C2V Mar 2020 Notes from the Trenches

We hope this edition finds you well, given the unprecedented circumstances we are all navigating in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.  With apologies to those who enjoy our usual lighthearted fare, a more serious tone felt more appropriate at present (though we would encourage people to continue finding reasons to laugh – it helps immensely).  

Now more than ever, we want to let you know we are right here with you in the trenches, happy to help, guide, advise or simply lend a listening ear.

Maintaining Rationality & Perspective Amidst the Panic

During times like these, a lot of introspection naturally occurs. Matt has spent some time looking at the current environment through the lens of history and finance and is doing his best to apply some rational thinking amidst the chaos with his latest Medium posts.

In his latest piece, Matt draws on his two-plus decades in finance (spanning 9/11 and the global credit crisis, among other periods of intense fear and uncertainty) to lay out the case that now is the time to buy.  Matt gives five reasons why periods like the one we find ourselves in today have historically been the best times to buy equities and especially venture capital funds.

Matt cites the considerable historical precedent for this, including:

“As one might expect, public equities generally have their best returns in the years following these major market selloffs, especially the immediately following years — even at times when the economy is still in recession — and the deepest selloffs are generally followed by the largest gains.”

Stories Summit Update

Obviously, Stories Summit has to be postponed given the current environment.  As excited as we are to bring Stories Summit to you, the health and safety of our participants is of paramount importance to us. We will announce a new date as soon as possible and will be back to you when we have more information, but we remain committed to putting on a great event as soon as we can responsibly do so.

However, it’s not all somber news on this front. During these times, we are all getting creative. We’re rolling out a new Stories Summit format in the form of digital breakout sessions!

For our first breakout session, we’ll be joined by industry-leading experts to discuss how to manage remote teams. You can find all the details below:

Topic: How to Manage Remote Teams
Date: Thursday, March 26, 2020
Time: 12:00 EST / 9:00 PST / 17:00 CET

To RSVP and get the dial-in info, email bookings@storiessummit.com

Can’t wait to connect with you all digitally!

C2V Feb 2020 Notes from the Trenches

Welcome back!

We’ve now been working with our current portfolio for several months: Kambr, Magellan AIboostrBeamOtari and Paladin, and our operator bench is both leaning in to support them and also co-investing alongside the fund. This is the C2V way. Expect big news coming from several of the portfolio companies in the coming months.

And Our Next Investment Is…

In our last newsletter, we teased that C2V was going to announce our seventh investment in the cleantech space and now we finally get to share that company. But first some fun facts (or at least some facts) 😉.

Chris was born in Helsinki, Finland and still considers Finland his second home. The country, which is among those with the "best quality of life” year after year, is progressive and efficient, and a global leader in key areas like healthcare, education and climate change. It’s even home to childhood icon Santa Claus.

As we noted in a previous newsletter, with less than six million inhabitants, Finland punches well above its weight in a number of areas, including professional hockey talent, saunas with adjoining bars/restaurants, and incredible data scientists, engineers, startups and founders (often all in one package).

These last four are undoubtedly a product of Finland’s perennial number one ranking in just about every global education survey (the first two because, well, it’s cold and dark a lot there, and what else are you going to do — actually that probably doesn’t hurt the engineering/startup thing either).  

Perfect segue to introduce our seventh investment and first non-US based company: StepOne Technologies. Their eFlexFuel technology enables gasoline-powered vehicles to convert to flex-fuel vehicles capable of running up to 85% ethanol blends, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 88%. 

While consumers and governments alike strive to reduce carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions, options for tackling one of the biggest polluters on earth, personal vehicles, remain extremely limited, expensive and restricted by fueling infrastructure limitations. Enter StepOne.  

Compatible with billions of cars currently on the road today and costing less than $500 for the basic model, eFlex adjusts in realtime to any mix of fuel from 0 to 100% ethanol. This gives motorists not only an affordable alternative to purchasing an entirely new flex-fuel or electric vehicle, but also maximum flexibility in terms of make and model, as well as an unlimited driving range, as eFlex-powered cars can refill at any traditional or E85 pump.  

Step One is doing something great for the planet, society and using innovation to change the game.  Already a massive success in sales in the Nordics and France, they are coming to the US over the coming months to sell at a local level. We are thrilled about going across borders and excited to invest in a company that is both a great business and a positive impact, which we are happy to tell our kids about.

Stories Summit

Stories Summit is two months out and we have 100 registered guests and counting, eight sponsors/partners that include: Newmark Knight Frank, GM Ryan, Reconciled, Dentons, First Republic, Carta, Convene and Withum.

The attendee list continues to grow with early-stage founders being the heart and soul of our guest list. We also have several New York Times best selling authors coming like John Battelle, Adam Bryant, David Kidder and a soon to be NYT bestseller in Rishad Tobaccowala.

Mix in yoga instructors, TV personalities, a deejay, prominent and funny investors like Howard Lindzon and leading DTC brands and you have yourself a very special audience.

Stories Summit will focus on founder stories but we also plan on designing break out tracks designed to learn how to launch your podcast, the power of video content and general topics that founders want to understand. We know this because we asked founders some hard-hitting questions like “what general areas were key to your success?”.

You can see the full infographic here.

Check out www.storiessummit.com for more and register before we sell out.

Super Powers Podcast

Our latest guest on the Super Powers Podcast is Ali Wyatt, a badass GirlBoss who is changing the game for women entrepreneurs. In this week’s Superpowers Podcast, we learn how Ali built an ecosystem filled with impactful relationships, wisdom, and strong, powerful women.

Bill and I enjoyed getting to learn about Ali's midwestern childhood roots and hear some fun stories from her time at InStyle Magazine, ELLE, Refinery29, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.

We look forward to sharing our eighth investment along with some more exciting developments and announcements from our portfolio companies next month.

Stay up to date on all things C2V here and all things Stories Summit here.

As always thanks for reading, supporting and hope to hear from you on any of our news.  

Learn From Startup Founders at Stories Summit

As many of you already know Stories Summit is fast approaching — April 16th, 2020 in New York City, and we would love to see you there!

This is an opportunity to step away from the grind, let your guard down and share both your experiences and insights with a like-minded group of people.

Ask yourself, how do we get better if we don't share? How do we avoid landmines if we don't know what they look like? Could I help someone else based on my own experiences?

The goal of Stories Summit is to share the untold, real-life tales of building companies to inspire conversation, debate, and most importantly, share lessons learned along the way so other leaders and entrepreneurs can avoid the same mistakes.

We have a wide range of people confirmed and attending including world-renowned DJs, TV personalities, best-selling authors, public-company executives, first-time founders, people from sport, music, venture and also folks just trying to figure out their next move.

Beyond the breakout sessions, expect plenty of conversation and networking among a new community of amazing people.

Press are also welcomed to register – we will do our best to accommodate.

Lastly, please share Stories Summit with folks in your community that would enjoy attending and stay updated on the latest by following Stories Summit on Instagram.

Join Stories Summit

C2V Jan 2020 Notes from the Trenches

Welcome to the first in a new decade of C2V newsletters (that’s right, you’re getting at least 10 more years of this… every month… you’re welcome). 

Notwithstanding some confusing developments in the world at large (mostly that there appears to be a Super Bowl planned for this weekend which doesn’t include the New England Patriots), things continue to hum here in the trenches.

2019 was obviously a landmark year for us with the launch of our first institutional fund, so let’s kick off the new year with a quick recap on that front.

C2V Capital Partners I Updates:

  • First close in early September 2019

  • More than 230 inbound investment opportunities evaluated to date

  • Six investments thus far:

    • 4 Enterprise SaaS companies in Commercial Transportation, MarTech, Legal Ops and Data Analytics

    • Direct-to-Consumer companies in the rapidly growing Wellness and Home Fitness spaces

  • Established Operator Bench of 25 LPs with extensive founder and senior tech exec experience actively engaging with these companies

  • Early portfolio company traction: 201% growth in aggregate monthly revenues over the last 9 months of 2019

Speaking of the Operator Bench, we’ve recently added new LPs from Facebook and Hulu to an already impressive crew and our initial group has hit the ground running, with C2V LPs co-investing in some of our deals and actively advising several of our portfolio companies.

We’ll also be investing in at least two more companies in Q1, including a consumer-focused cleantech company and at least one additional direct-to-consumer apparel company. However, this month, we profile our most recent investment — and second DTC company in the rapidly growing consumer wellness space — Otari. 

Otari - Studio Quality Workouts at Home

Otari is a screen-equipped exercise mat geared toward equipment-light activities (e.g., yoga, boot camp, pilates, etc.), developed by founders Chris Kruger and Skyler Erickson while studying together at Cornell Tech (and eventually winning the Cornell Tech Startup Award for their efforts). 

Like other home exercise products, Otari brings fitness studios into users’ homes, offering both live-streaming and pre-recorded classes, but Otari doesn’t stop there.  Using computer vision and machine learning to monitor body movements in a three-dimensional space, Otari acts as a virtual personal trainer, providing automated real-time feedback during workouts (correcting form, counting reps, etc.). 

Costing a fraction of the price of existing home exercise products, Otari also offers a wider variety of class options and is compact enough not only to fit into any sized living space but also to pack and take on the road with you. 

Otari’s official product launch is scheduled for early Q2 and they are taking pre-orders today.

Stories Summit – April 16th, NYC

The big day is coming up fast! We have 50 registered guests (and counting), so now’s the time to get yourself involved and tell your awesome founder friends to sign up as well before space runs out. Learn more and request your ticket here.

As we’ve noted previously, this is not your traditional conference, but rather a day of interactive dialogue among those who have been there before and those who are in the thick of it now. We fully expect every person in the room to walk out smarter, more prepared to face the challenges in front of them and with a clearer focus and perspective than when they walked in.

To that end, here is a sampling of what the day will entail:

  • How to Avoid Startup Failure

  • How to Deal With “That” Board Member

  • How I Blew My Seed Money

  • Staff Mediation: Dealing With Difficult People

  • Pivoting for Startups

  • 10 Things Every Seed and Pre-Seed Startup Needs to Know

  • How I Screwed up My Venture Fund

  • Staying Calm and Grounded During Difficult Times

  • VC Dos and Don’ts

  • Content Creation for Startups

You can find additional and always up to date information on Stories Summit content here.

Complementary Skill Sets in Action

For those of you who have had the distinct pleasure of being on the receiving end of our fund pitch, you know that we believe Chris’ and Matt’s complementary skill sets are and will continue to be a key driver of success for us. 

Lest you thought this was limited to our obvious “frontman” and “guitarist with mystique” dynamic (we’ll let you guess who’s the Plant and who’s the Page), Matt decided to throw his hat in the ring and blog about a topic near and dear to his side of the C2V yin and yang: numbers. 

And more specifically, why numbers matter to investors the world over and why they should matter more to VCs.

The piece will be going live soon, but we wanted to give our loyal subscribers a sneak peek. Here’s a short excerpt (mainly to assure you that the post isn’t nearly as dry as we just made it sound).

Raising $100mm+ funding rounds every 6 months isn’t something to celebrate. In fact, it’s usually a cry for help. Anyone who’s seen Ocean’s Eleven will surely remember the opening scene with Brad Pitt’s character, Rusty, teaching a group of actors how to play five-card draw.

Every time I read another of these articles reporting, in reverential tones, how much money a late-stage startup has raised, I’m reminded of the moment when one of the celebrity card-players tries to replace four of his five cards and Rusty says “You don’t want four [cards], you want to fold.”

Surprisingly lively, right? We’ll let you know when it’s published so you can give it a look and let us know what you think.

Elsewhere in C2V Land

Super Powers Podcast

Don’t forget to check out the Superpowers Podcast, where Bill Wise and Chris are having a blast interviewing some really fun and thoughtful people.

In the latest edition, Chris and Bill talked with Narrative I/O founder Nick Jordan about how to find winners.

You can find all the shows here, and please subscribe and listen on your favorite podcast service. 

Anything Else?

Actually, no, I think we’re done here.  Just a quick reminder to check out the latest words of inspiration (and a whole lot more) on our C2V Instagram account, our recently launched Stories Summit Instagram account, and if you need that extra dose of Vitamin C[2V], Chris’s Twitter account is always a nice shot in the… um… arm.    

We sincerely appreciate all the help and support from our investors, founders, and friends in getting us to where we are today (and we especially appreciate all of you who’ve actually read this far in the newsletter – goes without saying that you’re our clear favorites). 

Until next month (when Chris interviews the groundhog about his pioneering disruption of the forecasting industry)…

- Chris & Matt

C2V Dec 2019 Notes from the Trenches

Happy Holidays, friends!  While there’s no rest for the intrepid early-stage VC, we did manage to hang some lights and raise the Festivus Pole at C2V HQ, so the holiday spirit is alive and well here in the trenches. In that spirit, we thought we’d give you the gift of some quality reading material to distract from the 47th viewing of the Home Alone trilogy that your kids dragged you into. 

So pause that argument with your significant other about whether Die Hard and Lethal Weapon are really Christmas movies (which is ridiculous to begin with, because they clearly are), hoist an eggnog (no comment on whether ours will have some of Kentucky’s finest mixed in but check out Chris’s post from last year in England and judge for yourselves) and let’s light this non-denominational holiday candle, starting with….

The Ghost of Christmas Past

We begin our December newsletter with a look back at Chris's 2019 predictions which is a C2V annual tradition. We must say that unlike a few other years he seems to have nailed the 2019 picks (and believe us when we say we hate to give him any credit), but have a look and let us know if you agree?

The Ghost of Christmas Future

Now, the moment you’ve waited 12 long months for… it’s C2V’s 10 Predictions For 2020! 

Without further ado here are some shots in the dark that we decided needed to be etched in digital stone… on the internet… forever…. 

  1. The Podcast boom continues and begins to cannibalize other forms of media. The larger music providers Apple and Spotify continue to support creators and new shows but like the app ecosystem, many will come and go. New products and features built by third parties to support the podcast rush will continue to 2020 and Spotify will continue its M&A mega push, that is until they get acquired next year. 

  2. Amazon will experience its first stumbles. It still gets to 10% of overall ad spend but look to see some negative headlines on Amazon in 2020.  Through a data breach, poor performance in its ad business, consumer frustration, Amazon hits turbulence but of course, will survive and be just fine.

  3. With the continued rise of streaming content; Disney, Netflix, Hulu and even Snap busting out quality originals; and Youtube TV being fairly priced, the only thing keeping the cable operators relevant are live sports and that's being taken over now as well. Too many options available and cords will be getting cut while cable companies take a massive hit. Consumers will benefit through less price bundling creating better price options.  Consumers always win in the end. 

  4. CBD surpasses Cannabis as far as market share, distribution, consumer demand, and regulation. While most people have been jumping on the cannabis bandwagon there are still many questions to be answered.  CBD, on the other hand, becomes the consumers' choice for relaxation, sleep and workout recovery.  CBD products will evolve from direct to consumer to mass-market retail. 

  5. Like it or not, legalized sports gambling makes its way into the majority of US states, as any remaining stigma quickly disappears, and governments cannot pass up on the incremental taxpayer revenue it offers.  New services and apps and security services will make it easier and faster to use.  Gambling becomes a topic of conversation on the mainstream.  It would be good to see a business emerge that helps teach and educate new gamblers the risks and controls their action through capping wagers.

  6. SaaS platforms will reinvigorate productivity growth and maybe (maybe) start to help shrink the income gap. Years into the digital age, many long-standing and still highly relevant “old economy” industries (commercial aviation, construction, food service, etc.) are still suffering from stagnant productivity growth and shrinking margins. Potentially sitting on mountains of game-changing data that they can’t use because they don’t have a way of efficiently and intelligently organizing and distributing it.  Software to the rescue (and late adopters, be warned). 

  7. The early-stage funding gap will return. Five or six years ago traditional VCs had gotten so big that institutional money in Seed rounds became increasingly scarce and eventually the gap was filled by a wave of new smaller early-stage funds (remember all those “Here Come the Micro-VCs” headlines circa 2015?).  Now that group has matured, with the underperformers dying out and the outperformers getting bigger and bigger, just as their predecessors did (a Twainian example of history rhyming).  So dust off your 2014-era “funding gap” content, because the comeback is imminent. 

  8. AI moves from consumer gimmicks, talking speakers and type-ahead features to becoming more helpful in every task. AI bias in algorithm models will become a bigger topic and concern, while Healthcare, Manafucting and Government will embrace AI like never before in 2020. We hope from an investment perspective AI is a feature — a core competency of one's business in which certain domain expertise exists. AI is not a company or a stand-alone buzzword like Blockchain and Crypto 2019, which became overhyped and undervalued very quick by public perception.

  9. I mentioned in my 2018 predictions that DTC would explode, and it has, but in 2020 we will see increased interest from brands new and old speaking with consumers directly, not only in your social feeds like IG but with using influencers that become the ambassadors for these brands. See C2V portfolio company Beam who uses cross trainers and athletes to market their products more so than paid advertising. Influencers push DTC forward. In addition, DTC brands look to buy ad-tech stacks to help support their business growth while ad-tech companies go out of business as the middle man simply is a thing of the past.

  10. Both from a start-up perspective and investing thesis, companies start building for the future for people, humanity, environment and mental health dominate funding, growth, talent and the conversation.  People generally have had enough with the bullshit and finally, start to do what they can for the planet and what is right. It may sound hard to quantify it now but it’s coming and it’s a good thing for all.

  11. And here’s a bold bonus prediction for all of you because C2V always goes deep. App stores will cut their 30% commission. We’ve seen large publishers go toe-to-toe with these gatekeepers, but in 2020 this clash will reach its boiling point.

The Ghosts of Christmas Present

Our 6th Portfolio Company investment

Did we just invest in the next Peloton? Will it be even better and more successful than Peloton? Time will tell and so will we… but you’ll have to wait until January’s newsletter.

(Our first newsletter cliffhanger – exciting times).     

Stories Summit

As many of you have already heard the first-ever Stories Summit is coming April 16th in New York. This is not a conference but rather a dedicated day to the founder community to learn from each other.  We are thrilled both with the partners supporting us and the early registrations who are confirmed. 

Head this way to register to attend, as well as for additional information on the event and a sampling of the participants. Space is limited!!  Don’t do what Matt would do here and assume he could sign up at the last minute only to find it had been sold out for three months (and if that didn’t convince you, picture yourself having to call Chris and beg for a spot – grim, no?). 

See you there if you know what’s best for you!

Super Powers Podcast

In case you haven't caught a Superpowers Podcast show yet, you are in for a treat. Bill Wise and Chris are having a blast interviewing some really fun and thoughtful people.

Today we release two new episodes #3 and #4 with Max Snow and Josh McFarland from Greylock Ventures. You can find all the shows here and please subscribe and listen on your favorite service. 

Anything Else?

Come on, you know the answer to that. 

We are also pleased to introduce C2V's new website which has a fresh new look and feel. Give it a spin so you can meet our incredible group of operator investors as well as get familiar with C2V's portfolio. And as a reminder, you can always get the latest words of inspiration (and a whole lot more) on our Instagram account.  

Are You Done Yet?

Yes, and thanks for bearing with us.  

2019 was a huge year at C2V and we are just getting started. We’re excited to introduce new investors, new investments and continue to bring a community of smart and like-minded people around founders to help them best succeed, and we sincerely thank you all for riding this train with us.

Yippee-ki-yay motherf****rs, we’ll see you in 2020 (See?  Unquestionably a Christmas movie).

- Chris & Matt

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