What Interests Us
We've helped more founders build startups at the earliest possible stage than most anyone you'll meet, and that means we can help startups avoid the 1,000 landmines that can cause certain failure.
We focus on investing in high-potential software startups at seed stage and earlier, with small teams that include great engineers, designers and product founders. Many companies come to us when they are just two or four people, and we help them get from there to their Series A or B rounds and beyond.
If you have an idea that is not reflected in our current portfolio, don’t be dissuaded from pitching us. We’re a firm that has often discovered the next technology wave through the talent in our network. For example, we knew Brian Armstrong through his work on risk management and fraud detection at Airbnb. But his next company had nothing to do with travel or hospitality — it was Coinbase, which has become one of the pre-eminent ways to hold, invest and trade Bitcoin and Ethereum in the world.
We’re a generalist VC and have funded early-stage startups that touch nearly every sector. We have a specific strength in software, and believe that every kind of business will be re-made by great software engineers creating things that are better, cheaper, and faster than incumbent offerings.
Many of our best investments have come from talented founders who shifted their skills into a new or untested field. For example, when we invested in Kyle Vogt, he hadn’t worked in autonomous vehicles for roughly a decade since his undergraduate years, but then he went on to create Cruise, which sold to GM for $1 billion. Or when we invested in Brian Armstrong, he had worked in fraud prevention at Airbnb before starting Coinbase.
- We love founders who are so knowledgeable about their space that we walk away from meetings having learned from a world-class expert.
- We love founding teams who have a long history together with a demonstrated track record usable products that people want.
- We love teams that have identified not just promising market opportunities, but enormous ones that could eventually grow to making more than a hundred million dollars in revenue every year. We are underwriting each investment to an exit that could potentially return our fund.
- We love funding teams that we would want our closest friends to work for (because the opportunity is that big and compelling). These teams have no problem recruiting the world’s best talent.
- As a software-focused firm, we also want to make sure that every team we fund has at least one strong technical co-founder and can ship code.
Questions that are good to ask yourself:
- How is your product 5 or 10X better, cheaper or faster than what’s available on the current market?
- What specific things do you want to accomplish in the next 18 to 24 months if you raise capital?
- What have you accomplished to date and what specific data points can you use to demonstrate to us that customers love what you’ve built?
We are founders and operators who know what it’s like to start and grow a new company. We have created some of the best-known and most loved brands on the modern web and we have worked in disciplines across the industry from engineering to product design to brand marketing to media relations and public policy. We can help you in specific areas like technical hiring, user acquisition or media outreach because we have people on our team who have done exactly those things for 10 years or more. As a culture, we value helpfulness, pragmatism and responsiveness. We are investors foremost, not managers. We want to help companies find a path forward, but ultimately, the founders must make the key decisions.
We aim to be fast and have a turnaround time of around two weeks. If we’re a no, we’ll get back to you quickly and explain why. We think that pitching should be a two-way learning process where we both grow and learn from the experience. If we move forward, you’ll need to meet every general partner on the team. We don’t require unanimous consent among the partnership, but it’s good to have at least one or two partners being your champions.
We focus on early-stage investing, when teams tend to include solely the founders or the founding team plus a few first employees. Many of the teams we talk to have already launched their products and already have the beginnings of a revenue model, although this is not required. We understand that products and business models evolve, but it’s good to see in a very concrete way how teams are able to ship product and work together.
It’s never too early to start a conversation with us. Often times, we meet founders right when they are starting out and then we invest later once we see progress.
We get a lot of warm introductions primarily from our community of founders and builders, so if you pitch one of our partners, it is helpful if you explicitly include quantitative pieces of data that clearly demonstrate traction such as your overall user base and its growth rate or your monthly revenue run-rate and its growth rate. If you have also previously created successful companies or projects, do mention them as well.
We are proud to have large number of operators who have spent years in engineering, design, communications and policy. First, we use office hours to spend time working through issues that founders commonly face, such as prioritization, hiring and how and when to structure fundraising. Then we have operators on the team who can come in and help with user acquisition strategy, press launches or product design. Founders can use these services on an as-need basis; we don’t require companies in the portfolio to use them.
See: How We Help
Yes. About a quarter of our recent fund is outside of Northern California. We have invested in major U.S. metros like New York City and Los Angeles for years, and we have also recently supported companies in Atlanta, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee. We have also invested in several Canadian startups out of Toronto and Vancouver. We are still primarily a North American firm, however. For novel blockchains and distributed ledger technologies, we do have more flexibility to invest outside the U.S.
We are proud that our investment team is 50 percent women and we are always actively looking for founders who are underrepresented or have atypical backgrounds. We want to support a vision of entrepreneurship that is inclusive of people from all walks of life. We will never say that we are “lowering the bar” or that it is a “pipeline problem.” We recognize that all actors in society have to take proactive effort to make sure they are reaching out to groups that have been historically underrepresented within the technology industry.
Yes. You can view our policy here.
We rarely take board seats unless it’s a larger investment for the firm.