Startups Venture

Roundup: Investments To Watch From Our 2019 Seed Series

For the Seed Series 2019 we were fortunate enough to talk to some leaders in the VC world. With our final piece of the series for this year, we put together a list of startups these seed investors told us to watch. 

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To quickly recap, we talked with Accel, #Angels, BBG Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, The Engine, Floodgate, Homebrew, Lerer Hippeau, NFX, UnCork Capital and UpWest. Here is the customized Crunchbase Pro list of Seed Series Companies To Watch organized by last equity funding amount from smallest to largest. 

Vas Natarajan: Partner, Accel

Natarajan pointed to Blameless, a site reliability engineering platform that addresses those instances when a company’s site goes down, potentially costing millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Accel led the seed in 2018. Blameless raised a $16.5 million Series A in March 2019 led by Accel and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

“What Blameless is building is a command and control for engineers, DevOps leaders, product leaders to be able to collaborate by Slack, pull in all the relevant metrics that they’re seeing from different infrastructure monitoring problems, and then push fixes as quickly as possible.”  said Natarajan.

Secondly is Transcend, a data privacy technology company that raised a $4 million seed round in April 2019 from Accel.

Every technology company needs to know where their users are logging in from around the globe, and the laws of that country. “That is a whole set of infrastructure solutions, and front end consumer facing tools that Transcend will build and sell for any company,” said Natarajan. “If you go to privacy.trulia.com or privacy.hoteltonight.com, I as an end user can see your privacy policy, I can log in and see what data you’ve collected on me and then I can hit delete. Transcend powers all that.”

Jana Messerschmidt and Katie Stanton: Founding Team #Angels

The #Angels founders have their eyes on Cameo, a marketplace that matches celebrities with consumers for personalized video shoutouts. Cameo raised a $50 million Series B in June 2019 led by Kleiner Perkins.

“The consumer will script what they want the celebrity to say. So it could be a happy birthday message. It could be an engagement message. It could be congratulations on your job promotion. Whatever you want it to be. And then the celebrity decides whether they want to fulfill it. The celebrity also sets their price. You have everything from cameos for $25 all the way up to slots charging a few thousand dollars,” said Stanton.

Next is Modern Fertility that helps women track their fertility at a fraction of the cost. Modern Fertility raised a $15 million Series A in June 2019 led by Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures. “They’ve helped demystify fertility, and giving you more power towards understanding how fertile am I right now?” said Stanton.

Susan Lyne: Co-founder, BBG Ventures

Full Harvest is a marketplace for very large farms to sell the 30 percent of produce that gets ploughed under, because it doesn’t meet cosmetic standards for grocery,” said Lyne who invested in its seed round. Full Harvest connects large farms to food businesses. Spark Capital led its $8.5 million Series A in August 2018.

Then there is GoTenna.

“GoTenna allows you to send a text message and your location when there is no wireless coverage, no cell coverage, nothing. It was really developed initially for rock and roll concerts, and off-grid sports,” said Lyne. Since its early days it has been adapted for more critical use. “It’s just a great communications protocol that allows anyone to communicate in a disaster.”

Lyne invested in GoTenna’s seed round back in 2013. Most recently it has raised a $24 million Series C in June 2019 led by Founders Fund.

Ted Wang: Partner, Cowboy Ventures

Vic.ai is an AI platform for accounting firms to automate routine tasks.

“What you’re really stopping humans from doing is reading and typing. This makes people more effective in their jobs. I can’t imagine anyone is going to be unhappy about not having to do that,” said Wang.

Vic.ai raised an $11.2 million Series A in September 2019 led by GGV Capital.

Textio is a company that currently has a product that looks at your job postings, and is able to analyze the text of the job postings and help you to write them in a way that they’ll be more effective,” said Wang. “You can send a posting through the Textio system, and it will send you an augmented version of the same text with suggested changes or highlights.”

Textio raised a $20 million Series B in June 2017 led by Scale Venture Partners.

Katie Rae: CEO, The Engine

Commonwealth Fusion is miniaturising a fusion plant with an invention that allows them to get to net positive energy,” said Rae of this fusion energy company built on top of decades of research. “We believe what they’ve invented will allow you to get there. If that’s true, you basically have endless clean energy. This is a team that has already proven out a bunch of the most significant milestones, and will continue to do that over the next two to three years.”

Commonwealth Fusion raised a $115 million Series A in June 2019 led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, with Future Ventures, Khosla Ventures, and The Engine along with other investors.

Next up is Kytopen, a company that develops technologies to engineer human primary cells and iPSC’s for both discovery and clinical manufacturing of advanced therapies. According to Rae, “They looked at the biotech industry and asked, ‘Why are there PhDs basically injecting things into cells?’ Would there be a way to speed this up in the biotech industry by ten thousand X?”

Kytopen raised a $3.6 million seed round in May 2019 led by The Engine and Horizons Ventures.

Iris Choi: Partner, FloodGate

Applied Intuition has built software for simulation testing of autonomous vehicles. Applied Intuition raised its Series B of $40 million led by General Catalyst in September 2019.

“Instead of physically having to run autonomous vehicles in Arizona in a quarantined off area, you can do billions of test runs, in various scenarios, using software. There is a benefit to having a mutual third party, instead of everyone building it in-house whether you are an OEM or a rideshare provider. This is only going to become increasingly necessary in the future,” said Choi.

Another company worth watching is Cheetah, which offers business owners a simple procurement app for their daily supplies, reducing time spent on managing their inventory, and helping lower waste. Cheetah last raised its Series A for $29.9 million in October 2018 led by Hanaco Venture Capital and Floodgate.

Satya Patel and Hunter Walk: Homebrew Founders

Shield AI  was started by two brothers, one who was a Navy Seal and the other who was an engineer at MIT. And the brother who was a Navy Seal came back for his tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he came to the realization that none of his colleagues, fellow soldiers died in battle,” said Patel.

“They died when they were doing reconnaissance into areas where there was no information about the building or the terrain that they were going into. And it seemed crazy to him that that can’t be solved in some different way. And so he got together with his brother, and they decided to build a company called Shield AI, which is developing fully autonomous drones for the public sector. These drones can by themselves navigate into buildings and caves. Collect intelligence about what’s going on inside through thermal cameras, regular cameras and then communicate that back to people who can do analysis on it,” said Patel.

“Shield AI is a company that has such a powerful mission around ensuring the safety of civilian and military lives.”

Shield AI raised a $25 million Series B in August 2019 led by SVB Capital.

Also on his radar is Finix, which  creates software infrastructure for any software company to become a payments company. Finix raised a $17.5 million Series A in July 2019 led by Insight Partners.

“We think of it as democratizing access to a financial services infrastructure, helping a whole generation of software companies create more value for themselves and their employees and their customers,” said Patel.

Eric Hippeau: Co-founder, Lerer Hippeau

K Health is an AI powered app for personalized health information

“They can answer pretty precisely all your health questions. If you use the app then you have the choice of very quickly getting on in a telemedicine way talking to an experienced doctor,” said Hippeau.

“It’s also a B2B business where you’ll see it appear at the front end to a number of different kinds of service providers, who would rather have something like this, as the first point of contact. It might be a hospital or it might be a clinic so that they can better direct the patient to the right service,” said Hippeau.

K Health last raised a $25 million Series B in December 2018 led by 14W, Comcast Ventures and Mangrove Capital Partners.

Also up is Guideline, which automates retirement plans for small to medium sized companies. “They basically offer a very easy, low cost for SMBs. It’s really low cost,” said Hippeau. “They do all this hard work for about $8 per employee per month. And so they now originate a huge percentage of all new 401K plans in the United States.”

Guideline raised their Series C of $35 million in December 2018 led by Tiger Global Management.

James Currier: Co-founder, NFX

New York-based Ribbon centers on financial products in the real estate sector.

“They allow people to buy residential houses for cash,” said Currier. “Ribbon gives the cash for two to eight weeks for the transition to take place and then the home buyer gets a mortgage. It really helps when you want to buy a home before you sell your other one.”

Ribbon raised a $30 million Series B led by Greylock Partners  in October 2019.

Mammoth Biosciences is the largest repository of CRISPR IP in the world, for disease detection. “They’ve created a platform play, and then they’re working with pharma and agricultural companies to develop diagnostics and therapies to edit change in a responsible way,” said Currier.

Mammoth Biosciences raised its $23 million Series A in June 2018 led by the Mayfield Fund.

Jeff Clavier: Founder, Uncork Capital

Molekule is a hardware company that makes air purification technology for allergy, asthma or respiratory disease,” said Clavier. “It has a huge potential market. When you think about pollution in India and China this is a big market.”

Molekule raised their $25 million Series B in November 2018 led by Foundry Group.

Another on the watchlist is Front, a chat inbox for teams. “Companies can aggregate a bunch of email, text accounts and any communication into one single chat inbox where teams can collaborate and have way more efficient customer support,” said Clavier.  Front raised a $66 million Series B led by Sequoia Capital in 2018.

Shuly Galili: Co-Founder, UpWest

Stampli is a company automating accounts payable to decrease time spent chasing invoice approval. Stampli raised a Series B of $25 million in October 2019 led by SignalFire.

“They’re dealing with customers who have thousands and thousands of invoices, are inundated with paperwork, with a paper trail, with not knowing where the invoice started, and when is it going to be paid,” said Galili. Customers include retailers through to companies that have many outsourced vendors.

Also up is CyCognito, a cybersecurity startup that addresses the risks in a company’s IT systems. CyCognito recently raised an $18 million Series A funding in Nov 2019 led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.

“The attack surface has changed because it’s no longer just the technology that is on your laptop. There are many ways that servers, mobile technologies, customer lists and credit cards are being exposed today,” said Galili. CyCognito monitors these shadow risks an IT team might not be aware of to minimize exposure to attack.

Pro Tip. Crunchbase Pro subscribers can save this companies list to watch to their account to track changes over time, and get alerts. 

To Note: Some of the investors mentioned in this article are investors in Crunchbase 

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.

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