revenue and a small grant from the National Science Foundation.
Sanwal says it took two years of consistent inquiries from RSTP to get him to change his mind about taking institutional money. What did he have against VC?
Part of his reluctance had to do with what Sanwal believes is a misconception among startup founders: that fast growth requires sacrificing profitability by spending heavily.
"You can do both," he says, adding that after four years in business, CB Insights tripled its annual revenue in 2014 to $4 million, while being profitable. "We're slow-cooking this."
Perhaps the greatest misconception about venture capital today is that raising a large sum of money--or being named a unicorn--is indicative of long-term success, according to Sanwal.
"People seem to have forgotten that not all of these companies will be successful, and that's okay," he says. "That's just the nature of startups."
Another reason Sanwal delayed taking institutional money for five years is that he wanted to have extreme confidence in his company's business model first.
Hiring was also a concern. A flashy funding round can attract the wrong sort of job candidates, he says.
"There are a lot of startup tourists right now who want to jump to the next hot thing," he says. He wants only those who truly like the nature of the work.
One thing that makes CB Insights stand out from similar companies is the playful, cheeky way it presents data and information.
Its daily email newsletters often include such headlines as "Security is real--Hide yo' kids, Hide yo' wife," and "WTF is going on in VC-land?"
Sanwal even originally named the company Chubby Brain before shortening it to the more sedate "CB."