February 11, 2018
We’re thrilled to be a supporting investor in Loris.ai’s seed financing, a new company focused on helping companies and their employees be better prepared for challenging conversations. Don’t call these “soft skills” - active listening, empathy and communication authenticity are increasingly Must Haves, not Nice to Haves, to succeed in business. Loris CEO and co-founder, Nancy Lublin, previously confronted these issues in the most important environment one could imagine - running Crisis Text Line, the 24/7 text chat service for people in crisis and often contemplating suicide. Loris’s techniques and platform are based on Crisis Text Line but customized for commercial business environments and situations. Loris is working with a small group of successful, forward-thinking companies during its pilot period. If you know a company you think values hard conversations, you can nominate it for inclusion in the pilot on Loris’ website.
February 5, 2018
Last week Joymode announced its Series A financing in a pretty detailed TechCrunch article. It’s not often you see a reporter really dig into what makes a startup work, especially when the model is new, and for some, a bit unintuitive. But the idea of having access, via a subscription service, to stuff you want but don’t need to own makes a lot of sense when you start to look at the underused items in your closet/garage/etc. and at all the other things you would try or purchase if they were effectively 1/10th the price.
As the TechCrunch article explains, “ ‘You pay for a membership to access to this economy and then you pay for access to the goods,’ [Joymode CEO Joe] Fernandez told me as we walked through the company’s modest warehouse. Think of it like a Costco, but instead of owning, members get access for even a fraction of what an item would cost at even one of those discount warehouse retailers.”
We led Joymode’s seed round based on the strength of this vision and the founding team. The team’s execution of its vision has been a joy to watch. And now it’s a thrill to welcome Naspers Ventures to the company as the lead investor in the $14 million Series A financing.
January 1, 2018
The most anticipated news in the aerospace industry each December holiday season usually involves a sleigh and some reindeer, but in 2017, even Santa has his eyes opened to Elroy Air. The team at Elroy is developing a large-format autonomous aircraft focused on shipping weights of up to 150 lbs as far as 300 miles. This intersection of weight and distance is a particularly valuable segment of the global transportation and logistics market, since it can span multiple “middle distance” scenarios in shipping, infrastructure and public-sector needs.
Homebrew has been interested in the fringes of autonomy since we started the firm in 2013. Elroy marks our sixth startup in this technology vertical following our investments in Cruise, Shield, and three other unannounced companies. Elroy’s founders David and Clint display the same type of technical brilliance, market insights and operational resolve that we saw as critical in our earlier successes here. We’re proud to be supporting investors in Elroy along with a number of wonderful other firms. Oh, and they’re hiring.
November 14, 2017
TrueAccord, a software startup founded to make debt collection both more effective and kinder through the use of data, has raised an additional $22m to speed its growth. We’ve been supporting investors since their seed round, won over by the combination of mission and team, in particular CEO Ohad Samet’s depth of expertise. TrueAccord now manages the debt of nearly two million consumers and businesses, helping them navigate a challenging, emotional obligation with respect and flexibility. The team is growing quickly and has been exceptionally thoughtful in building an inclusive culture. If this sounds appealing to you, check out their open roles.
November 12, 2017
Earlier this month Perlara announced a $7.4 million financing, which includes Homebrew as a supporting investor. We believe in “learning by doing” so when our interest in Software + Biology put us in contact with Perlara’s founder, Ethan Perlstein, we jumped at the chance to become a small part of his cap table. Although we’re not frequent investors in these sorts of computational biology startups, we remain intrigued by the potential and Ethan was the type of person we wanted to include in our portfolio.
Perlara is a Public Benefit Corporation, which is a type of incorporation that allows a company to be both for-profit and for-purpose. In Perlara’s case, this means prioritizing PerlQuests, their model of finding cures for diseases previously deemed too rare or obscure to be prioritized by drug companies. We’ve seen first hand how the team’s commitment to this mission has begun producing high potential results. And we’ve also observed how determined Ethan is to build a company that’s not just profitable but meaningful.
You can learn more about Perlara here.
October 23, 2017
Coda announced itself to the world last Thursday with a big mission to create a new type of enterprise document. Coda is born into a world that’s cloud-based, online, collaborative, data-driven and iterative. One which isn’t merely “Office online.” Hunter worked with Coda’s CEO Shishir Mehrotra at YouTube and we’re thrilled to become one of his earliest investors, playing a small supporting role in Coda’s initial fundraise. Congratulations to the team on their launch! Don’t miss your chance to get an invite so you can check out for yourself the future of connected, multi-purpose documents.
October 2, 2017
The growth of podcasting means that new voices are being heard and new technology platforms are needed. One of the fastest growing companies in the market is Anchor, a NYC-based startup which is simply the easiest way to create, publish and discover audio content. Homebrew participated in its seed funding and we now continue our support in its $10 million Series A. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, check out Anchor’s service, and if you’d like to join the Anchor team they’re hiring in many roles.
September 28, 2017
You may have heard the phrase “software eats the world” to describe the emerging necessity of every enterprise to think like a technology company. At Homebrew, we made a slight tweak to the idea: software enables the world. Maybe it’s just semantics, but for us, this signifies that many of the industries that predate the PC will navigate the disruption caused by technology by leveraging it to avoid being consumed by it. Our 2014 seed stage investment in BuildingConnected was about believing the commercial construction industry was ready to be enabled by technology.
Since that time, BuildingConnected has accomplished a lot in their efforts to help commercial General Contractors and Subcontractors navigate the pre-construction process where tens or hundreds of millions of dollars are committed to each project. Every month, another 6,000+ projects are enabled by the BuildingConnected platform, representing over $75 Billion of spend. Kinda mindblowing, right?
But there’s still much more work to be done to serve construction customers. Construction is a $10 trillion industry, representing endless opportunity to expand the range of products BuildingConnected provides to its community. To support this expansion, the company has raised an additional $22 Million from Lightspeed Venture Partners and returning existing investors, including Homebrew.
We’ve been privileged to work alongside cofounders, Dustin DeVan and Jesse Pederson, as they’ve thoughtfully built their product, team and business. We look forward to continuing as partners in their journey and to investing in more startups enabling the world.
If you’re interested in joining BuildingConnected on it’s mission, they’re hiring.
September 28, 2017
Homebrew has long believed that the financial services industry needs to serve its customers better. As in many mainline industries, we’re confident that technology will be an enabler in financial services of democratized access, less expensive products and higher quality experiences. Our investments in Even, Gusto, Plaid, TrueAccord and several other financial technology companies are all representative of this thesis, as was our investment in Chime’s seed round in 2013. Chime is an innovation in banking, providing a debit card with no overdraft or monthly fees, and a savings account plus other tools to help you get financially fit.
We’re proud to have worked with Chris Britt and Ryan King, the cofounders of Chime, and the entire Chime team over the past 4 years. And we’re thrilled to have participated in the $18 million Series B financing that Chime just announced. Chime is well on its way towards changing how consumers think about and benefit from banking. If you’re as excited about the future of Chime as we are, join the team and be part of rethinking what it means to be a customer-centric financial services company.
September 28, 2017
When we first met David Haber and Peyton Sherwood, cofounders of Bond Street, their love of small business and their appreciation for the financial realities of running them was obvious. Over the last few years, they and the Bond Street team have worked relentlessly to provide fast and fair access to capital to thousands of small businesses. And now we’re excited for the team as they continue to pursue building a better financial future for customers as part of Goldman Sachs. Goldman is incredibly lucky to have such a talented and hard-working group within its new digital business. Congratulations to the Bond Street team! We’re thankful for having had the opportunity to sit alongside you in your adventure.
September 25, 2017
If healthcare represents 1/6th of the American economy and 51% of Americans are female, why is the state of women’s health education and wellness still so broken? We believe that technology isn’t just changing the invisible parts of healthcare infrastructure but the “last mile” as well - how millennial women seek, consume and act on the health information needed to make informed decisions about their bodies. This thesis drove our seed investment in Tia, which they announced today.
Who: Cofounders Carolyn Witte and Felicity Yost came together based on a shared vision for what a one-stop-shop for women’s health would look like. They knew it would be by women, for women, and this philosophy - of empowerment, of trust, of choice - would be the foundation of their brand and values. They’d each been part of organizations with very intentional cultures - Carolyn at Google and Felicity at Bridgewater - which helped shaped their thinking about building Tia, not just as a product but as a durable, important company.
What: Tia’s first product is a conversational app (available on iOS) that combines automated intelligent dialogue and human-assisted interactions, in a personal, private and safe environment, to help women get answers to questions about their reproductive and sexual health. Since launching the Tia app in June, there have been over 100,000 conversations initiated by women on the platform.
How: Tia’s data models seek to structure an understanding of each woman to provide trusted expertise but ultimately leave her in control of her health decisions. Over time, Tia’s responses will grow more personalized to each woman’s health history and preferences. Tia also plans to expand into adjacent health and wellness categories of interest to millennial women. Tia’s data models and medical information are overseen by wellness professionals to ensure the quality of answers.
Why: We believe that millennial consumers - and successive generations - are fundamentally different consumers who seek brands that represent their values and who will use technology to interact with these products in an ongoing relationship. To date, Homebrew has made multiple investments against this thesis, for example theSkimm helps make its audience smarter and Chime helps make its customers more financially secure. Tia is helping make its users healthier. We believe each major consumer vertical is going to be rebuilt with millennials, especially millennial women, at the forefront. And we’re proud to partner with Tia as it addresses women’s health and wellness.
If Tia’s mission sounds like one you want to be a part of, they’re hiring engineers and writers here in San Francisco.
August 14, 2017
As a follow-up to our Performance Management at Startups document, we wanted to provide some guidance on another critical issue related to successful company team building: onboarding. This document gives your company the basic tools to get new employees set up for success on day one and throughout their entire tenure. Onboarding is not a finite experience. It’s the employee’s entire journey to gain the knowledge, skills, and behavior to be an informed member of a company’s community. We’ve documented some of those basic guidelines here in Onboarding at Startups.
The guide includes how to make an employee’s first day run smoothly and how to set up basic systems that scale. We’ve made recommendations for three onboarding software systems after demoing and reviewing nearly a dozen of them in hopes of saving you some time. If you have thoughts on this topic or feedback on this document, please contact Beth Scheer, Homebrew’s Head of Talent. As with the Compensation, Performance Management and Diversity resources, this is a living document that we’ll update as we get feedback and develop new perspectives.
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.
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