February 22, 2022
Drivably recently announced its acquisition by public software company ACV, as car dealers increasingly leverage software not just for ‘brochure-ware’ websites, but for every part of the sales process. At Homebrew, we believe that software is enabling and empowering the world, including ‘traditional’ industries, at an increasing velocity. Congratulations to the Drivably team for anticipating this opportunity and joining ACV.
February 20, 2022
The manufacturing industry didn’t “need” computers to get started but they’ve embraced technology quickly over the past decades. One of the most recent opportunities for improvement is using applied computer vision for quality control, traceability and efficiency. Overview, founded by ex-Tesla engineers, had built these systems for their previous employer and now is bringing it to everyone else. Factory owners are embracing the new capabilities enthusiastically and that’s why Overview recently raised a $10m Series A to help grow its team and expand its customer base.
It’s always exciting to see a team predict the future and then go build it. Oh, and they’re hiring.
February 16, 2022
One of the most rewarding aspects of running a venture firm is seeing the community of founders you’ve backed support one another along the way. Often the motivation is just paying it forward or paying it back - they all know how difficult company building can be and want to share information or lessons learned. But sometimes these relationships deepen to the point of collaboration.
Today one such collaboration made itself public with the announcement by Bowery Farming that it has acquired Traptic, a startup focused on robotics-assisted harvesting of fruit and produce. As fortunate seed investors in both of these teams we know how valuable bringing Traptic’s IP into Bowery’s platform will be to the future of food. Bowery, already the leading vertical farming company, has incredible growth ahead, and this marks its expansion from leafy greens to a broader set of fruits and vegetables. We can’t wait for the day where the majority of items in our crispers are Bowery-grown!
If helping to build the future of farming where technology helps grow organic, high quality, low climate impact food, Bowery is hiring.
February 11, 2022
At Homebrew we’ve stayed a very small group by design, believing at the earliest stages of a company, continuity of relationship between the investor and founders is essential to preserve trust and context. But sometimes growing the team isn’t just about adding another set of hands, but a different set of experiences, interests and capabilities. And that’s what we had the chance to do in early 2019 when Kate Stern joined Homebrew. We mutually anticipated it would be a three year role, after which Kate could decide if she liked investing or wasn’t ready to leave the world of operating (she joined us from 5+ years at Uber). During this period we, and the Homebrew founders, have benefited tremendously from Kate’s work. So it felt appropriate as she gets ready to leave the firm to celebrate her and share her reflections with us.
Homebrew: Looking back at our “Welcome Kate” blog post three years ago, what were you thinking at the time. What was the process of joining us like from your end?
Kate Stern: First of all, it’s hard to believe that was three whole years ago - time has really flown! Thinking back…
Normal first day nerves! I’d been at Uber for almost five years and it was so comfortable - any new role would have felt like a big change for me, but moving into the venture world felt particularly intimidating. VC is a relatively opaque industry, and it was hard to know what to expect. I’m so grateful to have gotten the chance to really apprentice alongside the two of you! In those first few weeks, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, so I just shadowed you two in everything to try to figure out what I was supposed to be doing.
Once I gained a little more confidence, I was blown away by the pace of learning. There’s so much context required to really understand portfolio companies, and there’s no real way to learn it without diving in head first. This is even harder when it comes to evaluating new companies and learning what great investments look like. In one day, you’ll have to develop a strong opinion about a dozen different industries. In this job, I really learned how to learn… and learn quickly.
The hardest thing though was honing my own point of view on good companies. At the seed stage, no matter how much you know about an industry or a founder, you’re still taking a real bet. Developing my own convictions independent of how hot a deal was or even how excited you two were about a company was challenging, but also the most rewarding part of the job. It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s fun to compare where I am now versus where I was three years ago.
On top of all this, I was settling into San Francisco. I’d moved out for Homebrew after nearly ten years in New York, and the east coast / west coast culture shock is real!
Homebrew: Venture capital is no longer as opaque as it was 10 years ago, but a lot of what gets shared is pro-VC content marketing more than the real day-to-day reality. Once you started actually doing the work, how did reality compare to #VCTwitter?
KS: So much of what is shared about venture, especially on Twitter, is an endless string of wins. Of course I knew that wasn’t the whole picture, but there were definitely some things I needed to adjust to.
The best parts of venture capital are pretty well advertised, and I can say now that they really do live up to the hype. When it comes down to it, much of my time at Homebrew has been spent talking to incredibly smart founders tackling really hard problems and building their lives’ work. That passion and energy is so fun to be around - I’m thankful to all the founders who let us come along for the ride. Most of the tech world only gets to know founders once they’ve made it; seeing them when they just have an idea and how they make it come to life is as inspiring as it gets.
On the flip side, though, one of the hardest and least talked about aspects of venture capital is how many disappointments there are. We all spend more time talking about our wins than our losses, but the reality of early stage investing is that many of our portfolio companies don’t become runaway successes. It’s difficult to see teams I’ve built close relationships with not get that massive outcome they’d hoped for - it’s definitely one of the worst parts of the job.
The other thing that can be a bit of a surprise is that venture capital can be pretty lonely, especially compared to working at a startup or company. As an operator, you’re always working with a team, and most of your success is a function of your contribution to that team. At Uber, I had projects where I worked alongside the same group day in, day out, for months or longer. It’s very different in venture. Of course we’re all on the same team, and we discuss companies and learn from each other, but it’s certainly more individual work than on the operating side. It’s just the nature of the job. I was super grateful that our dynamic at Homebrew was so collaborative and supportive, but it doesn’t always look like that. And I was so happy to get involved with organizations like All Raise that specifically aim to build community and make venture feel a little less lonely.
Homebrew: You had both finance (Goldman) and operating (Uber) experience prior to joining Homebrew. For someone earlier in their career path and trying to decide whether to jump into venture right now versus getting some additional experience prior, would you recommend one path over the other?
KS: When I was first thinking about going into venture, I used to ask this question all the time, hoping there was some ‘magic path’ that would make it easy to break into venture capital. Of course, the secret is that there’s no one perfect route into a job in venture. I know great investors from all kinds of backgrounds, from finance to operating or even something totally different.
For me, my time at Uber was crucial to building the network and skills I needed for venture. Since we invest at the earliest stage of a startup’s life, the product sense I learned on the operating side has proven much more useful than being able to build out a detailed financial model. Of course, if I was a growth-stage venture investor, the reverse might be true.
For folks early in their careers considering their next step, I’ll pass along the best career advice I have ever received: don’t overthink your ten year plan - just go where you think you’ll learn and have fun. Early in my career, I might have thought this advice was silly. But looking back, the work I’m most proud of (and the work that’s advanced my career the most) has happened when I followed my interests and optimized for learning, not a long-term plan. We spend a huge percentage of our lives at work; spend your time doing something you like, and you’ll end up in a place you’re happy with.
Homebrew: You’re still a VC until 5pm Friday the 11th, so let’s make sure we’re using this opportunity to promote a portfolio company. Pick one and tell us why it’s the next decamegacorn!!!!
KS: This is a tough one - it’s so hard to pick just one story, and even harder to pick just one company! Some of the most rewarding work I’ve done in these past three years has been the time spent learning from our founders. Their passion for whatever they’re building is contagious, and it’s so fun to see the world through their eyes.
One standout among many is how much I’ve enjoyed spending time with the Noyo team. This may surprise you, but before Noyo, I hadn’t thought too much about what needed to happen on the back end when I enrolled in health insurance. When I first joined Homebrew, Shannon and Dennis really took the time to ensure that we all understood the scope and urgency of the problem they were solving - the status quo for benefits enrollment not only is slow and wastes significant resources, but also leads to costly and complicated errors where people aren’t actually enrolled. Building a universal API for benefits is a true game changer, and there’s nothing like it on the market. Only in venture can you meet people who see this sort of problem, recognize the massive positive impact from solving it, and then go do it! They’re one of many such stories in our portfolio, and I’m so excited to see them grow into a huge business.
Homebrew: When you joined Homebrew you were upfront about wanting to use the experience to figure out whether venture was right for you at this point or whether the pull of operating - really building a company with a great team - was still strong for you. Now that the three years are done, tell the world what you decided! [drumroll sound effect]
KS: I’m heading back to building! I’ve loved my time on the investing side, but after a few years of working alongside founders in a more hands-off role, I’ve found myself wanting to get back in the weeds tackling tough problems alongside a team.
I’m excited to say that I’ll be joining Fuzzy as VP of Strategy and Operations to help Zubin, Eric, and the rest of the team build the go-to resource for pet parents. On a personal level, I’m excited to build the kind of product that I’ve always wanted as a dog parent (and if you know me, you know how much I love my dog!).
It’s also a business I’m really bullish on (now that I’ve been able to hone my investing POV!). Two trends I’ve been really interested in are the consumerization of health and wellness and the digitization of primary care. I think these trends apply to pet health too.
Fuzzy aims to be a go-to resource for pet parents that is engaging, accessible 24/7, and built on the advice of veterinarians. There are 183 million pets in the US and only 118,000 vets to serve them. Scaling quality care is good for pets, pet parents, and veterinarians. I think a huge business that capitalizes on these trends is inevitable, and I think Fuzzy is going to be that company.
Thanks for everything you brought to Homebrew, Kate!
January 27, 2022
You’ve surely heard the phrase ‘software is eating the world’ to describe the role of technology intertwining itself with every part of our lives. At Homebrew, we certainly believe this as well, although sometimes we’ll reframe it as ‘software enables the world’ (which is, yes, decidedly less catchy). And we love investing in startups that are enabling the enablers - that is, helping companies of all sizes to increase the quality and velocity of their software development. Crowdbotics is one such startup and it just recently announced itself and a $22 million Series A fundraise.
WHO: Anand Kulkarni started Crowdbotics in 2017 to build apps faster. Previously he founded Lead Genius to provide AI-accelerated prospecting for sales teams. Crowdbotics extends on his interest in combining software with human assistance.
WHAT: Crowdbotics dramatically lowers the barrier to app building for everyone from solo entrepreneurs to large corporations, even in heavily regulated industries like health care and government. They do this via a modularized framework where developers can use a React Native and Django library to generate Git-hosted code output that’s open to your customization. And if you don’t have developers available, Crowdbotics has a cloud labor force of app integrators to do the ‘last mile’ work for you.
HOW: Serious products need real code meaning that low-code solutions simply can’t create most of the software that people want to build. Their approach – letting teams build with real code, directly in Git, using a growing library of prebuilt parts and knowledge – enables creators to actually scale on the platform rather than outgrow it.
WHY: “Software enables the world” means that not just everyone becoming a customer of software companies but making it easier to create or customize your own software. Crowdbotics seeks to democratize the act of software development.
And they’re hiring in all roles (remote welcome)!
January 26, 2022
What happens when something that’s difficult to get right also becomes urgent? You look for expertise to assist. And the magic to a software-enabled world is the expertise can be delivered personalized, at scale and globally. Humu’s products help organizations build healthy and productive work habits and now that its business is hitting scale, the company is proud to announce a Series C fundraise of $60 million.
So with a mission that we all want to see come true, maybe it’s time for you to join them too, because they’re hiring
December 24, 2021
As an investor, some of the most exciting first meetings are when a founding team opens your eyes to an opportunity hiding in plain sight and clearly expresses why they are the best team to address the opportunity. That was the feeling we had when we first met Jesse and Stephan, the founders of Lumi. Their insight was that packaging is the new storefront in an online commerce driven world, and that the existing packaging supply chain was too costly and inefficient to deals with the demands of modern commerce companies. And as we've said many times, it was evident even then that no one in the world loves boxes and tape more than Jesse and Stephan! It's why we're so pleased that Lumi is joining Narvar, a leader in the post-purchase experience. Together the companies will continue to make the entire post-purchase commerce experience one that delights customers. Congratulations to Jesse, Stephan and the Lumi team for continuing to pursue their original, massive vision.
December 21, 2021
Everyone who starts a company does so because they believe there’s a chance to be the outlier. To be the company which defies probabilities and builds something enduring. And at Homebrew we’ve been fortunate to back founders who have accomplished this already and many more who are on their journey to this point. But sometimes you see the real character of founders not when everything is going well but when you need to make a final choice about going forward or choosing another option.
We had the pleasure of supporting Akshay, Jake and Scott of Walrus as they built their startup and ultimately, their decision to join Airtable. We saw how they ran a process. We saw how they treated their investors and team. And what we saw were three people who were as impressive, smart and ethical as the founders we originally backed. We know they’ll do great work at Airtable and continue to make an impact in the tech industry for years and years to come.
December 14, 2021
If web1 made marketplaces digital and web2 made them efficient, then web3 is further transforming them to push marketplace ownership to the participants as opposed to just the middleman. Braintrust is doing this on behalf of the world’s best freelancers and has already gained more than 700,000 members and hundreds of enterprise customers.
This month Braintrust saw another vote of confidence in its model, consummating a $100 million token sale to tech investors Coatue and Tiger Global. You can learn more about the sale, Braintrust’s growth and how to hire talent from the Braintrust platform via the company’s update
December 14, 2021
Being part of the global, modern fintech industry means more than just integrating a payment gateway into your website. It means being aware of and compliant with transaction risk and regulatory frameworks. When it comes to anti-money laundering activities, the state of the art is now smart workflow software, not just people manually reviewing transactions and filing inordinate amounts of paperwork. Hummingbird is the platform to make it all work and we’re excited for its announcement of a $30m Series B round to continue its tremendous growth.
Founded by a combination of software talent and regulatory gurus, Hummingbird is at the intersection of design thinking, SaaS and financial innovation. If this combination sounds appealing to you, the company is hiring.
November 22, 2021
What do you call achieving more than 5x your signup goal for a product launch? We’d call it market demand! The Graphite team opened their waitlist this week to all engineers after several successful months in closed pilot, and, wow, people are interested. We’ve been fortunate enough to see the story unfold from its earliest days and are now happy to announce our seed investment in Graphite.
WHO: Founded by three college friends who had gone their own ways professionally before recombining forces to found Graphite, the team struck us from very early on as not just talented, but mission-driven. When we first met, Greg, Merrill, and Tomas had a long list of ideas for what their initial product could be, but were 100% focused on what the broader goal was: higher quality software.
WHAT: From their days working across a variety of high performing tech companies like Airbnb, Facebook, Google and Square, they had seen how various engineering teams approached code at scale. And their own startup experiences (plus those of their friends) helped them see there were tool gaps for modern development teams. They knew they wanted to close those gaps. To Graphite, software “quality” is a broad term that incorporates production speed, code quality, localization and internationalization, and reliability. We believe this is a company that can one day span all those areas of interest.
HOW: But you have to start somewhere, and the Graphite team picked an area close to their hearts: code review. Stacked changes (“stacked diffs”) was an approach that Facebook used internally and the Graphite team sought to recreate at their own company for their own internal development. But then they kept getting asked by friends for a version of the tool. And so it became their first product.
WHY: The Graphite team is excited by the growth in software engineering worldwide and the fact that it’s not just “technology companies” these days that write and adopt software. Every industry is becoming a consumer or creator of software and Graphite wants this code to be effective, reliable and high quality so that the engineers can spend more time building together and less time fixing.
If Graphite sounds like a product you’d like to use, or a company you’d like to join, you can sign up for their waitlist, follow along or join their Slack
November 22, 2021
A changing climate has dramatic and compounding implications for lives and businesses globally. Kettle exists to try and solve for one of the major infrastructure issues we are facing: pricing risk when ‘once in a lifetime’ climate events are happening annually. Starting with wildfire, Kettle is building modern reinsurance underwriting platforms for the evolving world. And now they have another $25 million to invest into their team and business, having just announced their Series A financing. From the first moment we met this startup we knew Homebrew had to be involved, and are excited to have the opportunity to continue our partnership with Kettle into this financing.
If Kettle’s mission excites you as a customer, partner or potential team member, you can learn more here.
November 22, 2021
When you’ve got product/market fit, capital can help you grow. That might be the most basic sentence ever, but it also describes Z1 and their fast Series A fundraise, following a seed round earlier this year. Z1 is building for a huge underserved market - teens and young adults who are trying to begin their financial lives. Starting with the Brazilian market, they’ve seen 30% month-over-month growth in their customer base and nearly 40% month-over-month increase in revenue. Astounding results for a young company making a big impact.
So if this sounds like a mission and company you’d be interested in joining, we should mention, they’re hiring.
November 17, 2021
There’s often a magic moment when we hear great pitches from founders - when their vision clicks with us and leads us to say “of course, that’s exactly the way things should work”. That was precisely our response when the Masterful AI team shared their insights and vision for a smarter, faster way to build more accurate machine learning models. We’d seen the challenges of building machine learning models when we were operators, and much more recently in working with many of our SaaS and fintech companies. And as ML models make more and more decisions that impact our lives, it’s increasingly important to make sure those models are unbiased and accurate. It was an easy decision to lead Masterful’s seed financing and to add to our portfolio of developer-focused product companies.
WHO: Tom Rikert, Sam Wookey and Yaoshiang Ho have AI research roots at MIT, Stanford, and Google, and have shipped products to millions of users at Microsoft and YouTube. As a group, they’ve dealt with the frustration of trying to develop production-ready ML models. Those practical experiences, combined with their extensive academic backgrounds, prepared them to build Masterful.
WHAT: Masterful is creating a smarter, more automated way to build ML models. The AutoML platform they announced recently reduces the data labeling required and shortens the time needed to achieve a performant model. Masterful can be integrated with just a few lines of code via a simple API. On average, Masterful can reduce model error by at least 40% and shorten deployment time by up to 50%.
HOW: Masterful helps build better models by using unlabeled, augmented, and synthetic data to improve models and then automatically test and tune model training loops. It all starts with tackling the most expensive and inefficient part of model development - getting accurately labeled training data. While some labeled data is necessary, Masterful’s reduces the amount of labeled data required to train a model by 10x. It combines small amounts of labeled data with unlabeled, augmented, and synthetic data that can be managed by code instead of people. Then Masterful eliminates manual experimentation for testing different datasets and training algorithms. Instead, Masterful automatically tests and evaluates a suite of training algorithms and hyperparameters, ultimately producing an optimal training policy and a visual explanation of what was chosen and why. All of this is possible because of the deep learning pipeline at the core of Masterful’s platform.
WHY: The work that Masterful is doing is critical because it modernizes the primitive way in which ML models get built. We’re at a moment in time when machines are going to start making ever more important decisions for us. And those decisions will impact countless lives. Masterful eliminates the time delays, costs, and potential for bias inherent in human data labeling. With more accurate ML models, we can feel better about the decisions being made without human input and avoid the catastrophic mistakes that can result from less sophisticated model building approaches.
If you’re looking to decrease labeling costs and increase model accuracy, you can get a free report here showing what Masterful can do for your model. And if Masterful’s mission is compelling to you, the company is hiring.
November 16, 2021
When we originally invested in Monograph, the idea of modern practice operations management software built for architects by architects immediately struck us. Since then, that idea has also resonated with thousands of architects who have used Monograph’s Practice Operations platform to execute over $500 million in building projects. It’s that reception from the market that enabled Monograph to raise $20 million in Series B financing to further its growth and continue to expand the leading Practice Operations solution for design professionals.
If you’re looking to join a design-driven product company that believes people are at the center of the built environment, Monograph is hiring and would love for you to come over, challenge them and help shape the future at the company.
November 15, 2021
There’s something special about a company IPO. Beyond the economic outcome for the founders, team and investors, a market debut means a company now joins a tradition of public ownership. Homebrew started in early 2013 and while we’ve been fortunate to have some meaningful portfolio exits, Weave is the first startup we’ve backed to complete an IPO*, so it will now always hold a special place in our memory. Thank you to Brandon and his cofounders for including us in your journey. And congratulations to all Weave team members present and past.
*We’ve participated in other IPOs as an investor who received private stock as part of an acquisition or other event.
November 9, 2021
Lots of our work is about relationships. We originally became supporting investors in collaborative design platform Projector because of a decade plus friendship with its CEO Trevor O’Brien. Today, a durable mutual admiration between Trevor and Medium’s CEO Ev Williams has resulted in the Projector team joining Medium! It’s always about people wanting to work with other good people.
In this case, Trevor becomes Medium’s Chief Product Officer and a Board member. We know he and the Projector team will make a tremendous impact ongoing to the Medium platform. Huzzah!
November 3, 2021
Those who turn to their religion as a source of peace, wellness and inspiration have often been underserved by technology. Hallow has changed that, bringing a modern mobile application to the Catholic community. Supporting meditation, prayer and sleep, Hallow has grown quickly with a devoted audience, and investors have stepped up to support this success. The company today announced its $40 million Series B which it will put to use across a variety of product, team and marketing efforts. So if you’re interested in the combination of faith and technology, Hallow is hiring.
October 24, 2021
Data exists in unexpected places, waiting to be unlocked by technology. The founders of Biobot Analytics knew wastewater contained information which could be tremendously valuable in understanding and solving public health problems. The first biomarkers they worked on were opioids, helping cities evaluate and direct efforts to measure their impacted populations. Shortly thereafter the team broadened to viruses, rising to the challenge at hand: COVID detection. Now with those successes, the startup has raised an additional $20 million to expand its viral detection to influenza and continue deploying its existing services throughout the country.
The team at Biobot, now 40+ talented folks, is growing quickly so if using sewage to create a new understanding of population health analytics sounds like a mission for you, they’re hiring.
October 22, 2021
The Cardiogram team built sophisticated heart health monitoring applications compatible with a large number of consumer wearable devices. They knew that over the next decade software would allow for deeper insights into one’s health and this data could be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from fitness to life-saving interventions and diagnosis.
This week Cardiogram announced it’s been acquired by ilumivu, a platform utilized by over 70 health systems and universities to power decision support in health care and health research. As a result, the company’s technology will become available to a much wider population and the Cardiogram team will have the chance to continue expanding its breadth of impact. Onward!
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