San Francisco-based Forerunner Ventures is best known for its long string of bets on successful and fast-growing consumer companies.Now, its newest partner, Brian O’Malley, who has a knack for finding startups that straddle both the consumer and enterprise worlds, has written his first check on behalf of the firm, and it’s largely in that same vein.The company: Homeroom, a two-year-old, 12-person, San Francisco-based marketplace business focused around after-school enrichment programs.It makes money from the growing number of class vendors that want to extend their reach into new school districts and which provide Homeroom with a cut every time a parent signs up his or her child for one of their after-school programs.Program organizers are often parent-volunteers who are trying to keep tabs on after-school programs through email and Excel spreadsheets.Sometimes these organizers’ view into what’s what is so specific to them that they get stuck in the role — even after their own children have moved on to other schools.
Forerunner founder Kirsten Green, who takes a board seat as part of the round, is known for countless savvy bets on a wide number of consumer brands that have taken off with users, from Dollar Shave Club to Bonobos to Glossier.We’d originally written about Modern Fertility last year, when it began selling a kit from its website that’s sent to women’s doorsteps and allows them to gauge their levels of eight different reproductive hormones by using a finger prick.More specifically, the startup sends off its customers’ panels to CLIA-certified labs, where the tests are conducted, and most prominently, those tests are looking at the women’s level of AMH, or anti-mullerian hormone.The point, says Modern Fertility’s cofounder and CEO, Afton Vechery, is to enable women to learn more about their bodies without having to shell out $1,500 to gain access to a similar picture by turning to a reproductive endocrinologist, of which there are relatively few.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are roughly 500 infertility clinics in the U.S., and 2,000 reproductive endocrinologists.Fertility testing is also generally is covered by health insurance plans because fertility problems can be linked to or caused by other health problems like endometriosis.
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Welcome back to another transcribed edition of Equity, the wildly popular TechCrunch podcast that digs deep into the week’s news about … equity.There were no IPOs this week so there was only one episode, but it was jam-packed with news about direct-to-consumer scooters, luggage funding and fake meat.Kate: So [Away] raised a 100 million, series D. This round was led by Wellington Management, so not by a traditional venture capital firm.Though Away is backed by big name faces like Forerunner Ventures, which is responsible for investments in pretty much direct to consumer companies.So this valued Away at 1.4 billion, and that’s obviously quite large, but what’s particularly surprising about that valuation is that Away was valued at just 400 million the last time they raised money, which was a series C of 50 million, maybe about 1 or 2 years ago.But we’re seeing a major, major, major uptick in its valuation.
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Glossier, known for its flagship line of barely there beauty products, has landed a $100 million Series D led by Sequoia Capital.The round values Emily Weiss’ business at a whopping $1.2 billion, fully cementing the company as a startup “unicorn” and tripling the valuation it garnered with a $52 million Series C in 2018.News of the round was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and later confirmed by Glossier.“We are building an entirely new kind of beauty company: one that owns the distribution channel and makes customers our stakeholders,” founder and chief executive officer Emily Weiss said in a statement.As part of the round, which included support from newcomers Tiger Global Management and Spark Capital and existing investors Forerunner Ventures, Thrive Capital, IVP and Index Ventures, Glossier has hired Vanessa Wittman as its chief financial officer.Other recent additions include Edith Chen, Glossier’s new vice president of supply chain operations, and Nick DeAngelo, vice president of operations.
Don’t buy logos or chase unicorns.At 35 years old, it has served them well, bagging the firm dozens of high-profile exits, including nine IPOs and 12 acquisitions in the last four years.Now, sources confirm to TechCrunch, the respected venture capital firm has nabbed $2.525 billion — its largest pool of capital yet — for three new funds: $525 million for its fourteenth early-stage fund, $1.5 billion for its fifth growth fund and $500 million for its second Leaders Fund, or a dedicated pool of capital meant to help the firm strengthen its positions on particularly competitive bets.Accel, which operates offices in Palo Alto, San Francisco, London and Bengaluru, is hot off the heels of a big exit.Its portfolio company HotelTonight, in which it was the very first institutional investor, is selling to Airbnb in what is the home-sharing company’s largest acquisition yet.In February, the San Francisco-based unicorn filed confidentially with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to make its public market debut; whether that be via a traditional initial public offering or a direct listing, a newfangled approach to going public, is still up in the air.
Brian O’Malley has enjoyed a lot of success as a venture capitalist, thanks to bets on Bazaarvoice before it went public, and Dollar Shave Club before it was acquired by Unilever, and many other companies that have sold or gone public.It’s one reason that O’Malley, who began his venture career with Battery Ventures and stayed for nearly a decade, has been poached time and again, first joining Accel Partners for almost five years and, more recently, hopping over to Forerunner Ventures.Interestingly, all three firms are investors in one company that O’Malley has known from nearly its outset and whose cash and stock sale for a reported $465 million to Airbnb, announced last week, he is still celebrating: HotelTonight, “The O’Malley family went long on HotelTonight,” he said in a call Thursday.I really liked him, but i didn’t think it was a ‘venture fundable’ company, [meaning i didn’t see] an explosive opportunity.But it was hard for Groupon to [drill deep] across categories, given that merchant needs are different.The industry needed verticalized [players] and [HotelTonight] fit nicely in that sweet spot, so I did a little digging, and lo and behold, it was Sam Shank and his partner Jared [Simon] behind the company.
Serial Box, a startup bringing back the tradition of serialized fiction, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding.The company actually disclosed the funding last week, when announcing a partnership to produce stories about Marvel characters, but it’s sharing more details about the round — namely, the fact that it was led by Boat Rocker Media, with participation from Forerunner Ventures, 2929 Entertainment co-founder Todd Wagner and Japanese business intelligence and media firm Uzabase.“We carefully chose trusted partners for this round of investment,” said co-founder and CEO Molly Barton in a statement.“They see the big opportunity that we do to retool reading for the smartphone age, to take the best elements of traditional book publishing and innovate with influences from the audio, podcast, gaming and TV industries.”Serial Box publishes stories in text and audio format, broken up into weekly episodes.The first episode of each story is free — then if you’re hooked, you can pay $1.99 for additional episodes or sign up for a season pass.
San Francisco-based mobile banking startup Chime announced this morning it has raised an additional $200 million in Series D financing led by DST Global, valuing its business at $1.5 billion.The oversubscribed round also included participation from new investors Coatue, General Atlantic, ICONIQ Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group, along with existing investors Menlo Ventures, Forerunner Ventures, Cathay Innovation and others.To date, Chime has raised approximately $300 million, including last year’s $70 million Series C, which then saw the company valued at $500 million.On top of this, is a modern-day banking app with features that make it look like it was actually built by a technology company – not a traditional bank.Chime’s co-founder and CEO Chris Britt had previously worked at Flycast, was an early comScore employee, and worked at Visa and Green Dot; co-founder and CTO Ryan King spent time at Plaxo and Comcast before Chime.Chime also includes a couple of innovative features that help to differentiate it from the other mobile banking apps on the market.
Glossier, known for its line of understated makeup products and a cult-following of millennial Instagrammers, is getting colorful with the launch of its first spin-off brand, Glossier Play.The company — led by founder and chief executive officer Emily Weiss, who built the nearly $400 million business from a makeup blog called Into The Gloss — has raised a total of $92 million in venture capital funding from top-tier consumer investors Forerunner Ventures, Index Ventures and IVP.Stitch Fix founder Katrina Lake and Forerunner founder and general partner Kirsten Green, are among the company’s board members.Weiss introduced Glossier in 2014 as a clean-skincare and natural beauty advocate.Today, the direct-to-consumer business boasts a growing line of barely there makeup, designed to mimic Weiss’s own subtle, au naturale vibe.The launch of Glossier Play, inspired by 1970s’ nostalgia, is its first foray into bright colors, glitter and, in the brand’s own words, “dialed-up extras.”
Danielle Baskin, the founder of a startup called Your Boss, made flashcards to keep Silicon Valley investors straight in her head.Those flashcards evolved into TouchBase — a line of VC trading cards that she prints from a garage.When Danielle Baskin needed to raise money for her startup, called Your Boss, she started making flash cards to keep straight all the various investors she was planning to pitch."I realized venture capital is kind of like a sport," Baskin told Business Insider in a recent interview.Like many storied startups that have come before it, TouchBase's studio is in a garage.It's located in San Francisco's Mission District.
Dustin Rosen thinks L.A. has a problem, aside from its famously car-choked highways.Meanwhile, some of the angel investors that Venice-based Snap was expected to produce have not materialized, owing to the company’s disappointing performance on the public market.It’s a pitch that has resonated with investors, seemingly.Today, Rosen, whose young firm is called Wonder Ventures, is taking the wraps of a $15 million seed fund, including from Cendana Capital, a fund of funds that has backed many of today’s early-stage firms as they’ve gotten off the round, including Forerunner Ventures, Uncork Capital, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures.Some traction with a much smaller proof-of-concept fund surely helped, too.Another promising regional bet: Clutter, a tech-enabled storage company that lets users store extra stuff without leaving their house and that has raised more than $90 million from investors, including Sequoia Capital, GV and Atomico.
Last year, retail e-commerce sales worldwide reached $2.3 trillion, a 24.8 percent increase over the previous year, according to eMarketer.A growing percentage of that spend was being captured by startups with strong online identities that are savvy about collecting and analyzing their customer data.Involved with many of them, from the eyewear company Warby Parker to the cosmetics startup Glossier to the athleisure brand Outside Voices, is Forerunner Ventures, a seven-year-old, San Francisco-based venture firm that has built its own name around expertise in e-commerce — and which sees a giant opportunity to fund many more brands.That investors are eager to give Forerunner more money to deploy isn’t surprising.In addition to a strong portfolio of still-private companies, which also includes the vitamin company Ritual, the luggage company Away, and the men’s wellness brand Hims, the firm has already seen a number of big exits in recent years.One of its very first checks, in fact, went to Dollar Shave Club, which sold to Unilever for $1 billion in 2016.
Following an acquisition by FTD Companies earlier this year for a reportedly small amount of cash, on-demand flower service BloomThat is pausing its services as it works “to figure out how to best integrate BloomThat as part of the FTD portfolio of brands,” the founders wrote to its customers a few days ago.“Before we go, we want to say a heartfelt thank you to all of our loyal bloomers,” the founders wrote.“Over the last five years, you’ve brightened many lives with a simple, thoughtful gesture.Thank you for entrusting us with your most important moments – we’re honored to have been a part of a truly special movement.In February 2016, BloomThat launched its flower delivery service nationwide.But instead of offering delivery within a couple of hours, BloomThat guaranteed next-day delivery, which effectively moved the startup into the territory of 1-800-FLOWERS and FTD.
Brian O’Malley may be the most-poached venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.While rising through the ranks at the global investment firm Battery Ventures, where O’Malley had led deals in Hotel Tonight among others, he was plucked out of the firm by Accel Partners in 2013, where both O’Malley and Accel thought he could be even more successful.Fast-forward five years and O’Malley is announcing today (through Forbes) that he just joined Forerunner Ventures, the top e-commerce investing firm launched in 2010 by founder Kirsten Green.That O’Malley is willing to make moves is hardly a knock.For someone whose job it is to create and manage promising portfolios, he seems to be managing his career with that same, smart mindset.The move also reflects well on Forerunner, a much younger firm than storied Accel but whose star has been soaring in recent years, thanks to early bets on companies like Bonobos (sold to Walmart), Jet.com (sold to Walmart), Dollar Shave Club (sold to Unilever) and Hotel Tonight, among many other known and growing brands, including the cosmetics company Glossier, the athleisure-wear company Outdoor Voices and the home furnishings company Serena & Lily.
Chime, the San Francisco-based challenger bank known for its consumer-friendly features and lack of fees, has raised $70 million in Series C financing, led by Menlo Ventures.The round, which also included existing investors Forerunner Ventures, Aspect Ventures, Cathay Innovation, Northwestern Mutual, Crosslink Capital, and Omidyar Network, brings the company to over $100 million in total funding to date and values the business at around $500 million.The startup is one of several challenger banks gaining popularity with a younger, millennial audience who sees no need for a bank with physical branches, and who are sick of being penalized by hefty fees for things like overdrafts or dropping below a minimum balance – fees that take advantage of consumers at their most vulnerable points in their financial lives.As Chime points out, traditional banks charged consumers over $34 billion in fees in 2017.There are no monthly fees, no minimum balance fees, no overdraft fees, no international transactions fees, and it has a network of nearly 40,000 free ATMs Instead of gouging customers, Chime generates revenue from an interchange-based business model involving its accompanying debit card, where it earns about 1.5 percent in interchange revenue from Visa.While the no-fee structure is a huge draw for consumers, Chime is popular also for its innovative feature set.
These are the most comfortable pants of my life.And it turns out that some venture capitalists think sweatpants and workout clothes make for a good investment.Outdoor Voices is raising a $34 million Series C round led by GV (formerly Google Ventures).This also includes an investment from Mickey Drexler, former CEO of J.Crew.Drexler is Chairman of Outdoor Voices.The company has raised over $56 million in the past three years from General Catalyst, Forerunner Ventures and others.
Max Rhodes was walking around that weird little parklet in Hayes Valley in San Francisco after taking a break from a five-year stint at Square to figure out what he wanted to do next — and he kept seeing Square registers everywhere.That’s what prompted him to start Indigo Fair, a platform that connects those two entities in order to streamline the process of getting those products into smaller retail stores that are looking for just those kinds of weird candles throughout major urban areas.The company said it has raised $12 million in new financing from Forerunner Ventures and Khosla Ventures, with Forerunner’s Kirsten Green joining the board of directors.“I started to think about the fact that you have all these stores adopting cloud-based PoS systems and inventory systems and, generally all their data is becoming available through their media profiles and inventory systems,” Rhodes said.“If there were some way that you could get all that data and know what is selling where, you could actually predict how well a given product is gonna sell in a store.That was the starting point.”
Indigo Fair, a platform that connects independent retailers with makers and manufacturers, has raised $12 million in a series A round of funding led by Khosla Ventures and Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Sequoia.Founded out of San Francisco in 2017, Indigo Fair targets smaller local retailers with a marketplace where they can procure anything from jewelry and stationery to kitchen accessories, appliances, and condiments.Unlike other ecommerce marketplaces, Indigo Fair doesn’t target individual consumers, as most items can only be procured in minimum set quantities, such as a case of 12.It’s basically an online wholesaler focusing on unique goods that you may not find on the shelves of your local department store.Online marketplaces that seek to connect supply with demand are key components of the digital economy, with well-established companies such as Uber, eBay, Amazon, and Airbnb building billion-dollar businesses by joining the dots between sellers and buyers.The concept is simple and has filtered down into all manner of industries, including logistics, local buy-and-sell platforms, online auction houses, recruitment, and more.
In 2017, the New York City-based startup added two product categories and expanded to new markets, opening offices in London and Montreal.Institutional Venture Partners (IVP) and Index Ventures co-led the round, with participation from existing investors Thrive Capital, Forerunner Ventures, and 14W.Glossier is the brainchild of founder and CEO Emily Weiss, who created beauty blog Into The Gloss in 2010 after working as a fashion assistant at Vogue.By sharing beauty tips and interviewing celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Weiss amassed an impressive number of followers, which created a solid base to launch Glossier in 2014.Glossier particularly appeals to millennials, in part by bypassing traditional marketing tactics and relying on word-of-mouth and referrals.The Milky Jelly Cleanser, for example, sells for $18, and the Wowder finishing powder for $22.
On Tuesday, March 13, some of the most well-regarded venture capitalists on the West Coast will converge in L.A. to hear pitches from women-led startups.The day is part of a growing series of events that was originally spearheaded by investor Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures, who along with her women friends in venture, wanted to work more closely with the far larger — and growing — community of women founders that has begun to form in recent years.At this mid March meeting, at the Santa Monica offices of Upfront Ventures, venture capitalists Kara Norton of Upfront and Eva Ho from Fika Ventures will host the first of its kind for Southern California founders, and they’ll be joined by: Lee; Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures; Dana Settle of Greycroft; Jess Lee of Sequoia; Emily Melton of DFJ; Rebecca Kaden of Union Square Ventures; Jodi Sherman Jahic of Aligned Partners; Steph Palmeri of Uncork Capital; and last but not least, Renata Quintini of Lux Capital.We talked with the group yesterday to learn more about the day, which is primarily designed to give female founders a chance to talk one-on-one with the VCs for at least 30 minutes, though networking and broader-based fundraising advice is also a key feature of the program.TC: How many founders applied to the past two Female Founders Office Hours events?TC: It looks from the agenda like each VC will be meeting with four founders.
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