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How to Think About Performance Management at Startups

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.

Backing Joymode: Own the Experience, Not the Stuff

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.

Winnie’s Family-Friendly Directory Now Covers 100 Cities. Its Seed Round Will Help Cover The Globe!

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.

Software’s Future in Disease Research: Our Investment in Perlara

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!

Your Heart Beats 102,000 Times a Day. Cardiogram Helps Make Sure It Doesn’t Stop

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!

Hitching this Wagon to Box

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.

No Holes In Cheddar’s Growth; Raises $10 Million

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!

Honor Raises Series B to Continue Helping Seniors

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.

How to Think About Compensation at Your Startup

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.

data.world: The Network for Open Sharing of Data

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.

Plaid Raises $44 Million to Power Financial Services Innovation

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.

Winnie: Helping Parents & Kids Explore the World Together

June 12, 2016

Before Homebrew makes any investment, we ask ourselves “do we want to put sweat and reputation behind this team every day?” In some ways the wire transfer is the easy part; it’s signing up to go to work on behalf of the founders for a decade or more that really matters. With Winnie, the answer was indisputable. We’re thrilled to partner with this team and lead its pre-seed round.

Our ties to Winnie CEO, Sara Mauskopf, run deep. She worked with Hunter at YouTube and with Satya at Twitter (before also holding a product leadership role at Postmates). We knew firsthand the strength of her experience, breadth of her talents and overall grit. Her CPO cofounder, Anne Halsall, has a similarly impressive background with time spent at Google, Inkling, Quora and Postmates. And we love seeing former coworkers launch new companies together.

And so what is Winnie? Whether you describe it as a “clever new social networking app built specifically for parents,” or an app that “helps find family-friendly places, share their experiences,” Sara and Anne might simply tell you it’s a company designed to build tools that help make parents feel better, not worse, about being moms and dads. And as parents ourselves, we get that.

Homebrew also believes that your first product is your company. The Winnie founders take this to heart. We saw them seek out diverse beta testers and opinions, not just ask 30 parents in tech for feedback. We see them focused on building a team that doesn’t look like the standard tech company. So yeah, it’s easy to get up every day and put sweat and reputation behind Sara, Anne and Winnie.

Check out the Winnie app on iOS.

Primary Raises $8 Million for an Ecommerce Brand That Lets Kids Shine

June 7, 2016

A brilliant team, fantastic products, a stellar business and a strongly resonating identity. Primary embodies all these qualities and today proudly announces its Series A financing. As the leading new brand for beautiful, simple, everyday clothing that lets kids shine, Primary delivers a powerful combination of quality, value and delight. And it happens to be a high revenue and high margin business delivering growth without gimmicks. We’re so happy to continue our support of Galyn Bernard, Christina Carbonell and the entire Primary team. Find out why so many families have become loyal customers of Primary by using promotion code “homebrew25” for 25% off and free shipping on your order.

theSkimm Raises $8 Million to Help You Be Smarter About the World

June 6, 2016

Many people once looked at theSkimm and saw *just* a daily newsletter. But founders Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg knew they were building an audience company, one which helped its community become smarter while fitting neatly into their daily routines. Increasingly, those daily routines involve video. And with the announcement of the company’s $8 million Series B financing, led by 21st Century Fox, theSkimm is poised to bring its vision to several new platforms. We’re proud to continue as partners of conviction for what is an incredible team and business. Sign up for the newsletter, download the app and join the team. Find out why over 3.5 million people start their days with theSkimm!

Pump Up the Volume: RadioPublic Spins Out of PRX to Rethink Radio

May 20, 2016

We met PRX founding CEO Jake Shapiro several years ago as he was helping start Matter, an incubator and fund focused on the media industry. Jake’s a perpetual motion machine, always thinking about how to help scale content and build technologies to support media and the communities around creators. When Jake shared his plans to found RadioPublic as a standalone company to push non-music audio forward (no, we won’t call it podcasting), there was little doubt that Homebrew wanted to be involved in some way. With this week’s launch announcement, we’re playing a supporting role alongside a stellar group of tech and media investors. We believe in disrupting industries with love, not contempt, and RadioPublic is a perfect example.

Chime Raises $9 Million For Smarter Banking

May 20, 2016

Our Bottom Up Economy investment thesis at Homebrew is predicated on the idea that technology is an incredible democratizer, delivering economic value and productivity gains to people and industries that historically haven’t been able to benefit from it. And in no industry is that more true than in financial services. From the beginning, Chime has been focused on the idea that it shouldn’t cost you to spend your own money, and that managing your finances should be simple, fast and rewarding. We’re so pleased to continue our support of Chime in its recent $9 million financing. The team and company are quietly (and successfully) building smarter banking for the mobile generation, helping members save money and lead healthier financial lives. Sign up and see why we believe that Chime is the future of banking.

Even Raises $9 Million Series A to Deliver Financial Stability

April 16, 2016

Even, an Oakland-based startup ambitiously seeking to help hourly workers ‘smoothe’ their wages in order to provide financial stability, quietly raised its $9m Series A recently. Homebrew was proud to invest in this financing, following our earlier supporting investment during the seed round. It’s been especially exciting to see the Even proposition appeal to both workers AND employers. Congratulations to the Even team on this significant milestone.

Managed by Q Announces $25 Million Series B Financing

April 4, 2016

About 18 months ago we announced our initial seed investment in Managed by Q. At that time, its vision for an “operating system for physical office space” seemed at odds with a business that was trying to provide good jobs to Operators who clean offices, deliver supplies and complete repairs. But today, the vision that the founders had is becoming reality in the form of a business with not only hundreds of employees and customers and sticky, recurring, high margin revenue, but a platform for connecting offices to all of the physical and digital services they need to run effectively and efficiently.

We’re proud to continue our support of the company, alongside new investors, GV and Kapor Capital, with a $25 million Series B financing. In a tough fundraising environment, the ability of Q to complete a significant financing with a stellar group of investors is testament to the quality of the business AND company the team is building. Join the Q team, as an employee or customer. Welcome to the future of the office.

How to Think About Diversity at Your Startup

February 26, 2016

It’s never too early to think about how to create a diverse and inclusive workforce. We actively talk about this with Homebrew companies and have come up with some basic guidelines for thinking about “Diversity at Startups” to help them and you hire with diversity in mind during the early stages. Hopefully these guidelines and tips help you build more diverse teams and possibly help you discover some things about you and your colleagues along the way. Everyone has biases. Recognizing them can help you have an open mind, question your process and avoid hiring mistakes. The earlier you think about inclusion in the workplace, the better chance you’ll have for true innovation and success. We look forward to hearing your feedback on this document: http://bit.ly/HomebrewDiversity

Like our What Ifs 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.

Cheddar: The Business News Video Network for the Millennial Generation

February 22, 2016

The world of traditional media has been slow to evolve in the face of the obvious changes in the demographics of its potential audience. The millennial generation increasingly demands its media be geared towards its tastes and habits. But Business television is the as it has been for has for decades. That’s why Jon Steinberg, former President of Buzzfeed and CEO of Daily Mail US, started Cheddar. Cheddar is a live video news network focused on the businesses, products and technologies transforming the lives of millennials. It will be broadcast live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, like many traditional business broadcasts, but viewable through streaming services and connected televisions, without the need for a cable box. We couldn’t be happier to be supporting investors in Cheddar, helping Jon build the media company that he envisions.

If you’re interested in business, watch Cheddar when it launches later this year. If you want to work in the worlds of business and video, join the Cheddar team!

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