Funding ‘Grow Therapy’ to get mental health covered by insurance

Depression and anxiety rates are up 300% and demand for mental health services has grown 200% in just a few years since the start of the pandemic. Yet 55% of all US counties don’t have a licensed behavioral therapist. Mental health is clearly one of the most pressing issues for our healthcare system.

Grow Therapy is tackling this crisis in two critical ways: Making therapy a more attractive profession, and getting therapy covered by insurance.

Grow equips therapists with all the tools they need to launch their own practice: a virtual receptionist for scheduling, billing systems, telehealth infra, health records, and marketing help through Grow’s own site and featured placement on channel partner platforms. The ability to be one’s own boss, set one’s own hours, keep more of the revenue, and decide what conditions to focus on helps the therapy profession attract and retain better talent.

Then, to make therapy affordable for everyone, Grow strikes partnerships with top payors and programs to get its therapists covered by insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. That’s how it’s quickly grown to over 3,000 providers who it helps serve over 10,000 new patients each month, and how it increased revenue 13X in the last year. After leading its Series A, we’re excited to back Grow Therapy’s $45M Series B led by our friends at TCV (plus $30M in debt funding).

Grow occupies arguably the most strategic position at the heart of the massive structural demand-supply imbalance for mental health services, which unfortunately will get worse before it gets better. It’s building the most robust practice enablement offering covering everything a therapist needs to get their practice off the ground. They are best positioned in the long run because they are building a much stickier and deeper relationship with therapists who run their entire practice through Grow.

Moreover, they’re unlocking net new supply through a vertically integrated approach targeting therapists who have yet to start their own practice. The vertical integration also means Grow has a much greater ability to fundamentally improve the patient experience (for example allowing the company to collect more patient data, and transition to more acute care in a way that the other thinner aggregators can’t do). All of this in turn makes them the best mental health practice enablement platform for payors and the broader healthcare ecosystem.

It’s a hugely disruptive value proposition that grows the market 10X to the vast majority of people who can’t afford to pay out of pocket for a hugely important service. I’ve had my own family life turned on its head during the pandemic from a relative’s mental health episode. I was born in Detroit and raised by an immigrant family from rural Taiwan, and had we still been in that kind of financial situation or job inflexibility, I have no idea what we would have done. Grow’s specific approach cuts to the core of that problem, as they are the only ones who have an economic model that allows them to accept Medicare/Medicaid (which the new practices that Grow is helping launch are happy to take, unlike existing practices).

The Grow Therapy team is special. We’ve backed first-time and repeat founders including the creator/CEO of YouTube, the ex-CEO of Jawbone, the ex-President of Zynga, the ex-head of GoogleX Robotics, and the ex-VP of Engineering of Amazon. I can confidently say Jake and the Grow team are among the most thoughtful and fastest learning in our portfolio. They are execution machines, but are also genuinely kind and fun to be around.

Grow Therapy founders (from left): Alan Ni, Jake Cooper, Manoj Kanagaraj

The company is growing at an incredible pace, among the fastest and most efficient we’ve seen at their stage. Their competitive fundraise during a summer when the market for such growth rounds was effectively frozen is an indication of how much of an outlier they are. Grow Therapy is the kind of business that can endure and thrive in any market environment. Now it has the funding to address the most underserved health epidemic of our generation.

How OneSignal pivoted to power notifications for 1 in 7 apps

After leading its Series A and B, SignalFire backs OneSignal’s new $50M Series C

 

There’s a grand tradition amongst ambitious gaming startups. When their game proves too heady, before its time, or simply too weird, they pivot to selling the infrastructure they built along the way. Fates Forever became Discord. Glitch became Slack. So too did Go Ninja become OneSignal…and developers around the world better off because of it.

George Deglin and his team had grown frustrated with the weak push notification infrastructure available to his previous company Hiptic games. Without notifications, a once loyal but absentminded player could forget about Go Ninja and churn out. The existing solutions weren’t enterprise-focused, self-serve, performant, or affordable. So they decided to roll their own.

Pretty soon not just gaming companies were demanding access, and the company went all in on the pivot to selling push notification infrastructure. Within a short time, OneSignal wracked up 300,000 registered users by offering a product-led service with a generous free tier where users could sign up and be sending notifications within minutes without having to talk to anyone – exactly what they were once looking for. 

The secret sauce was OneSignal’s ability to run their infrastructure very efficiently, reminding me of my days at Google. OneSignal’s technical team used dedicated hardware (no cloud services!) and efficient systems programming languages (Rust) to process billions of push notifications at an extremely low cost.

After we at SignalFire made our initial investment in 2017, we doubled down in 2019. Our cultures aligned – both teams are full of data nerds eager to help their fellow engineers. While they built out push infra, we helped them build up their team with our own homegrown recruiting technology Beacon. It helped them find not just the strongest PMs and engineers, but the ones that were most likely to leave their job for a new challenge.

OneSignal’s torrid growth continued, and today it has 1.7M registered developers and marketers. It processes over 10B notifications per day and has rolled out an omnichannel product, making it a one-stop shop for any company that needs to communicate with its users via mobile push, web push, email, SMS, or in-app messaging. OneSignal processes more notifications than all of its competitors combined, and 1 out of every 7 new mobile apps uses OneSignal. 

To power its continued growth and continue its ascent to becoming the default way that developers communicate with customers the company today announced a $50M Series C led by Jamie McGurk at BAM Elevate. Rather than building a few games, George and the team are empowering an entire generation of developers of all stripes. And they seem to be having even more fun doing it.

The need for real-time data monitoring: Leading $34M for Dig Security

If someone breaks into your house but your alarm doesn’t go off until eight hours later, that’s not really “security”. Yet this is how most data cybersecurity systems work today. Most security platforms can’t detect an attacker early enough in the kill chain to actually stop them and prevent further damage. Today, a motivated attacker can breach cloud data in less than three minutes!

This whole problem has only gotten worse as the shift from on-prem to the perimeter-less cloud causes data sprawl. Now businesses don’t even know where all their data is, and you can’t use agents or hardware to intercept all traffic. You need to monitor out-of-band and through APIs, safeguard microservices. Simply put, the old network-centric approaches don’t apply. 

What we need is real-time security — where the alarm goes off the moment someone breaks in so the cops show up and catch them in the act before they can escape with your stuff. 

That’s how Dig Security works so it can detect incursions in under a minute. Dig indexes and monitors all your cloud data stores and structures. After identifying and minimizing any static risks, Dig helps companies establish policies for approved data access. That lets businesses rapidly discover anomalous use and respond to shut down access and keep attackers from stealing their sensitive user data, payment information, or intellectual property. Finally, Dig provides audit records so businesses can prove to regulators that they’re keeping sensitive data safe.

The need for this modern approach to data is why SignalFire is leading a $34 million Series A for Dig Security. We believe they’re the future of data detection and response for the perimeter-less era. In a post-firewall world, Dig can give tech companies, financial institutions, governments, and others the peace of mind that their data is safe. You can read more about Dig in TechCrunch.

In the on-prem era, data security was essentially a highly secure vault. Anyone who wanted access to sensitive data would need to authenticate themselves and customers were able to put in place firewalls and alarm systems since they owned the real estate. But with the move to the public cloud, customers now face a slew of new problems. These include their data being dispersed across many different environments, not having full control or ownership over the cloud they run on, and needing a real-time alarm system that could cover their fragmented data.

Unfortunately, most cloud security vendors today only focus on helping customers locate their sensitive data in the cloud and build weak checkpoints around it. They don’t have visibility into what’s done with the data, so they never detect anomalous use. Dig changes this by not only finding and protecting the data stores but also offering an actual real-time alerting system so customers get notified of anything suspicious.

Building this fundamental overhaul of how we approach security requires deep experience at high stakes. Luckily, CEO Dan Benjamin was previously running security product strategy for the world’s biggest enterprise cloud — Microsoft Azure. Before that, he was the CTO of Google Cloud for Startups after serving with the Israeli Defense Force’s elite 8200 cybersecurity division. He built the way the world’s top businesses and militaries approach cloud security, and now he’s bringing that depth of protection to every company through Dig. Meanwhile, our Beacon Talent recruiting engine ranks Dig’s engineering team in the 95th percentile of all startups we index.

Dig Security founders [from left]: Ido Azran, Dan Benjamin, Gad Akuka

Unfortunately, customers can’t wait and hope for the big enterprise clouds to handle data security properly. In fact, Dan got the idea for Dig after Google Cloud launched an API that let users export their whole production data asset as a CSV…which promptly let a hacker steal everything from one of Google Cloud’s top customers. Dan realized the need for a dedicated data security solution outside of the cloud platforms themselves that are too big to care about the problems their updates cause.

At SignalFire, we love providing our portfolio companies with help they can measure. That’s why founders give us an NPS of 92 when few funds even track that metric. Our go-to-market experts led by ex-Stripe CMO Jim Stoneham are helping Dig reach the customer leads identified by our in-house data science team. Our recruiting leaders are working with Dan to use our Beacon Talent engine to hire the best engineers. And SignalFire’s in-house PR expert Josh Constine, a former editor at TechCrunch, advised them on making a big splash with today’s funding announcement.

“This is an amazing team of second-time entrepreneurs with the scars from paying their dues in the security industry” says SignalFire advisor and Exabeam security founder Nir Polak. “They not only have the right idea that data is the crown jewel that enterprises are trying to protect. They also know how to execute.” Now Dig’s focus is making it easier and easier to integrate while expanding into Data Loss Prevention to protect data in motion, at rest, and at its endpoints. 

Every technological shift comes with tradeoffs. All the convenience, collaboration, and flexibility of the cloud are accompanied by increased risks from a fragmented attack surface that firewalls can’t protect. Dig will let organizations safely seize the cloud’s benefits by providing the real-time vigilance they need to catch crooks red-handed.

Investing in Twingate, a VPN your team will actually love

For me, the word “VPN” conjures up frustration: sluggish network connectivity with videos buffering and downloads slowing to a crawl, plus general clunkiness where certain applications stop working altogether. Most of us have had experience with VPNs at work — they’ve unfortunately been a standard way to access corporate networks for decades at this point.

The problem stems from how traditional VPNs are architected: you connect to a VPN server which then forwards your network traffic to its final destination and then forwards the response traffic that comes back to you. It becomes the single choke point for all your data and an extra leg that has to be traveled for every request. That’s a lot of overhead, especially if the VPN server is far from you or becomes overloaded.

The price you pay in speed may have made sense in the past when all IT resources were on-premise and the VPN could govern secure access to them. In today’s world, the rise of SaaS apps that run in the cloud has rendered that model obsolete. Why should your Zoom calls or Gmail attachment downloads slow to a crawl over a VPN for no security benefit? Additionally, VPN servers have themselves become a prime target for hackers. Capture the VPN server and the hacker gets the keys to the entire kingdom.

This is where Twingate comes in. We first got to know Tony Huie, the co-founder & CEO, when he joined SignalFire from Dropbox as an investing partner. When Tony got the itch to go back to operating and founded Twingate, we were thrilled to back him at seed. The vision he laid out for a modern rethinking of the VPN (and access controls more broadly) resonated and the technology behind the product was battle-tested. 

Twingate co-founders (from left): Alex Marshall, Tony Huie, and Lior Rozner

By intelligently routing your traffic directly based on its destination, Twingate eliminates the VPN server middleman. It maps your networks with no need for on-prem or cloud infrastructure changes, then analyzes every network request to verify the user, device, and context. Twingate then uses resource-level split tunneling, NAT traversal, and private proxies to ensure there are no user performance or latency problems.

Twingate’s ease of use for both end-users and admins has been a focus for the team which has deep Dropbox roots and an appreciation for the power of great UX. Equipped with SignalFire’s Beacon Talent hiring engine, recruiting team, and data scientists, Tony has led Twingate to tremendous growth this past year and a half. It also won over 50 awards from G2 including easiest to use, best support, and best ROI! 

We’re pleased to participate in the latest $42 million Series B round of financing which the company announced today in Forbes. The team is on a roll and they have an exciting roadmap to build atop their initial VPN replacement use case, helping companies of all sizes migrate to a new security model based on Zero Trust. 

If you want to replace your VPN with something your team will love, you can get set up with Twingate in just minutes.

Manage Open Source Sprawl with Plural

Why OSS deployment is broken, and SignalFire is funding Plural to fix it

 

Consuming OSS today is truly painful. Outdated OSS is the norm in the industry. As per OSSRA “85% of the codebases contained open source dependencies that were more than four years out-of-date. Unlike abandoned projects, these outdated open source components have active developer communities that publish updates and security patches. But these patches are not being applied by their downstream commercial consumers.”

via XKCD

Plural is changing the narrative by empowering developers of OSS and the DevOps teams consuming it. Plural provides a single, seamless experience to manage all your open source applications. No more toggling between 30 different vendors and dozens of different management tools that hardly integrate with each other. Plural’s mission is to deliver a great developer experience for consuming OSS software, while rewarding the community that wrote the code. 

Today we are pleased to announce SignalFire’s investment in Plural, leading their $6M seed round. We are thrilled to be of service to such an awesome team, providing help from our recruiting engine Beacon Talent, advisor network, and in-house experts on data science, fundraising, PR, and growth.

The managed service approach to open source

Developers have two options: either use a managed service where possible or build and maintain the end-to-end stack themselves. We’ve come to realize there are some underappreciated flaws to the managed service approach to open source. The most well-known is that by taking full control of the application, incentives become misaligned on the part of the cloud provider: they generate undue pricing power which locks developer communities out of the monetization of their products. 

But more deeply, the managed service model makes you entirely dependent on the cloud provider’s priorities to use your applications as you’d like. Any feature or configuration is funneled through their bandwidth-constrained team to implement, and if they aren’t willing, you’re out of luck. This often creates a graduation problem, where you eventually outscale the service. This constraint also limits the ability of teams to adopt a lot of the long tail of open source, which will not be fully supported by the likes of AWS, GCP, etc since it won’t meet their hurdle rate for investment. 

Further, by creating a service boundary between hundreds of disparate systems in your stack, you end up moving the problem of application maintenance to integration maintenance. Your DevOps team won’t necessarily be manually babying an elasticsearch cluster, but they will be babying the myriad of systems that cluster talks to and all the proprietary tools needed to interact with them.

Automating Away Operational Knowledge Bottlenecks

Today’s codebases are large and only getting more complex. As per SourceGraph, in their Big Code report, over 6 out of 10 developers have noticed an increase in the variety of tools, languages, repositories, devices, and architectures.

Engineering is getting more complex, according to Sourcegraph

The best-performing companies start with a top-tier infrastructure team that has the operational knowledge to run their systems. As the company scales and the complexity increases, even those with amazing infra teams are running into operational knowledge bottlenecks. When they can’t find people to operationalize the OSS software, they oftentimes never adopt the software they want in the first place. The operational knowledge that was trapped in the heads of a few people is no longer saving the day and instead causes an embarrassing mess. Plural converts this tribal knowledge into software and with that software, companies can now consume open source infrastructure without so much pain and cost.

As Plural cofounder and CEO Sam Weaver said in VentureBeat, “As open source software proliferated and fragmented, it became needlessly complex for enterprises to deploy. Miss one of the two hundred integration steps, and your system breaks. That led developers to rely on overpriced managed services as a way to get going fast, without the overhead of setup. Plural fixes this by aggregating the top open source software, and then abstracting away all the deployment and operations complexity.”

Developers do more of what they want instead of writing and maintaining code about code

As companies gain more traction, the infrastructure has to scale to support the volume and serve customers where they are – regardless of geography. But this fortunate trajectory puts stress on the engineering team which is forced to focus on code about code instead of building the actual product that got them excited in the first place. They start compromising on cost, autonomy, and flexibility by using a managed service, but soon realize how limiting it is and how they still have to write and maintain glue code. Once they have to go international, they might realize the managed service vendor does not have a footprint abroad, and that they need more bells and whistles as they get to scale and sophistication. 

With Plural, all you need to do is issue two commands and you’re up and running. You have all the observability and logging baked in, integrated with the security stack etc. It’s all k8s, you can deploy it in your cloud or on-prem, and it feels like the cloud. The developers are deriving a ton of value from consuming well-integrated technology while being cheaper and more customizable than a managed service. It feels like a fully managed service, Plural delivers updates for the application, you can always get the latest and greatest without having any effort on your side. Plural untangles your open source into a clean two-step experience.

OSS vendors get rewarded 

The relationship between Plural and OSS vendors is designed to be complementary. Plural is not a hosting provider and does not take full ownership of the application, the customer does. Most established OSS vendors often monetize around 10% of their usage. The vast majority of users are managing themselves under the radar. Plural can help the vendors to monetize the long-tail of users or at least capture leads better. And it can do it much quicker, providing all the plumbing in a scalable way by bringing the market to the vendors. Newer OSS vendors can also choose to use Plural to start to monetize early, by utilizing the observability, support, and multi-cloud installation from Plural. 

The Plural team, led by Sam and Michael, has extensive experience deploying and managing OSS via k8s and running large-scale production systems, as well as contributing to open source software. We are stoked to put our whole team and data science platform behind them, and support them in building a great platform for DevOps teams and the OSS community, as well as a diverse company culture and a sustainable business. We’re happy to welcome Plural to the SignalFire portfolio!

Investing in Faros, the engineering bottleneck-breaker

Why we’re leading a $16M seed to change the future of engineering operations with Faros

 

Economics has been called the dismal science, and the same label could be applied to software project management. Despite best efforts by very smart people, many if not most software projects end up with missed deadlines, frustrated engineers, disappointed managers and customers, and plenty of politicking after the fact about who should take the blame. My own introduction to this reality came during my very first job out of college as an engineer on Oracle’s database server team about 20 years ago — it was basically taken for granted that schedules would slip and it was part of the duties of a manager to make sure their group wouldn’t be the first to admit they’re causing the whole release to slip and be the fall guys – so you could hide behind someone else’s slippage while trying to get your own team caught up. They don’t teach you that one in college!

Lots of ink has been spilled on reasons for engineering bottlenecks and what could be done. Fred Brooks’ “The Mythical Man Month” is a classic of the genre originally published in 1975, so the problem was recognized a half-century ago. There have been many purported solutions: waterfall to agile, test-driven development, productivity tracking software, and the list goes on. Still, there hasn’t been a silver bullet, and in fact, many of these solutions had the opposite of the intended effect.

Just one example: when IBM started using lines of code as a measure of output, it encouraged bloated code and the opposite of engineering productivity. Maybe another (can’t resist): engineers tend to dislike JIRA because it focuses them on closing the most recent tickets instead of the big picture of shipping product.

The Faros team has experienced these issues first-hand, so they built something better.

Vitaly, Shubha, and Matthew felt the pains of engineering bottlenecks while they were at Salesforce together helping to lead Salesforce’s Einstein team, and in their prior roles at companies like Linkedin. With Faros, their approach to the problem was to recognize that software engineering projects are inherently complex, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that can solve the problem of managing them — software engineering is an art AND a science.

What all software engineering projects could benefit from was better visibility into who’s doing what, so that engineers and managers could apply their judgment using the most complete data. Joining data from version control systems, issue trackers, team org charts, CI/CD systems, Faros can give teams a unified map of what’s happening. Additionally, the Faros team had the insight that because no two software development organizations are alike, their platform had to be very flexible and allow for maximum customizability.

Faros founders (from left): Vitaly Gordon, Matthew Tovbin, and Shubha Nabar

By combining a unified data model with the flexibility to customize, Faros puts the most complete data about any software project into the hands of the people running it while leaving value judgments aside. That’s the art Faros leaves to the humans while it takes care of the data part – the science. With Faros, teams ship products faster with fewer resources, and engineers enjoy their jobs more so they stick around longer.

When I first met Vitaly and the team, this vision was just starting to crystallize. Just as Faros helps engineering teams focus on what’s important, SignalFire does the same for our portfolio companies by assisting them with recruiting, growth, and PR. For example, our resident data science PhD Olivia Angiuli helped Faros build customer lead lists to speed up their go-to-market motion.

Fast forward two years, and today we’re thrilled to see Faros announce its $16 million seed fundraise. And more important than the capital are the terrific customers like Box, Coursera, Salesforce, and GoFundMe who are using Faros to ship their software projects on time and on budget.  If you’re a software engineer or manager who’s interested in checking them out, please go to https://faros.ai/ or just drop me a line. Break those bottlenecks and get back to building!

Instead of hiring, skill up your employees with Modal

Why SignalFire led a $6.8M seed for Modal‘s data scientist training platform from the ex-CEO of Udemy

 

The gating factor to software transforming every type of business continues to be talent. You can’t build, grow, analyze, or sell without the right humans. Unfortunately, they’re all quitting. Over 4 million workers left their jobs every month during the second half of 2021. This “Great Resignation” is leaving companies vastly understaffed, spurring a domino effect. If your teammate leaves, their work doesn’t disappear, it gets dumped on you, which makes you want to leave…

Perhaps the biggest talent bottleneck today exists around data scientists. Product, marketing, operations, and sales teams are constantly asking “Can our data scientist look at this?” only to hear back, “maybe next quarter…if ever.” Decision-making velocity is slowed down by a backlog of these requests to a centralized team of data analysts and scientists.

Enabling teams to be self-sufficient in answering their own data questions would be a massive unlock for data-savvy organizations, and one of the reasons we invested in Unsupervised to let business teams perform their own data analysis. But most companies still need dedicated data talent, not just technology. And for all but the best-branded tech giants with tons of cash to burn, recruiting them is remarkably difficult. It’s tough to compete with Google salaries

Training > Recruiting

Luckily, we’re at an inflection point for learning systems. Beyond traditional universities and on-the-job training, we’ve seen an explosion of online courses and free YouTube tutorials on YouTube. It’s never been easier to pick up a new hobby, soft skill, or craft. Yet humans remain mediocre at self-directed learning. With no schedules, tests, grades, classmates, or one-on-one help, it’s no wonder online course completion rates average around 15% for apps like Coursera, and only 20% to 30% for classes offered by Harvard and Stanford. And even those that make it through all the lecture videos won’t necessarily have learned a skill well enough to do it as their job.

If there was a more reliable way to teach skills, companies could shift from unsuccessfully trying to hire expert talent like data scientists to skilling up their tens of thousands of existing technical and IT employees. These staffers want the challenge, career development, and compensation of learning more hardcore skillsets. Training them and giving them a raise is still far cheaper than recruiting. Plus, companies would end up with proven talent that knows where the technical bodies are buried. 

Modal turns your team into data scientists

This is exactly why Modal is building a better approach to corporate training for Fortune 500 companies. Modal replaces those boring and ineffective training videos with deep cohort-based courses. Students collaborate directly with coaches, work on group projects with co-workers and colleagues from other companies, practice using real-world scenarios, and complete technical assessments that measure their mastery.

Modal delivers 15X more engagement than traditional corporate training and helped 87% of beta customers’ students meet their learning objectives. Meanwhile, it helps companies save money on recruiting, improves employee retention through career development, and ensures roles get filled so businesses can keep building. Today, Modal’s skill assessments help employers measure progress on skill-building and route talent into the right roles. But soon, its data on employee skills and career pathways could enable Modal to assess an organization’s open technical jobs, and find the right employees who could fill them.

Modal was founded by Dennis Yang and Darren Shimkus, the former CEO and the former enterprise President of $2.2 billion education giant Udemy. Together they scaled Udemy’s enterprise business to 9 figures in revenue, and precisely understand what employers need from education. Dennis and Darren pioneered the last generation of online learning, recognized the opportunities to improve it, and are now the perfect people to launch the definitive corporate edtech business. 

SignalFire invests more than money

As a deeply technical firm ourselves, we are hugely bullish on democratizing the power of data science across the Fortune 500 by enabling these companies to train their own. That’s why we’re leading Modal’s $6.8M seed round, and equipping them with our own Beacon recruiting technology and other value-adds. They join our portfolio of startups fighting The Great Resignation including Praisidio’s employee attrition early warning system, Included’s diversity and inclusion data platform, and Candidate Labs’ AI-assisted recruiting firm. We at SignalFire couldn’t be more excited to partner with the Modal team to help more employees skill up for the job of their dreams.

Investing in Superdao, the all-in-one DAO platform

Aligned incentives are the fastest way to build and grow. When everyone gains, everyone contributes. Yet traditional corporate structures divorce private companies from their largest potential source of assistance: their users. Beyond paying for their products and perhaps enjoying the fuzzy benefits of network effects or early adopter prestige, customers gain little if the companies they love succeed. Unless they apply to work for them full-time, or wait around for them to go public, customers are largely locked out of helping build or earning returns.

Web3 erases the line between customers and teammates. With DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, outsiders can quickly become insiders. Tokenomics allow them to be commensurately rewarded for contributing even small denominations of capital or labor. Your cult following can become your collaborators. In an age of COVID isolation, remote work alienation, and secularization, the chance to participate and find a sense of belonging is tantalizing. 

That’s why we’ve seen DAOs form to build startups, launch social clubs, invest at scale, create media, and work on philanthropic projects. In the future we expect DAOs to take on many additional forms that we can’t even fathom yet. That includes TAOs, or transformed autonomous organizations, where traditional companies create DAO-like subsidiaries to participate in Web3 alongside their customers or even just pay employees or contractors in crypto. By aligning incentizes with a large crowd of community members, DAOs hold enormous power to direct labor, capital, attention, and impact. They’re the new organizational structure that allows groups to transact with cryptocurrency and provide token rewards to their allies.

But to launch a DAO, fund a treasury, organize a workforce, and vote on governance proposals, it requires piecing together a fragmented set of infrastructure tools built for hardcore blockchain engineers. You have to know what tools exist, which ones work best, and how to stitch them together alongside Web2 components (such as Discord and Google Sheets) that were not meant for this use case, all while hiring hard to find smart contract engineers to handle much of the governance pieces. And that’s before you even get to the sociological challenges of managing a large group of people! 

This all creates unnecessary barriers blocking participation in a rapidly emerging economy. To empower a more diverse set of builders, we need tools that abstract away the complexity so communities and organizations can focus on what they uniquely add to the world. 

When Shopify combined intuitive commerce tools with attractive storefronts, a new generation of merchants emerged. Making something people want to buy was hard enough without having to build or jigsaw together your own software stack. But what if you want to start a movement?

Superdao is building the Shopify of Web3 – an all-in-one, no-code DAO creation and management suite for organizing people to make an impact. 

 

Superdao lets anyone launch a DAO in a few clicks without having to vet and master a mess of siloed point solutions. Meanwhile, it helps sophisticated DAO operators scale their organizations by letting them seamlessly stitch together Superdao’s native features with their favorite existing blockchain infrastructure. 

With Superdao you can:

  • Legally incorporate while launching your DAO on the blockchain
  • Crowdfund a secure treasury for transactions and paying contributors
  • Build a member directory with varying roles and permissions
  • Communicate through internal feeds for organizing tasks
  • Vote on governance proposals using vetted templates and smart contracts
  • Monitor activity and tokenomics through your DAO’s dashboard
  • Decentralize ownership with tokens, NFTs, and equity options
  • Integrate with leading third-party infrastructure apps
  • Recruit talent and capital through Superdao’s discovery marketplace
  • And a lot more soon – this is just the alpha launch

You can sign up here to get early access!

While Superdao is designed to be dead simple for users, it’s a compound startup that requires building a suite of pioneering tools in parallel. Web3 moves ridiculously fast, so Superdao needs a leader with super-human ability to ship product.

We found that in Yury Lifshits. After earning a PhD in Computer Science from Caltech and teaching cryptography at a leading Russian university in the mid-2000s, he launched one of the country’s first co-working spaces. We met Yury while he spent the past few years building OpenLand, a full-fledged alternative to another essential Web3 tool: Discord. Yury builds and deploys products with insane speed and clarity. He’s an astounding organizational mind that’s able to recruit and apply talent to get things done quick. Yury has already assembled a world-class team creating the building blocks that will power the future of DAOs. We’d never encountered an early-stage founder with such exacting plans for who he wanted to hire, how to structure the teams, what he wanted to build, and how he planned to go-to-market. 

Superdao founder Yury Lifshits

Yury’s precision and horsepower convinced he could shoulder the complexity of making DAOs simple. That’s why SignalFire is leading a $10.5 million seed round for Superdao. Yury predicts we could see 1 million DAOs formed by the end of the year, and Superdao will provide their picks-and-shovels. The deal continues SignalFire’s specialization in funding world-changing infrastructure companies like Alchemy for blockchain and NFT infrastructure, Tapcart for mobile ecommerce, Planetscale for databases, and Bubble for no-code app development.

Superdao’s goal is to be the leading B2B infrastructure provider for DAOs. They’ll allow everyone from crypto-native communities to relative novices to operate DAOs as Hollywood, Wall Street, traditional tech, and other sectors get involved. Superdao will bridge the gap between users and builders, letting anyone tap into the power of tokenomics to create a unified community where customers become co-owners and co-conspirators.   

DAOs will take a variety of forms including classic blockchain protocols and DeFi projects, groups of strangers looking to do a single transaction (ie purchase an expensive item, plot of land, etc), Web3 companies with their own tokens, Web2 companies looking to pay individuals (employees, contractors, freelancers, etc) in some form of cryptocurrency, and social experiments that will surprise and excite the world. We can’t predict exactly what they’ll do or how they’ll work, but with a team as agile as Superdao, we know they’ll have the tools they need.

Want to build your own DAO? Wish yours ran more smoothly? Sign up for early access to Superdao.

Care-Now-Pay-Later: Why SignalFire is leading $15M for PayZen

79 million Americans have medical debt or bill problems. Sadly, the inability to pay or fear of debt has led 1 in 3 Americans to delay or decline essential medical care.

This has to change. And that’s why we’re leading a $15 million Series A for PayZen, the care-now-pay-later company.

PayZen helps any patient get on a zero-interest, zero-fee custom payment plan so they can receive the care they need immediately without going into debt. How? PayZen’s AI analyzes thousands of data points about their financial situation to ensure they’re on a payback schedule they can afford, instead of the industry-standard one-size-fits-all plan. That’s why 87% of patients offered PayZen enroll, and it increases their payment adherence by 40% within one month. You can learn more about how PayZen works here.

PayZen lets patients choose and track their healthcare payment plan

Meanwhile, PayZen helps hospitals increase collections by 52%. Typically, hospitals collect just 15 cents of every dollar they charge while sending people to collection services that destroy their credit score. By integrating PayZen, care providers give their patients a more understanding and affordable approach. They share a portion of the extra payments they receive with PayZen so patients aren’t charged extra fees.

Building a true win-win-win solution like this takes a combination of healthcare veterans, fintech experts, and skilled engineers. That’s the team PayZen assembled. CEO Itzik Cohen, COO Tobias Mezger, and CTO Ariel Rosenthal had previously worked together and seen how legacy approaches had failed providers and patients.  They’ve joined forces with Kevin Roberts, the CFO of 3 million patient healthcare group Geisinger, and industry legend Lawrence Leisure who co-founded ADVI Health, Healthspottr, and healthcare investment fund Chicago Pacific Partners.

PayZen founders (from left): Ariel Rosenthal, Itzik Cohen, Tobias Mezger

Together, we see their potential to address the healthcare affordability crisis plaguing our country. Many of our LPs at SignalFire are large health systems, and their leaders told us how badly they need a solution like PayZen. We’re honored to get to support the company with our Beacon Talent recruiting technology, in-house AI experts, and network introductions team.

PayZen is the kind of startup that makes us proud to be investors. When technology is applied with empathy, it can solve some of society’s greatest challenges. We can’t think of a larger or more pressing one than ensuring everyone can afford the healthcare they need.

Image Credit: Mix and Match Studio. Cited Statistics 

Funding Praisidio to fight The Great Resignation

In Q2 2021 alone, 11.5 million Americans quit their jobs, the vast majority being mid-career tech and healthcare workers, leaving their employers scrambling to fill rolls and desperate to stop the exodus. This year will be remembered as the beginning of the “Great Resignation”.

Employee attrition was already a $1 trillion annual problem in the US and the pandemic has only made the problem larger. Historically, managers saw their employees in the office on a daily basis and could get a read on how their team was feeling. In a remote work environment, it’s harder than ever to keep talent engaged and happy. Businesses need an employee attrition early warning system. Enterprises only have exit interviews which are backward-looking to help understand why employees leave the company, but in an age where there is more 1st and 3rd party data than ever before, the time seems right to leverage these valuable insights to help solve the problem of employee attrition.

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A Personal Mission

When we met Ken Klein and Vahed Qazvinian it was clear from the first meeting that to them, this problem was personal. After watching a key team member’s departure cause seven of his colleagues to resign in quick succession and cause their project to be canceled, Vahed, a PhD and former Google Search Rank Engineer, decided to leave himself. As a former public company CEO, Ken has felt the cultural and financial pain of attrition, despite many attempts at remediation through HRBP meetings, skip-level 1:1s, office hours, surveys, and more. After discussing their shared experiences, this unique and powerful duo decided to partner up on a mission to improve the employee experience and arm HR leaders with the data they need to retain their most important assets. And thus, Praisidio was born.

Combining Data with Human Intelligence

Praisidio uses AI to analyze business and communications metadata in a privacy-centric manner. The company provides an Enterprise Talent Risk Management solution called Procaire to help managers visualize and act on information that is affecting employee satisfaction and retention. Procaire has already helped over 10,000 employees within enterprise customers across the technology, life sciences, and healthcare sectors. Customers are saving $50 on talent attrition for every dollar spent on Praisidio.

At SignalFire, we believe in the power of combining humans and data and when we saw what Vahed and Ken were building at Praisidio, we knew we wanted to be on the journey with them. SignalFire is thrilled to be leading Praisidio’s $4M Seed round and helping them achieve their goal of making employees feel engaged and appreciated while empowering managers and HR teams with the insights they need to be data-driven in their decisions and initiatives around employee retention. To learn more, check out Praisidio.com where you can hear how happy customers are already seeing success with Procaire.

 

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Adobe acquires Frame.io for $1.275B: Future of video collaboration

You absolutely cannot miss this deadline. The director, client, and special effects artists all have urgent feedback that has to make it into the next cut. You’re collecting reshoots from the videographers, juggling versions from your editing team, reviewing marked-up clips from the colorist, and making sure nothing leaks before it airs.

But to make this video truly brilliant, you have to stay in flow. There’s no time to manually move files between storage services, dig suggestions out of email, or trek back to the office to access raw footage. Luckily, you don’t have to. Like Disney, HBO, and Netflix, your team uses Frame.io to collaborate on video production so you can do it all in one app from anywhere.

Building software like this for professional creatives requires the mind of an engineer and the heart of an artist. We found both in Emery Wells when we met in a Palo Alto coffee shop 6 years ago. He beamed with empathy for video producers because he’d spent over a decade doing it himself. That inspired us to invest in Frame.io’s seed round and every raise since.

Hit skip to replay the video above

Frame’s product releases have become favorites amongst our team because each is paired with its own red carpet-worthy launch video. The company puts its own software to use editing these gorgeous trailers, demonstrating their deep respect for the craft.

Now he and his team at Frame.io have the opportunity to help the world’s biggest creative software clients stay in sync so they can create gorgeous video content. Today, Adobe announced it will acquire Frame.io, where Emery will continue to lead his team towards building the future of video production in the cloud.

“Anyone that’s paying attention knows the future of work is real-time, centralized in the cloud, and collaborative. Video has been an industry that has been slower to adopt the cloud but we’re standing at the precipice of the next major step-function change in the way video gets created” Emery says. “It will be as significant as the shift from analog to digital.” He’s ready to lead that shift at Adobe.

Emery started as a production assistant before becoming a compositor, motion graphics artist, executive producer, and eventually the founder of his own post-production agency Katabatic Digital where he created shorts for Saturday Night Live. That meant when he launched Frame.io with Katabatic’s Chief Scientist John Traver, they were building for themselves. The startup saw an opportunity to arm independent producers with even better software than the biggest studios.

They knew video can’t be treated like most static files that move through Box or Dropbox. It’s a rare art form that takes an enormous team to create, and constantly evolves before release. It requires powerful specialty software like Adobe Premiere Pro and AfterEffects to compose, yet there was no ubiquitous product for collaborating around its completion.

Frame.io has built a powerful product to fill that gap, but also a unique company culture where both creatives and engineers can thrive. Creatives often crave flexibility and autonomy, doing things their own way. Engineers are more accustomed to reliable processes. Our operating partner Tawni Cranz had navigated a similar challenge as the Chief Talent Officer of Netflix, and offered ideas on how the company could remain free-spirited while staying on schedule.

“SignalFire was one of our first investors and has been incredible partners throughout our journey” Emery graciously tells us. “I’ll never forget when it came time to hiring our first recruiter. This was a new and unfamiliar role to me at the time. SignalFire flew their Head of Talent Mike Mangini to New York City to personally interview our candidates and make a recommendation. I think it was a great example of their grit and hands-on approach to working with their portfolio companies.”

The Frame.io team was put to the test this past year as cloud collaboration became essential. With offices closed and employees working remotely, studios couldn’t rely on huge editing bays and on-prem software to securely stay in sync. Frame.io picked up the slack as the industry shifted towards the cloud that Emery and his team had been preparing for years.

Adobe saw this inevitable transformation coming too. Reimagining its Creative Suite for the cloud massively expanded accessibility, both in the sense of letting artists work from anywhere as well as creating a monthly pricing structure that made it easier to try. Now Frame.io’s integrations with Adobe’s Creative will get even tighter so creatives can concentrate on what they do best.

Video has become the default communication medium for the next generation. It’s persuasive and emotionally resonant, effortlessly immersing the audience rather than feeling like a chore. With larger phone screens and faster mobile networks, the market for video compounds each day. It’s journalists relaying scenes from the front lines, creators becoming heads of full-fledged studios, brands showing their products in action, and blockbuster filmmakers evoking our wildest dreams. Video tells the story, and the storytellers live on Frame.io. Congrats to Emery, John, and the whole team on reaching the ultimate scale with Adobe.

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Funding “Flymachine” to make URL concerts as good as IRL

Music lovers deserve more than sitting by themselves watching single-camera streams from an artist’s basement. The livestreamed music experience should evoke the same excitement of arriving with friends or serendipitously running into them, and the kinetic immersion of a great concert venue’s sound system and stage lights — all while letting you see the best artists anywhere from the comfort of your home.

Musicians tried their best this past year with the limited tools they had, but concert streams felt more like Zoom calls than culture. Bands like Sofi Tukker who streamed every single day did society a great service, but too often, the level of added work didn’t match the compensation.

To give fans a worthy concert-going experience while supporting the music industry, you need to help:

  • Artists earn money streaming shows without piling more work upon their already busy schedules
  • Venues bring fans the intimate close-ups and entrancing light shows they’d get in-person while paying their staffs
  • Fans feel the camaraderie of attending concerts with friends, even when they’re apart

Flymachine’s concert streaming destination brings these elements into harmony. By equipping the world’s iconic venues with top-notch cameras, visual effects, and social streaming technology, Flymachine is pioneering the digital future of live events. 

Fans get front-row seats right beside their friends thanks to picture-in-picture video chat overlaid on the best views of the stage. You can start a private room where you can mix the show’s sound with spatial audio from your pals to bounce between focused listening and commentary from your crew. Or, you can explore the rest of the crowd to run into friends or meet fellow fans. All the while, you get to support independent venues while enjoying jaw-dropping special effects and crowd visualizations. You’re in the center of the action awash in superb sound without anyone stepping on your shoes.

Attending events through Flymachine, you’re not limited to the tours coming to your town, or the artists willing to stream for free. Flymachine taps into the endless supply of in-real-life performances coming to iconic concert halls including some of Rolling Stone’s Top 10 Venues In The Country like NYC’s Bowery Ballroom and The Crocodile in Seattle. Artists gain an additional revenue stream by opting in to broadcast via Flymachine, allowing them to play to stadium-sized crowds from the intimate stages they prefer.

We spent the past year exploring the concert streaming space. Too many startups either forced artists to design and play shows just for streaming with no live audience to react to, cut venues out completely leaving performances looking drab and amateur, or ditched fans in asocial isolation. That’s why concert streaming hasn’t reached its full potential until now.

Building a company like Flymachine takes a special team with the experience to balance all the stakeholders in the notoriously complex music industry. You need someone like CEO Andrew Dreskin, the man who pioneered modern concert ticketing. He built TicketWeb, which was acquired by TicketMaster, and then TicketFly which was bought by Pandora. Andrew has spent 30 years in the business, from running the Beserkley Records store to managing the Virgin Mobile Festival to leading music at EventBrite and founding startups. That’s given him the empathy for artists, managers, labels, venues, and promoters that’s necessary to build a streaming destination where everyone wins. 

Minutes into watching my first Flymachine show, I fell in love with a new band and ran into an old friend. I laughed with buddies about how much we missed live music, then dragged my little video window away to zone into a beautiful song. Soon I was wishing I could watch ballet or stand-up comedy with a similar experience. Luckily, Andrew and his amazing team have a vision to bring mediums beyond music to Flymachine.

Immersive. Social. Built so artists can expand access to their performances while growing their audience and business. That’s why SignalFire could not be more amped to support Flymachine on this audacious endeavor by leading the startup’s Series A financing that brings it to $21 million in funding (read more on TechCrunch). Other music industry legends joining the round include Redlight Management founder Coren Capshaw who manages Dave Matthews Band and Phish, concert promoter Another Planet Entertainment, and musicians like Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett.

Go check out Flymachine’s calendar of upcoming events. Regardless of where you are, we look forward to bumping into you at the next show.

We’re moving towards an experiential culture. People don’t end up on their deathbed lamenting “all those things I could have owned.” It’s “all those things I could have done!” Flymachine lets you do more. When you can experience culture surrounded by friends, you make memories, and URL becomes just as good as IRL.

Ok – curtains up. Break a leg, team Flymachine.

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Creators get their own home on the web with site-maker Spore

Websites as a medium will live on longer than most of today’s apps (and humans).

“The web is the one place on the internet you can truly own—no middlemen. You can really tell your story, and it will outlast every channel” Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke told me. That’s why his commerce tools were built to give merchants a place on the web. And that’s why creators deserve the same. Spore’s website maker gives creators a home on the Internet that they truly own. Spore launches today (show them some love on Product Hunt), and SignalFire is honored to lead its pre-seed round.

The concept of “platform risk” is well-known to developers. When you’re dependent on some big tech platform that doesn’t share your priorities or incentives, you’re vulnerable. You live by their rules. If they want to cut you off from your audience, change the functionality you need, or charge you taxes for transactions or growth, you’re at their mercy. Just ask Zynga, the gaming empire built entirely on Facebook that saw its share price drop 85% in 7 months when the social network suddenly decided it didn’t want games in the News Feed. One algorithm tweak, and poof, Zynga’s virality evaporated. 9 years later, its valuation still hasn’t recovered.

The same could happen to creators. Right now, they’re in double jeopardy. Creators rely on social network profiles on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch for their internet presence and their connection to fans, which could be severed or locked behind ad spend at any time. They have followers but no direct contact info for their fans. To maintain their ability to reach people who already asked to see their art, creators burn themselves out feeding the fickle and inscrutable algorithms. Opaque and unevenly enforced content moderation policies lead creators to be suspended, shadowbanned, or booted entire, robbing them of their livelihoods and communities. If they try to walk away from the big social apps, creators are left with nothing.

Meanwhile, those social networks are built on iOS and Android, where Apple and Google collect 30% taxes on transactions. These operating systems aren’t helping creators get discovered, produce. Add up the fees from both, and creators often keep well under half of the revenue they earn while the platforms become hundred-billion and trillion-dollar companies. It’s labor exploitation at a grand scale that’s choking a huge new class of small businesses and the best opportunity for creators to turn their passion into a fulfilling profession.

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Two trends and two problems for creators

I spent the last year since leaving TechCrunch to be an investor at SignalFire researching the creator economy. We discovered two big trends that beget two big problems:

  1. Creators are sick of pouring their hearts into building atop someone else’s platform, so they’re trying to move their top fans towards dedicated tools for community and monetization. But most of the tools are just more platforms that put their own brands first instead of the creator’s. It’s a laundry list of “Platform.com/CreatorName” links instead of a single, central “CreatorName.com”
  2. Creators are becoming founders, cobbling together an array of point-solution software and teams to run them. They need help with analytics, CRMs, ecommerce stores, content distribution, subscription payments, and more. But most creators can’t afford all these tools and teams, and don’t have the time to manage them. They want to make art and connect with their communities, not become web developers manually integrating fragmented APIs and datasets.

Spore lets creators build websites, not just profiles

After reviewing the pitches of tons of single-purpose creator tools, I found the answers to the platform risk and fragmentation problem.

Spore is a free, all-in-one solution for creators that lets them control their own destiny on the open web. With Spore, creators can easily design a self-branded website, collect contact info, send text and email blasts, grow a CRM, run chat rooms, review analytics, and accept one-off payments and subscriptions to content.

Since all of Spore’s tools are seamlessly connected, creators can spend more time making art and less time dealing with web development. It’s free to try, offers custom URLs and text messaging at cost, and creators keep 90% of their revenue since it’s built on the open web. That’s a lot more affordable than paying monthly fees for multiple separate tools, or the 30% to 45% taxes charged by social networks and mobile app stores. Spore only earns money when you earn a lot more.

Spore is launching today, but already combines the functionality of dozens of tools into powerful websites where creators’ brand comes first. Spore offers:

  • Website creation: Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, WordPress
  • Custom domains: GoDaddy, Namecheap
  • Contact info collection: Forms, MailChimp, SurveyMonkey
  • Fan CRM and scoring: Zoho
  • Content analytics: Sprout Social
  • Email newsletters: Mailchimp, Substack, Revue
  • SMS blasts: Community
  • Link hubs: Linktree, LinkInBio
  • Link tracking and shortening: Bit.ly
  • Chat and polls: Discord
  • Podcast listening pages: PodLink
  • Event listings: Eventbrite
  • Merchandise (coming soon): TeeSpring
  • Tipping/donations: CashApp, Venmo, PayPal
  • Paid subscriptions: Patreon

How do these all work together? With Spore, you can choose a URL and instantly populate it with your branding, best content, social links, and color scheme without dealing with domain registrars or CSS. Perhaps the most important feature is the ability to prominently collect email addresses and phone numbers, that are loaded directly into the CRM from which you can send newsletters or automated content drops and event reminders.

When you create something new like a video, you can share it with a custom short-link that asks people to sign up, create a temporary banner promoting on your site, track its performance, and identify your super fans who engage most across all your content. Podcasts have special landing pages where fans can listen directly or get linked out to download on their preferred app. You can run chat rooms with polls where fans give donations or tips, or make your community or content exclusive to paid subscribers. And at any point, you can export all the contact info and upload it somewhere else like a dedicated newsletter service because you own the fan relationships.

Evolving with the creator economy

What’s especially remarkable is that Spore built all this since starting up in December. Co-founder and CEO Austin Hallock is the highest horse-power product developer I’ve ever encountered. He goes from idea for a feature to launch in mere days, which is exactly the superhuman agility you need to keep up with the rapidly-evolving creator economy.

Austin and I met when he pulled a legendary forgiveness-not-permission move. Instead of pitching me his startup, he showed me what it could by voluntarily sending me a website he’d already built for me on Spore called Constine.club. It let me run second-screen chatrooms for my Clubhouse shows while collecting contact info so I could ping people the next time I went live. A few months later, I already had thousands in my Spore community. When I request a feature like a podcast landing page, 48 hours later, he’s got it running on my site. By working directly with his early users, Spore built precisely the tool creators need.

That’s why I’m so excited to be Spore to be my first lead investment since leaving TechCrunch to join SignalFire. The $1 million pre-seed round is joined by some of the top creator-founders, including Twitch co-founder and rising TikTok star Justin Kan’s GOAT, leading Substack author Lenny Rachitsky, and newsletter bundle pioneer Nathan Baschez of Every. We’re also joined by Zynga founder Justin Waldron, Brat TV founder Darren Lachtman, Bleacher Report founder Dave Nemetz, and our friends at Canaan.

Spore’s mission is to help creators overthrow the gatekeepers, escape the taxes and algorithms, and build their own homes on the web. Social networks will come and go, mediums will rise and fall, but creators will always need a place to unify their community. With Spore, everyone can have the tools to turn their passion into their profession.

Try Spore for free!

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Rethinking the software selection and purchase process with TestBox

Enabling Customer-Led Growth

For decades, enterprise software has been sold, not bought. The software selection and purchasing process typically goes like this: a prospect lands on a customer website (which lacks transparent pricing info), they are forced to schedule time with sales, they get walked through a pitch and staged demo that lacks transparency and the ability to get their hands on the product, and then they spend weeks or months going back and forth discussing functionality, pricing, license, and more. On top of that a buyer isn’t just doing this process with a single vendor, it’s often 5+ different vendors! 

Discovering what options exist for different types of software has already been tackled by companies like G2, Capterra, TrustRadius, Gartner, and many others. But, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to completing a purchase. The most complex, time-consuming, and painful part of the process is the evaluation component which to date has been placed out of the control of the buyer. Even companies that do offer a trial or demo environment provide a completely empty sandbox which either needs heavy lifting by a buyer’s team to populate it with the appropriate data or is completely useless as it doesn’t give a sense of how the product would function under normal company demands. 

TestBox is flipping the script and going back to first principles when it comes to evaluating enterprise software. They’ve envisioned a world where the buying process is customer-led and fully productized, putting the power back into the buyer’s hands and removing the many gates put in place by sales, sales engineers, and procurement. 

They take the software evaluation process from months, down to hours by enabling the buyer and end users to test as many options as they’d like side-by-side in a unique sandbox environment. Each environment is pre-populated with customized synthetic data using OpenAI’s API to match the workflow and data needs of the customer creating a true apples-to-apples comparison which has never been possible before. What’s more, TestBox better aligns incentives as they are not trying to sell software that isn’t the right fit. They are agnostic to software vendor and are incentivized to help each buyer find the right piece of software for their needs. Additionally, they empower sales professionals to be the champions of their customers, building strong relationships and helping them achieve true success with their products. 

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Why Now?

Software spend in the US alone is over $500B annually and one of the most dramatic shifts over the past decade is the democratization of software purchasers. Historically, purchasing decisions were centralized among IT or Technology departments but as we moved away from monolith ERPs to a world where best-in-class point solutions have come to dominate, the power of the purse got distributed among the different teams that make up an enterprise. Now a CMO or VP Marketing is selecting which marketing automation system and social media management tool their team should use. A VP sales is choosing which CRM and call intelligence software meets their needs. And, a Head of Customer Success is selecting between Zendesk, Freshworks, and Hubspot for their helpdesk software. On top of this trend, we now see Millennials rising into management positions. These leaders don’t want to talk to sales, but want to self-serve and make their own decisions after testing each piece of software. This desire goes against existing software sales processes and requires a new set of tools to enable them to buy in the way that they want. TestBox is the first truly customer-led buying platform to put the power back in the decision makers hands.

The Right Team, The Right Vision

When we first met Sam Senior and Peter Holland, we knew that this well-balanced duo had big ambitions and the right complementary skill sets to rethink software purchasing. We were struck by their intuition about the need to reimagine and productize something that had never been streamlined and productized before. If they are successful, TestBox will create an entirely new category of software and champion an entirely new go-to-market strategy for software vendors to take a customer-led approach to their growth. This is a vision and mission that we are excited to get behind. We could not be more excited to lead Textbox’s Seed round and get the opportunity to join them for what is going to be an amazing ride in disrupting an extremely entrenched sales model and evolving the $500B software purchasing market.

Data scientist shortage? Replace them with Unsupervised

We are in the midst of a data explosion – almost everything we touch and work with today generates data. Reports estimate that in 2020, each person generated 1.7 MB of data every second through social media, email/other communication, videos, and that number is only increasing. 90% of the world’s data was produced in the last two years alone. The International Data Corporation estimates the global datasphere will grow from 64 zettabytes (1 zettabyte = 1 trillion gigabytes) in 2020 to over 175 by 2025.

And this explosion of data isn’t just in volume. It’s in complexity, all driven by new sources and types of data, new technologies, and changes in how consumers and businesses interact. These shifts came with the promise of unprecedented insights. If companies could stitch together and analyze this data, they could move from gut-based decision-making to being data-driven. This would help them deliver superior consumer experiences, significant top-line revenue growth, and increased bottom-line savings.

To capitalize on this, companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google built huge, expensive teams to extract meaning from their data. But most organizations on tighter budgets have hit a roadblock: the data scientist shortage.

IDC global data report

Had the world foreseen the simultaneous explosion in data volume and complexity as well as its lucrative application, we would have trained enough data scientists to make them readily available and affordable to businesses of all sizes. Instead, the relatively few with the skills necessary are in such high demand that salaries have ballooned and companies can’t hire enough. Turning data into insights is still highly manual today. The result is a problematic bottleneck, where companies waste time waiting for their slim data science teams to analyze new opportunities for improvement or miss them altogether.

The current analytics process often starts with a business user coming up with a hypothesis on what might be a meaningful insight within their data. They must then work with a data scientist to gather and combine that data into a well-structured format. Half of all data science work today is actually spent preparing data, and frequently ends with most of the data ending up pushed aside. After weeks to months of upfront work, data scientists can finally test if there was indeed a statistically significant conclusion in that data. If not, they must restructure the underlying data or start over altogether.

This manual process, combined with the talent shortage, has driven a significant gap between data science supply and demand. QuantHub estimates the 2020 data scientist shortage was 250,000. Businesses can’t wait for education to bridge that gap. They need a way to take data scientists out of the equation.

Enter Unsupervised. Unsupervised’s AI automatically analyzes their customer’s data and discovers the most significant opportunities and problems.

The platform does not require users to have data science backgrounds. It ingests raw data directly from sources, automatically prepares and analyzes the data, identifies any statistically relevant patterns, and ranks them based on impact to business KPIs (sales increases, customer churn, etc.). Business users can then directly review and operationalize those insights. Through this unprecedented volume and velocity of business insights, all business owners can find and respond to new opportunities and risks.

Unsupervised solves the data science crisis through AI, enabling non-technical business users to directly identify and respond to opportunities to optimize top-line growth, customer acquisition, and profitability. Unsupervised, plus a more affordable and plentiful business-team member, can replace the role of a data scientist.

We could not be more excited to be a part of Unsupervised’s $35M Series B and leverage our own AI expertise to support the team as they build an enduring automated analytics franchise.

SignalFire understands the value of data science because it’s what we’re built on. Roughly one-fifth of our team are AI PhDs, data scientists, and engineers. They work on constantly improving our Beacon technology which crunches a half-trillion data points to rank the skill and hireability of hundreds of millions of the most talented workers in technology. This is how we made 1000 job candidate intros to our portfolio in just one year. The team also refines our Beacon competitive intelligence engine, which sees about 4% of US credit card transaction data to help our portfolio companies assess macroeconomic trends, monitor competitors’ businesses, and optimize their own pricing.

But most organizations don’t have the resources to hire this kind of talent. With our investment in Unsupervised, we want to help democratize access to data science. We’re proud to support Noah Horton and his team at Unsupervised’s mission to help every company afford to better understand their business.

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Tempo CEO Moawia Eldeeb: Homeless to $220M for in-home fitness

Silicon Valley lore is replete with remarkable startup origin stories, but Moawia Eldeeb’s personal journey to founding Tempo stands out.  

After working shifts as a middle schooler at a Queens pizza shop to support his family, Moawia’s home burnt down and his family was homeless. During his time living in a Red Cross shelter, Moawia developed a passion for fitness working out at a free gym while finishing his final two grades of high school in a single year. He then put himself through college – a computer science degree at Columbia – by becoming a physical trainer. There Moawia met fellow computer science student Josh Augustine, and after graduating, the two decided to found Tempo with the mission of making personal training and fitness more accessible.

Tempo’s screen and weights are familiar and durable

56 million Americans have a gym membership, and the vast majority aren’t reaching their goals.  Even in the best of times, gyms have an incredibly low membership utilization rate. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as even reasonably physically active people find it hard to drag themselves out of bed and commute to an intimidating gym experience, suffering in front of strangers. To keep motivated, many gym-goers enlist the help of physical trainers, but the service can often cost $100 an hour or more, making it inaccessible to the mass market.  

Six years later, our seed investment Tempo is now announcing a $220M Series C round to scale their rapidly-growing in-home fitness studio, bringing greater convenience and a membership fee a tenth of the cost of a personal trainer. Born out of Moawia’s direct experience as a trainer himself, Tempo provides the personalization, equipment, and community to unlock the biggest segment of this gym market – weight and high intensity (HIIT) training. Peloton became a $30B behemoth by bringing cycling workout classes to the home, a 10x smaller segment.

Tempo co-founder and CEO Moawia Eldeeb

Unlike other in-home workout products, Tempo uses real weights that are tracked by these 3D sensors – a much more familiar workout experience for most gym-goers versus using cable machines, or working out without any equipment at all in the case of app-based streaming services. Tempo also uniquely features 3D infrared sensors that create an 80,000-point model of your body and hones in on 25 key pivot points, enabling elite trainers to remotely track your form, count reps, and provide personalized feedback to fix mistakes. The product further combines this with heart rate data and speed of reps to make suggestions on weights and exercises. In addition, Tempo has a much smaller footprint than other products, and doesn’t require manual installation into walls. That’s often a deal-breaker for on-the-go Gen Zers and millennials that move frequently.  

COVID has undoubtedly accelerated the movement to in-home fitness as gyms closures gave fitness buffs no other options. But we’ve had a long-time thesis at SignalFire in the power of AI + human in the loop to transform inefficient industries through a full-stack model. Tempo enables trainers to deliver real-time feedback in a more precise way, compress the cost of personalized training 10x, and bring the full experience of a gym into the home without any sacrifices in the exercises you can do through a seamlessly-integrated hardware/software and computer vision bundle.  

Tempo uses machine vision to track an 80,000-point model of your body to automatically give feedback on posture and movement

Tempo’s company history is a case of startup mirroring life. Other competitors have raised tens of millions before shipping their consumer hardware, historically one of the most capital-intensive products to bring to market. Moawia and team spent 5 years after raising their initial $1.85M seed round co-led by SignalFire and Khosla Ventures to develop an even more compelling in-home fitness experience. 

Over that time, Moawia and team explored a number of different approaches partnering with gyms and OEMs/distributors around the world, iterating out of a garage while paying themselves the equivalent of minimum wage, even as the cost of living exploded in Silicon Valley. This second chapter of remarkable resilience allowed Moawia and team to collect the world’s largest dataset of annotated workouts (1M sessions) to train the machine learning models now powering Tempo’s technology. 

Why go to the gym when Tempo brings the gym to you?

In the ultimate example of startup mirroring life, Moawia has continued to do more with less. It’s been a privilege to support the growth of Tempo since the first round, recruiting early leadership team members and continuously collaborating with Moawia on the buildout of Tempo’s evolving organization. We couldn’t be any prouder to be part of the journey, and can’t wait for the next phase of the business as it continues to reimagine and democratize physical fitness.

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Ro’s patient revolution: $500M for health, not insurance

“When we started, people called us a boner company. They said that to be pejorative, to diminish our efforts. I didn’t find that to be an insult. Addressing erectile dysfunction wasn’t the sole purpose of the company, but we see the moments it unlocks between people. It’s intimacy and love,” says Ro co-founder and CEO Z Reitano. “Take away all the bullsh*t, and what matters is people living a happy, healthy, fulfilled life.”

With today’s $500 million Series D at a $5 billion valuation, the jokes should be replaced with a different kind of name-calling that describes Ro as a unicorn (quintacorn?) charging towards an IPO. The telehealth primary care company now offers diagnosis, prescriptions, medication delivery, and ongoing care. But Reitano, who SignalFire has backed since Ro’s Series A, wasn’t in the mood to celebrate. One thing you’ll notice that’s missing from his quote about what matters in healthcare: Insurance. 

That’s because Ro doesn’t accept it. “It’s clearly not working. Hasn’t been working for 70 years,” Reitano says of health insurance. “The idea of giving insurers more power and control is preposterous. It’s not that capitalism doesn’t work in healthcare. It’s that we’re incentivizing the wrong stakeholders. Insurers aren’t incentivized to reduce the cost because employers pay.” And sadly, we all pay in the form of lower-quality care at higher prices.

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$500M for patient-centric healthcare

That’s why Ro is building a new patient-centric healthcare system where it’s the people in need who control where the money goes. “We should have to fight for the right to take care of patients,” Reitano insists.

Here’s a quick history lesson about how things got so broken. America froze wages during World War 2 to prevent inflation, so employers started offering better health insurance to attract talent. Then the IRS made employer-provided health insurance tax-exempt, making it the cheapest way to get it, so most Americans did. Then the government fixed health insurance company margins so they had to spend 80 to 85% of the money from premiums on providing care. That sounded good, but it means that one of the only ways for health insurance companies to grow cumulative profits is to…raise costs. 

Rising insurance premiums, according to KFF

The result is runaway insurance premiums and worker contributions. Premiums are up 54% just from 2010 to 2020. Medical expenses cause 66.5% of individual bankruptcies in the US. “An MRI costs the same as in 1984 when it came out. That’s bananas! That thing should be running 24 hours a day. It costs $27 in Norway. There should be a Chipotle of MRIs!” Reitano says. We could clearly be doing better. He notes that Singapore pays for 50% of citizens’ healthcare but it only costs 4% of GDP, not 18% like in the US. Meanwhile, 66.5% of individual bankruptcies in the US are caused by medical expenses. 

Reitano’s own family was once in hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical debt, in part due to treatment for his heart condition, which had erectile dysfunction as a side effect of his medication. “I was actually one of the luckier ones,” he tells me, simply because none of his immediate family members had died. They lived through heart attacks, neurological disorders, and multiple bouts with cancer. Z says the only reason they survived was that his Dad was a doctor and could help them navigate the complexities of getting great care despite the dysfunctional insurance system.  What gave me agency was having a world-leading expert by my side. That shouldn’t be a requirement for what we see as a fundamental right.”

Ro co-founder Z Reitano and his dad Dr. Michael Reitano

Those experiences led Reitano to build Ro to destigmatize conditions like his and help other families beat the odds. That’s why Ro doesn’t accept insurance. “It exacerbates a system that reduces and limits the agency of patients over time, and I can’t abide by that. I think the insurance companies will drive themselves into oblivion because they’re endlessly greedy, increasing premiums and deductibles. When you remove the administrative burn of insurance and all the stakeholders who need to make money in the process, you can dramatically reduce the cost to patients,” Reitano explains. “People talk about how we’re limited by not accepting insurance, but we are unleashed and unlocked to offer 10X better service!”

That doesn’t make Ro expensive. It sells generic versions of the 500 most common medications for just $5 per month each from its own pharmacy. A virtual doctor’s visit is $15, which is cheaper than most co-pays. For $20 to $40 per month, it offers diagnosis, prescription, and delivery of brand name treatments for men’s and women’s health, hair loss, smoking cessation, dermatology, weight loss, and more. Plus, Ro’s Health Guide site is challenging WebMD with self-serve medical info that’s actually approved by doctors. “We start by building what patients need and then use technology to reduce the friction. It’s the only way we do more with less,” Reitano explains.

Now Ro has the funding to bring its care offline and into the home in-person. The $500 million Series D co-led by our friends at General Catalyst, First Mark, and TQ Ventures is joined by Altimeter, Dragoneer, Baupost, Glen Tullman of Livongo, Box Group, Torch, and us at SignalFire. It’s been a pleasure to equip Reitano and his team with our Beacon recruiting technology, competitive intelligence, sales lead intros, and in-house experts. 

“Simply put, they’re not like other VCs,” Reitano wrote to another startup considering SignalFire. “They’re engineers and operators — they’ve built it before. The other thing I love, and this is more personal, is that they are a new VC fund, which means they can’t sit behind a brand name…they have to wake up every single day and work their tail off for their port cos. I first met [SignalFire’s seed fund MD] Wayne Hu on a holiday when no other VC would carve out time. [Venture partner] Tony Huie has been on the phone with me at 2 am helping me work through a strategy question. Their data science team helped our Head of Data solve a complex attribution problem . . . Every VC says they are value-add, but most don’t have to prove it. I’m not kidding when I say SignalFire will always be there.”

COVID vaccines delivered

Ro’s years of building a national telemedicine practice, pharmacy network, in-home care platform culminated this month in one of its most important launches to date: Ro’s COVID-19 Vaccine Drive. Ro is now Ubering healthcare professionals to the homes of the elderly and homebound to administer vaccines to those who’d have trouble traveling to a traditional vaccination site.

The launch comes in response to how difficult it’s been to book vaccine appointments through confusing government websites with unpredictable availability — especially for the less digitally literate. “Everyone felt the system was complicated. It felt rigged. They felt powerless. We’re not sure why our government can’t operate at the same efficiency as Amazon,” Reitano explains. Luckily, Ro acquired in-home healthcare API maker WorkPath in 2020 and had already facilitated 100,000 housecalls. “Because of our unique capability, I think we have a responsibility to help.”

So in December, Ro co-founder Saman Rahmanian got to work partnering with the NY Department Of Health and leading an “all on-hands on deck, 18 hour days for 4 weeks” sprint, Reitano explains. “People don’t talk enough about choosing certain co-founders — why you need shared vision, shared values, shared work ethic. One attribute I’d add is that you’re constantly amazed by what they can will into existence. Saman willed this into existence.”

Here’s how it works. An eligible patient or their guardian can go to https://www.covidvaccinedrive.com and sign up for an appointment. Rather than scrambling for open slots, Ro just puts you in the queue for the next available date and time window. Just like calling an Uber, you’ll get an ETA and visualization of your vaccinated healthcare professional heading to your home. They walk you through the standard protocol, collect any necessary info, administer your dose, and wait 15 minutes to check for adverse reactions. Uber has donated 10,000 rides to the cause, and any leftover doses will go to local fire departments and frontline workers.

Reitano believes this convenience and quality of care would become standard if more of the healthcare system empowered patients to purchase their care directly. If employers or the government just gave patients the cash for routine service and saved insurance for catastrophes, “within 60 days, you’d see cucumber water in the waiting rooms. Hospitals would show prices and readmission rates. They’d compare quality of care versus the hospital down the street. In a world where you had $2 to $3 trillion every year at the discretion of patients, [care would] decrease in price, increase in quality, and increase in satisfaction.”

SignalFire’s “Convenient Health” thesis

We see patient-centric healthcare and finance as the fifth pillar of SignalFire’s “convenient health” investment thesis. We’re seeking startups offering:

  1. Democratized, destigmatized, more affordable access to care via telehealth
  2. Continuous, automatic, personalized data collection via wearables and smartphones
  3. Consumerization of the user experience and a reduction of reliance on pure will power
  4. Human doctors and experts in the loop, augmented with AI and automation to optimize quality of care
  5. Patient-centric control of billing to incentivize providers to improve their services

This thesis is why we’ve been long-time believers in Ro. It’s also led SignalFire to invest in telehealth startups like Form Health for weight loss, Bicycle Health for opioid dependency, Apostrophe for skincare, and OrthoFX for teeth alignment. We’ve also backed startups that make staying fit at home less work, like Down Dog for yoga and Tempo for weight lifting. We’re also supporting convenience in genetic testing with Color, surgeon training with Osso VR, and at-home clinical trials with Hawthorne Effect. If you’re building something to advance this vision for patient-centric healthcare, SignalFire would love to hear from you.

“It’s paternalistic saying patients can’t make the right decisions. Similar to the Winston Churchill quote, ‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others’, a patient might be the worst person to make their health care decisions except for everyone else.”

“We’ve been beat up and punched in the face for decades, and the only thing that the healthcare industry listens to is who controls the money,” Reitano concludes. “We’re eating the edges of primary care. Others will eat the edges of insurance. I want to devote my life to this patient revolution.”

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SignalFire leads $60M for MainStreet to get tax credits for businesses

The ability to extend your runway has been hiding in plain sight.

And it’s no one’s fault. Company building has been a maze for individuals and businesses for years. But in a time of crisis, that maze becomes even more paralyzing and disorienting. Do you turn left? When do you speed up? When do you slow down? Questions beget questions, but what if those questions turned into answers? What if there was a map? What if that map held the key to an endless stream of capital — a straight path to that destination…a main street.

MainStreet CEO Doug Ludlow

Funnily enough, the ability to extend one’s runway is a solved problem. It was solved roughly 40 years ago. In 1981, the Economic Recovery Tax Act introduced research and development tax credits, a non-dilutive form of capital to help catalyze innovation. However, that was 1981 and with time, this great product has gone neglected. It’s in desperate need of a resurfacing, but no one has stepped in to give it the attention and time it needs. In 2020, we got those people and their names are Doug Ludlow and Dan Lindquist. Doug and Dan, along with their team, are building MainStreet, the ultimate advocate for startups and small businesses.

To start, MainStreet taps into those billions of dollars allocated to small businesses and reroutes them right to a company’s bank account. MainStreet automates the process for companies to effortlessly discover, apply for, and receive these allocated dollars — dollars that are commonly stowed away in the form of government stimulus funds, hiring incentives, and tax credits. In other words, Doug and his team work as a company’s advocate to ensure that they surface and give you all of the money that is already set aside for them. Let’s take it a step further…MainStreet gives you free money.

MainStreet is designing the front-end and back-end portal for a company to work with its local and federal government. The government says it has your back, but when information is buried, following through on that promise becomes increasingly difficult. With just a few clicks, MainStreet connects to your payroll provider, ingests your company’s information, and magically discovers all of the government dollars that are readily available to you. As opposed to waiting for that cash to hit your account months later, MainStreet gets it to you faster, and monthly, so that you can use that cash to support your business immediately. And MainStreet doesn’t do this just once. The software works 24/7 to constantly surface and discover new credits. You can read more about how it works in this deep dive on MainStreet from Not Boring, which notes the startup is exceeding the revenue growth pace of the top cloud companies.

Your company is dynamic and evolving, and therefore the credits that you are eligible for are as well. On average, the company is finding more than fifty thousand dollars for each company that applies and over time, we fully anticipate that number to grow. To keep incentives fully aligned, MainStreet does not make any money until you do.

After just a few meetings, we knew we wanted to be involved in this journey. Since meeting Doug, we knew that this man was on a mission to support small businesses however he can. From starting several companies before to then working with small businesses inside Google’s SMB ads team, he has experienced the challenges of growing new and small businesses first hand. That said, the passion does not stop with Doug. Every member of the MainStreet team deeply cares about supporting small business with many having started their own.

This is just the beginning for the company. With huge plans in mind for 2021, MainStreet has been leveraging the team at SignalFire to help with product development, PR & communications, recruiting, and strategy planning. We could not be more excited to be leading MainStreet’s $60M Series A with the goal of assisting them to help every entrepreneur push the world forward.

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Vocational schools & CourseKey unlock the American Dream

The traditional 4-year college degree is crumbling as the default gateway to the American dream.  Increasingly, students are opting for alternatives such as trade and vocational programs that teach tangible skills and unlock high-paying jobs in a fraction of the time and without crippling debt. The average trade school tuition typically takes half the time and costs a quarter of the price.   And the average salary of a graduate is strikingly similar, within a few thousand dollars. It’s no surprise that these vocational programs have surged in popularity for both high school graduates and workers who are re-skilling, especially during periods of high unemployment and economic uncertainty.  

And yet vocational schools and their administrators, instructors, and students suffer from a lack of purpose-built software. Student Information Systems and Learning Management Systems are optimized for traditional K-12 schools and university workflow, but vocational schools are stuck relying on pen and paper or trying to shoe-horn in solutions that aren’t built for them.  

CourseKey co-founder and CEO Luke Sophinos

That’s why we got so excited when we met CourseKey and its CEO Luke Sophinos. CourseKey is reimagining a completely new education operating system specifically built for experiential, hands-on learning models, which continues to evolve with hybrid/distance learning.  Luke and his team are perfectly positioned to help vocational schools vastly improve engagement, retention, and unlock economic mobility for a disadvantaged student population to become welders, nurses, and pilots – mission-critical jobs that form the backbone of the US economy.  CourseKey is a fantastic business with a fantastic real-world impact. 

Many of these jobs have life or death consequences, whether in healthcare, construction, or transportation. They need proper training. For good reason, vocational schools are highly regulated.   Student loan dollars for trade schools can get cut if their administrators aren’t in compliance with various reporting requirements, such as student time and attendance. These metrics are tougher to track with on-site training program than at traditional 4-year higher ed institutions. Compliance hurdles can choke capacity and growth for many trade schools under the specter of audits from the state or federal governments, especially as remote learning adds ambiguity to the process. At the Department of Education level, schools can lose access to federal funding that is necessary for their survival. Not only does CourseKey improve trade school business KPIs, it serves as insurance against this existential risk.  

In parallel, students also benefit directly from CourseKey’s software, which dramatically reduces the friction of menial but critical tasks, such as tracking completion of certification pre-requisites and timesheets. CourseKey connects multiple stakeholders, bridges information silos, and creatively applies technology like passive auditory watermarks. That means teachers and registrars no longer need to chase down students for physical timesheets, and students can rest assured they have perfect visibility into how they’re tracking towards graduation. 

We at SignalFire are thrilled to lead CourseKey’s $9M Series B financing it announced today. I’ll be joining the board, alongside Builders VC, Dennis Yang, the former CEO of Udemy, and Steve Altman, the former President of Qualcomm.  Says Luke Sophinos: “Having previously worked in venture capital and spent a lot of time around various funds, I’ve been incredibly impressed with SignalFire’s unique value-add. Within the first week of the relationship, our team was connected with leaders of industry to help solve looming challenges, improve processes, and recruit world-class talent. I look forward to partnering with Wayne and SignalFire to build CourseKey into an enormous and impactful business”  As CourseKey continues inflecting their growth, they’ve leaned on SignalFire’s Beacon platform and the in-house recruiting experts to rapidly scale the team.

We’re in the early innings of the shift away from traditional universities as the default for higher education. Students are realizing the full range of options that may be a better fit for them in unlocking better-paying, more fulfilling careers without getting trapped in debt.  We couldn’t be more excited to be part of this journey as CourseKey powers this growing pathway to the American Dream.

SignalFire funds Commsor’s community management operating system

Building community for an enterprise company requires more than hosting a few meetups and mailing out swag. The consumer world realized that when you foster a passionate fanbase, it’s easier to create brand awareness, organic word-of-mouth growth, and consumer loyalty. Community is a moat! As technology gets commoditized, b2b and b2c companies are realizing that by staying in closer touch with and interconnecting their community, they gain defensibility as customers help spread the word, increase usage, and stick with the product. Digitally native Millennials and Gen Zs are becoming a large percentage of the corporate world. They deserve tools for building community with customers that are as convenient as the apps they use in their consumer lives.

That’s why we got so excited when we met Commsor and its CEO Mac Reddin at the beginning of 2020. His vision is to build Commsor into the operating system for all things community and enable the consumerization of enterprise go-to-market strategies. Commsor goes beyond just building software by living and breathing community with their Community Club for community professionals, education programs for community builders and executives, and extensive resource library for the entire industry. 

We are thrilled to have been a part of their journey since pre-seed, and to be participating in today’s $16M Series A financing led by our friends at Felicis Ventures and Seven Seven Six.

It’s now clear that community is the future and an absolutely critical piece of powering customer networks, scaling businesses, and building brands in ways that traditional marketing or advertising channels can’t. Community powers customer acquisition, engagement, retention, and expansion when done correctly, but the problem is that building community is hard. It’s a function that is often wildly understaffed within a company, derided as merely an intern-level position, and fragmented among many channels, including Slack, Meetup, Github, Mailchimp, Discourse, Twitter, and more. That means you’re wrangling spreadsheets, operating off incomplete data, and ultimately not taking a data-driven approach to your community.

Commsor’s platform becomes the command center for community management, pulling in data from all sources and giving professionals the ability to see all community data in a single pane of glass, slice and dice data to run targeted campaigns, and measure ROI on various initiatives. Just as functions like marketing, sales, and customer support have become increasingly data-driven and more important functions in b2b organizations, community will follow suit. Commsor provides a new set of tools for community teams to effectively manage their work. Its software suite will facilitate a shift in other teams’ workflows and KPIs in support of community, just as marketing KPIs are often in support of sales.

As Commsor sprints ahead, they’ve been able to leverage SignalFire’s Beacon platform and the in-house recruiting experts to rapidly scale the team bring in some phenomenal talent such as their new Head of Product. “SignalFire has quite literally been a game changing partner for us” tweeted Reddin. “The entire team are some of the kindest, down to earth, and most helpful people I know”. With the next phase of the business, our Lantern programs will help Commsor spread their thought leadership among industry leaders and bring potential customers around the table. 

In the coming years, we believe that winning companies will take a community-first approach, and Commsor is well-positioned to provide all the core infrastructure and services needed to do that successfully. The team’s passion for community and laser-focused vision on educating the market through initiatives like C School — the first-ever career-change program for aspiring community managers — and the Community-Led Declaration that they’ve developed and co-signed with dozens of leading founders will usher in a friendlier age of enterprise marketing.

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