Apr
15
14



Another Marketplace Ready for Reinvention: Why we invested in Beepi

Every year since Redpoint was founded we’ve made a marketplace investment. Technology offers brilliant ways to lower friction, enhance turnover, discover favorable economics and surface marginal demand in existing marketplaces. Stars in our portfolio like Loopnet, BlueKai and HomeAway.com  have set the bar for others to follow, and exciting new investments like Thredup, Homejoy, The Receivables Exchange and Axial are on promising trajectories. They all have a common thread – a team with a determined vision to take on an existing marketplace in need of radical new solutions to simplify and speed up the connection between demand and supply.

One such category that has not yet been truly reinvented since the dawn of the internet is the process of buying and selling a used car. That’s why we are thrilled to announce our investment in Beepi – a company that has made it dead-simple for individuals to buy and sell used cars. Beepi bests the existing consumer alternatives – car dealers (who provoke a well founded mix of fear, uncertainty and doubt), and cumbersome, risky and complicated, peer to peer selling sites (such as Craigslist)– with an elegant solution that enables an individual’s second largest financial purchase to become a simple, high value, risk-free and positive experience.

After a seller’s car has become Beepi-certified by passing Beepi’s comprehensive pre-purchase inspection process, and has accepted an attractive and guaranteed price from Beepi, the Beepi created listing is made available to buyers. Beepi handles all the listing creation, payment, paperwork, pick-up and delivery of the vehicle to make the experience completely frictionless. Buyers can find attractively priced vehicles, without negotiating, or driving all over the state, and  rest easy knowing Beepi has not only kicked the tires to find them a great car, but also offers a simple, highly reliable transaction and an unprecedented 10-day no questions asked money back guarantee.

In short, the potential for Beepi is to not only reinvent the car selling and buying experience for the better, but to change how consumers think about when and how to buy and sell their cars. We believe that Beepi can meaningfully penetrate the $300 Billion used car marketplace.

We are very excited to partner with two dedicated co-founding entrepreneurs in Ale Resnik and Omer Savir.  Ale and Omer both have had the personal experiences and broad vision to build something really big in this category.  In addition, we have assembled great partners and co-investors who bring to bear a great wealth of experience, insight and support in building this market:  Fabrice Grinda, founder and Chairman of OLX –the Craigslist of Europe, and also chairman of Beepi; Brian Sharples, cofounder and CEO of HomeAway, the world’s largest vacation home marketplace and former board member of iMotors, Rich Boyle, the former Chairman and CEO of Loopnet, the largest online marketplace for commercial real estate, and Tina Sharkey, founder of iVillage and former CEO of BabyCenter.

It will be an thrilling ride, (pun intended) and we’re looking forward to Beepi’s first chapter here in the Bay Area. Check out their cars now – and maybe get ready to sell yours.


Apr
3
14



A Revolutionary Investment in Jaunt

Virtual Reality has been attracting a lot of interest of late, particularly in the wake of Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift announced on March 25. If you haven’t yet tried this new generation of VR headsets, you’re in for a treat. The immersiveness of the experience can simply blow you away. It is a little like going from a small television to a massive IMAX theater — but so much more. Like escaping the Matrix for the first time, you have to see it for yourself.

Still, throughout the history of VR, these incredible experiences have been constrained to virtual worlds, where the required multiple views in every direction can quickly be calculated and rendered. Over time, that rendering has gotten so good that it’s almost indistinguishable from reality, but it still isn’t the same. There’s a big difference between playing NBA Jam and watching a real game on television. The same is true of VR: There hasn’t been a way to record the real world in way that enables playback through a VR headset.

That is, there wasn’t until now. Palo Alto-based startup Jaunt, led by extraordinarily talented Silicon Valley veterans Jens Christensen, Arthur van Hoff, and Tom Annau, is tackling this head on. They are building the hardware and software needed to record real world experiences and play them back through VR headsets like the Oculus Rift. To experience the real world through a VR headset, you need a very complicated custom camera system to record the world, a new type of compression and playback, and a way to get that content to viewers. Jaunt has created all this by engineering an entirely new system of VR recording, distribution, and playback. Jens, Arthur, Tom, and a crackerjack team of engineers have designed their own camera to capture 360-degree stereoscopic video. They have developed complicated stitching algorithms to turn the video into something consumable on the Oculus as well as tools allowing creators to edit these complex pieces of content. And they have created compression and streaming technologies so that the videos can be experienced over the Internet.

The best way to describe the feeling you have while using Jaunt’s system is that’s it’s teleportation — your brain is convinced that you’ve left your living room and are instead on stage sitting next to your favorite guitarist during a concert. Or maybe you are sitting courtside during a basketball game, able to not only watch the action in front of you, but to turn around and see how the fans behind you are reacting. Or you can teleport into a horror movie and hear the back door creak open behind you, spinning around just in time to see a shadow slip into the next room. The possibilities are endless.

Oculus alone is an incredible way to play and experience video games. With Jaunt, you can now experience so much more.

We are very excited about our investment in Jaunt, the all-star team behind the company, and by the future of virtual reality. In Facebook’s announcement of its acquisition of Oculus, Mark Zuckerberg said that what’s really exciting about Oculus is what comes after gaming. We couldn’t agree more. Thanks to Jaunt, that next leap in immersive entertainment has arrived.


Mar
27
14



Reflections On YCombinator Demo Day: How The Seed Market Has Changed

Earlier this week, I attended the Spring YCombinator Demo Day. I’ve been attending for six years now. Each time, I’m impressed by the intelligence, ambition and the polish of the founders presenting companies only a few weeks or months old.

As I listened to the pitches, I wondered if the types of startups founders decide to build at YC has changed over time and whether those trends are lagging or leading indicators of the market as a whole. At each Demo Day, the YC team provides investors a list of all the companies pitching and I’ve kept a few. To get a sense of the broader trends in YC companies, I’ve compared the Winter 2012 class and the Spring 2014 class by sector (consumer v. enterprise), segment (ecommerce, education, social, gaming, delivery) and by revenue model (subscription, ads, transactional).

These are the trends I observed in the data:

Mild shift toward enterprise: In 2012, 48% of YC startups were enterprise. In 2014, enterprise startups were 57% of the class.

Within enterprise, there has been a shift toward industry specific Software-as-a-Service (vertical SaaS) at the expense of horizontal SaaS. Vertical SaaS startups comprised 29% of the 2012 enterprise companies and 40% of the 2014 class. To make this idea more concrete, here are two examples. VidPresso provides software to the TV broadcast industry and is an example of vertical SaaS. ZenPayoll, a provider of payroll services, serves many different types of businesses and is a horizontal SaaS company.

Platforms-as-a-Service, which enable developers to build and scale applications (Heroku), have also seen a decline in numbers. In 2012, there were 5 PaaS companies while in 2014, I counted 2. Shifting to consumer, social apps have fallen from 24% of consumer startups to 15% at the most recent demo day. Unlike the 2012 class, there were no gaming companies in 2014. Food delivery companies, education companies and consumer market places have cropped up in their place.

As for revenue models, subscription remains dominant. 53% of 2012 YC companies chose this revenue model and 56% chose it in 2014.

Also notable is a marked increase in the number of non-profits. The 2014 class graduated 6 of them, up from zero in 2012.

All in all, YC startups do seem to be shifting with the market and/or YC partners are screening for startups that are more reflective of the environment. The shifts toward vertical SaaS and away from social and gaming apparent in this class are consistent with the patterns I’m seeing in the fund raising market. Unfortunately, the data isn’t able to tell us who is setting the trend. In any case, I’ll be tracking these trends in the future and hope to be able to draw more conclusions over time.


Mar
25
14



RelateIQ Joins the Redpoint Portfolio

We are very excited to announce Redpoint’s investment in RelateIQ, a SaaS platform that is turning the traditional CRM space on its head.  We have been admirers of the company (and very happy customers!) for some time and are thrilled to welcome them to the portfolio.

We began using the RelateIQ product last year and were blown away by its impact on our business.  At Redpoint, we are in the business of managing relationships with entrepreneurs.  To help managethese relationships, up until recently, we used a traditional customer relationship management tool.  While traditional solutions worked “ok”, we found them limited; they required considerable manual data entry and, most importantly, didn’t really help us do our job more intelligently.  Enter RelateIQ.  The team at RelateIQ has been busy building a fantastic product with several key innovations:

  • Automatic data capture.  With RelateIQ youdon’t have to manually input events (e.g., that you sent an email or had a meeting with a prospective customer); this is all automatically ingested into RelateIQ and associated with the relevant company/relationship entries.
  • Deep collaboration.  With RelateIQ you can see all communications between your organization and a prospective customer, including email, meetings and notes.   This keeps all team members in the loop so they have full context on the relationship – no more accidentalwire-crossing or unnecessary copying on emails.
  • Data insights.  RelateIQ uses its rich data set to help you manage your relationships better.  For example, if youforget to respond to someone’s email, RelateIQ will automatically remind you.  Another example is RelateIQ’s “Closest Connection” feature, which lets you look at your team’s network to determine who might be the best colleague to make a warm introduction into an account.

It is the data insights which have us so excited over the long run.  We see RelateIQ as a forerunner in an emerging category of data-driven applications.  These applications combine the flexibility of SaaS with intelligent insights powered by big data.  In the future, these smart apps will not only help automate processes, but also will help users make better decisions.

RelateIQ has very ambitious goals and they have the team capable of achieving great things.  The founders, Steve Loughlin and Adam Evans, have built a very talented team top to bottom and they have also spent considerable energy creating anamazing culture that has every team member invested in the continued success of the business.  It’s a fantastic place to work.

We have been happy users of the RelateIQ product for some time and are thrilled to welcome Steve, Adam and the entire RelateIQ team to the Redpoint family.  We look forward to working together for years to come.


Mar
25
14



Backing Tactile’s Series A

At Redpoint, we have been excited about the consumerization of the enterprise for some time. The idea is simple – target professionals inside of businesses with applications that make their working lives more productive. Many successful businesses have emerged that employ this business model. Good examples of these are Yammer, Dropbox and Evernote. Redpoint has invested in this business model as well, backing Expensify and Acompli recently. Today we are excited to announce a third investment – Tactile.

I remember when we hired my first sales guy at Zimbra. He came with a huge cardboard box full of business cards — literally hundreds of business cards each rubber banded into stacks. Fast forward to today, and Tactile gives you a personal mobile app to manage your sales rolodex and your sales relationships individually. Of course, there is a way to publish your contacts and your notes to the corporate CRM (like SFDC). But you maintain control on the individual contacts and meetings and publish it to the CRM system when you deem its appropriate. This is how sales people work in real life, and Tactile gives you a way to do this using a mobile app. Tactile works with your calendar, contacts and emails and gives you an easy way to log and modify existing contacts and meetings. And an easy way to publish it to your corporate CRM.

What makes Tactile even more attractive is that the person leading the effort has incredible experience in the CRM space. Chuck Ganapathy was most recently an SVP of products at Salesforce and brings a wealth of product knowledge in the area. His vision and idea around this space is refreshing, and we are super excited to partner with Chuck to bring this important sales productivity app to the market.


Mar
24
14



ThredUp: Leveraging Data to Understand Customers

ThredUp, the leading online resale marketplace for women’s and children’s fashion, has gathered interesting data points on its customers’ shopping trends. Here’s a quick look.

Ever wonder which clothes in your closet might fetch the most money? Or in which cities people shop the most for “practically new” shoes and dresses? Or which clothing brands hold their value the most? These are the kinds of juicy shopping tidbits you will find in thredUp’s Second Annual Resale Report. Founded in 2009, the fast-growing company has seen it all when it comes to fashion trends—and is willing to dish. Here are just some of the most interesting insights from 2013:

Of the 10,000 U.S. cities embracing the online fashion resale marketplace, residents in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Seattle, Chicago, Houston, Miami and Los Angeles are among the most enthusiastic. Indeed, shoppers from the top 10 cities collectively saved almost $1.8 million buying and selling clothes on thredUp in 2013.

What were these folks buying, you might ask? The fastest-selling brands for women include Burberry, Coach, Gucci, Toms, and True Religion. For kids, Zara, Crocks, Patagonia, Ralph Lauren and Matilda Jane were among the hottest. These brands, part of the more than 20,000 sold on the site, typically sell out within hours of being listed.

Of course, much of what you buy depends on where you live. thredUp checked that out and found some interesting—and surprising—results. For instance, Weston, FL residents bought up the most activewear clothing. The most shoe-obsessed population seems to hale from Lancaster, PA. Preppy clothing is biggest in Fontana, CA while formal wear is more the norm in Pleasant Shade, TN. Who buys the most designer brands? That honor goes to the fashionable people of Brooklyn, NY, who purchased more pieces by the likes of Stuart Weitzman, Missoni and Dolce & Gabbana than anyone else.

With savings of up to 90% off retail, the online resale marketplace is growing fast. In 2013, stripes, florals and plaids were the best-selling patterns. Wonder what they will be in 2014?


Mar
3
14



The Four Key Steps In Startup Fund Raising Processes

Raising capital from venture capitalists at any stage can seem like a very strange, ambiguous and amorphous process. I’ve written about the way Redpoint diligences/researches a startup and its market and what questions we tend to ask at each stage. In this post, I’ll focus on the process from entrepreneur’s point of view.

When raising capital, entrepreneurs will see potential investors move through four phases of investment decision-making process: screening, socialization, diligence, and decision. I’ve drawn a schematic that illustrates this evolution above. The chart also shows a line indicating the progression from one step to the next, using data from my own investment funnels.

Screening: the first call and/or first meeting. The screening step can include associates, principals and/or one or two partners. In this phase, investors are evaluating the risks of the investment, the market size, and the industry, to determine if it’s a fit with their fund size and investment goals. Looking at my CRM data, roughly 15% of startups continue onto the next stage.

Socialization: excited by a startup’s pitch and prospects, the partner/team who met with the company will share their knowledge with other members of the firm. VCs typically ask for second meetings during socialization. In second meetings, founders repeat the pitch to a broader group within the firm, though typically not the entirety of the partnership. If the deal team resonates with the founders and the opportunity and vice-versa, the deal team begins diligence. Again, about 15% of startups move onto diligence.

Diligence: the deal team begins researching the opportunity and share their findings with the broader partnership. This includes evaluating the team, the market, product roadmap and sales pipeline. Behind the scenes, VCs call contacts in industry to refine their point of view. As the research progresses, VCs will often volley questions back to the startup, seeking clarification. Typically, the diligence process is focused on a few key questions like market size, defensibility, regulatory risk, or competition. Increasingly, investors and founders discuss deal structure and outline deal terms at this stage. After diligence, about 10% of startups continue to the final “Partner Meeting,” a meeting of all the partners in a venture firm, or the entirety of the VC’s investment committee.

Decision: This the “Partner Meeting.” Beforehand, the deal team briefs the partnership on all the diligence materials, key questions, and deal terms. Founders pitch the entire partnership. After the meeting, all the partners debrief on the opportunity. Some firms provide deal teams latitude to make decisions on their own; others have implemented rigid voting processes to seek approval for investment. Granted approval and with a term sheet in hand, VCs then must convince an entrepreneur to sign their term sheet and partner with them. In the past 2 years, I’ve been lucky to invest in three companies (Axial, Electric Imp and Looker), for a success rate of 6% in this stage, or 0.2% throughout the process.

For founders, it’s important to understand where they are in the process with investors for two reasons. First, so as not to misjudge the finish line either by running out of capital in the midst of a process or presume success at too early a stage. Second, to build auction pressure in financings to create negotiating leverage on terms. Keeping VCs in stride with each other is one tactic to accomplish this goal.

The first part to ensuring a successful fund raising process is understanding the milestones. But ideally, after this process is completed, a founding team and an investor have built a strong and mutually beneficial relationship that will last many years and throughout the company’s ups and downs.


Feb
24
14



Lessons in Enjoying the Ride: BlueKai Acquired by Oracle


Today, Oracle announced that it is acquiring BlueKai, the leading data management SaaS provider for digital marketers, and a Redpoint portfolio company.  Congratulations to the BlueKai team and to Oracle on a terrific combination.

As an early stage VC, this is the kind of investment I live for, and I’m not talking about the financial return (though that is certainly good too) — I’m talking about the ride.   From the earliest identification of a market opportunity, to the recruitment of an extraordinarily talented team, to the twists and turns along the way in finding the real business, to the acknowledgement in the end that we’ve helped shape an emerging leader in a market that matters.

Taking a moment to look back, I have a few highlights of the ride with BlueKai – similar moments most startups see in their often challenging road to success.

 

Seeing the opportunity early

We were lucky to have been the only VC investor in Right Media, and to have seen the programmatic display ad market happening earlier than most.  If programmatic was going to be big, then audience data would be critical to informing marketer’s ad buying decisions, maybe even more important than the page context itself.  Then in 2007 Google bought Doubleclick, Yahoo bought Right Media, and the programmatic ad race was on.  Marketers and publishers would need to leverage audience data to take advantage of this shift.

It was clear: we needed to find an audience data platform play – before someone else did.

 

Confluence of talent: finding the right team

I met Omar Tawakol (now CEO of BlueKai) in a search process for one of my companies and was immediately blown away.  He possessed the rare combination of technical chops, product discipline, strategic vision and salesmanship.  If you’ve met him, you know exactly what I mean.  Fortunately he declined the job offer we had discussed, and we agreed to stay in touch regarding future opportunities to work together.   I subsequently introduced Omar to Alex Hooshmand (now BlueKai’s head of product) with whom I had worked at Right Media.  I connected them with a simple, “You guys should talk!”  With a bit of cajoling, Grant Ries and Mike Bigby hopped aboard, and completed the perfect founding team to go after the opportunity.  For this market, attracting the right the team was just as important as building the right product, and in this case both were perfectly aligned.

Of course when the moment came, our answer was simple: Heck yes, we’ll invest!

 

Twists and Turns: Making the right calls at the right time

Three years into the ride, we realized that the audience data exchange BlueKai had developed was only one piece of the puzzle.  As liquidity continued to grow within the exchange, marketers and publishers started asking if they could leverage BlueKai’s platform to manage their own data assets.  We became convinced that this software play could be as important an opportunity as the exchange, but to pursue it would mean a shift in strategy and business model, significant team changes, and the need for additional capital to fund what was an intriguing, but unproven model.  A huge risk was in front of the team and it was a challenging, and ultimately, defining moment.

 

Defining a market

The BlueKai team acted decisively: quickly doing another financing, transitioning the go-to-market team from media-centric to SaaS-centric, and repositioning BlueKai as a SaaS platform for marketers and publishers.  Fast forward two and a half years, and BlueKai has defined a new marketing SaaS category – the data management platform – and positioned itself as the emerging leader in the space.  A marquee list of online marketers and publishers adopted the BlueKai DMP platform to power audience-driven marketing activities across their websites, social media platforms, mobile, the Web and beyond.  And today’s announcement of the acquisition of BlueKai by Oracle further validates the importance and scale of the market opportunity.

The BlueKai team is an amazing example for startups at the challenging and defining points in their journey.  Their story is a good reminder for founders to listen carefully to what the market is telling you, and to be bold enough to adjust course in response to the feedback.

 

Congratulations again to the BlueKai team – and thanks for an amazing ride.

 


Feb
20
14



Backing Acompli & the Value of a Veteran Team

Last year, I wrote this post detailing what I would do if I was starting my last company, Zimbra, today. I wrote about the massive opportunity for a smart company to serve the professional market with a real, thoughtful solution for mobile email. Just a few months later, I was lucky to begin working with the team answering this exact challenge: Acompli.

Today, we are thrilled to officially welcome the Acompli team to the Redpoint portfolio. Backing their Series A was an easy decision. They have an incredible, proven team at the helm of an amazing product.

Javier, Acompli’s CEO was an EIR with us here at Redpoint after he sold his last company to VMWare,  Co-Founders Kevin Henrikson and JJ both worked with me at Zimbra, and Kevin was an EIR with us as well – albeit shortly, as he and Javier quickly got to work on Acompli while here at Redpoint.

Beyond their incredible product and vision, the value of a proven team like Acompli’s is huge. In this video, Javier and I discuss the pros and cons of working with startup veterans, what went into building the initial Acompli team, and how Javier is approaching being a CEO the second time around. Enjoy, and request your invite for Acompli today!


Feb
18
14



Why Startups Face Increasing Competition In Raising Series As And Bs

Has it become harder to raise money? is a question I hear all the time. On one hand, the total dollars invested by VCs is relatively flat at just under $30B per year, according to the NVCA. On the other hand, the stories of difficulty raising series As and Bs have become a steady drumbeat.

To get some sense of the patterns, I analyzed 917 companies from seed through Series B over the past 14 years, using Crunchbase data. I’ve divided the companies into cohorts by the year they raised their seed investment. Click on the charts to view interactive ones.

The chart shows the narrow funnel seed stage companies must pass through to raise a series A. There are three observations we can make from the chart. First, the number of seed investments in the Crunchbase data has increased by 4x in 4 years. Some of this growth is better data recording, but I suspect the majority of the growth is driven by increased seed investments. Second, the total number of Series As has also increased, but it’s hard to say whether that’s data accuracy or ground-truth. Third, the total number of Series Bs is remaining relatively constant, even for the newer cohorts, like the 2012 class.

Across all these cohorts, the mean success rate to raise an A after a Seed is 27%, to raise a B after an A is 35%, and the whole way through the funnel, Seed to B, is 11.5%. Said another way, only 12% of companies who raise a Seed will raise a B.

If you’re wondering how these trends have changed over time, this next chart will answer that question for you. The x-axis shows calendar year and the y-axis shows the % of companies that raised a round. The blue line shows the percentage of companies raising an A after a seed; the orange line shows the percent of post-Series A companies raising a B; the green line shows the percent of post-Seed companies who have run the gauntlet successfully to raise a Series B. The secular decline in all of these ratios screams of increased competition.

According to analysis by my partner Jamie Davidson on typical periods between financings peaks around 9 months so the follow on rates for Series Bs should be accurate up until the 2011 class, which gives these startups more than 2 years to raise their B. Data from 2012 and 2013 will show lower success rates because most of these companies won’t be mature enough to be in the market for a B.

Despite the noisy data, it’s reasonable to conclude the financing market has become more competitive, driven by an increase in the total number of startups raising seed capital and a relatively constant inflow of capital into venture capital.

Originally posted on Tomasz’s personal blog, here.