Welcome back to Elevator Pitch, a weekly Q&A that puts top Silicon Valley tech investors under the spotlight and gets them talking about what kinds of deals they're looking for -- and the common pitfalls that can trap entrepreneurs.

This week, we're chatting with Navin Chaddha, who as managing director of Mayfield Fund oversees one of the valley's oldest VC firms. A holder of 35 patents, he's invested in Akamai, SolarCity, Fab and Appcelerator, among others. He also launched Mayfield's India Fund.

Q How'd you get into this racket?

A After founding three companies (iBeam, Rivio and VXtreme) and working for Microsoft, I saw an opportunity to become a VC in 2003 and give back to entrepreneurs what I got from others.

Q What do you like best about venture capital?

A Partnering with bold and smart entrepreneurs who want to change the world.

Q What kinds of pitches are you looking for right now?

A I invest in great people vs. specific sectors. That said, I'm looking at early-stage companies in mobile enterprise, cloud, software as a service, software-defined data center, big data and mobile marketplaces.

Q What's the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make?

A Startups die of indigestion, not starvation -- learning how to prioritize is critical for entrepreneurs.

Q What's the next big thing going to be?

A With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, it's a mobile-first world. There are boundless opportunities, including mobile enterprise, mobile marketplaces and mobile health.


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Q Mayfield was founded in 1969, which makes it one of the oldest venture firms in Silicon Valley. How would you characterize the firm's current position in the VC pecking order?

A We're proud to be a top-tier firm with a 44-year history. Our track record includes 110 IPOs and over 150 merger and acquisitions in our portfolio.

Q The firm's current investing team features a marked number of people of color. Is VC becoming more diverse than in the past -- and if so, what kinds of investment opportunities does that open up?

A Yes, I think VC is becoming more diverse in many dimensions. For our team, having a global DNA helps us follow a playbook in spotting and investing in companies not only in the U.S., but globally. We are also able to help our portfolio companies think about globalization and execute early on.

Read Elevator Pitch every weekend in the Mercury News or at www.siliconbeat.com. Contact Peter Delevett at 408-271-3638. Follow him at Twitter.com/mercwiretap.