Oct
23
14



How I Learned to Stop Circling and Love to Park in San Francisco

Today LuxeValet is launching out of beta in San Francisco and we are excited to announce our investment in the team. We are proud to back founders Curtis Lee and Craig Martin on their mission to transform a daily, painful experience like parking into one that gives people joy by letting them quickly and safely leave their car and get on with their day.

We were impressed by LuxeValet’s veteran team who saw an opportunity to transform the $25B annual parking business with an on-demand, valet-driven model. The team brings engineering, product and operations experience from Zynga, Groupon, Tesla and YouTube and has developed a sophisticated platform that makes the city parking process easy, efficient and affordable.

The parking problem in San Francisco, as with most cities, is awful by any measure.  The median price to park in a San Francisco city lot is $29/day and $375/month. In some neighborhoods, parking meters charge as much as $7/hour during periods of high-demand. Last year, 70,000 cars were towed in San Francisco and it costs at least $400 to get a car back. Instead of dealing with that hassle and cost, at the press of a button, a LuxeValet will meet you in front of your next meeting to take your car and park it in one of their secure spots for $5/hour and $15 max.

The LuxeValet team has been building the technical and operational foundation of the company for the past 18 months. LuxeValet has a fleet of pre-screened valets in bright blue jackets and dozens of insured and secure indoor parking lots all over the city. This allows them to deliver a great consumer experience at the push of a button. The valet experience also allows them to deliver one of my favorite features which is the LuxeValet will fill up or wash your car while you spend time with your family or attend your meeting.

Even more interesting are the economic advantages that happen to the model at scale. By obtaining parking spots en masse, LuxeValet brings down the price of spaces, making it the same cost and many times less than a traditional lot, while delivering a much better experience. Like most marketplaces this also has great network effects: more users mean keeping more valets busy, which means the valets make more. More riders mean more parking spots and lowered costs for the spots themselves.

We love these type of marketplace investments that reward each player in the virtuous cycle and are perpetuated by an amazing consumer experience.

Congratulations to the entire Luxe team from your friends at Redpoint.  We’re excited to be along for the ride.


Oct
21
14



Backing Snowflake: Proven Leadership with the Right Technology at the Right Time

Today Redpoint portfolio company Snowflake Computing is introducing their Elastic Data Warehouse, a highly scalable data warehouse purpose-built for the cloud.  We believe the market opportunity for Snowflake to reinvent the SQL data warehouse for the cloud is enormous and transformative.

Data warehousing is a $9 billion business that is in the early days of discovering the cloud.  Our thesis is that the investment into business intelligence tools for unstructured data has overshadowed the biggest untapped void in data analytics. Snowflake is changing the game by making data warehousing accessible to everyone by designing a new data warehouse built from scratch in utilizing low cost but highly available cloud resources.

Snowflake today introduced their Elastic Data Warehouse, which brings an innovative and patent-pending architecture to convene all users, data and workloads into a single SQL data warehouse. It gives users the power of SQL data warehousing with the flexibility of big data platforms and the elasticity of the cloud—at a fraction of the cost of on-premises solutions.

Lead by seasoned executive, Bob Muglia, Snowflake’s truly impressive team that shares a vision and a mission to disrupt the inefficient ways of data warehousing.  We are impressed with the deep technology bench at Snowflake, data scientists from companies like Oracle, Microsoft, Cloudera and Google, who hold over 120 patents in databases and data processing.

To Bob and the entire Snowflake team, thank you for partnering with us and welcome to the Redpoint family!


Sep
25
14



Building brands, talent and world class companies here at Redpoint

I’m excited to welcome two new hires to Redpoint to boost our overall bench strength and serve as strategic resources to our portfolio companies. Hadley Wilkins will be leading Marketing for us and Amy Knapp will head up Talent. Between them, Amy and Hadley have a combined thirty-plus years of experience in the Valley leading marketing and talent initiatives for a range of emerging and established enterprise and consumer technology companies.

These are important additions to Redpoint. Throughout its fifteen-year history, our firm has observed firsthand how vital marketing and talent are to separating the good from the great. These strategic elements are also two of the hardest to get right. That is why in addition to helping on firm-wide initiatives, Amy and Hadley will also be resources to our founders and their startups at key moments in time. They will be able to offer everything from strategic counsel to introductions to their marketing, media and talent networks.

Both women bring with them a wealth of exceptional experience, which is why we are committing now to expanding our firm’s capabilities. Hadley, most recently, ran the technology practice for global PR firm Hill + Knowlton, a leadership role that built on the many years she spent defining brands and developing strategic messaging campaigns. Amy brings with her 17 years of talent acquisition and human resource expertise. For the last seven years, she spearheaded efforts to define, grow and execute talent programs at Google, Ning, and, most recently, Chegg.

It is no easy feat to find the right people to grow your team. At Redpoint, we believe we have. Welcome Hadley and Amy to the Redpoint team!


Sep
17
14



There’s a Dragon at the Door

All eyes are focused this week on Alibaba. The Chinese-based ecommerce powerhouse will make its debut as the largest technology initial public offering in history. By the time of the closing bell on its first day of trading, Alibaba could be the fifth most valuable Internet company in the world, sandwiched tightly between fellow behemoths Facebook and Amazon.

This is big news in and of itself. But Alibaba’s IPO is just one of many factors that, taken together, should be viewed as a wake-up call for U.S. tech companies. China is on the move, no longer satisfied by winning in its own markets. The technology landscape from Shanghai to Beijing has shifted and now boasts enough money, talent and entrepreneurial zeal to rival the U.S. establishment in marketplaces around the globe. To think otherwise is naïve, shortsighted –and potentially very costly.

In a recent letter to investors, Alibaba’s charismatic Executive Chairman, Jack Ma, was unequivocal. He wrote: “In the past decade, we measured ourselves by how much we changed China. In the future, we will be judged by how much progress we bring to the world.”

Looking around at what is already unfolding, I believe him.

As of a week ago, about a third of the top 20 Internet companies in the world with the highest market capitalizations are Chinese based. This includes Tencent, Baidu, Qihoo360 and others that are lesser known in the West. These companies are aggressive and nimble. They are also innovative, moving away from copying what they see succeed in the U.S. to blazing their own business models that we are now looking to imitate. Tencent, for example, is envied as the global leader successfully selling virtual goods at scale. The company has also racked up huge market share by using free games to lure customers to its apps stores and other services—a strategy Microsoft appears to be adopting with its purchase this week of Mojang AB, the Swedish maker of the wildly popular Minecraft series.

This growing confidence is thanks, in part, to a flourishing community of well-educated entrepreneurs. Many of these folks are as good as any found in the U.S. They are willing to take risk, are relentless in their drive to win, and are immensely hard-working. Even China’s government has had to acknowledge their burgeoning power and contributions to the overall economy. The Ministry of Commerce acknowledged in 2013 that entrepreneurial ventures now account for 75 percent of new jobs annually. No surprise, then, that China is taking steps to make the starting of companies easier and less costly.

Beyond the revving of this Silicon Valley-style creative engine, Chinese Internet companies are moving in ways that make clear their aspirations to be dominant global brands. They are investing their considerable cash more aggressively than ever, particularly in the U.S. In just the last two years, Alibaba and Tencent alone have put big money into 13 U.S.-based early stage companies. Most of the startups have been in the mobile or e-commerce spaces, including Snapchat, Lyft, Tango, Whisper and Kabam. This is in addition to countless other smaller infusions of capital in other enterprises. The Chinese tech giants are also establishing serious outposts in the U.S. and in other markets, like Latin America. It is only a matter of time before we will see important, sizable, brand name acquisitions of U.S.-based tech companies.

The bottom line is that U.S. tech companies should worry as much about what the technology giants in China are doing as they do about Google, Twitter, Amazon or Facebook. WhatsApp, acquired by Facebook earlier this year, is the world’s leading messaging application with 600 million monthly active users. But Tencent’s WeChat is a competing product that draws on some of the lessons learned by WhatsApp, Instagram and others. It offers a unified messaging app that embodies a combination of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Viber and Paypal in a single experience. In a very short time, WeChat already boasts almost 450 million monthly active users worldwide. And it has only begun to tap into markets outside of China.

The writing is on the wall. Alibaba’s IPO, while an important milestone, represents much more than just a big day on Wall Street. It is a coming out party for one of the most valuable Internet companies in the world—and a slew of other ambitious China-based players. They may be thousands of miles and multiple times zones away. But make no mistake: They are already at our doorstep.

 

Published on LinkedIn 9/17/14


Sep
5
14



Beepi expands to Los Angeles and Launches “Beepi Prime”

Beepi, the leading peer-to-peer marketplace to buy and sell pre-owned cars online, today announced it is expanding services beyond the Bay Area for sellers, and outside of California for buyers.

While Los Angeles residents have been able to purchase cars through Beepi, they will now be able to seamlessly sell their vehicles online as well. In response to high consumer demand, L.A. sellers will be able to easily schedule an appointment to have their cars inspected and Beepi-certified right in their driveways or at their places of business, get professional car photos taken and receive a guaranteed price and sale in 30-days.

In addition to this expansion, the company is launching Beepi Prime, a premium delivery service, in 140 cities in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. There, buyers can now take advantage of the same customized service Californians have enjoyed since Beepi’s launch in April. Beepi Prime gives buyers an unparalleled personalized shipping experience in which they are updated about the status of their car every step of the way, culminating in the delivery of a fully detailed car in their driveway in five days or less and a personal car tour from a professional Beepi inspector upon arrival. Should any buyers choose to return a car, Beepi provides a 10-day money-back guarantee. In addition to this total refund, all cars are subject to a three-month, 3,000-mile warranty.

Beepi has already made significant strides in reshaping the antiquated process of buying and selling cars by offering direct sales to customers 100% online. The company is currently receiving 1,000 requests a week to sell the cars of residents in the San Francisco Bay Area alone.  This expansion comes hot on the heels of Beepi’s acceptance of bitcoin as a method of payment. Through Beepi’s partnership with BitPay, a buyer can now purchase a Beepi car using bitcoin while the seller still receives cash. The company also offers prospective buyers immediate pre-approval for loans at checkout. With these initiatives, buyers can pay for any car in the Beepi marketplace with a traditional car loan, a bank transfer, cashier’s check, up to six different credit cards at once or bitcoin.

For more information on cities participating in Beepi Prime, please go to www.beepi.com/beepiprime


Aug
7
14



The Next Evolution in Search

Today we are excited to announce our investment in Vurb.

Vurb’s enormous potential rests on a breakthrough technology that will make searching the Internet smarter, more consistent, and even seamless across desktop and mobile devices. Imagine being able to plan an evening out without having to jump in and out of apps or going back and forth to the search bar to make a restaurant reservation, find movie times, read reviews, and pick a place to meet for drinks afterward—all using the best of breed services or apps, but in one continuous search. You can even start your search on your desktop and finish it on your smartphone without losing anything.  After you’re done, you can share your collection with your friends or just save interesting places you found along the way for another time.

Vurb breaks down the independent search silos offered by today’s search engines. It knows where you have been, helps take you where you want to go, and integrates the services you want to see…complete with social interactions. It is a completely logical experience that matches how our brains work, not how the structure of browsers or apps work. No more typing a query into a blank search box, clicking on a result, and then going back and forth until an acceptable solution is located.

Surfing for information on smart phones is even worse.  Either you’re using a web browser to access many sites that are not optimized for mobile experiences or, more than likely, you’re using one of the popular single purpose apps downloaded on your phone.  Apps are great when you are trying to do a singular function for which the app was originally designed, but they are terrible at traversing functions and for wandering and discovering.  Surfing apps doesn’t work well at all today.

We believe that the transition from a desktop/laptop web world to a mobile/social world necessitates a different, better approach, particularly for core functions like search and navigation. Vurb, with its small, dedicated and talented team, offers that better approach.


Jul
14
14



The Power of Anonymity

All important social platforms start with a context that sets the stage for how people will express themselves and connect on those platforms. Facebook was private, tightly-connected relationships; Twitter was real-time, public discussion; Instagram was visual expression. This initial context is critical in defining the social interactions and reasons for engaging on a platform.

Secret, by orienting around anonymity, taps into raw and honest human emotion and allows people to communicate in ways they can’t on any other network. While I was at Twitter, I saw the incredible role pseudonymity and anonymity played in allowing people to broadcast and express themselves freely. From whistleblowers, to citizen journalists trying to get information out from under oppressive regimes, to the deeply personal, to the funniest parody accounts, anonymity allows expression that wouldn’t have otherwise happened.

But where Twitter is about putting a range of ideas out there for public consumption, Secret is much more about having an unfettered conversation with people closely connected to you, where individuals are free to express themselves without fear of embarrassment or judgment. We think it’s a fundamental and important part of social connectedness and we’re incredibly excited to back David Byttow, Chrys Bader, and the rest of the Secret team.

More importantly, at Redpoint we invest in great teams and we have been blown away by the Secret team’s ability to recruit, build and execute. They are one of the strongest teams we’ve seen and we think it gives them a huge competitive advantage to build and adapt a product to the emerging needs of their community. This is personally one of my first deals since I joined Redpoint and I’m really excited about working closely with the team on realizing the promise ahead of them. They understand and appreciate the power and responsibility that creating an anonymous network brings and we can’t wait to see what they build for their community.


Jul
8
14



Beepi starts Accepting BitCoin today!

 

Beepi has partnered with BitPay to insure buyers are provided with all the payment methods worthy of a 21st century marketplace.

Before Beepi, buying a high quality car involved a nasty trip to one or more car dealers.  Today people can buy a certified, pre-owned car, pay with BitCoin 100% online and have it delivered 48 hours later with a 10 day money back guarantee!

In addition to this news announced today, Beepi launches a site redesign that now features:

1- Redesigned listing page with advanced search, grid view and list view

2- Redesigned car page, with automatic zoom, pictures carrousel, safety ratings provided by the institute for highway safety, fuel economy provided by the EPA, standard and optional features provided by Edmunds

3- Redesigned Checkout with BitCoin integration, financing instant pre-approval connecting with Experian, and the Beepi Garage (which means you can now reserve a vehicle for 48 hours by paying a $300 deposit while organizing your finances)

Beepi continues to lead the way toward the next generation used car marketplace.

 


Jun
16
14



Redpoint Backs BitGo

At Redpoint, we are strong believers in the potential of bitcoin to change the way transactions are conducted, both online and offline.  But this promising system of digital currency is still in its infancy, a reality that has been underscored by a spate of security troubles. In numerous cases, bitcoins have been lost or stolen when wallets have been compromised, when exchanges have been improperly secured, or even when individuals have been careless with their keys.  Bitcoin has relied heavily on people and institutions protecting their own keys, and this has been a point of failure for the currency and technology as a whole.

In other payment and Internet commerce systems, third party security providers have helped resolve these issues.  This includes Verisign for websites as well as the card issuers for credit cards and merchants.  We believe that BitGo has the potential to be that provider for the bitcoin industry, which is why we are excited to announce our investment in the company.

BitGo has built the first-ever, simple to use and enterprise-grade multi-signature technology that works with the existing blockchain.  BitGo requires each account to have three keys – any two of which are required to recreate the private key and participate in a transaction.  Typically, one of these BitGo generated keys is maintained by the owner, one by BitGo, and the third is usually held by a trusted third party or in remote, or offline storage controlled by the owner.  Any transaction requires that two of the three keys be used, just like a bank safety deposit box – no single key is enough to open it. Even if a single key is lost or compromised, the owner’s bitcoin cannot be stolen or accessed.  Indeed, this could only occur if both the user (or his/her wallet) AND BitGo are compromised.  This also allows BitGo to act as a fraud detection and prevention player, helping protect users who are themselves hacked, while still giving the user the ability to access and spend his or her bitcoin without BitGo participating in the transaction.  BitGo is working with many major bitcoin players to implement this technology across the entire bitcoin ecosystem.

BitGo also has an exceptional team behind it. The team has a history of involvement in key technological innovations at some of the most dynamic technology companies, including Google, Facebook, and Big Fish Games. In addition, former VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos is a new BitGo investor and board member alongside Redpoint. The involvement of the man whose company made it safe to put credit card numbers on the Internet only adds to BitGo’s reach and credibility.

We are truly excited to join such a pioneering team and company and look forward to the great developments ahead.


Jun
12
14



Redpoint’s Founders Day Re-cap

Redpoint recently hosted “The Anatomy of a Breakthrough Performance.” Held at the innovative Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, it was an event that brought together a lineup of luminaries who have indeed achieved breakthrough performances. From the America’s Cup skipper Jimmy Spithill to Navy Seal Commander Pete Naschak to peak performance guru Andy Walshe, Redpoint asked these extraordinary people to share how they have succeeded where others have failed.

The result was an illuminating and highly entertaining conversation full of valuable insights and life lessons learned through decades of trial and error. Our founders and CEOs in attendance were treated to an out-of-the-box afternoon that saw them drawing with crayons, flinging toy rockets at one another and asking questions about how they, too, can achieve that breakthrough performance.

Redpoint partner Geoff Yang kicked off the event and then handed over the reins to Walshe, the director of Red Bull’s global athletic development program, who has trained Olympians and worked with daredevil Felix Baumgartner on his record-breaking 24-mile free fall from space. Walshe was joined on stage by Spithill, Naschak, IDEO partner Brendan Boyle, SONOS CEO John MacFarlane and data scientist Eric Berlow.

Though each person’s goal requires a unique blueprint, the men stressed some common themes that can help anyone push beyond their perceived limits. Here is a quick summary of those themes:

Failure – Every single speaker highlighted the importance of failure in his quest for success.  It wasn’t so much the ugliness of the defeat itself that mattered most. Rather it was the way in which that defeat led to better, smarter ideas and execution. Failure was educational, inspirational and motivational—and it was essential to the ultimate triumph. Failure for them is not something to fear because it is inevitable with any challenging undertaking. Failure instead is a stepping stone, something to harness and tame, or the proverbial making lemonade from lemons. “Defeat is a great opportunity,” said Spithill.

 

Jimmy Spithill

“Adversity can be one of the best opportunities to learn about yourself and your teammates.” – Jimmy Spithill

 

In his case, Spithill shared some of the “curveballs” that led to last year’s dramatic comeback victory in the America’s Cup. In particular, he noted a day when his $15 million catamaran went into a nosedive and was dragged out miles beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. The damage to the vessel was one thing—and it could be repaired. But Spithill said the way his team handled the situation turned out to be “a real plus” in their ultimate quest. They learned how to be better from the experience and they also strengthened their bonds as individual contributors on a team, gaining greater trust in one another. “Adversity can be one of the best opportunities to learn about yourself and your teammates,” he said. “Champions always come back from adversity.”

Pushing Limits – Underestimating either an individual or a team is a common failing. And this can be costly, particularly for people trying to achieve the seemingly impossible, such as Baumgartner breaking the sound barrier in a free fall. Our panel shared its experiences and viewpoints about how to push people beyond their perceived physical or mental comfort zones—and explained why it is a key ingredient to generating change and optimizing performance.

Seal Commander Naschak recalled taking a group of elite athletes through eight days of rigorous physical and “mentally mind-bending” exercises, exposing them to harsh conditions in varied terrain. Despite many moments of self-doubt, each man made it through the challenges and brain scans compared from before and after the endurance test showed notable improvement. Every man said they came away with more confidence and a new perspective on their own mental and physical capabilities. “You can reset what is possible,” says Naschak.

 

Naschak talks about the changes in the brain when people push past perceived limits.

 

Walshe agreed with that sentiment. He explained that the team behind Baumgartner’s thrilling leap into the record books shared a vision that you can “take the essence of a performance and push beyond all disciplines.” Despite the daunting task at hand, the group drew on the know-how and experiences of the best in the world to overcome the litany of challenges Baumgartner’s quest presented, from designing and building the right space suit to ensuring that Baumgartner would be physically and mentally prepared to withstand the fall.

SONOS’ MacFarlane brought this concept into a more business-like setting. He noted that it’s almost impossible to push strong teams too hard, though you can push individuals too far. Teams, he said, that are comprised of the right mix of people can typically withstand much more stress than any one member can endure. Instead of focusing on individual contributors, MacFarlane says it’s helpful to emphasize clearly defined goals to bring teams together and keep them striving, even when they may feel they are tapped out. “A higher sense of mission drives people in tough times and keeps them focused,” he says.

 

IDEO’s Boyle having a little fun

 

Unleashing creativity – New ideas do not often come without risk. Optimizing the risk –whether it comes by hiring people with a wide array of differing viewpoints and problem-solving skills or by pushing people far outside their comfort zones–is key to generating meaningful change.

IDEO’s Boyle discussed “the trap” some companies, particularly larger, established ones, encounter when they stick too much to like-minded colleagues. “New ideas don’t come from the same place,” he said. People also must be willing to shake up their routines and group mindset.

Just getting our group to find partners, pick up a crayon, and then quickly sketch portraits of each other seemed to prove the point. While Boyle said children do this task gleefully and fearlessly, adults tend to worry about the quality of their drawing or what others might think of it. The takeaway from this exercise is simply that people need to find more ways to relax and enjoy a task for what it is rather than what they think it should be.

Berlow, who is in the midst of a project dubbed “hacking creativity,” also emphasized the need for assembling groups of divergent thinkers and abilities. His team is currently working on a project to identify creativity profiles by studying the creative processes exhibited by 100 of the most well-known and high-achieving people, including Einstein, John Lennon, Andy Warhol and Steve Jobs. The goal is to form connections between people based on the way they think and work.

Culture – In a sense, creating a culture that optimizes performance requires organizations to embrace all the ideas presented by the speakers—from embracing the role of failure to nurturing the creative mind to never underestimating what the right mix of people can achieve.

SONOS’ MacFarlane emphasized the importance of establishing a higher mission that drives people to succeed as well as cultivating an atmosphere in which people feel safe even when they make mistakes. He went so far as to suggest that leaders might reward failure and risk-taking as a way to get people to test unconventional strategies or ideas.

And even when teams are progressing, be prepared for the inevitable roadblocks. Organizations that allow individuals to step away from the daily grind without fear of repercussions outperform all others. Whether drawing pictures with crayons or playing with toy rockets, Boyle recommends adopting strategies that tap into individuals’ creative energy in unconventional ways.

Culture, of course, starts at the top, with leaders most responsible for setting the tone that works best in their own organizations.

The unique event concluded with a dinner by the bay. Appropriately, the attendees were mixed up and assigned to tables with people they didn’t already know.