August 8, 2017
We invested in a yogurt machine. Well, technically we invested in a company that makes a yogurt machine. And that yogurt machine is now for sale at Wim Yogurt. This series of sentences probably deserves some backstory….
In 2015 we discovered that two NYC founders we knew well were working on a stealth hardware project and inquired if they’d tell us more. Shortly thereafter, during a visit to their culinary coworking space, they showed us a prototype. While even at that stage it was clear they had put tremendous thought into the engineering, design and branding, there were, you might say, some questions on our end. Homebrew had been pitched a number of “smart” consumer hardware devices and all had fallen short in one way or another. Most often the issue was overpriced hardware stuffed full of unnecessary technology only to deliver a product experience inaccessible to the mainstream consumer and only marginally better than the alternatives.
“Is frozen yogurt that big a market in terms of frequency,” we asked? “More than 45% of American adults eat frozen yogurt daily or weekly (which jumps to 90% at Monthly frequency),” they replied.
“But who wants a $999 yogurt machine which costs $10 each time you use it,” we pressed. “Way off,” the team chuckled. “The Wim machine itself is being introduced at $299 and each serving of yogurt is $3.00 a bowl.”
“Stuffed full of chemicals and sugar?” The team sighed at our assumptions. “High quality, natural ingredients with recipes created by a chef who previously worked at NYC’s famous Milk Bar. Absolutely tasty but with most servings landing between 100 - 150 calories depending on what type of milk you add, because you control whether it’s low-fat, whole milk or dairy alternative.”
“But you need to keep them frozen until use?” Again, quickly shot down. “Shelf stable my friend, shelf stable.”
And so on. We were in.
Over the next two years the Wim team delivered on their vision using just a fraction of the capital other kitchen tech devices have raised. And treated us to some of the most delicious Board meetings ever as we got to sample the latest flavors swirled by the latest prototypes. All of it - hardware and yogurt - has been made in the USA by a talented, cross-functional team. And it’s built with the average American household in mind, delivering healthier, cheaper frozen yogurt without the time, cost and hassle of having to leave the house (all of you parents know of what we speak!).
In a market landscape with lots of kitchen gadgets gathering dust or never making it out of the lab, we believe the Wim team has developed an appliance that fits into the lifestyles, and countertops, of many, many households. Now, along with our co-investors at Khosla Ventures and Shasta Ventures, we’re thrilled that their hard work can be shipped to your house. We’re already loving it in ours. Enjoy!
June 22, 2017
In 2014, we invested in Pillow after hearing CEO Sean Conway’s vision for how short-term housing was going to be bigger than anyone realized. In Sean’s mind, it wasn’t just about more efficient vacation rentals or “cheaper than hotel” alternatives, but a shift in the way people were going to think about their residences. Earlier this week, the Pillow team started talking more publicly about their work as well as their $13.5 million financing led by Mayfield Fund to accelerate their plans.
Pillow has found great success helping multi-unit buildings support short-term rentals offered by their tenants. Instead of having to skulk around, hiding from their property managers, Pillow-supported building tenants can easily offer their apartments for rental. In turn, building owners have a more attractive value proposition for renters who are able to offset their rent via short-term rental opportunities. And short-term guests get a high quality service with a quality guarantee. It’s the proverbial win-win-win. Which is why several large real estate owners participated strategically in this financing.
Congratulations to Sean and the Pillow team for this meaningful milestone.
June 14, 2017
Technology continues to transform industries that existed well before the PC was invented. Perhaps nowhere is that transformation more essential than in agriculture. In February, we revealed our seed investment in Bowery Farming, an indoor vertical farming company based out of New York City. Earlier today, Bowery Farming announced a $20 million Series A to continue revolutionizing agriculture.
Bowery is a full-stack farming startup, in the sense it has embraced farming, hardware, software and financing innovations. We believe that this model is the most complex but also the most valuable approach given how the market is likely to evolve. And a number of leading investors, including General Catalyst, GGV Capital and GV, agree!
If you’re interested in the future of farming, Bowery is hiring.
May 7, 2017
When Scott Belsky says that he’s founding a new company with a great team, including Julio Vasconcellos as CEO, and he’d like you to invest, you say “yes.” And our enthusiasm only grew from there when Scott and Julio described their vision for Prefer, a platform to connect services professionals and consumers through trusted referrals. Having invested in Angie’s List earlier in his career, Satya understood how existing solutions have fallen short and also had insights into the business possibilities. Collectively, we saw right away that Prefer had the unique combination of a stellar team, enormous market opportunity and clear product strategy.
We’re happy to play a supporting role in Prefer’s initial financing, led by Benchmark Capital. The company’s mission and vision are very much in line with our focus on the Bottom Up Economy as core to Prefer is helping service professionals get a steady stream of clients via referrals. By handling payments, scheduling and customer acquisition, Prefer makes it possible for service professionals to build their business while focusing on what they do best.
April 5, 2017
The talk of AI and robots is frequently colored with warnings about the danger those technologies may represent. But those very same technologies have the power to do incredible good if developed carefully and utilized thoughtfully. That is the belief that drove our investment in Shield AI. We’re both proud and excited to finally announce our initial seed and follow-on investments in Shield’s $10.5 million Series A financing led by Andreessen Horowitz.
WHO: Brandon Tseng, co-founder, was a member of a Navy Seal team in Afghanistan. He saw firsthand that the lack of information, and the dangers inherent in trying to collect it, sometimes led to tragic events on the battlefield. When he returned from his tour, he got together with his brother, Brandon Tseng, co-founder and CEO, and Andrew Reiter, co-founder and CTO, to build Shield AI. Brandon, an electrical engineer by background, had previously started and sold a company to Qualcomm. Andrew had spent many years at Draper Laboratory working on navigation systems for autonomous vehicles. Together, they form a team that combines business and technical acumen with a singular focus on applying those skills within the public sector.
WHAT: Shield AI builds artificially intelligent systems, starting with fully autonomous quadcopters, that collect data in highly dangerous environments and protect military personnel and civilians. Those systems are designed for use within the public sector with the express purpose of saving lives. The company currently has contracts with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, with applications for state and local agencies, including police, fire and forestry departments in Shield’s future.
HOW: Shield is representative of the investing we’ve been doing, for over two years now, in the areas of machine learning, AI and hardware/robotics. The application of those technologies enables the autonomy, indoor navigation and real-time data collection that are central to Shield’s products. And not surprisingly, the team that Shield has been assembled is one the finest collections of technologists and computer scientists in the field of AI-driven systems.
WHY: The team at Shield believes that massively reducing American and civilians casualties in ground combat is both necessary and achievable. And that is why they are building Shield. Brandon’s Navy Seal comrades are the inspiration for this mission. They and all the other people who put themselves in harm’s way deserve technology that can help reduce the risk that they face every day. The largest suppliers to public sector are decades-old companies started in the dawn of aerospace. We believe there’s room for one to be built from a core of autonomous robotics, AI and computer vision.
If the Shield’s mission resonates with you, check out the company’s job openings in San Diego.
March 24, 2017
When we started Homebrew one of our core hypotheses was that a new type of supersonic transport was just around the corner so when we saw Boom we knew…. Hold on, that’s a lie. If you asked us in Jan 2013 if we were going to be funding an audacious aircraft startup like Boom we would have probably just shrugged our shoulders. But four years later, it actually makes sense.
We founded Homebrew on a central premise: that technology’s impact upon the largest industries was going to be accelerating and that this would create unexpected opportunities for startups to transform traditional markets. Accordingly, since 2013, we’ve made a series of lead and supporting investments in several transportation or transport-related verticals. The first was Cruise Automation in 2013.
In subsequent years Homebrew has made three additional unannounced investments in related areas, of which Boom is one. Across all these startups we see exciting uses of software in areas such as computer simulation, computer vision, machine learning and other advanced techniques. We also see new materials and composites employed in the hardware. These are truly machines which couldn’t have been built - at any price point - just a few years ago.
Boom CEO Blake Scholl has done a superb job building ties with the aviation industry, resulting in billions of dollars of orders committed against his delivery. Now, with an additional $33m of Series A capital, he and the team can move even faster towards a future of faster flight. Homebrew was fortunate to participate in the seed round and now continue our support in the Series A as well. Boom!
March 13, 2017
Data, data everywhere, but where to focus your attention in order to understand what’s changing in your business day-to-day? Data analysts and data scientists will be part of every team at every type of company. And their jobs will be to help answer key business questions using data. That’s the future of business that Outlier sees and we happen to agree wholeheartedly. Which is why we’re so excited to add to our portfolio of machine learning and artificial intelligence-driven vertical applications by co-leading, with First Round Capital, the seed financing for Outlier.
WHO: Sean Byrnes, CEO, and Mike Kim, CTO, are data nerds in the best sense. As founder of Flurry, Sean helped build one of the earliest mobile analytics platforms and filled several roles at the company prior to a successful sale to Yahoo for $240 million. Mike is a long-time data research scientist, having proven his chops at Aardvark, Google and AltSchool. And in a short period of time they’ve assembled a team of technology and business experts that is proud to call Oakland home. We know that we’re backing a team that can talk the big data talk but also back it up with real computer science.
WHAT: Outlier has created a SaaS product that delivers what the company calls Business Analysis Automation. Outlier frees business analysts and executives from spending time combing through their data looking for what matters. Instead, with Outlier, team members get insights that uncover unexpected behavior about customers and products so that potential problems and opportunities can be addressed quickly. And data analysts and data scientists can focus on answering the questions that are most important. Dashboards and KPIs tell you what is happening in your business based on what you know you want to track. Outlier goes further by helping you understand why your business is changing and flagging things you wouldn’t otherwise notice. As an example, Outlier has been able to help an ecommerce business discover that a third party Facebook campaign was responsible for a traffic spike and that a small homepage code change led to a decrease in traffic to product detail pages. Being alerted to those issues helped the company grow revenue and avoid lost revenue in ways which dashboards and KPIs could never do.
HOW: While machine learning and AI are all the rage now, we’ve been investing in the area for more than two years, focusing on specific applications that help give business users superpowers, not just automate workflow like the first generation of SaaS. And importantly, we’ve invested in teams that have the deep experience and technical expertise to truly deliver on the promise of ML and AI. Outlier is no exception to those principles. Outlier’s product plugs into all of the enterprise applications that collect and aggregate customer data. It then uses its technology to identify the unexpected so that business users are never caught by surprise.
WHY: Outlier is the result of Sean’s prior experience building Flurry. Flurry helped collected user data for mobile applications. The data was so voluminous that he often heard his customers ask for help sifting through and interpreting the data. Hence the genesis of Outlier. Like Sean and Mike, we’re convinced that the next-generation of SaaS tools will help people be both more productive AND smarter.
Sign up for Outlier’s daily email newsletter, The Data Driven Daily, to learn more about working with data. And if you’re inundated with data and a simple way to interpret it, reach out to Outlier to get a demo.
March 13, 2017
data.world has founded with the idea that data is too fragmented, not machine-readable and not easily accessible for analysis and collaboration. In just a year, the company has established itself as the network for open sharing of data. Data collaborations with the The White House Opportunity Project, The Anti-Defamation League and The World Bank are just a few of the thousands of examples of transparency and access that data.world is enabling. That momentum led a stellar group of new and existing investors to provide the company with another $19 million in financing. Homebrew is proud to play a small part in supporting data.world’s worthy mission. If you have any interest in open data, visit data.world to dive into a world of data in health, finance, education and a number of other categories or to contribute your own data.
February 28, 2017
It’s been about 6 months since we published Compensation at Startups and Diversity at Startups. As “living documents,” we’ll periodically update them with new articles and information. And so we just published our first updates for 2017. We welcome your feedback and thoughts. If you have anything to add or questions about the guides, just let us know. Thanks!
December 6, 2016
As a follow-up to our Compensation at Startups resource document, we wanted to provide some thoughts on another critical issues related to your people, your most important asset. When your company gets to around 20 people, engaging and rewarding employees becomes a growing challenge. So implementing a good performance management system is a high value investment. Homebrew works closely with our companies to think through how to retain, manage and reward talent. We’ve documented some of those basic guidelines in Performance Management at Startups.
This document includes tips on giving and receiving feedback and how to choose the right performance management tools for your company. If you have thoughts on this topic or feedback on this document, please contact Beth Scheer, Homebrew’s Head of Talent. We look forward to hearing your perspectives. As with the Compensation and Thoughts on Diversity resources, this is a living document that we will update as we get feedback and develop new perspectives.
November 1, 2016
“This is where I started Klout,” he said, and pointed to what basically looked like a storage locker in the middle of a Los Angeles courtyard. “My buddy owns this so I put a desk in here and started working with a bunch of developers in Singapore.” Both of us met Joe Fernandez, Klout’s CEO, early in that company’s history. But we hadn’t known just how humble its beginnings were. Now Joe and team are back in Los Angeles to start their next endeavor, Joymode, and taking the same judicious approach. And Homebrew is thrilled to have led their seed round, alongside other great funds and individuals.
WHO: Joe, Waynn and Keith came together around a vision of how technology could help people enjoy the real world, not just a screen in front of them. Having started multiple companies between them, as well as working in larger organizations such as Google, the three treat their company as their product and have emphasized building a diverse team of LA-based design, marketing and operations pros.
WHAT: Joymode is a membership-based service that gives you access to experience packages meant to be enjoyed as a family, as a couple or with friends or coworkers. For example, Backyard Movie Night delivers a projector, movie screen, lawnchairs, blankets and more (popcorn machine is optional, but highly recommended) right to your door. Each of the packages is picked up and dropped off, along with any instructions you need. The cost of membership and packages are a fraction of what you’d spend to buy all of the items included. So whether you’re tight on storage, don’t want to own as much, or want to try before you buy, Joymode is for you.
HOW: Available in Los Angeles to start, Joymode has a lot of moving parts. Merchandising to make sure there’s a mix of great evergreen experiences plus new seasonal or special offers. A marketplace that helps add special touches, such a photographer to your event. Backend operations to manage the flow of inventory around the city. And financial models to track utilization, depreciation and other key metrics. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it’s hard to duplicate. Which is one of the many reasons we love it.
WHY: Joymode’s origin stems from many years back when Joe was sharing a New York City apartment with his then girlfriend (now wife). Space and budget were tight, but they wished they could do more stuff without having to own it all. Years later (plus a marriage, a baby and a house!), Joe believed more than ever that the combination of shifting demographics, consumer purchase trends and mobile technology meant the time was right for Joymode. We believe as well, and their hundreds of beta members agree, too. Thousands of experience reservations have already been made using Joymode. Check out Joymode in LA, and soon in a city near you.
October 31, 2016
Becoming a parent changes everything. You soon realize that in addition to showing the world to your children, you also need to understand it through their eyes. And at Homebrew, we believe that technology can help make the lives of parents and caregivers easier while providing them with the satisfaction of knowing they’re doing a great job for their kids. The team at Winnie believes this as well and recently announced the completion of their seed financing.
WHO: We previously detailed the reasons behind our support of Sara and Anne. In the first few months of working together, their tenacity and thoughtfulness has become even more apparent as they build out their directory of family-friendly places. Since Winnie’s founding, they’ve also hired other talented engineers away from great companies to join their team. Being able to attract passive job seekers because of your reputation and mission is a great leading indicator.
WHAT: A product to help parents navigate the world around them with their children. Accessible via an iOS app and the web ( with Android coming soon), Winnie now covers over 1 million locations across 100 cities.
HOW: Winnie’s place directory is unlike any other geographic list available today. It blends data collected via various technical methods with community-augmented inputs. The team’s experience at Quora, Twitter, Google, Reddit and elsewhere, provides a great background in combining machines and humans.
WHY: “Millennials do ___ differently” is an overused explanation for real generational changes driven by technology. Fact is, we see a variety of product opportunities arising from a shift in consumer expectations. theSkimm for news. Chime for banking. Joymode for experiences. And now, Winnie for parenting.
So if you have a child in your life, as a parent, relative, or just friend, we recommend you check out Winnie.
October 23, 2016
Homebrew believes that software democratizes industries, helping practitioners rethink what’s possible and providing consumers with previously inaccessible products and services. Perlara founder, Ethan Perlstein, wouldn’t just agree with that statement, he’s built his company based upon it. Last week’s announcement of a partnership with Novartis put Perlara into the spotlight, but we’ve been fortunate enough to work with Ethan since our supporting investment earlier this year.
Perlara works with drug companies to push forward research into diseases previously believed to be too rare to cure (in other words, previously the costs to cure would outstrip the commercial value of a cure). Ethan’s double bottom line approach to business also motivated him to organize Perlara as a Public Benefit Corporation. We’re excited to watch Perlara build a business with both value and merit.
Congrats Ethan and Perlara!
October 20, 2016
When evaluating an investment, we don’t just ask ourselves about putting dollars behind the founders. We also challenge ourselves as to whether the team’s vision of the world is one that we want to put sweat and reputation behind. In Cardiogram, that question was answered easily. Using sensor data coming off Apple Watches and other fitness hardware, Cardiogram uses deep learning tech to help identify markers of chronic conditions and create positive habits across fitness, sleep and stress management.
Health technology needs to be approached with care and responsibility. There’s a cost to getting this wrong. Cardiogram founders Brandon Ballinger and Johnson Hsieh take this seriously, and are exceptional technologists who first worked together at Google. Brandon also participated in the intense HealthCare.gov rescue team and co-founded fraud detection pioneer, Sift Science.
Cardiogram joins several other Homebrew portfolio family members who also leverage machine learning atop previously under-utilized or unavailable data sets to solve real world problems. We’re proud to announce our supporting investment in Cardiogram, alongside A16Z BioFund and prominent angel investors. Get Cardiogram in the App Store today!
September 7, 2016
We met Jeff Weinstein over two years ago and knew immediately that he and the Wagon team were going to be relentless in achieving their mission of making it easier for teams to collaborate on data analysis. They had felt the pain firsthand and knew exactly what customers like them would need to address the pain. And address that pain they did, with over 1500 companies and several thousand analysts using Wagon regularly. When the opportunity came to apply their skills and insights to solving collaboration problems at a much larger platform, they knew that their mission would be best realized there. Congratulations to Jeff and the entire Wagon team on joining Box! We’re grateful to have been a supporting partner in your journey.
September 7, 2016
Founder <> Market fit is an especially important criterion of Homebrew’s investment strategy. When we made a supporting investment earlier this year in Jon Steinberg & his over-the-top video network Cheddar, we knew the fit was incredibly strong. And their early growth - in team, in viewership and in quality content - points to a very exciting future. Others see that future as well, as yesterday Cheddar announced its next round of financing, an additional $10 million. Congrats to Cheddar as it builds the financial and lifestyle video network for the millennial generation!
August 11, 2016
We’re thrilled to continue our support of Honor in their Series B raise. Having known Honor CEO, Seth Sternberg, for many years we made our initial investment confident the company would build not just a successful business but an amazing culture. And they’ve done just that - leading the way on creating great jobs for caregivers, hiring political activists into leadership positions, embracing diversity with gusto, and partnering with leading organizations such as the National Parkinson’s Foundation. As Honor expands beyond the San Francisco and Los Angeles markets, we know their mission of bringing high quality at-home care to seniors will continue to lead the industry. If you also believe in Honor’s mission, they’re hiring.
August 2, 2016
Like most seed stage VCs, Homebrew spends a lot of time helping our portfolio companies think about how to hire and retain the best talent. This often includes some very tactical conversations about how to pay employees, and more importantly, how to think about overall compensation philosophy. If you have company core values identified (you should!), your compensation philosophy needs to be aligned with those values.
We’ve put together some basic guidelines for startups as you think about “all things compensation.” The guide covers base salary, equity, negotiation, thoughts around compensation philosophy and best practices for closing candidates.
We look forward to hearing your feedback on this document: Compensation at Startups. We try to make these resources available to all entrepreneurs, not just those we’ve backed, in hopes of learning alongside all of you. Like our Thoughts on Diversity, this will be a living document that we’ll edit and update as we learn and get feedback. We look forward to a thoughtful and productive conversation about this topic. Don’t hesitate to contact Beth Scheer, Homebrew’s Head of Talent, if we can help your startup think about these issues.
July 14, 2016
The amount of data generated, collected, stored and analyzed every single day has reached epic proportions. But many problems in leveraging that data effectively still exist. Finding needed data, combining datasets and collaborating on data are still exceedingly difficult, despite all of the data analysis platforms and tools that have been created in recent years. data.world is building a comprehensive, collaborative and powerful open data platform designed specifically to help more people do more with more data.
We’ve known founding CEO, Brett Hurt, for many years through his prior successful startup, Bazaarvoice, and were not going to miss the chance to partner with him yet again. Brett and the powerhouse co-founding team of Bryon Jacob, Matt Laessig and Jon Loyens are committed to not only building a business of value, but also one of merit. Their vision is for data.world to enable meaningful insights in education, healthcare, finance and many other disciplines. The company’s status as a public benefit corporation is evidence of the team’s desire to transform the data community and help solve global problems. We’re incredibly proud to be amongst the investors supporting data.world in its quest to provide the open infrastructure for finding meaning in data. Visit data.world to get your invitation to the network.
June 21, 2016
Like many companies, Plaid was born from personal frustration experienced by the startup’s founders. Zach Perret and William Hockey were working on a mobile application that required consumers to share their credit card spending data, but Zach and Will struggled to find a way to easily and reliably access the data that was needed. And so the idea for Plaid was born.
Since then, Plaid has become the data infrastructure that virtually every modern financial application relies upon to connect to bank accounts and to innovate in the financial services industry. We’re extremely happy to continue our support of the company by participating in its $44 million Series B financing led by Goldman Sachs Investment Partners. If you’re excited about democratizing financial services for consumers and businesses, join the incredible team at Plaid.
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