Our Investment in Grasswire

Have you ever been TRULY passionate about something? No no no…Not just interested in something, but sleep in your car, shower at the YMCA, eat ramen for weeks-passionate? Not many of us have. Austen Allred first caught my attention when he was part of the summer 2014 BoomStartup cohort. He had already been working on the Grasswire concept for more than a year and had spent the summer in Palo Alto sleeping out of his Honda Civic. He’s one of the special ones who truly thinks he can change the world. These types of founders remind me of myself, and are the types I like to back. Let me tell you why I like Grasswire. Free speech is a powerful force. Even in the US and with everything that we do right, media is still controlled by a few influential organizations. Yes, we now have a voice thanks to the internet. Yes, we’ve got twitter. But sometimes it’s like shouting into a black hole. There is still room to improve. In the US and certainly in other countries throughout the world.  The events of this year from Ferguson to the Crimean Peninsula have shown us that big media and their agendas still have too much power. I believe Grasswire can change the world for the better. It has the potential to be the Wikipedia meets Reddit for fact-checked, breaking news, created and curated by THE PEOPLE. We’re excited to invest in Austen and Grasswire in changing the way YOU find out about the world’s most important events. Do yourself a favor and make the world a better place by checking...

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...

Our Investment in Owlet

Have you heard the term mHealth before? If you haven’t yet, you will. It means mobile health and is increasingly the way you and I will monitor our wellbeing. The emergence of low-cost cell phones, tablets and sensors has opened the floodgates for personalized, mobile health devices of all types. From mass consumer solutions such as a FitBit to more specialized wearable heart monitors for cardiac patients, mHealth is forecast to grow at a 61% CAGR and reach $26B by 2017 according to research firm Research and Markets. Owlet is positioned to monitor the most precious information of all, the wellbeing of your newborn child. If you’ve ever been a parent, aspire to be a parent or want to win the best aunt or uncle award you should check out Owlet. Owlet is a wearable smart sock for infants that brings peace of mind to parents about their infant’s health; monitoring their movement, heart rate, oxygen levels, and body temperature and giving you access to those stats in real time. Nobody cares about this more than Owlet founder’s Kurt Workman and Jacob Colvin. Kurt first had the idea when caring for his twin cousins who were born prematurely. He and his wife had a baby on the way and that, coupled with a cousin passing away from SIDS, instilled in him a passion to provide better monitoring tools for anxious parents. Jacob also knew what Owlet could do for parents through personal experience: “Hearing my sick child wheezing all night long because of serious RSV is one of the hardest experiences I have ever had, knowing I couldn’t do...
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