Every Startup Takes On a Life of its Own

Recently, I was sitting over a pen and paper jotting notes for a meeting with two friends who happened to be my colleagues in my last startup.  As we met, I started methodically listing the names of that early team from my startup, the businesses that those individuals have founded since, and the quick math on what those businesses have accomplished. Here’s what it looked like: Early crew: Jeremy, Mick, Brad, Cache, Ryan, Dave, Anne, Chris, Nathaniel and Sid… Jeremy founded 2U, which went public last year Mick founded Undrip and Spatch, which emerged from the most recent Techstars London cohort and is completing a series seed raise Brad joined the founding team of Studio, which recently raised a series seed Cache founded Zibtek and is part of the founding team of Quotadeck, one of Techstars Boulder’s hot companies (I’ll be attending demo day this Thursday) Ryan founded MX (formerly MoneyDesktop), one of Provo’s darling startups (and now hardly a startup) Dave founded Degreed and was joined by Chris recently; Degreed continues to grow and attract top talent Anne led our startup through its acquisition and then led Chegg through IPO as its Chief Business Officer. Nathaniel is still sounding the war cry at Chegg All while…. I left to join Peak Ventures And what about the dollars and cents?  While I’m not at liberty to share company specifics, the back of the envelope math tells the story: Since our days together, these folks have collectively raised in excess of $55M As a group, we’ve already returned 2X the capital raised AND most of the companies above, are still in heavy investment/building If you...

Our investment in ClientSuccess

Dave Blake is the founder of ClientSuccess and we’re excited to have recently led his series seed financing, joined by Josh James and the Techstars Fund.   Dave led client success at Omniture and was part of the Adobe team before taking his experience to a new level in his own startup. We are fans of CEOs who have extensive experience in the pain they are solving.  Maybe that’s a given, but too often it’s missing.  Dave’s experience in navigating the waters of keeping the customers engaged, apprised, and prioritized within a rapidly growing tech business is compelling and part of why we think he will win. Managing client success is nothing new– but the growth of SaaS companies has created a unique challenge.  Churn can quickly send companies into a tailspin and staying ahead of the problem can be difficult when so much of the interaction is not happening by email, phone, or in-person.  Analytics alone aren’t sufficient. For anyone who’s had the task of managing a seemingly unmanageable number of clients, ClientSuccess’ interface will be a welcomed solution.  It’s a testament to Dave and, if you ask him, just scratching the surface of what’s in...

Our investment in Andela

Peak is pleased to join an impressive syndicate of investors in backing Jeremy Johnson and the entire Andela team.  Jeremy is a good friend and someone I’ve been fortunate to know dating back to his days at Princeton, through the inception of Zinch.com, and most recently as co-founder of 2U.  He is as aware of the people and mission as he is the business; I supposed that’s part of what has made him such an outstanding entrepreneur. Andela is meeting a gaping hole in the marketplace and represents where we think education and resourcing a global talent pool is headed– the expansion of how we view education.  There was a time in history when apprenticeships were valued and learning a trade under a true artisan or master was something sought-after.  I live in a mid-century home and have been fascinated by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and the many who apprenticed for him (not few of whom had some not-so-nice things to say about the guy, but that’s not the point).   If there’s a skill that is rapidly bringing back the age-old practice of honing skill and art where it is highly sought after, it’s software development.   Andela does just this through their fellows program that harnesses the brilliance of an astoundingly selective process.  Jeremy, one of the brightest people I know, jokes that he wouldn’t make the Andela Fellows’ cut. The second piece to this is in tapping a global talent pool.  Having led a team in Beijing while I reported to Chegg hq in Santa Clara, CA, I can tell you there’s room for improving distance management in...

Our investment in RepDrive

Today we backed founders Eric and Dennis and finalized investment in RepDrive, an online reputation platform that assists businesses in building, monitoring, and managing customer reviews.   We think that RepDrive will contribute meaningfully to leveling the playing field in online reviews and associated brand reputation.  Here’s why… Consumers expect reviews, particularly in new purchasing decisions.  Amazon has forever biased our expectation not only on shipping time (if it’s not arriving in 2 days then it just feels late) but in access to reviews.  It’s arguably more important to know others’ experience with a product than it is to actually hold and heft that product yourself. Further, if you’ve spent considerable time in a big city, but reside in a smaller city, you know the pain that can come from the lack on online reviews.   You get accustomed to finding a great ramen shop in NYC and then arrive home in Provo, UT only to be reminded that Yelp is less useful than it might be.   No knock on Provo, we’re getting there, but it’s to be expected in smaller cities with smaller customer bases.  Will it get there?   No doubt– and RepDrive will accelerate this curve. On a final and related note, consumer insights are purest in the transaction; delayed reviews and surveys are after the fact and lacking.   I am contacted by Delta at least weekly to take some survey.  On occasion I’ll do it.  And when I do I rack my brain to remember the experience, the particular flight, and my impressions.  It’s stale.  Surveys are antiquated.  But an in-the-moment opportunity to share your enthusiasm or disappointment...

Why venture? Why now?

A few months ago I stepped away from my tech startup of 8 years to take a stab at venture capital. Having shared with friends and colleagues my reasons for making this career shift, I’ve found it useful in my conversations with entrepreneurs to give some color to why I chose venture capital, and I why I chose it now. So here goes… Utah is where it’s at. I grew up here. As a kid, I looked forward to the time when I could get out and see the world. And being raised by a wise, tough mom I quickly learned that education and effort could provide me opportunities to go and do what I chose. Since then I’ve lived in other parts of the US (Detroit) and abroad. What I found is that the more I saw outside of Utah, the more I appreciated what Utah had to offer. Whether it’s the marvelous growth of the tech sector in the area, professors, mentors, critics and community supporting local startups, or entrepreneurs hell-bent on seeing their startup visions fulfilled,  the opportunity to commit my time to Utah entrepreneurship just makes sense. Working with inspired people. Have I looked back since leaving Chegg, the company that acquired my startup, Zinch? Yes. Think of anything you threw yourself into that mattered and the people you labored alongside. Relationships grow and galvanize in startups, especially those that weather the storms. So, yes, I “look back” in terms of those people—many of whom I expect to continue to work with. However, my decision to come to Peak is a decision to work with great people, starting with my...
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