Startups I’d Fund #3

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Cleabanc is a provider of banking services for the self-employed. The company’s platform helps self-employed freelancers, independent contractors and entrepreneurs to expedite payment services and keep track of taxes. The company raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Portag3 Ventures in 2016. Previously, the company joined Y Combinator’s Fall 2015 Fellowship program and received $12,000 in grant funding in September 2015. It also raised seed funding from Hedgewood and Real Ventures on an undisclosed date.

Last Funds Raised: Undisclosed Seed, 2016

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

What I Like:

  • I am a fan of companies taking advantage of the gig economy and providing services to contractors and vendors in this space, which Clearbanc does.
  • The company is still very early on in its capital raising, so I believe this would be a strong entry point for a company with large potential.
  • Although there are other companies in this space with similar offerings, ClearBanc puts a unique spin on its offerings, such as; “Investing in your Airbnb Listing”, which is a cash advance on upgrading your amenities.
  • As a graduate of Y combinator I am confident in the team’s commitment and pedigree; although I have not heard of their follow-on investors Hedgewood and Real Ventures.
  • One of the co-founders seems to have an impressive background of executive/advisor roles in a variety of finance related startups. The other co-founder is a dragon on Canada’s Dragon’s Den with a strong background, so it seems like the company is well connected.
  • The flexibility of the company to cash advance on a variety of industries through different platforms including Stripe, Paypal, Kickstarter… shows a strong foundation for growth.

What I Don’t Like:

  • There are a lot of competitors in this space and although Clearbanc is flexible, I would be interested to hear what niche they hope to tackle or have already tackled.
  • Growing the user base and achieving reoccurring users will be a key to this company’s success, so I would be curious to hear how many users return multiple times.
  • I can’t find any other employees besides the founders on Linkedin, so I would be curious if this is just a two-person operation or if there is a broader team.
  • No technical experience between the founders, which would make me think all of the funding money would go right to engineering.

Conclusions:

  • The combination of founders make this company interesting for me because of their previous success, but it makes me wonder how much time they are really putting into this one startup and if it is receiving their undivided attention.
  • I would also be curious about the founder’s vision for the company and what they see as the best-case scenario for ClearBanc in several years.

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Guild Education’s lifelong learning platform offers classes, programs and degrees for working adults, with a path for them to move forward in their education and career. Guild offers these adults support from start to finish, with our technology platform for discovery, learning & organizing the experience, and extra support with our tech-enabled student advising model.

Last Funds Raised: $8.5M Series A, September 2016

Headquarters: Denver, Colorado

What I Like:

  • This company initially reminded me a lot of Lynda because of how it was teaching individuals skills online, but after reading more into it I can see it has a more targeted approach of teaching adults and facilitating degrees.
  • I think this is something that businesses will eventually start offering for their employees as incentives for working at their companies.
  • I always like companies that are based out of cities outside of California and New York because of the different mentality and dynamics that the team likely shares.
  • The founders have strong educational backgrounds and team seems to have all the necessary parts for the company to be self-sustaining in terms of product development, but it may just need more sales.
  • I think there is a lot of potential in the education technology space and that this company seems to have strong footing at a relatively low valuation.

What I Don’t Like:

  • It seems like the company is targeting individual consumers to use their platform, but I think it would be a strong/unique tactic to go approach companies to purchase it at a corporate level and offer it to employees.
  • Guild seems to be a mix of the offerings of Lynda and online universities, so the company may struggle with an identity crisis of consumers not knowing what to use it for.

Conclusions:

  • I believe this company would make an attractive entry point into education technology investing because of its traction, team and product at this stage.

 


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For drone manufacturers in the agriculture, inspection and mining sectors who are not able to fully tap their sectors, Iris Automation is building a high-tech computer vision solution that can build necessary trust in autonomous systems. Unlike existing solutions which are energy intensive, large and expensive, our product offers a lightweight, passive solution which will build confidence in a market ready to explode!

Last Funds Raised: $1.5M Seed, January 2017

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

What I Like:

  • The company does not actually build capital intensive drones, but creates a necessary add-on for them, so it is taking advantage of the industry without the huge capital risk.
  • A friend recently joined the company as the head of business development and is confident in the team’s ability to gain traction.
  • The team has a strong technical background and has come a long way with a small amount of funding.
  • The technology is something that a drone manufacturer wouldn’t necessarily have the tools to build easily because it is an entirely different type of technology then building a flying object (the drone).
  • It is an original idea and as far as my research shows there are no other competitors in the space doing this type of drone software.

What I Don’t Like:

  • It is a huge question of whether the company can become adopted among all the drone companies as the standard for their drone safety features.
  • The technology is not perfected yet, so this money would be a bet on the team’s ability to finish on their prototype.
  • Sales will be a vital component of this products success because although they have a strong technology; a competitor with better sales could potentially overtake them.

Conclusions:

  • The company recently raised money, but I think it would still be good to sit down with the team and meet them for the next time they raise.
  • There ultimate goal is to have the FAA/similar international organizations make their anti-collision system the regulatory standard that all drones would have to adopt. I like this vision and ambition for the company to be an essential component of the budding drone industry.

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SchoolMint helps schools and families manage the admissions process, simply and cost effectively. It saves public, private and charter schools tens of thousands of dollars every year by bringing the enrollment, registration, school choice / lottery and re-enrollment processes online. It gives parents an easy and efficient way to manage applications to multiple schools for multiple kids.

Last Funds Raised: $5M Series A, February 2016

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

What I Like:

  • I am really interested in the education technology space because it seems like it hasn’t had many significant upgrades besides Blackboard.
  • I like companies that have a real (measurable) dollar saving effect, which this company has a history of achieving.
  • The company is tackling a substantial problem and even if they were just to simplify one aspect of it then I think it could prove to be successful.
  • The company recently received an EdTech award for its ability to achieve a complex problem in a simple way, so it gained publicity and shows that clients have been happy with them.
  • The founders have technical backgrounds, which will be important as this is a SaaS company. In addition, they have experience at other startups in executive roles.
  • The company has been around for nearly four years, which shows the commitment of the founders and their persistence.

What I Don’t Like:

  • The company has a very optimistic goal and I think it will be important for the company to focus on specific features that clients seem to want rather than trying to tackle everything at once.
  • Onboarding schools will prove to be very difficult, so I would be interested to hear how they have onboarded schools so far and how they plan for it to continue.
  • The space is getting highly competitive as many companies try to solve the same problem, but I believe this team has an advantage from starting early.

Conclusions:

  • The company has a strong founding team, good funding and recently received good press. I have a feeling this company will be raising money in the near future and I think it would be a good opportunity to get exposed to education technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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