April 2, 2015
Connection to, or empathy for, the problem you’re solving is something we value greatly at Homebrew. While this isn’t always required to build an amazing company, we think the missionary zeal of founders can’t be underestimated when solving big tough problems. That’s why when Seth Sternberg first shared the idea for what would become Honor we were struck by the fact that it didn’t start with stats about market size or a reminder that he previously exited successfully to Google. Rather, it started with a personal story about his aging parents. Today we’re thrilled to share news of our investment in Honor, a company that is reinventing what’s currently considered to be “in-home care” for seniors.
WHO: We’ve known Honor CEO Seth Sternberg for a quite while, beginning when his prior startup, Meebo, was a fast growing company. Despite a successful acquisition by Google, Seth and team never lost their entrepreneurial fire. So when he got part of the Meebo team back together and combined them with some great talent from Google, we knew we wanted to back Honor.
WHAT: 90% of seniors want to ‘age in place’ - remain in their homes with familiar surroundings. To do this successfully at scale is going to require more technology and a different incentive structure than what incumbents have been employing.
HOW: As Honor details in its blog post, the company is building technology that helps caregivers, seniors and their families all communicate in a meaningful manner. Honor is focused on context, coordination, trust and simplicity. Honor’s dedication to getting a solution out in the field quickly is exemplified by its pilot in California’s Contra Costa County beginning this April.
WHY: At Homebrew we focus on founders solving large, urgent and valuable problems who also have the attitude and aptitude to solve the problem fully. Seth has told us that this is the company he wants to build and run for the rest of his life. Honor sits at the intersection of value and merit - it’s going to be a huge business and one we’re all proud to be associated with.
As an experienced founder with a healthy nine digit exit already notched, Seth had the opportunity to jump straight to an A round. When the first funding is of this size, our model only works if we’re still able to invest enough where a successful outcome can be meaningful for our fund. Seth was welcoming and we’re so very excited to join him, Andreessen Horowitz and a stellar group of angel investors in partnering with Honor.
March 31, 2015
Parents raise kids and they run businesses. They try to get to the gym, and get their kids to practice. They’re just trying to get it all done and sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day. They need brands and retailers that they can count on, not just for for value and convenience, but even for moments of joy. In few categories is the relationship between parents and brands more broken than in kid’s apparel. Kids apparel brands are typically at two far ends of the spectrum - either high fashion and expensive or ordinary and of poor quality. There is no kids apparel brand that delivers the combination of quality, value and delight. Say hello to Primary.
WHO: When the CEO of Diapers.com, one of the most successful ecommerce businesses of the past decade calls and says that you have to meet two of the stars on his management team, you clear your calendar. And Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell didn’t disappoint. As executives at Quidsi, the parent company of Diapers.com, Galyn and Christina built massive brands that delighted parents. But they’re also modern moms just trying to get things done. With Primary, they’re building a brand that they, and other parents, can love ─ with beautiful products, a clear focus on authenticity, a simple buying experience and extraordinary value. And they’re doing it in a way that rethinks the entire kids clothing experience from scratch.
WHAT: Beautiful, simple, everyday clothing that lets kids shine. That’s the core of Primary. But Primary goes beyond elevated basics at an extraordinary value by also providing a simple buying experience that is designed with the lives of busy parents in mind. Oh yeah, and every item is less than $25.
HOW: Ecommerce has moved far past mall store brands with inventory listed online. Brands are being built today that are delivering huge value to consumers by stripping out traditional marketing and distribution costs, by designing and manufacturing their own products and by providing consumers with the excellent value, great service, and brand integrity they want and need. But it’s something that hasn’t been done in kids’ apparel, until now. Primary is building the children’s clothing brand that all parents will love.
WHY: Galyn and Christina are both parents and New York-based entrepreneurs. They very personally saw the need for a kids brand with a strong, authentic relationship with parents. And they had the desire to build a company together that’s a reflection of what they want in a brand that parents like them could love. Gorgeous, high quality basics at affordable prices available via a clear, simple commerce experience with fast, reliable shipping. Seemingly simple, but incredibly powerful.
If you’re a parent, Primary is going to be your new best friend. Visit Primary and use Insider Code “SATYA” or “HUNTER” for free shipping, with no minimums, for an entire year.
February 20, 2015
High five! Now back to work. That was the sequence of events at HQ when we closed Homebrew Fund II earlier today.
Two years ago we spent 100 days raising Homebrew I, a $35 million seed fund. Since that time, we’ve partnered with 17 teams solving large, urgent and valuable problems in support of the Bottom Up Economy. Teams with both the attitude and aptitude to go the distance. Teams with long roadmaps in their heads but a near-term focus on doing one thing really well. With Homebrew II, a $50 million seed fund, we’ll continue to work with teams like these to help them build the companies they envision.
When we kicked off fundraising for Homebrew II, we had certain beliefs about how we wanted to approach the development of Homebrew and how that feeds into the fundraising process:
- Fundraising is about choosing the right long-term partners: Our primary question about any potential LP was always “would they be a great partner for us, and us for them?” For Fund II we have a wonderful base of institutional LPs representing university endowments, charitable foundations and funds of funds. We know that at the end of the day we’ll be evaluated on the returns we deliver to them. But to a person, we feel that they’re in our corner, supporting us and our strategy and rooting for us to succeed.
- Strategy first, capital second: We want to invest in hyper-growth companies, not be a hyper-growth fund. Homebrew is committed to being the partner of choice for early stage founders. We want to focus 100% of our attention on the first few years of company building. In this funding environment, for both companies and VCs, there’s a temptation to maximize how much capital you raise. We raised less than we could have, but as much as we wanted, given our strategy and approach. Homebrew II is a $50 million fund. It’s slightly larger than our first fund because we intend to deploy entry capital over a 30-36 month period, whereas we invested the initial fund in 24 months. Our sweet spot is, and will remain, playing a leadership role in first institutional financing rounds. That usually looks like a $500k-$1m check as part of a $1m-$3m fundraising. In addition to raising Homebrew II, we’ve also raised a $35 million fund called Moonshine. Moonshine allows us to extend our support, where appropriate, for Homebrew fund investments in future financings, primarily B rounds and beyond.
- Having money to invest doesn’t make us relevant: Talented entrepreneurs have more options than ever for funding. We never assume that just having money to invest makes us relevant or valuable to the founders we seek to back. Capital is necessary, but it’s insufficient. The ways in which we engage the teams who have chosen to partner with us, in combination with our own product roadmap, are what help us be relevant. With Fund II, we’ll continue to focus on Credibility in the marketplace, Community building amongst our partner companies and Counsel post investment.
- Best VCs are true partnerships, not just collections of partners: We don’t think of Homebrew as Satya’s investments + Hunter’s investments. It’s with 100% unanimity that we make investments, work with companies and stand behind every company we invest in. Our partnership translates directly to how we’ve structured our firm - equal economics, shared vision and definition of success, no bullshit. We’d proudly sign our names to any word written or action taken by each other and the fund.
- We have a lot of work to do: Our first two years have gone very well, but it’s laughably premature to clink any glasses. Seed stage venture capital investing is a long road - we do it because you love working with founders at this early stage. Our goal is to not just be successful (as measured by financial returns) but also impactful (as measured by our broader contributions to the community, not just where we have interests). Our fund name is a nod back to the Homebrew Computer Club of the 1970s. A time when the beginnings of the PC revolution found momentum in a group of enthusiasts and hobbyists. Today, with so much focus on innovation and disruption, we tend to only look ahead. But looking back to acknowledge and appreciate that we all stand on the shoulders of giants is just as important in the technology industry. We don’t want to walk away from Homebrew just having made money. We hope to build something lasting that we and our founders can all say we were proud to have been an important part of.
A new VC fund is kind of like a startup, just one that writes checks instead of code. Raising a first fund is a like a seed round, often built on reputation and potential. Second funds are like A Rounds – momentum with some early data. By the B round, startups need to have proven product/market fit. Similarly, our next fund, several years down the road, will be driven by having backed great teams and delivered great returns - not vanity metrics, not retweets, not personal brands. We feel incredibly fortunate to be working with founders who want us to be part of their success, and with LPs who believe we’re able stewards of their capital. Homebrew II is closed. Now, back to work.
February 3, 2015
Ever call your broadband provider to debug home wifi? Why does every service decision tree start with “Have you tried power cycling the modem?” Increasingly the modern household has numerous devices which rely on strong, consistent internet connectivity. First it was work productivity and entertainment - laptops, streaming music and video - but increasingly it’s our thermostats, kitchen appliances and security cameras. “Smart” devices can’t be smart if they’re offline.
That’s where eero comes in. An integrated hardware and software solution designed to blanket your home in wonderful ubiquitous connectivity. And when something isn’t working, making it simple to diagnose and fix from your smartphone, not from your hands and knees looking for the router. If that wasn’t enough to make you click PREORDER, they’re building a ton of cool enhancements to today’s home network. Want to create a simple username and password for one time access to your wifi so that the babysitter can get online? Done. Want to serve as remote Sys Admin for your parents? No problem. Just install eero at their house and monitor it from 1000 miles away.
We’re excited to play a supporting role in eero’s financing and are equally thrilled that they’ve announced their preorder today. Get yours here and enjoy constant connectivity with ease.
January 20, 2015
Here’s the scenario: a married couple is traveling for the next month and want to rent their home out. They’ve got a great property in Santa Barbara but with a baby on the way they don’t want to deal with managing the listing or ensuring the guest has a great experience (well, besides the local map they intend to share with their 10 favorite restaurants circled). On the other side of the country is a young man who, with his boyfriend, wants to stay in Santa Barbara for a month this summer while he’s working on an ad campaign. Corporate rentals are so uninspiring and a hotel is so impersonal, but can they rest easy knowing the home they rent will meet all their needs?
What will happen to our two young pairs? Will they ever connect? That answer might have been “no” until Pillow came along, bringing a new layer of hospitality and property management to the short-term rental industry.
WHO: Sean Conway and Justin Miller are no strangers to scaling local marketplaces. They grew their previous startup, Notehall, to 54 campuses before being acquired by Chegg. While recharging their entrepreneurial energies with some international travel, the pair encountered a problem with their own apartments and identified an opportunity they knew they wanted to address: making short-term property rental painless for owners and comfortable for guests. And so was born Pillow.
WHAT: Pillow is a modern, short-term property hospitality company. It offers property owners guaranteed income while managing their listing and handling all the cleaning, amenities and basic on-the-ground services. For guests, Pillow ensures an experience that combines the benefits of staying at a home full of personality with a standard of quality that lets them rest easy.
HOW: Pillow now operates in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with plans to move into other cities this year. In these core markets, Pillow has brought many homes that were previously not being rented on to the short-term rental market by delivering simple software and an income guarantee for owners. These properties give platforms like Airbnb, VRBO and Homeaway exciting new listings for their customers. And when someone rents a Pillow-serviced property, they’re sure to have a clean, well-managed residence for their stay.
WHY: One theme core to Homebrew is our belief that the Bottom Up Economy creates new types of marketplaces, revenue streams and efficiencies. Pillow lives across all three - leveraging the growth of short-term rental marketplaces to create additional revenue streams for property owners and five star hospitality for guests.
We’re excited to have led Pillow’s seed round and to back the team creating the future of hospitality. If you’re a homeowner who wants to be powered by Pillow, check their site out here.
January 13, 2015
Every day we meet amazing founders sharing their ideas for how the future will evolve. In fact, we see about 150 new companies each month. Where do these teams originate from? Roughly 65% are referred to us by other founders or people we know. 25% are introductions via investors - either angels or VCs. The remaining 10% are a combination of cold inbound/outbound sourcing, often based upon a specific area we’re investigating. So recently we asked ourselves a question “is there strategic value in keeping our list of interests to ourselves?” That didn’t seem like a very good idea if our goal is to connect with thoughtful founders or inspire conversation. And thus http://bit.ly/HomebrewWhatIfs
What Ifs will be an dynamic list of ideas, questions and technologies that we are curious about and specifically want to connect with entrepreneurs to discuss and learn. We’ll edit, add and remove items as appropriate and link to our longer blog posts when it makes sense.
If you’re a founder in one of these areas or someone with domain expertise, we hope you’ll reach out. Do we hope to find new investments this way? Sure, but we’re also happy to just learn and hopefully help.
January 5, 2015
You don’t need to be unemployed to face financial uncertainty. Many hourly workers or partially employed Americans deal with the challenges of unpredictable schedules or workloads, causing great swings in their weekly income. This instability prevents or complicates savings, exacerbates emergencies and causes them to face each financial decision with more hesitation than a traditionally salaried employee. Current loan mechanisms to “smooth the curve” range from unsatisfying to predatory. That’s where Even comes in.
Even is building a loan product to help provide income stability to the American hourly worker. At Homebrew we have a voracious appetite for smart teams using technology to deconstruct and evolve trillions of dollars of financial services value. And the transformation to a Bottom Up Economy will require new products for the expanding base of hourly workers. That’s why we are thrilled to play a supporting role in Even’s initial funding. If their work sounds exciting to you as well (and you want to be part of Oakland’s tech heartbeat), Even is hiring.
December 17, 2014
Over 1 million people wake up each day and rely on theSkimm for sharp, witty summaries of the day’s news. What started as a simple daily email newsletter is quickly becoming a lifestyle based on the idea that being smarter about the things you should know shouldn’t be difficult, time-consuming or boring. When we led the seed financing a little over a year ago, theSkimm founders shared their vision of building not just an information service, but a brand and habit. The company is now well on its way to becoming the same vital resource that morning television was for a prior generation. And 2015 will bring theSkimm voice (and snark!) to new platforms and content areas while still delivering what you need to know via theSkimm’s delightful summaries.
Today, the company announces its Series A financing, led by RRE Ventures. We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with Carly, Danielle and the entire Skimm team. We encourage you to sign up, stay informed and join the team! After all, would Oprah, Chelsea and SJP steer you wrong?!?
December 12, 2014
A founder once told us that early stage startups are like “pushing a boulder up a hill” and that their job was to get “more hands on the boulder.” Team members who believe in the mission. Customers who vote with their dollars. Press who will magnify the story. And investors who provide cash and assistance.
Homebrew put our hands on UpCounsel’s boulder in 2013, believing the world’s largest law firm could be a virtual marketplace, helping businesses connect with high quality lawyers for projects or ongoing work. And we’re thrilled with the progress they’ve made, including surpassing 1,000 customers and building a healthy multi-million dollar runrate. So when UpCounsel’s founders decided to raise additional funding and accelerate their growth, we were more than supportive.
We’re incredibly excited to welcome Metamorphic Ventures and Crosslink Capital, who led the new round, to the team. We feel very luck to have more hands on the boulder as UpCounsel continues to create a vibrant B2B marketplace that delivers significant value to both lawyers and businesses. On up the mountain, UpCounsel!
November 19, 2014
If you’re a small or medium-sized business, there are more tools than ever to help you manage virtual operations: from payroll and benefits administration to accounting to technical infrastructure. And increasingly, all of those services are available via the cloud, to be monitored and run via PCs or smartphones. Yet somehow managing the physical infrastructure of your office is still a mind-numbing, time-consuming chore. It no longer needs to be. Meet Q. Q provides office cleaning and other smart services to help your office operations run smoothly – all delivered via an iPad that’s installed for free in your office.
WHO: When we met Daniel Teran and Saman Rahmanian, we knew immediately that we had encountered kindred spirits. Product-oriented founders with a vision that embraced the opportunity for business and individuals to benefit from the creation of a service that redefined a painful, existing experience. Daniel and Saman had worked together at Pre-Hype, inventing new products in partnership with larger corporations, before going off on their own. What excited us most about their vision for Q is the belief that blue collar work should provide the same opportunities and benefits as white collar work, making it possible for workers (called Operators at Q) to earn a truly living wage with a liveable life and career. That means giving Operators an exciting career path, predetermined and reasonable work schedules, standard health benefits and more. This perspective has allowed Q to build an incredible early team.
WHAT: Q has built an iPad-based control center that is installed in offices for free. From there, office managers and employees have complete control and visibility over the products and services that make their offices hum. Today, Q provides cleaning services, handymen and basic office supplies. But imagine all of the physical and digital third-party services that an office needs and you can envision the future for Q.
HOW: Since launching early this year in New York, Q already manages over 1 million square feet of office space. Q offers a simple, efficient, cost-effective way to manage the services that are critical for any office environment. Q will be launching in additional markets starting early 2015 and will be adding additional services later in the year.
WHY: Daniel and Saman’s inspiration for Q came from their personal experiences trying to manage cleaning and other services for their apartments. Saman even served on his apartment’s maintenance board and quickly discovered how broken the process is for management of physical space. They both realized that in many ways the process is even more agonizing for commercial offices, and importantly, for Operators. They knew they could build something that was better for everyone – and we couldn’t agree more.
Q lets any business save time and money when it comes to office management, and that’s why it fits squarely within our Bottom Up Economy thesis. We’re proud to have led the seed round financing in Q and support Daniel, Saman and the Q team as they pursue their mission of making office management less expensive, less time-consuming and less unpleasant for everyone involved. Sign up to be notified when Q launched in your city.
November 4, 2014
Debit cards, not credit cards, are the dominant mass market choice for American consumers. In fact, nearly 65% of card swipe transactions in the US are completed using debit cards. So why does it cost people money to spend with their debit cards when using credit cards earns people rewards? Sometimes a simple question can lead to powerful idea. And a powerful idea combined with a stellar team is investment gold. That’s what Homebrew encountered when we learned about Chime last year. We met an experienced team building a financial services product for the more than 2/3rds of Americans who use debit cards and get stung by monthly account fees, overdraft fees, ATM fees….you get the point. Today, Chime is announcing its Series A financingled by Crosslink Capital, a firm with deep experience in financial services. Here’s why we invested last year during their previously unannounced seed financing and again in the Series A:
WHO: Chime was co-founded by Chris Britt, CEO, and Ryan King, CTO. Chris knows the debit card business cold from his time at Visa, where he led the General Purpose Prepaid business, and Green Dot, where he held Chief Product Officer and SVP Corporate Development positions. Ryan King is an experienced technologist, having served in various engineering roles at Plaxo, including COO and VP Engineering, before leading Comcast Silicon Valley as CTO. Chris and Ryan each has lead and scaled large organizations and as a pair are uniquely suited to build Chime.
WHAT: Most of us in Silicon Valley use credit cards that earn us points, cash back, miles or any number of other rewards. Yet debit cards are still the preferred form of non-cash payment for most Americans, with over 283 million active debit cards in circulation today and each card used an average of 18 times per month. Unfortunately, debit cards actually cost the people who use them because of the various fees that banks charge. Chime has created a card with all of the advantages of debit combined with the benefits typically associated with credit cards. And it’s tied to a mobile app that puts all of the rewards and account functionality at the user’s fingertips.
HOW: By recognizing and jumping on recent regulatory changes and integrating deeply into the transaction process, Chime has created a more cost effective debit card with a rewards experience that is completely seamless. Just swipe the Chime card at a partner merchant for instant cash back and a mobile notification of savings. In addition, the Chime mobile app allows consumers to manage their accounts, track where and how their money is spent and better understand their financial situation.
WHY: One of the fundamental beliefs we have at Homebrew is that technology will increasingly save people time and money. This belief is core to our Bottom Up Economy thesis. Chris and Ryan founded Chime because they share this belief and know that current debit card products are hindering rather than helping consumers. They saw the opportunity to put a better product in the wallets and on the phones of tens of millions of consumers. People often think of “smart payments cards” as pieces of plastic packed with technological wizardry. But the smartest card is one that solves a real mass market problems - helping consumers get more with their money.
We’re thrilled to partner with Crosslink and our prior co-investors, PivotNorth and Forerunner Ventures, to support Chime as it continues to build financial products that make shopping for yourself and your family less painful. You can get your own Chime card by signing up here or by downloading the iOS or Android mobile apps.
November 3, 2014
Who doesn’t hate expense reports? And after the agony of filling out a report, why does it take weeks to get reimbursed for your expenses? Enter Abacus. Abacus turns the process of expense reimbursement into something as simple as taking a picture and hitting send. And it can be used by businesses and teams of every size without any administrative overhead. A perfect example of a Bottom Up Economy startup enabling individuals and businesses to get more done in less time and with less pain. We got to know Omar Qari, Ted Power and Josh Halickman over the course of a year and during that time they continually impressed us with their insights and execution. When Bessemer and General Catalyst agreed to lead a large seed round it was a no-brainer for us to join the syndicate in a supporting role. We’re really excited to be partnering with one of the up and coming companies in the New York City technology ecosystem.
November 3, 2014
Reserve is a new mobile application that focuses on making every part of the dining experience better for both restaurants and diners. Too many companies in this space exploit one side to service the other. Restaurant margins, already thin, are cut deeper. Or consumers struggle to find the dining experience they desire. Reserve is different. It integrates reservations, loyalty and payment into a single, well-designed system which stops making technology a bitter appetizer for the hospitality industry. At Homebrew, we’re excited to play a supporting role in their recently announced financing. We’ve known Garrett Camp, Joe Marchese and Greg Hong for many years. Along with their incredible team, they blend ideas, design, and hustle into an unstoppable combination. We’re proud to support them as they make the dining experience as memorable as the food. Reserve is available today in New York, Boston and Los Angeles with additional markets coming online shortly. You can download the free Reserve iOS app here.
October 21, 2014
Engineering development environments set up in 30 seconds or less. That’s the initial product promise from the team behind Bowery.io. Working with the Bowery.io team was an easy decision for us because it was clear that this was a group of people that we will want to work with many times over the coming decades. In addition, given our belief that technology is increasingly allowing individual developers to accomplish tasks that were historically the domain of specialists or that required significant monetary resources, it was easy to get excited about the Bowery.io vision. Lastly, the fact that we get also get to partner with a strong technical team based in New York City, our second core geography, was the cherry on top. We’re excited to lend our support alongside a long list of notable investors in Bowery’s seed round.
October 7, 2014
You know how at college you earn a degree by committing to and excelling in a small number of classes per semester that are required for your major? But sometimes there’s a class or professor that’s really compelling but your schedule is too busy or the class is at capacity so you just decide to audit it on the side?
Well, if you followed that potentially confusing metaphor then you may understand why we’re excited to share that Homebrew played a small supporting role in Curbside’s recent financing. After getting wind of its business earlier this year, we met with Curbside CEO, Jaron Waldman, to learn more. We were impressed by his vision and the strength of the team, a group of entrepreneurs that had sold their previous companies to Apple. With Curbside, they were getting together to pursue a unique take on the on-demand economy: pickup, not delivery.
Alas, Homebrew writes its checks at the seed stage and Curbside was already raising a larger A round that was almost fully closed. So we did what all opportunistic, scrappy VCs do. We asked to participate in a small way and made a case as to why both Curbside and Homebrew would benefit from the relationship. Jaron agreed and today we join Index and other investors in celebrating the team’s Series A milestone.
September 23, 2014
When advising startups, we preach “Teach, don’t just tell” and in building our initial group of Homebrew Advisors we focused on people who haven’t just achieved, but also instructed, mentored, managed and inspired. Technologists who aren’t just comfortable on stage, but most importantly love, being shoulder to shoulder with coworkers and entrepreneurs. Since we started the fund early last year, these advisors have voted with their time and energy to assist Homebrew founders in building their startups.
Our plan is to add new advisors over time based on our evolving relationships and the needs of the teams we back. We’re excited to add two more wonderful, accomplished and talented friends to the Homebrew family.
- Tracy Chou - Tracy is a tech lead at Pinterest and previously the second engineering hire at Quora. She has also been at the forefront of cultural issues, helping to push large tech companies to start reporting their metrics around workplace diversity. We first got to know Tracy via Code2040, a Bay Area nonprofit helping to close the access gap for Black and Latino/a engineering students in the Valley.
- Roy Sehgal - Roy’s career spans significant operating roles in the digital and mobile entertainment industries, most recently as a VP at Zynga. In addition to advising our founders on a range of growth, business development and monetization questions, Roy is going to be another pair of eyes and ears for Homebrew in the New York market. When we started Homebrew, we hypothesized that New York would be our second core geography and we’ve validated that hypothesis by backing a number of “best built in NYC” startups. Roy and Satya went to Penn together and were reconnected via the Zynga mafia.
Thanks Tracy and Roy for taking the leap with us and to our current Advisors for their continued support!
September 2, 2014
Investors alway preach ‘persistence’ to founders but it’s a quality that is required of VCs as well and one which earned us a supporting spot in TrueAccord’s seed round. Homebrew was introduced to CEO Ohad Samet late in their financing process. In fact, it was already pretty much complete given Ohad’s previous relationships with Khosla Ventures, Max Levchin and others. But we quickly became fast friends and were excited to play a small role in backing Ohad and team.
Who: Ohad is an impressive guy when it comes to financial technology, having previously held founding and leadership roles at a host of companies such Fraud Sciences (acquired by PayPal), Signifyd and Klarna. It’s this experience, along with his team, that gave us confidence in the audacious vision he had to transform the historically insidious world of consumer debt collection.
What: As Wired magazine proclaimed, “This Startup’s on a Mission to Save Us From Seedy Debt Collectors.” The TrueAccord team believes there’s an opportunity to help both consumers and merchants by creating a more friendly, efficient debt collection system, one which uses data and personalization to collect owed monies rather than abrasive dinner time phone calls. TrueAccord provides debt collection as a service so, for example, a large online marketplace can contract with TrueAccord to collect on its behalf in exchange for TrueAccord keeping a small percentage of what it recovers.
How: Data science! Machine learning! Behavioral economics! Basically, TrueAccord utilizes a combination of data intelligence and behavioral psychology to provide debt collection as a service to merchants, banks and any holder of consumer debt. They use a variety of information to solve two problems. First, what’s the right offer and message to deliver to a consumer to help them pay their debt. Second, which of these consumers should the merchant continue to service. Too often one episode of indebtedness can cause a business to completely write off a customer. If you think this sounds interesting, they’re hiring.
Why: At Homebrew we believe the entire financial services industry is especially fertile ground for improvement via software. In the case of TrueAccord, the debt collection industry is one in which both sides of the transaction - the consumer and the merchant - can benefit. The only people who suffer from TrueAccord’s success are the increasingly outdated debt collectors who buy their inventory for pennies on the dollar and then employ a wealth of old-fashioned (and sometimes illegal) tactics for collection.
Congratulations to Ohad and team for the momentum to date. We’re excited to support this mission!
August 28, 2014
There’s no question that Bitcoin has captured the imagination of many, including technologists, investors and increasingly, the general public. People are also growing more aware that Bitcoin is “just” an application of the blockchain, a transaction ledger utilized by all participants using the Bitcoin protocol. The startup Chain makes it easier to build Bitcoin applications, including non-financial applications, on top of the blockchain. Here’s why we invested:
Who: Chain Co-founder and CEO, Adam Ludwin, is an investor and entrepreneur who we’ve known for several years. When Adam left his job as an investor to start the company that would later become Chain, Homebrew had not yet been created. But when Adam decided to focus the company on a new opportunity related to the blockchain, we knew we couldn’t pass on the opportunity to work with Adam and the Chain team.
What: Chain is building an API-based platform that makes it easy to build Bitcoin applications and not worry about the underlying infrastructure. These applications can go far beyond the cryptocurrencies that have been developed to date. The Chain API will enable innovation in identity, contracts, reservations, physical asset distribution and many other applications. We believe that providing the tools and infrastructure to democratize development of Bitcoin applications is fundamental to supporting the burgeoning Bottom Up ecosystem that is evolving around the protocol.
How: Chain already supports various Bitcoin applications and has built a robust platform that quickly, securely and scalably interacts with blockchain data. If you’re interested in the challenging engineering problems that Chain is tackling, they’re hiring in San Francisco.
Why: At Homebrew, we believe in a Bottom Up economy, one which gives developers increasing ability to build applications in a distributed fashion. API platforms that allow software engineers to focus on adding unique value, not recreating infrastructure, are a key efficiency. Adam and the Chain team certainly believe this to be true and we’re thrilled to be a part of helping them build a transformative company that will enable even greater innovation by financial institutions, governments, enterprises and developers. Bitcoin as a currency is only the beginning. We’re eager to see what else can be developed with the underlying protocol and the blockchain.
July 16, 2014
Founding a startup is like starting to push a boulder up a hill. First the founder’s hands on are it. Pushing hard. Then you get a team, customers, partners. You’re convincing more and more people to push with you. Our early investment Shyp is announcing they’ve added some skilled new investors to help them push. Last September we led their seed round financing and now we’re excited to continue our support in their $10 million Series A round. The boulder is moving up the hill.
What is Shyp? They’re the best way to send anything - whether you’re a consumer returning that pair of shoes you didn’t like; an eBay seller or Etsy maker avoiding hours spent dealing with packaging; a small ecommerce retailer who can’t afford to dedicate time and energy to become a logistics specialist; or an office manager, marketing rep or salesperson that has more important work to do than find the start of the packaging tape roll. Today Shyp is available in San Francisco and next up is New York City (sign up here to be notified of their east coast launch).
Shyp’s announcement details some of the fantastic growth they’ve seen in the product and business this year, which are large parts of this momentum, but honestly when we reflect on the last 10 months of working with Joshua and Kevin, there’s something else which has impressed us even more: the quality of the team. Having started with a core group at the time of funding, Shyp has since attracted engineers, designers and operations talent from companies like Airbnb, Groupon, and TaskRabbit. They’ve done this not by creating a lot of noise in the press or trying to tout cutesy perks, but by offering a killer combination of a great mission, great work, great culture and great career and economic upside. By the way, they’re still hiring.
So congratulations to Team Shyp on this milestone and to Sherpa Ventures for leading the A Round!
June 18, 2014
Have you signed up for Nuzzel and downloaded their iOS app? If not please stop reading this post and do so. It’s ok, we’ll wait…there’s a lot of interesting information being shared on Twitter and Facebook. Nuzzel identifies the content most shared by your friends so you can easily read, listen, purchase, and so on. Sounds simple, right? Don’t confuse an intuitive interface with easy to build. Here’s why we invested:
WHO: Nuzzel founder and CEO, Jonathan Abrams, has been a friend of ours since well before we started Homebrew. And although Jonathan did help kick-off the modern social networking by founding Friendster, we mean friend IRL. As a cofounder of Founder’s Den, Jonathan has been someone who both encourages bold entrepreneurs and calls BS within the broader tech community. We also love when a team gets back together - at Nuzzel, Jonathan has reunited with Kent Lindstrom, who previously served as Friendster’s COO.
WHAT: Nuzzel inverts the standard paradigm of social sharing: it puts the content, not the sharer, first. And Nuzzel aggregates from across social products so you don’t need to worry about monitoring all of your different networks to find needles in haystacks. Nuzzel is a needle magnet. And what you see in the product today is just the beginning.
HOW: Your Facebook friends and the accounts you follow on Twitter are constantly sharing links. Nuzzel sums these shares and gives you a list of content, ranked by the number of people who have shared it. You’re in control of the update intervals and alert frequencies from breaking news to stories you might have missed. To do all this, Jonathan and team have focused on a backend that scales with both the growth of its user base and their connection graphs on social networks.
WHY: Here at Homebrew, we were big users of the Nuzzel product before we ever became investors. When Jonathan had the opportunity to raise additional funding, we were appreciative of the chance to participate. Besides our love for the product, we enjoyed seeing Jonathan do “slow tech” - that is, keeping a small team, avoiding the hype, and letting the product win over users. At Netscape, Hot Links and Friendster, Jonathan has seen rocket ships and very easily could create more noise than substance. But anyone who follows him on Twitter knows that his attitude these days is mirrored not only in Nuzzel but in his own critiques of tech culture: pay attention to what matters.
We couldn’t be happier to partner with the Nuzzel team and their other great investors.
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