I’m in Seattle for the next few days. I’ve built this trip around Techstars Seattle Demo, a bunch of time at PSL, and a Moz board meeting. Oh – and time with several of our portfolio companies as well as some nice social stuff with long time friends.
Today, PSL announced their new $80 million venture fund. We are significant LPs in the fund and my partner Lindel is joining the PSL advisory board. In addition to being LPs in PSL Ventures, we are major investors in PSL Studio and I’m on the board. While we don’t have an office in Seattle, I’m confident we have a comfortable place to hang out when we are in town.
Amy and I have a periodic conversation around what happens if one of us died unexpectedly. We each know that it would be impossible to keep living alone in Boulder given our deep connections to many things as a couple. So, we each have our “other place” we’d live if it wasn’t Boulder. Amy’s is Paris; mine is Seattle.
I’ve been going to Seattle regularly for business since 1990. Feld Technologies was in the inaugural Microsoft Solution Provider program that Dwayne Walker created around 1991. I fondly remember a box of happiness from Microsoft showing up at my office in Boston every month, usually full of software, books, an occasional t-shirt, or plaque. At the time, we did almost all of our Windows development using Microsoft Access, which was a remarkably effective pre-client/server app development environment.
In the mid-1990s, I made a handful of angel investments in Seattle and spent more time at Microsoft for AmeriData, which had acquired Feld Technologies. Windows NT was beginning its conquest of Novell Netware, and AmeriData was a huge Novell reseller. I was part of the championing of Windows NT, regularly suggesting to the leadership at AmeriData that we needed to get on the NT train. I wasn’t as effusive as Steve Ballmer was, but close.
By the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, I was still going to Seattle regularly for a variety of reasons, including several investments that Mobius made. At some point Dan’l Lewin invited me to join the Microsoft VC Advisory Board where I had even more reasons to hang out in Seattle. I had become comfortable with Seattle the city, Amy and I were spending more time at our house in Alaska (so Seattle was occasionally a stop on the way to Alaska), and I’d started to enjoy the rain.
When we started Foundry Group in 2007, we knew that Seattle would be a key geography for us. It’s been really fun to be involved, through many different organizations, and with many people, in the massive growth of the Seattle startup community. We expect our various investments in PSL will provide a key focal point for the next decade of our Seattle experience.
I’m really looking forward to the next three days in Seattle. Even though they are very scheduled, I’ll be with a lot of people who I enjoy – a lot.
Regardless of those childhood aspirations of Batcaves and Tony Stark’s high tech compounds, not every VC has an office (or a company portfolio) full of lasers. But I’m one of the lucky ones.
A little history: Foundy made our first investment in Glowforge, the Seattle-based 3D laser printer, back in June of 2015 after seeing the incredible product the team was building. A few months later, they launched with the biggest 30-day crowdfunding campaign in history, during which I spent more time than I’d like to admit refreshing their homepage and watching the numbers climb in astonishment. And before I knew it, we were leading a second investment round to help the team deliver to tens of thousands of customers.
As with many early stage hardware companies, Glowforge faced their fair share of setbacks during beta and pre-production, but the team’s obsession with delivering the product they promised has paid off. The product is completely magical. Finally, customers have it. And you can make incredible things with it, like a drone.
They’ve been shipping out thousands of units, and as of today, all US customers who’ve ordered a Pro have been notified theirs is ready. Since domestic units can’t be shipped overseas, and Basic units are still backordered, that means they have Pro units available for sale today, for delivery in 10 days!
Do you need new keys for your laptop?
One of the things I’ve always loved about Glowforge is that they are constantly trying to figure out how they can work with their customers, instead of just selling to their customers. It’s one of the reasons their forum is so active and such a terrific resource, and why their customers love the product so much. So I wasn’t surprised when they came to me and told me that they were going to launch Pro sales exclusively to their customers, with a really amazing offer. I get to share it with you since I’m a customer!
Finally, a Glowforge Pro without the wait! It’ll be on your doorstep within 10 days. (As a customer, I get $500 cash or $600 in materials if you buy – and yes, I’ll be taking the materials …)
One more thing. When I show people stuff I made on my Glowforge, I get one question: What made this? Glowforge is encouraging owners to share their own prints with #whatmadethis. Notice the Foundry and the Glowforge logos on my new wallet.
Proofgrade leather, stamped with engraved acrylic – made on a Glowforge. Get your own 3D Laser Printer at Glowforge, delivered in 10 days, for $1,500 off! #whatmadethis
You won’t believe what people are making. Check it out for yourself!
Less than a year after releasing its first product, Nima announced its highly anticipated peanut sensor is now available for pre-order, adding an allergen to its connected food sensor platform. If you have a peanut allergy, Nima is a must have.
Pre-order before March 8 to get the product for $229 ($60 off the retail price). More here about the science behind the peanut sensor.
Nima launched on the market a year ago with the Nima gluten sensor, the first company on the market to create a connected food sensor for consumers. Nima has enabled thousands of gluten-avoiding folks to test food for gluten at restaurants and packaged foods. The device takes an eight-step lab process and shrinks it to a little device that fits in your pocket.
With Nima, you can test your own food but you can also see what thousands of others are testing through the Nima iOS mobile app. To date, more than one out of four foods that are labeled or indicated as gluten-free are testing positive for gluten by the Nima community.
Let Nima take the first bite so you can enjoy mealtime with peace of mind.
JumpCloud, one of the fastest growing companies in Colorado, is looking for awesome Developers, QA engineers, DevOps admins, and Customer Success Engineers. Over the next year, they are planning to hire 50 people for the engineering team and about 70 across the entire company.
JumpCloud is focused on delivering cloud-based directory services via a SaaS model. They are trying to solve some very difficult problems around identity, authentication, security, and cloud scaling.
JumpCloud’s mission deeply resonates with me because they are disrupting a two decade old monopoly in directory services and giving IT organizations freedom of choice with their IT solutions. It’s an exciting space and we (Foundry Group, OpenView, and Techstars Ventures) are betting that the JumpCloud team has the winning approach.
Since 1994, I’ve worked with the CEO, Rajat Bhargava, on eight companies and I’m psyched about the company and culture that the team is building there.
If you are up for a new challenge leveraging modern technology platforms at a well-funded startup in Boulder, drop the JumpCloud team a note or feel free to email me and I’ll connect you up with them.
Use of HTTPS (which stands for HTTP Secure) has grown from 13% of the top one million websites to 19% in the past year. With major media sites such as NYTimes.com joining the movement, now over half of all web requests are served securely to the browser.
Two years after the launch of Let’s Encrypt, this is fantastic progress. In this new era of state sponsored hacking and fully professionalized cybercrime, it is heartening to see engineers get seriously organized and tackle something on the scale of securing the entire web.
Even a few years ago I would have been skeptical this would be possible. Until very recently, setting up HTTPS meant purchasing and managing certificates and configuring them correctly to work with your web server. This is a non-trivial effort and many people and companies didn’t bother with it. This was especially true with the long tail of websites, but also included many major ones.
The drive to HTTPS the web did not happen by accident. It is akin to an old-fashioned barn raising but on a global scale, organized by engineers with good intentions to protect users, and ensure that the web remains a vibrant and trusted ecosystem into the future.
A few things had to come together for securing (HTTPS’ing) the web to become reality:
- The global internet security community had to get serious about this problem. With Google now stiffly penalizing the SEO of non-HTTPS sites, and Chrome and Firefox escalating browser warnings, website owners are rapidly supporting security.
- Certificate management had to become cheap and easy. We have Let’s Encrypt to thank for that.
- Website technology providers had to make HTTPS a turnkey experience. This is happening now.
When you bring up Feld Thoughts in your browser, you should see something like the following:
Pantheon, one of our portfolio companies, hosts my website and made this happen, in zero clicks. With Pantheon, HTTPS just works out of the box and they are now providing HTTPS (powered by Let’s Encrypt) for all 200,000 of their websites, free of charge. Even better, it is powered by their new Global CDN, with over 30 points of presence and the most sophisticated Drupal and WordPress caching technology available on the market.
I am happy with what the Pantheon team has built. They didn’t cut any corners:
- HTTPS is available for free as a turnkey service for all plan levels
- Because this feature is deeply integrated into their CDN, you don’t pay a performance penalty for deploying HTTPS
- Their CDN speeds up pageloads by 50% to 300% by caching full page content (traditionally almost impossible to achieve with dynamic CMS systems)
When you load your website, do you see the happy green box of Secure “https”? If so, nice work! If you don’t, do your website visitors a favor – email your website developer and ask them to help you set it up.
Looking Glass, a Brooklyn-based company we recently led the Series A investment in, just released HoloPlayer One, the world’s first interactive lightfield development kit. This is a new interface that lets groups of people see and interact with floating 3D scenes without VR or AR headgear. While it’s an early release dev kit, it’s still as close to achieving the dream of the hologram shown in Blade Runner 2049 as I’ve seen.
This is relevant in my world because an investment theme we think a lot about is Human Computer Interaction. While it’s dangerous to try to predict the future, I think it’s a safe bet that in 20 years humans won’t be interacting with computers in the same way they are now. Amazon Echo is an example of one massive HCI shift that will impact our lives for years to come. Looking Glass is betting that another HCI shift will be related to how people interact with 3D content, like how a doctor will show a patient a CAT scan or how a 3D modeller will rig a Pixar character or design a rocket engine.
There are a lot of people who see this interface shift on the horizon with billions of dollars flowing into AR and VR companies evidence of this general interest. But what if there was a way to do it without the cost and constraints of a VR or AR headset.
The Looking Glass founders Shawn and Alex have been obsessed with chasing this dream since they were kids. Now they’re betting deeply against the headgear-based VR/AR trend by saying that holograms will be the next shift in human computer interaction. And they want fellow hologram hackers along for the ride.
I just got one (well, another one – we already have two HoloPlayer prototypes in the office with Structure Sensor scans of all the Foundry partners).
You can pre-order your Holoplayer dev kit here. Save $50 with code TOTHEFUTURE.
Since JumpCloud plays in the world of digital authentication, they are well versed in security issues and are helping organizations with securely connecting their users to their IT resources (systems, app, storage, WiFi, servers, etc.).
He pointed me to a five-step video they put up about how IT organizations can step-up their WiFi security – not only from KRACK, but from man-in-the-middle attacks and from having poor WiFi security hygiene.
The physical world will be the reference coordinates for the fleets of robot cars of our imagination. We’re living through the transformation from digital to virtual, and Softbank leading today’s investment of $164 million in Mapbox accelerates this even faster.
I’ve posted about the massive founder crush my partners and I have on Eric Gundersen, the CEO of Mapbox. When we led Eric’s first financing — a $10 million round and the first capital into the bootstrapped team — we believed mobile location and mapping would be big. Four years later to the week, our vision is dwarfed by the reality that location is at the heart of everything from ride-sharing and autonomous driving, to IoT and AR/VR. We are excited to again participate in this round.
It is no surprise that Eric and Masa both have this bold vision. Both share an exceptional way of dreaming and executing. I remember Eric showing me the maps from his time with the World Bank and UN. There was no AR or autonomous back when he was in Afghanistan, but there was a need for location data and a better mapping platform. In the years since, with massive customer launches like Snapchat and the Weather Channel, the horizontal scale of Mapbox’s platform is now much more obvious.
Knowing Eric and the team, this idealistic passion will not only scale as a company grows, it will set the trajectory for building a product and a company that changes how we experience the world. When I asked Eric a couple years ago about how far he wants to take this he responded:
“It simply would be a mistake to stop building right now — it’s too early. We’re going to be inside of everything.”
We’re long on the team at Mapbox, and it’s obvious to me why Softbank is also enthusiastic. I’m very loyal to my friends at Softbank and love any opportunity to work with them. Back in 1997, Softbank Technology Ventures (which became Mobius Venture Capital) was the first VC fund I helped raise. Ron Fisher, the Vice Chairman of Softbank, was responsible for watching over us, is one of my favorite people on the planet, and has been an incredible mentor to me.
This team and our world are at a unique moment in time. It’s is going to be incredible to watch Eric keep building.
Last week Rover launched on-demand dog walking in Denver. They’re enhancing their existing marketplace experience by adding an assignment option, similar to Uber and Lyft, and bringing it to Colorado. It’s another exciting move by the company, and their Denver announcement caused me to me reflect on my five years as an investor and board member at Rover.
Three thoughts came to mind.
Rover executes. I can’t believe that Rover has rolled out an entirely new way to purchase dog walking in three cities, with their fourth on the way, and we’re not yet three months on the other side of the DogVacay integration. That integration – a result of Rover acquiring DogVacay, both started and ended in Q2, and surpassed the best-case-scenario metrics that the team presented to the board. While we talk about the power of “just executing” in the startup world, Rover is a case study of execution in action.
Rover is completely obsessed with its customers. Only an absolute determination to get the customer experience right would drive this team to build two separate versions of a new product, given the complexity of their overall business. But Rover shares this common trait of product-obsession with other great teams that I’ve known as an investor and board member, and it’s inspiring to watch. This is yet another instance of a team that knows what it’s doing, listens carefully to its customers, and, like my dog Cooper, jumps all over things to make sure that it gets its experience right.
Rover is an old-school example of how great companies drive customer loyalty. Their monthly new customer LTVs have increased steadily every year as a result of customer loyalty for six years in a row, without a single counter-example. While some increases can be accomplished through branding or marketing initiatives, Rover has done it the old-fashioned way, which is through careful and thoughtful sequencing of product launches and improvements to the marketplace.
If you live in Denver, give Rover’s on-demand dog walking experience a try and let me know what you think. I’ll pass it on to the team at Rover, as I know they will be very interested in your feedback.
Welcome to Force Friday, one of my favorite days of the year. I still fondly remember watching Star Wars with my dad when I was 11. As I walked out of the theater, I asked him if we could buy another ticket right then and watch it again. He denied me that night, but we went and saw it again a few days later.
Next up is the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit.
May the Force be with you.