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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
February 21, 2016
The digital world is riddled with communications and social media in the form for text and images. Yet, the power and intimacy of hearing someone’s voice remains undeniable. What if you could democratize audio broadcasting and make it as simple to record and listen as it is to post to and read Facebook or Twitter? It was these notions that led Mike Mignano and Nir Zicherman to create Anchor, an app that enables public radio for and by the people. We’re in awe of the early response to Anchor, blown away as users of the product and proud to be supporting investors in the company.
January 18, 2016
We’re thrilled to have been an early supporter of Estimote, which we can now share as the company announced its $10.7m Series A fundraise. Besides the quality of the team, we were struck by the path Estimote has taken in the still-developing beacon technology industry. Despite being known for its beautiful and reliable beacon hardware, Estimote has always been focused on cultivating a software platform and developer community atop a real world context layer. We believe this is where the real value ultimately exists, and where Estimote has built a multi-year old strategic moat.
January 14, 2016
Laid off. Reorg’ed. Streamlined. Rationalized. There are a bunch of expressions companies like to use to describe job cuts. And as we enter 2016, startups are looking carefully at their growth plans, many with a more conservative eye than perhaps the past few years. Already, within the first few days of the year, we’ve seen several technology companies make reductions of 5-15% in their team sizes. When reading the coverage of these decisions, it’s important to remember that real people are behind the numbers.
Top performers may find their jobs eliminated for many reasons (cheaper labor, revenue doesn’t support the headcount, etc.). Although this feels personal, you have to remind yourself this is a business decision that is out of your control. But once you’ve processed your emotions, there is a checklist of ‘next steps’ you should know about.
Make sure you have the following items in order before you exit the company. Your HR contact should be able to help with the following.
Health Insurance: Find out when your coverage ends. You can set yourself up with a temporary continuation of group health coverage through COBRA until you either find other employment or figure out another long term insurance plan. Find out what the process is for signing up for COBRA and what it will likely cost you.
Termination letter: You will need an official letter terminating your employment if you are going to be applying for unemployment. Your HR contact should be able to provide this.
Paycheck: The last thing you want to be doing is trying to track down your final paycheck after you leave the company. You are entitled to your last paycheck including vacation days and unpaid bonuses before you leave.
Severance: If you are given severance, you will either be given a check on the spot or a letter with information regarding the details (timing and payout amount) of the severance package. Make sure you have something in writing if you are not getting the severance check on your last day of employment. A verbal “we will get back to you regarding severance” is not good enough. If you find yourself in this position, get a referral for a lawyer who specializes in employment law.
401K: If you have a 401K/retirement account, figure out what to do with this money. This doesn’t need to be taken care of on your last day, but rather something you should get squared away shortly after your employment terminates. You have 3 options:
- Do nothing. Just Keep your assets where they are. This is convenient and requires no effort on your part. The downside is that it limits your investment options.
- Roll this money into an IRA/Individual Retirement Account. You will have control of your money with numerous investment choices.
- Roll this money into your new employer’s 401K plan. The logical thing to do once you find a new job. You will be limited in investment choices but many companies have an employer matching program in which all or some portion of your contribution to the 401k is matched by the company.
Stock Options: Make sure you know the post-termination exercise rules and deadlines. Your HR or Benefits contact can provide you with this information. You have the right to exercise the stock options that you’ve vested. Vesting schedules vary from company to company but monthly vesting over 4 years with a one year cliff (nothing vests for your first year at the company but 25% of your options vest at the one year anniversary of your vesting starting date) is a typical vesting schedule. Whether you exercise or not will be based on your assessment of the future value of the stock (or the market value if the company is public).
- What does exercising mean? Exercising a stock option means purchasing your employer’s common stock at the price of the option, known as the grant price. The typical timeframe for exercising options is 90 days after termination. However, your period for exercise will be dictated by your employer’s plan design and the reason for your termination. If the options are not exercised by the specified date, they expire and are canceled. That means you will no longer have the right to purchase common stock. While some companies send registered letters to outgoing employees with the number of shares they can buy and the cost, and how many days they have to exercise the options, no law requires this. It is your obligation to know your personal grant information and the terms of your stock plan.
- What does it cost to exercise? Make sure you understand all of the financial and tax implications associated with exercising your options. The cost to exercise will be determined by the number of options you have and the grant price for those options. When you exercise, you will have to pay the company an amount equal to the number of options times the grant price. Once you own the shares, you may incur a tax obligation depending on the fair market value of the stock at that time and whether the company is public. For more information visit out Investopedia.
- What about my unvested options? You don’t “own” these options because they are not vested. Therefore, they go back to the company. You are only entitled to exercise the options that are vested. Again, make sure you understand your option vesting schedule.
Recommendations: Be prepared to ask for recommendations as soon as possible from your manager, peers and direct reports, if appropriate. Make a point of getting letters of recommendation on LinkedIn and asking colleagues to be a reference while your accomplishments are fresh in their minds. If you have access to your performance reviews, print them out and take them with you. Ask your HR contact for this information if you don’t have direct access. This information is crucial when you are ready to start networking to find your next role.
Return your things: If you have a company issued badge, laptop or phone, best to return them on your last day rather than wait for a call from someone in HR or security to ask you to come back and return the company owned items. If you have any personal data on the laptop or phone, make a copy of it and then delete it before returning your devices. Another option is to offer to buy the equipment directly from the employer. If you have an older model of a laptop or phone, the company may be open to this.
Stay calm: Although getting laid off can be traumatic and feel very personal, you will be okay. Remind yourself that this was a business decision and NOT a reflection of your work. If you can get organized and armed with the information above, you’ll be in a much better position to move on with a confident and successful job search.
No matter how angry, upset, or blindsided you may feel during this process, do NOT blast your former company, manager, HR Manager, or peer(s) on social media. It may feel good in the short term, but you don’t want to make any negative comments that you can’t take back.
Let Homebrew help. If you’ve been laid off or are thinking about a change, we’d love to hear from you. Warm introductions are best, but we are open to helping anyone who contacts us. Our portfolio companies are hiring and we may have some great ideas for you outside of our portfolio as well. Beth Scheer, Homebrew’s Head of Talent, would love to connect at email@example.com.
November 8, 2015
Perfect WiFi. That’s the promise of eero, a startup Homebrew was thrilled to support during its seed round. This week eero provided an update to consumers detailing production timeline (delivery in Q116), FCC certification and a $40 million in new financing, a strong signal of its continued progress (wireless pun!).
November 8, 2015
We’re delighted to have played a supporting role in Hivemapper’s recent financing. We first met founder, Ariel Seidman, at his previous startup, Gigwalk, which also brought together the idea of distributed work and geo location. With Hivemapper, Ariel and team (plus the Hivemapper community!) are creating a navigable 3D map of the world for drones. It’s a big, needed idea and we’re happy to invest alongside a notable group of partners to back Ariel and the entire Hivemapper team.
November 4, 2015
BuildingConnected landed in our inbox late in 2013 out of the blue. We’d never met the founders. There was no ‘warm intro’. They hadn’t worked for name brand Valley companies. Any ‘pattern matching’ algorithm would have put them into our archive. But we make it a habit to respond to every email that looks at least personalized to us (“Dear *[FNAME]*” errors are always amusing). And with this one, we liked what we saw.
It started out explaining how the construction industry wasn’t yet benefitting from the technologies transforming other markets. How spreadsheets, emails and faxes resulted in lots of lost productivity and errors. How terrible, old-school enterprise tools prevented collaboration and resulted in siloed data. And how the CEO of this startup knew this because he had experienced the pain firsthand for the last several years while working for a top commercial general contractor. Now he, along with a CTO cofounder he had known since college, were building a company to solve these problems. And they had some pilot tests coming up.
Pilot tests? We were intrigued but our reply was clear - come back with data from the pilots. And they did. A few months later Dustin Devan and Jesse Pedersen sent over what they’d learned from the early pilots. And they also shared the resume of the first engineer they were going to hire. Progress on customer development and team. Nice. The more we learned about the company and the market, the more excited we got. They were solving a large, urgent and valuable problem with their first product: managing the subcontractor bidding process on commercial construction projects, which often put into play tens to hundreds of millions of dollars of work. And they had a vision for what could be done atop this network SaaS product, very much in line with how we think about vertical SaaS. Finally, they were disrupting with love, not contempt. Having worked in industry and stepped away from a promising career path, Dustin wanted to build something that would improve and elevate the work, not just automate it. He respected his customers, didn’t just dismiss them as “old industries.” We find this belief and value system, especially in founders who haven’t yet become jaded by “too much” experience in industry, to be very compelling. And so along with our friends at Freestyle Capital, we co-led BuildingConnected’s seed round in early 2014.
It’s been a true pleasure to work with Dustin, Jesse and team as they’ve quietly built a company that is redefining how commercial construction works. And we’re happy to finally share that fueling the company is not just our initial seed funding, but also a Series A financing led by Crosslink Capital. BuildingConnected is already powering over $10 billion of project bidding each month. And they’re just getting started.
November 4, 2015
When you think of “hot industries” perhaps building software for dental practices doesn’t immediately come to mind. But when you’re growing your customer base and revenue by over 300% year over year the numbers speak for themselves. And that’s just what Weave has done since we invested last year. And now, the real business value that the company has created, by delivering high quality solutions to customers, is what has enabled Weave to close a $15.5m Series B financing led by Crosslink Capital.
Weave started by providing unified communication solutions to dental and orthodontic practices. But the vision is to build a modern communication company for all small and medium-sized services businesses. Weave integrates VoIP calling, SMS text messaging, and emailing into a single desktop service, that syncs with existing customer relationship management and electronic medical record software. Businesses can leverage Weave to effectively manage their customer messaging and capitalize on the value of their customer relationships. Technology that creates real economic value for businesses. That’s Weave. And we’re thrilled to be partners in its mission.
July 28, 2015
It’s been roughly two years since we first met the founders of UpCounsel, and like all great startups, they knew what the future could look like before we did. They knew that labor marketplaces had a future not just in task-based enterprise work but in professional verticals. They knew that both lawyers and clients would benefit from a system which added price and quality transparency to the relationship. And they knew that independent lawyers needed a ‘virtual back office’ made of software to communicate and collaborate with their clients.
Now in 2015, UpCounsel is a thriving marketplace community where businesses can connect with rated and reviewed independent lawyers nationwide to have their legal needs met. What started out in one state is now increasingly nationwide. And to fuel that expansion we’re thrilled to participate in UpCounsel’s $10 million Series A financing led by Menlo Ventures, a firm with a strong focus on marketplace businesses. We’re looking forward to many more years of partnership with UpCounsel, and now Menlo, as UpCounsel continues to rethink the legal services market.
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