Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Until very recently, it had begun to seem like anyone with a thick enough checkbook and some key contacts in the startup world could not only fund companies as an angel investor but even put himself or herself in business as a fund manager.

It helped that the world of venture fundamentally changed and opened up as information about its inner workings flowed more freely. It didn’t hurt, either, that many billions of dollars poured into Silicon Valley from outfits and individuals around the globe who sought out stakes in fast-growing, privately held companies — and who needed help in securing those positions.

Of course, it’s never really been as easy or straightforward as it looks from the outside. While the last decade has seen many new fund managers pick up traction, much of the capital flooding into the industry has accrued to a small number of more established players that have grown exponentially in terms of assets under management. In fact, talk with anyone who has raised a first-time fund and you’re likely to hear that the fundraising process is neither glamorous nor lucrative and that it’s paved with very short phone conversations. And that’s in a bull market.

What happens in what’s suddenly among the worst economic environments the world has seen? First and foremost, managers who’ve struck out on their own suggest putting any plans on the back burner. “I would love to be positive, and I’m an optimist, but I would have to say that now is probably one of the toughest times” to get a fund off the ground, says Aydin Senkut, who founded the firm Felicis Ventures in 2006 and just closed its seventh fund.

“It’s a perfect storm for first-time managers,” adds Charles Hudson, who launched his own venture shop, Precursor Ventures, in 2015.

Hitting pause doesn’t mean giving up, suggests Eva Ho, cofounder of the three-year-old, seed-stage L.A.-based outfit Fika Ventures, which last year closed its second fund with $ 76 million. She says not to get “too dismayed” by the challenges.

Still, it’s good to understand what a first-time manager is up against right now, and what can be learned more broadly about how to proceed when the time is right.

Know it’s hard, even in the best times

As a starting point, it’s good to recognize that it’s far harder to assemble a first fund than anyone who hasn’t done it might imagine.

Hudson knew he wanted to leave his last job as a general partner with SoftTech VC when the firm — since renamed Uncork Capital — amassed enough capital that it no longer made sense for it to issue very small checks to nascent startups. “I remember feeling like, ‘Gosh, I’ve reached a point where the business model for our fund is getting in the way of me investing in the kind of companies that naturally speak to me,” which is largely pre-product startups.

Hudson suggests he miscalculated when it came to approaching investors with his initial idea to create a single GP fund that largely backs ideas that are too early for other VCs. “We had a pretty big LP based [at SoftTech] but what I didn’t realize is the LP base that’s interested in someone who is on fund three or four is very different than the LP base that’s interested in backing a brand new manager.”

Hudson says he spent a “bunch of time talking to fund of funds, university endowments — people who were just not right for me until someone pulled me aside and just said, ‘Hey, you’re talking to the wrong people. You need to find some family offices. You need to find some friends of Charles. You need to find people who are going to back you because they think this is a good idea and who aren’t quite so orthodox in terms of what they want to see in terms partner composition and all that.’”

Collectively, it took “300 to 400 LP conversations” and two years to close his first fund with $ 15 million. (Its now raising its third pre-seed fund).

Ho says it took less time for Fika to close its first fund but that she and her partners talked with 600 people in order to close their $ 41 million debut effort, adding that she felt like a “used car salesman” by the end of the process.

Part of the challenge was her network, she says. “I wasn’t connected to a lot of high-net-worth individuals or endowments or foundations. That was a whole network that was new to me, and they didn’t know who the heck I was, so there’s a lot of proving to do.” A proof-of-concept fund instill confidence in some of these investors, though Ho notes you have to be able to live off its economics, which can be miserly.

She also says that as someone who’d worked at Google and helped found the location data company Factual, she underestimated the work involved in running a small fund. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ve started these companies and run these big teams. How how different could it be? Learning the motions and learning what it’s really like to run the funds and to administer a fund and all responsibilities and liabilities that come with it . . . it made me really stop and think, ‘Do I want to do this for 20 to 30 years, and if so, what’s the team I want to do it with?’”

Investors will offer you funky deals; avoid these if you can

In Hudson’s case, an LP offered him two options, either a typical LP agreement wherein the outfit would write a small check, or an option wherein it would make a “significant investment that have been 40% of our first fund,” says Hudson.

Unsurprisingly, the latter offer came with a lot of strings. Namely, the LP said it wanted to have a “deeper relationship” with Hudson, which he took to mean it wanted a share of Precursor’s profits beyond what it would receive as a typical investor in the fund.

“It was very hard to say no to that deal, because I didn’t get close to raising the amount of money that I would have gotten if I’d said yes for another year,” says Hudson. He still thinks it was the right move, however. “I was just like, how do I have a conversation with any other LP about this in the future if I’ve already made the decision to give this away?”

Fika similarly received an offer that would have made up 25 percent of the outfit’s debut fund, but the investor wanted a piece of the management company. It was “really hard to turn down because we had nothing else,” recalls Ho. But she says that other funds Fika was talking with made the decision simpler. “They were like, ‘If you sign on to those terms, we’re out.” The team decided that taking a shortcut that could damage them longer term wasn’t worth it.

Your LPs have questions, but you should question LPs, too

Senkut started off with certain financial advantages that many VCs do not, having been the first product manager at Google and enjoying the fruits of its IPO before leaving the outfit in 2005 along with many other Googleaires, as they were dubbed at the time.

Still, as he tells it, it was “not a friendly time a decade ago” with most solo general partners spinning out of other venture funds instead of search engine giants. In the end, it took him “50 no’s before I had my first yes” — not hundreds —   but it gave him a taste of being an outsider in an insider industry, and he seemingly hasn’t forgotten that feeling.

Indeed, according to Senkut, anyone who wants to crack into the venture industry needs to get into the flow of the best deals by hook or by crook. In his case, for example, he shadowed angel investor Ron Conway for some time, working checks into some of the same deals that Conway was backing.

“If you want to get into the movie industry, you need to be in hit movies,” says Senkut. “If you want to get into the investing industry, you need to be in hits. And the best way to get into hits is to say, ‘Okay. Who has an extraordinary number of hits, who’s likely getting the best deal flow, because the more successful you are, the better companies you’re going to see, the better the companies that find you.”

Adds Senkut, “The danger in this business is that it’s very easy to make a mistake. It’s very easy to chase deals that are not going to go anywhere. And so I think that’s where [following others] things really helped me.”

Senkut has developed an enviable track record over time. The companies that Felicis has backed and been acquired include Credit Karma, which was just gobbled up by Intuit; Plaid, sold in January to Visa; Ring, sold in 2018 to Amazon, and Cruise, sold to General Motors in 2016, and that’s saying nothing of its portfolio companies to go public.

That probably gives him a kind of confidence that it’s harder to earlier managers to muster. Still, Senkut also says it’s very important for anyone raising a fund to ask the right questions of potential investors, who will sometimes wittingly or unwittingly waste a manager’s time.

He says, for example, that with Felicis’s newest fund, the team asked many managers outright about how many assets they have under management, how much of those assets are dedicated to venture and private equity, and how much of their allotment to each was already taken. They did this so they don’t find themselves in a position of making a capital call that an investor can’t meet, especially given that venture backers have been writing out checks to new funds at a faster pace than they’ve ever been asked to before.

In fact, Felicis added new managers who “had room” while cutting back some existing LPs “that we respected . .. because if you ask the right questions, it becomes clear whether they’re already 20% over-allocated [to the asset class] and there’s no possible way [they are] even going to be able to invest if they want to.”

It’s a “little bit of an eight ball to figure out what are your odds and the probability of getting money even if things were to turn south,” he notes.

Given that they have, the questions look smarter still.


TechCrunch

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

This morning we’re talking about churn — the bane of software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies big and small — in the new world we find ourselves in. SaaS companies, from startups to huge public firms, have built their businesses under strong economic conditions. So what happens to the industry now that the global economy has hit pause, layoffs are piling up across national economies and venture capital is slowing?

It’s easy to say that churn will go up; some customers will close, cancelling contracts (boosting gross churn) while other customers will slow software budget growth (limiting net retention). But how bad will things really get? To get a handle on what’s next for churn, I spoke to the CEO of CrowdStrike, a public SaaS company; the CEO Gainsight, a quickly-growing private SaaS company who recently ran a survey on the topic; and Denis Barrier. a partner at venture capital firm Cathay Innovation. We also have fresh data to explore from Cledara, a startup that helps other companies control their software spend.

Let’s go!

Churn


TechCrunch

Vericool, a Livermore, Calif.-based startup that’s replacing plastic coolers and packaging with plant-based products, has raised $ 19.1 million in a new round of financing.

The company’s stated goal is to replace traditional packaging materials like polystyrene with plant-based insulating packaging materials.

Its technology uses 100% recycled paper fibers and other plant-based materials, according to the company, and are curbside recyclable and compostable.

Investors in the round include Radicle Impact PartnersThe Ecosystem Integrity FundID8 Investments and AiiM Partners, according to a statement.

“We’re pleased to support Vericool because of the company’s track record of innovation, high-performance products, well-established patent portfolio and focus on environmental resilience. We are inspired by the company’s social justice commitment to address recidivism and provide workplace opportunity to formerly incarcerated individuals,” said Dan Skaff, managing partner of Radicle Impact Partners and Vericool’s new lead director. 


TechCrunch

Tina Sharkey, the founder and former CEO of the recently closed D2C brand Brandless, has today been appointed to the board of directors of PBS. Sharkey is an independent board member.

Before her time at Brandless, Sharkey spent years in the media world. She scaled Johnson & Johnson’s platform for new and expecting moms, called Baby Center, oversaw AOL’s transition from a closed network to the open web and co-founded iVillage. She also served as president of the Sesame Street Digital Group, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street with a mission of making educational storytelling available to anyone.

PBS, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has more than 300 partner stations and a presence on most digital platforms.

“PBS is so committed to universal access to the arts and educational storytelling,” said Sharkey in an interview with TechCrunch. “You may not know that they invented closed captioning. They still maintain the Public Emergency Broadcast System. They have all kinds of streaming services with distribution on Amazon, Roku, YouTube. They have their own app. But most importantly, they are able to quickly adapt in this moment of COVID-19 to become one of the world’s largest classrooms.”

Sharkey joins a 27-person board that includes Professional Directors (station leaders), General Directors (lay members of the board) and the PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger.

Sharkey is best known in the tech world for her time at Brandless, a D2C brand that sold household supplies, grocery items and pet products for $ 3/item. The company controlled most of the full stack, from manufacturing through to sales, and delivered an interesting alternative to Amazon. Also garnering attention from the tech world: Brandless raised nearly $ 300 million in funding, including $ 240 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

Brandless shuttered in February of this year, but Sharkey says there are lessons that can be carried over from her experience at the D2C startup.

“Brandless tapped into something very powerful around democratizing access to better things,” said Sharkey. “Better should be available to everyone. With Brandless, it was about better stuff. For PBS, it’s about better access and better educational tools and better stories. So it’s a different product, but it’s the same belief system, and that’s that communities want to be convened and be seen and everyone has a story to tell.”

Sharkey added that some of her favorite PBS programming includes FrontLine, News Hour and the shows that offer more democratized access to the arts, such as live performances and Broadway shows.


TechCrunch

The Los Angeles-based digital challenger bank, HMBradley, opened its virtual doors to the public today, allowing the thousands of waitlisted would-be users to set up direct deposits and collect their sign-up bonuses.

The company is offering banking customers an up to 3% return on their savings based on the percentage they save of their quarterly deposits.

HMBradley also set up a new feature which allows users to save towards specific goals.

Backed by PayPal founder Max Levchin’s HVF Labs, along with Walkabout Ventures, Mucker Capital, Index Ventures, and Accomplice, to the tune of $ 3.5 million, HMBradley was designed to benefit savers, the company said.

Account holders with balances up to $ 100,000 can receive up to 3% annual percentage yields on their accounts. These account holders qualify by receiving one direct deposit and saving at least 5% of the total amount deposited in an account monthly.

HMBradley accounts are held through Hatch Bank, which is FDIC insured.

To qualify for the 3 percent rate, customers need to save over 20 percent of their income, account holders who save between 15 percent and 20 percent receive 2 percent of their cash per year, and those saving less than 15 percent but more than ten percent receive a 1 percent APY.

“We want to empower and protect every consumer financially to show them that a bank can be on their side, regardless of how much money they make,” said Zach Bruhnke, co-founder and CEO of HMBradley, in a statement.

Account holders have access to 55,000 fee-free ATMs around the country, mobile check deposit and around-the-clock support, the company said.

The company’s MasterCard comes with all of the standard features including zero liability protection and an ability to set up travel, fraud alerts, and cancel cards all through an online portal, the company said.


TechCrunch

Amazon, the e-commerce giant that has fared well financially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is facing a bevy of worker strikes. Today, warehouse workers on Staten Island in New York walked off the job in protest of Amazon’s treatment amid the crisis.

“Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable,” an Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances. The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day.”

In solidarity with warehouse workers, tech workers at Amazon are demanding the company provide fully paid family leave for people who miss work, provide fully paid leave to all Amazon workers, close facilities immediately following contamination, ensure full paid leave for workers whose jobs are impacted by such closures and ensure everyone has unlimited time to take care of their health.

“Recognizing the urgency of the moment, tech workers are going beyond asking Amazon to take action and are pledging not to work for Amazon if it fails to act,” the DC Tech Workers Coalition wrote in a petition. “We also pledge to ask organizations in our communities such as universities and conferences to not accept Amazon as a sponsor or participant in events.”

Meanwhile, workers at Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, are organizing a “sick out” strike tomorrow to demand better protections on the job, Vice reports.

According to Vice, Whole Foods workers will call in sick tomorrow and demand paid sick leave for those who stay at home or self-quarantine during the pandemic. They will also demand free coronavirus testing for employees and hazard pay.

Led by group Whole Worker, the sick-out was originally planned for May 1, but was moved up in response to reports that workers have started getting sick and testing positive for COVID-19.

“As this situation has progressed, our fundamental needs as workers have become more urgent,” the group wrote on its campaign page. “COVID-19 poses a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and our customers. We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.”

This action will come one day after Instacart workers are refusing to shop and deliver groceries until the company meets their demands. Shoppers’ current demands are offering hazard pay of $ 5 extra per order, changing the default tip to 10%, and extending the sick pay policy to those who have a doctor’s note for a pre-existing condition that may make them more susceptible to contracting the virus.

“For the sake of public health and worker safety, every non-union grocery worker must speak out,” United Fodo and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone said in a statement. “If Amazon, Instacart, and Whole Foods are unwilling to do what is right to protect their workers and our communities, the UFCW is ready to listen and do all we can to help protect these brave workers from irresponsible employers who are ignoring the serious threat posed by the rapidly growing coronavirus outbreak.”


TechCrunch

Air Doctor, the health tech startup that connects travellers with local doctors, has raised $ 7.8 million in Series A funding. The round is led by Kamet Ventures (the AXA-backed venture builder), and The Phoenix Insurance Company.

Founded in 2016, Air Doctor aims to empower travellers who get sick when abroad and need non-emergency advice or treatment. It has created a network of local private physicians that travellers can access, typically via travel insurance or perks. The platform is available across 42 countries in 5 continents, and lets you search by location, language, specialty, and cost.

“Air Doctor was born out of the founding team’s own travelling experiences, out of that terrible feeling you get when you fall ill in a foreign country and don’t know who to turn to or how to get the fast response you need,” says Jenny Cohen Derfler, CEO and co-founder of Air Doctor.

“Yam [Derfler, Head of Product Innovation] came up with the idea after eight months of travelling around South America, in which both he and his friends at different times felt completely helpless when they got sick and, more often than not, couldn’t find English-speaking doctors”.

Derfler says Air Doctor’s initial focus was that of the travelling patient, but the team quickly realised that this is a problem that affects an entire ecosystem around medical care for travellers.

“Local doctors have no reliable way of accessing a whole new group of private customers, insurance companies waste huge amounts of money on tedious and questionable medical services, and also want to improve the customer experience of being connected to healthcare, and travel agents want a reliable service to bundle up as part of their packages. It became clear we needed to build a platform that would benefits all parties,” she says.

By combining a global network of medical professionals with a digital platform, Air Doctor is able to lower costs for insurance companies, and offer value-added solutions for credit card companies and mobile operators. On the supply end, it also claims to increase physicians’ income and digital presence, while providing “the highest level of healthcare” for international travellers in their native languages.

“Our aim is to provide every traveler in the world access to experienced local doctors and specialists when they need it, and by doing so to help them avoid having to go to hospitals or tourist clinics,” adds Derfler.

The that end, Air Doctor’s first customer was The Phoenix, one of Israel’s leading insurance companies, which has subsequently invested as part of this Series A round. By offering Air Doctor to its customers, The Phoenix was able to reduce its loss ratio by reducing claim costs, reorienting patients to outpatient clinics rather than emergency services, and streamlining payments.

“Our big selling point for the travellers themselves is control,” underlines the Air Doctor CEO. “When you’re sick while away from home, you want to feel like you are in control of your situation. Our online platform helps patients find immediate solutions, by providing them with a wealth of information about a wider range of local practitioners so they can choose the most appropriate doctor for their needs and preferences. Most importantly, we help them access medical care in their native language, which is one of the biggest things when it comes to feeling in control of your situation”.

Meanwhile, this latest round follows Air Doctor’s seed round of $ 3.1 million in July 2018. The new investment will be used to bolster Air Doctor’s medical network and R&D capabilities and for international expansion across the insurance, telecom, and credit card industries.


TechCrunch

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