Requests for Startups: Julian Counihan (Red Sea Ventures)

Julian is an Associate with Red Sea Ventures. He started a career in technology at Fortna, a logistics firm, where he helped develop distribution & supply chain CAD software that is still in use today. After leaving, Julian joined Citigroup where he designed portfolio analysis systems and later transitioned to advising technology companies on M&A and capital market transactions. While at Citi, Julian continued as a freelance developer specializing in web programming, internet security and site design. Julian holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a BSc in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia, where he graduated with High Distinction.

What startup verticals interest you most right now?

I’m really excited about the infrastructure needed for long-term viability of the on-demand ecosystem. A lot of great companies have launched different on-demand verticals to enthusiastic market reception over the past two years. However there’s a natural limit to how much the consumer is willing or able to pay for convenience. To operate under price constraints while maintaining unit economic profitability, on-demand companies are going to have to employ more advanced optimization of their delivery systems, employment strategies and resources.

What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?

The next twelve months will bring exciting developments in the virtual reality space which has recently become somewhat of an arms race for large technology companies with limitless research budgets. Each month over the past year brought huge leaps in hardware technology and a consumer friendly device is definitely on the near-term horizon. When that device arrives, it will open up an ecosystem for new social environments in the virtual world.

Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?

My favorite part of the movie Minority Report has got to be the gesture control computer. I’d like to see a company seamlessly embed audio and gesture controls into the home and partner with one of the many new, powerful AIs currently on the market. That would be an incredible system. All of the necessary components exist at relatively approachable price points today; it’s just going to take a talented team with a vision for seamless integration and great user experience to put it all together. As “push for [x]” lowered the friction for many tasks, I can only imagine how audio or gesture commands could remove friction altogether.

If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?

This is a boring answer but scheduling / time management is my biggest pain point on a daily basis. We take a lot of meetings and a typical scheduling process can involve up to as many as six emails. I’ve tried a few automated assistants and scheduling tools but am still on the hunt for a process that both saves time and leaves a positive social impression. There are a lot of smart people tackling this problem so I’m hoping we’ll see a solution soon.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Just to spread the word about Red Sea Ventures. We’re an early stage opportunistic fund that invests across all sectors focused on the seed stage. Since our launch, we’ve built an awesome portfolio led by a group of insanely talented founders and are hoping to continue that momentum this year. If you’re a driven entrepreneur considering outside capital, we’d love to meet you!


If you have a startup or you’re interested in any of Red Sea’s portfolio companies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Julian directly atjulian@redseaventures.com.

If you think there’s someone we should feature in an upcoming issue, nominate them by sending us an email or tweet. Alternatively, if you have startup ideas, submit them here.

Requests for Startups is a newsletter of ideas that investors, companies, and influencers would like to fund. New readers can subscribe here. This issue was curated by Isaac Madan and Shaurya Saluja.

The Future of the On-Demand Economy with Pascal Levy-Garboua (Checkr)

Pascal is Head of Business at Checkr, the co-founder of the upcoming On-Demand (Economy) Conference, and an angel investor at Weave Capital. He invests at the angel or seed stage, primarily in marketplaces, networks and the “On-Demand Economy” stack (Shyp, Sprig, Checkr, and Caviar). A native French, Pascal was the co-founder of VirtuOz (acquired by Nuance) and the now defunct on-demand gift delivery platform, SixDoors. He started his career at eBay in France.

What verticals interest you most right now within the on-demand economy?

I see two interesting open areas within the on-demand economy. The first one is the intersection of on-demand services and the Internet of Things. Breather, GetAround can exist because of new lock systems. But beyond locks, what new services can emerge from new possibilities created by IoT?

The second one is around B2B applications of on-demand services. I am convinced we are just scratching the surface there, both in the corporate and in the industrial world and we want to see more.

Actually, we are running a contest for the On-Demand Conference — we encourage all companies that are working on a B2B on-demand service to apply here. The winner will be announced on stage and will be invited to the speaker dinner at Shervin Pishevar’s house. The 5 best will get free tickets to the conference.

What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?

Here are a few. If I am lucky, one of them will be true!

I think there is going to be some consolidation in the on-demand space (since I wrote this, Fitmob got acquired by ClassPass) — scale is key in these types of businesses, there is a shortage of drivers/delivery people across the board (especially in the Bay Area), and too many teams are building the same things in different cities/US regions. When software is all you sell, mergers of startup does not make sense because merging engineering team is really hard. I think this might be a little different.

Some numbers from Uber will leak and everybody will be shocked at how amazing their numbers are and how huge they have become so fast. Uber will be this generation of eCommerce’s Amazon.

I also believe that this is a year where Google is going to have their Microsoft moment — the European Commission is going after them, they thought they had won mobile with Android, but it seems to me that Android is more like Internet Explorer was in 2000. Important in the short term to protect a legacy business but not moving the needle for the things that will really matter in the long run.

On the other hand, Facebook Messenger will emerge as an incredible platform for content and commerce — and possibly damage Google’s foothold on transactional intent more so than everybody thought.

Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund (within the on-demand economy or otherwise)?

To be honest, if there was one, I would build it myself! When it comes to investment, I rarely look for a specific idea — but I have found that I am more successful when the idea comes in an area that I know well.

If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?

If I had a magic wand, I would overhaul the health system in the US. Getting a high quality health plan is way too costly and difficult for most people who don’t work at a fast growing startup or a large company. Obamacare is a positive thing, but so many doctors refuse patients that have a plan from a state marketplace. I wish there was a solution, and I don’t have the feeling at all that current winners (Zenefits, Oscar) are actually tackling the most contentious issues. The whole incentive system for doctors is upside down, and I believe everybody is worse off — except the current players.

The current system does not provide any incentive for doctors to treat patients thoroughly. In that sense, I hope we are going to see more direct primary care providers in the Bay Area and throughout the US soon.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would encourage all entrepreneurs, professionals, curious minds, and investors to join us at the On-Demand (Economy) Conference, on May 19th in San Francisco. If you are interested in the space, you HAVE to come. More info here and tickets can be purchased here.

There’s going to be an amazing lineup with founders and executives fromUber, Lyft, Shyp, HomeJoy, Sprig, Munchery, Postmates, Caviar, DoorDash, Instacart, and many others, as well as VCs from Greylock, Homebrew and RRE Ventures, with a fireside chat by Shervin Pishevar (Founding Partner at Sherpa Ventures) interviewed by Semil Shah from Haystack. Join us!

And if you have a B2B on-demand startup, apply here. If selected as the winner, you’ll get to present your business on-stage, and the top 5 submissions will be given free tickets to the conference.


If you think there’s someone we should feature in an upcoming issue, nominate them by sending us an email or tweet. Alternatively, if you have startup ideas, submit them here.

Requests for Startups is a newsletter of ideas that investors, companies, and influencers would like to fund. New readers can subscribe here. This issue was curated by Isaac Madan, Shaurya Saluja, and Andrew Jiang.

Requests for Startups: Matt Bradley (Forward Partners)

Matt is an investor at Forward Partners — a B2C eCommerce fund based in London that invests in and provides support to entrepreneurs at the idea and seed stage. He did an undergrad BA in Politics and International Relations. An atypical background for a VC, Matt worked in Trading, Structuring and Sales at Barclays Capital and Lloyds for 5 years developing a deep understanding of risk (and reward!) solutions. He did an MBA at SDA Bocconi and spent a couple of semesters at Duke Fuqua to do his finance concentrations. Matt joined Forward Partners in 2014.

What startup verticals interest you most right now?

More than verticals, I’m always on the look out for ideas where there is the potential to build a really strong brand that resonates with customers whilst using new technology. For example, Nasty Gal has a really strong bond with its customers through the quality and the ‘voice’ of its content. Thread use AI to deliver a unique customer experience whilst enabling a huge increase in productivity. LostMy.Name is using software to deliver true personalization to customers and revolutionizing publishing. Verticals that are well suited to capital-light business models such as marketplaces are always high on the list too.

What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?

Cryptocurrencies and the blockchain. Having seen the fundraising for 21 Inc I’m more and more convinced about Bitcoin. Perhaps not bitcoin, but certainly blockchain architecture will be a game changer. From cryptocurrencies to election ballots, the system has real transformative potential and I think that within the next year I think that we’ll see a huge spread in cryptocurrency usage and blockchain tech adoption.

Video production products. The last few years have seen an explosion in products and apps which increase the production value of amateur photography — Instagram’s new Layout app was recently released for example. This year we’ll see the same type of thing for video-production. Snapchat, Vine, Meerkat — mobile video — and YouTube will probably enjoy a similar time in the sun.

Surge pricing. There are so many “Uber for X” start-ups referring to “On demand service for X.” It’s no surprise that people want things on demand. What’s really interesting, I think, is that digitally engaged consumers are now comfortable with surge pricing in their daily lives. It’s going to be fascinating to see how people take this ball and where they run with it.

Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?

In the UK we don’t really have an equivalent for Motif. The UK government gives us a generous ~£10k personal allowance to invest in stocks and shares tax-free and I think that people here would love it.

I also remain convinced that there is something amazing to be built in the wedding space; perhaps a marketplace with some value added services. I think that there’s an average of 40 suppliers per wedding and look at the stress that people go through! There MUST be a better way and tech should be able to help with that.

If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?

Ha! I’ve seen some of my contemporaries answer this question with the hyperloop for travel. That’s a bit like answering “world peace” at a beauty pageant — clearly I’m well up for that too. The Large Hadron Collider is back up and running at CERN. CERN is the birthplace of the Internet. Just imagine if the new experiments yielded step changes in our understanding of the ability to harness and deliver energy. Think proper wireless power, desalination by electrolysis, things which are as far fetched as the Internet seemed pre-Tim Berners-Lee.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Yes. One thing which frustrates me is when founders talk about me being “on the other side of the table.” I see it in a totally different way, in fact I often sit on the same side of the table to make the point and have an open discussion. I want to be given the reason to be on the same team and, failing that, I want founders to do well and to do the right thing — even if it isn’t something that I’d invest in.


If you have a startup or you’re interested in any of Forward Partners’ portfolio companies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Matt directly at matthew@forwardpartners.com.

If you think there’s someone we should feature in an upcoming issue, nominate them by sending us an email or tweet. Alternatively, if you have startup ideas, submit them here.

Requests for Startups is a newsletter of ideas that investors, companies, and influencers would like to fund. New readers can subscribe here. This issue was curated by Isaac Madan and Shaurya Saluja.

What Do the Founding Teams of Billion Dollar Companies Look Like?

Tod Francis and Nikhil Basu Trivedi of Shasta Ventures recently published a great analysis on what 25 B2C billion-dollar Unicorns and 7 likely soon-to-be Unicorns looked like at the time of their Series A. We were interested in unpacking more of the data around these companies, and specifically learning more about their founding teams — what did the founders look like and what can we learn from their backgrounds?

Caveats to note up front:

  • Our data are from publicly available sources like LinkedIn and CrunchBase, thus they’re neither 100% accurate nor comprehensive.
  • Data are current as of April 19, 2015.

The Companies

We looked at the same 32 companies that Nikhil and Tod looked at in their research (shown below). Via CrunchBase and LinkedIn, we identified 78 founders across these companies.

Image by Tod Francis and Nikhil Basu Trivedi of Shasta Ventures

We were initially curious to see which investors took early bets on these companies.

Seed investors

The following 12 investors had invested in 2 or more of these 32 companies in their seed/angel rounds.

Y Combinator
Ali Partovi
Amidzad Partners
Andrew Boszhardt, Jr.
Cyan Banister
First Round
Fritz Lanman
FundersClub
Hadi Partovi
Jason Calacanis
Scott Banister
Sequoia Capital

Series A investors

The following 18 investors had invested in 2 or more of these 32 companies in their Series A rounds.

SV Angel
First Round
Benchmark
Sequoia Capital
Accel Partners
Bessemer Venture Partners
Canaan Partners
Greg Yaitanes
Greylock Partners
Keith Rabois
Kevin Hartz
Lowercase Capital
Michael Birch
Shasta Ventures
Spark Capital
Union Square Ventures

Board Members

The following 14 people have 2 or more board seats across these 32 companies.

Roelof Botha, Sequoia Capital
Mary Meeker, KPCB
Alfred Lin, Sequoia Capital
Bijan Sabet, Spark Capital
Bill Gurley, Benchmark
Bryan Schreier, Sequoia Capital
Craig Sherman, Meritech
David Lawee, Google Capital
Gary Little, Morgenthaler
John Lilly, Greylock
Larry Summers, Harvard
Mark Bailey, DFJ
Matt Cohler, Benchmark
Randy Glein, DFJ

The Founders

We next took a look at the founders of these companies.

Number of Founders

Founding teams of 2 or 3 founders account for the vast majority.

Undergraduate Schools

Founders attended a broad spectrum of colleges & universities. Stanford stood out from the pack, with 6 founders. The remainder of the schools with multiple founders, listed below, are mainly representative of full founding teams that went to school together. For example, the 4 people from Wharton are the four founders of Warby Parker. Notably, New Roads High School in Santa Monica makes the list — two of the Lyft (then Zimride) co-founders were classmates there.

Fields of Study

The top 6 college majors, each represented by at least 2 or more founders, were Computer Science, Economics, Business, History, Electrical Engineering, and Product/Industrial Design. Of the undergraduate majors recorded, we found that the majority were in non-technical fields.

Degrees Received

Founders of these B2C unicorns did not typically pursue advanced degrees. Instead, it appears that they opted for work experience, which we look at next.

Age & Work Experience

We extrapolated each founder’s number of years of work experience and their age by looking at their work & education history on LinkedIn. This method was only applicable to those who had reported the years associated with their work & education history on their LinkedIn profiles, and is of course an imperfect proxy. Using this method, we could also extrapolate the founder’s age at the time of founding their company.

The mean number of years of work experience was 6 years, with a standard deviation of 6 years. The mean age at the time of founding was 29, with a standard deviation of 6 years.

The graph below shows the distribution of number of years of work experience. Note that these values are rounded to the nearest year, and a negative value reflects that the founder started their company while in school. Note also that outliers were not removed.

Our data highlight 4 founders who started their companies while in school (corresponding to -1 and 0 years of work experience, based on rounding, as seen on the graph below). This doesn’t necessarily suggest they dropped out though.

Prior Industry Experience

A large portion of founders historically worked at tech companies prior to founding their own companies, while other prominent industries were VC, management consulting, and finance. Below are the industries represented each by 2 or more founders.

Skills

Founders have keen product skills & instincts — with most frequent LinkedIn endorsements for user experience and product management — alongside skills in technology and business. Below are the top 15 skills, each represented by more than 12 founders.

First Names

For fun, we looked at the frequency of first names across the founders of these 32 Unicorns. Here are the first names shared by 2 or more founders.

Conclusion

Here are some of the things we learned about this group of founders:

  • 2 or 3 person founding teams are the norm
  • They attended a broad array of schools, with concentration among top US colleges & universities, and Stanford is most common
  • Non-technical degrees are more common than technical degrees, and most didn’t attend advanced degree programs
  • They have on average 6 years of prior work experience, most often in the Software & IT space
  • They most commonly demonstrate skills in user experience, product management, e-commerce, and strategic partnerships

Written by Isaac Madan and Shaurya Saluja. All charts were created with Visage.

Requests for Startups: Andy Weissman (Union Square Ventures)

Andy Weissman is a partner at Union Square Ventures. Prior to joining
USV, he co-founded betaworks.

What startup verticals interest you most right now?

One, obviously, is blockchain related technologies. Second, is networks in the healthcare and medicine related industries. We’ve made two investments in that area (Human DX and Figure 1) — looking for networks of people, of data, anywhere there are network effects.

What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?

I saw Emily White mentioned on Twitter the other day that 40M people were tuning into Coachella via Snapchat, which is a bigger amount than the Oscars or the Grammys have. I believe by the year end there will finally be mass media agreement that there is no longer any old media, or even new media — instead, it’s all Internet media.

Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?

I don’t usually think about specific ideas for business or services, more areas or concepts. I am curious if right now another large platform for media sharing can emerge, or will the next future be marked by fragmented, specific ones.

If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?

1 in every 12 or 13 kids under 18 have food allergies, including mine. I’d use my magic wand to solve that.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Whenever I get dizzy from the pace of change, I always think about Buckaroo Banzai: “Remember: no matter where you go… there you are.”


If you have a startup or you’re interested in any of USV’s portfolio companies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Andy directly at andy@usv.com.

If you think there’s someone we should feature in an upcoming issue, nominate them by sending us an email or tweet. Alternatively, if you have startup ideas, submit them here.

Requests for Startups is a newsletter of ideas that investors, companies, and influencers would like to fund. New readers can subscribe here. This issue was curated by Isaac Madan and Shaurya Saluja.

Requests for Startups: Gerald Tan (Scrum Ventures)

Gerald is an analyst at Scrum Ventures where he scouts and evaluates promising early-stage companies. Gerald is a native Singaporean. Before working at Scrum, Gerald was at the Singapore Prime Minister’s Office where he worked on projects to seed the Singaporean startup ecosystem. Aside from work, he is currently taking graduate courses at Stanford studying entrepreneurship.

What startup verticals interest you most right now?

I’m really interested in marketplaces, robotics (driverless cars, drones) and the smart home. We are seeing almost every possible service being made available online and on-demand for the sake of convenience — whether it be home cleaning, meal delivery or more recently, grocery shopping. At the same time, more of the appliances in our homes and offices are being connected to the Internet. It will be interesting to see how those two trends converge.

What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?

There’s a good chance that advancements in autonomous robotics would displace the marketplace model’s reliance on contractors. The emergence of the on-demand marketplace economy from companies such as Uber and Handy has largely been underpinned by a large pool of talented contractors. The engine powering those companies has been the contractors. Without them, these companies would simply fail to exist.

With advances in driverless technologies and autonomous drone delivery services, I predict that we will see a major shift from this contractor-based model, to one that displaces the need for human labor.

Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?

I’m really concerned about the security of the connected home/office. As we increase the number of connected devices in our homes and offices, we generate an increasing amount of data exhaust not just from ourselves but also from the appliances in our homes. This has serious implications as it contains very personal information. And more often than not, when security lapses do occur, it is due to consumers not taking proactive steps in securing their networks. Just recently, a Russian website was able to access thousands of IP cameras over the Internet. Similar to what antivirus and firewall software did to carve out an industry of its own, I’d like to see a simplified security solution that secures all that data being spewed out from smart appliances.

If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?

I’d like to see a reinvented Craigslist. Finding a rental apartment in San Francisco is still a very tedious process. My biggest frustration with Craigslist is that it is subject to a tremendous amount of noise in its listings. Often, I encounter scams, duds, and fake listings. I can’t really complain about a free service that has been around since the 2000s, but I am surprised that the long-term rental market has not seen any major developments since then. Although we see rental aggregators such as PadMapper that mines Craigslist’s dataset, it does not solve the fundamental problem of efficiency in the rental market.

If you have a startup or you’re interested in any of Scrum’s portfolio companies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gerald directly at gerald@scrumventures.co.

If you think there’s someone we should feature in an upcoming issue, nominate them by sending us an email or tweet. Alternatively, if you have startup ideas, submit them here.

Requests for Startups is a newsletter of ideas that investors, companies, and influencers would like to fund. This issue was curated by Isaac Madan and Shaurya Saluja.

Requests for Startups: Romain Lavault (Partech Ventures)

Romain is a General Partner at Partech Ventures — a venture capital firm started in 1982 based in San Francisco, Paris, Berlin, with $500M funds currently in active investment phase at seed, early and growth stages. Romain started his career as a rocket scientist (for real!) before launching a machine learning SaaS startup operating in the US and in France (acquired by public company DSY.PA in 2011). He focuses on seed and early stage opportunities and serves on the boards of AlephD, Alkemics, Evergig, ISKN, Kartable, Lima, Lucky Cart, Pleek, Pricing Assistant, Pleek, Sketchfab and Vodkaster.

What startup verticals interest you most right now?

  • Connected Health: It always amazes me that in this digital era, Google, your phone carrier and your bank know more about you than your doctor does. Turns out the experience of getting diagnosed (and getting a personalized prescription, if any) still feels very much old school and trial-and-error to me. I am actively looking for startups that can leverage the wealth of information available across our connected devices and put it to use for medical purposes. It doesn’t have to be super high tech as there a lot of things our smartphone already captures, provided we can link it to something meaningful for a doctor (pretty sure that our stress level is directly correlated to how often we check our email). We have seen disruption in the booking/scheduling part of the process but the actual diagnosis can greatly benefit from giving the doctor (and any other sort of intelligence — see next topic) a 360 view on the patient and her/his recent biometric evolution. We now know how much data a phone or a smart watch can collect. Let’s put this to good use!
  • Artificial Intelligence: When I started as an Entrepreneur 15 years ago, AI was an anti-buzzword and total turn-off for VCs (fortunately Partech was bold enough to fund us anyway). Fast forward 15 years later, AI is becoming mainstream but not as a standalone project. The purpose is now more important than the tool. Computing power and commoditization of machine learning / language processing techniques are setting the stage for a new generation of AI-powered apps in Consumer and Enterprise verticals. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a real conversation-grade virtual assistant before year-end, achieving 50% or more through Turing test (HER anyone?).
  • Cybersecurity: This is not a new topic and we have been making investments in this area already but this is now high on the list of governments, CIOs, and even consumers. Getting your phone or computer hacked is very annoying but most of the time not dramatic. Now, getting your Tesla hacked while in autopilot mode can be much more serious. Think also about wearable (or worse implantable) security or the lack of robust protection for your bitcoins. There are threats for which we used to be protected in real life (with locks, alarms, safe, 24/7 monitoring and even guns), but for which we are totally vulnerable in digital life. The race taking place between hackers and white hats to take control of the Internet of Things (and of our lives) creates a new generation of strategies and technologies, from which a number of great startups are emerging.

What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?

  • The Uber of Ubers: now that Uber has opened its api and the app can be summoned by 3rd party apps, we will see a new flurry of startups encapsulating Uber (or any other Uber for X) inside new services, such as last-minute hotel/restaurant/show reservation with Uber transportation included. That will allow us to repackage online services with optional/included on-demand services.
  • First mainstream blockchain-powered marketplaces emerge. The Ubers and AirBnBs of the world have recreated monopolies by forcing all transactions to go through their platform (allowing them to take a 20% cut in the process). Blockchain marketplaces will be by nature decentralized and may have to invent new business models where transactions are free but users pay for extra services.
  • A new video streaming compression technique emerges and becomes the norm for mobiles (given how fast the bandwidth demand is rising, I would add that this is also desperately needed).

Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?

I’d be pretty excited if someone could re-invent the model of paid software in the Enterprise. Google is an extremely powerful piece of software that you don’t have to pay for. There are a number of Enterprise apps that could follow the same model. Targeting has become extremely powerful and Enterprise users represent a premium audience advertisers could pay for. Most software don’t cost more than $1 per day per user. This is much less than what advertisers would pay to access this premium audience (could be highly targeted pre-roll and display campaigns). Of course, this would totally be based on opt-in but could be highly tailored.

This has been tried a long time ago, before SaaS and before programmatic advertisement. I’d say this is worth a new try now: let’s call that software-as-a-media!

If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?

Sometimes I wish I could pause time whenever I want, whether this is to better apprehend a true moment of happiness with my family or just to catch up on work at the 25th hour.

This is why all innovations that buy us or save us time are so successful.

If you have a startup or you’re interested in any of Partech’s portfolio companies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Romain’s team directly atanalysts@partechventures.com.

If you think there’s someone we should feature in an upcoming issue, nominate them by sending us an email or tweet. Alternatively, if you have startup ideas, submit them here.

Requests for Startups is a newsletter of ideas that investors, companies, and influencers would like to fund. This issue was curated by Isaac Madan and Shaurya Saluja.

Requests for Startups: Nicole Glaros (Techstars)

Nicole is a Managing Director at Techstars, a startup accelerator based out of Boulder, Colorado. She’s been with Techstars since its early days in 2009, has run 8 programs and has close to 90 companies in her portfolio. She’s on the Board of Directors for the Application Developer’s Alliance and theEntrepreneur’s Foundation of Colorado. She’s on the advisory board for the University of Colorado’s Venture Fund, The Global Accelerator Network, andKangu.org. She was named one of the “Coolest People in New York Tech” and an Extraordinary Woman in New York Tech by Business Insider in 2013, Marie Claire named her one of the “NewGuard”, and Entrepreneur Magazine named her One of the Most 7 Powerful Women to Watch.

What startup verticals interest you most right now?

Agriculture, security, human powered AI (meaning using AI to help people do their jobs better), and products/services targeting the babyboomers. We’re spending a lot of time thinking about what the world looks like when self-driving cars take over the roads and it becomes illegal to drive. It’s a fun exercise and will happen in our lifetime! Lastly infrastructure is always interesting — and areas I’m focused on are how apps can work together in intelligent ways. There’s a great article by Jonathan Libov on The Futures of Text that highlights this. I’m not sure I agree that text messaging is the future of apps (personally, I hate typing on the screen and think it is awkward and time consuming) but completely agree that some universal interface like text that communicates with apps in an intelligent way will power the next generation.

What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?

I’m seeing a lot of companies raise Series A with very high valuations. I think a lot of companies are not going to be able to make enough traction before their next financing in order to justify and increase in valuation. So we’ll see a lot of downrounds, unhappy investors, and unhappy entrepreneurs as the market corrects. Entrepreneurs who keep valuations modest, raise enough capital to show a significant uptick in traction/sales, and focus on growth of revenue will be in a great place to weather the coming storm.

Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?

One area that I’d love to see improved is personal finance. There are a couple of great companies out there making strides here (like Learnvest), but helping middle and lower income families plan, save, and understand more about their finances will be critical. I’m worried for future generations because debt is rising, income isn’t keeping up, parents won’t have enough to retire on, causing them to lean on their kids who will already be in debt from college. I’m not talking about budgeting tools, those exist (although they aren’t great). I’m talking about financial coaching and planning.

If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?

As someone without an administrative assistant, my two biggest areas of pain are travel and scheduling. However, I’m using two great services that are helping with this, both involve people AND artificial intelligence. X.ai is a scheduling tool that uses AI, but is backed by humans to quality check the appointments. It’s cut down on an amazing amount of email and time I spend scheduling. Nativeapp.com (disclaimer, I’m an investor in Native) is a human that is backed by artificial intelligence to help me book my travel and solve problems when I’m traveling (like cancelled flights, lost luggage, etc). Using both of these services has showed that AI + humans are a killer combination.

If you have a startup or you’re interested in any of Techstars’ portfolio companies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Nicole directly at nicole@techstars.com.

If you think there’s someone we should feature in an upcoming issue, nominate them by sending us an email or tweet. Alternatively, if you have startup ideas, submit them here.

Requests for Startups is a newsletter of ideas that investors, companies, and influencers would like to fund. This issue was curated by Isaac Madan and Shaurya Saluja.

Requests for Startups: Aditi Maliwal (Crosslink Capital)

Aditi joined Crosslink in 2014, focusing on Mobile, Fintech and Internet Services investments. Prior to joining Crosslink, Aditi was an analyst in the technology, media & telecom investment banking group at Deutsche Bank in San Francisco providing M&A advisory and capital raising services for Internet & digital media and software clients. She has prior experience working at Allen & Overy LLP in Singapore and J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Hong Kong. Aditi holds a BA in Psychology from Stanford University, where she cultivated her interest in the human aspect of technology and the way it impacts lives.

What startup verticals interest you most right now?

Companies disrupting our current financial services infrastructure:changing the way we think about banks as financial institutions to technology companies enabling higher efficiency for financial services applications. There is a new crop of startups rebuilding consumer and wholesale banks, allowing users and developers to interact with financial institutions, developing account monitoring software, banking APIs and more.

Deep linking: it is going to change the way advertisers engage with mobile users and the evolution of mCommerce. The challenge is no longer around marketing, but rather around engagement, retention and finding the right target audience. Social apps are turning into portals for experiences through communication with other applications, creating a standardized way of accessing or finding functions within apps.

Applications that are device agnostic: with the new era of Apple watches, Skully Helmets, to the Samsung S6, and plethora of tablets, consumers will constantly be interacting with some kind of screen. Applications that create a seamless design and interaction experience for users are driving engagement in classrooms, workplaces, retail and various other spaces. Today users are simultaneously screening and want to be able to interact with applications across all devices seamlessly.

What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?

I think mHealth is going to undergo a revolution this year. Apps in comprehensive diagnostics, caring and monitoring will increase accessibility to healthcare professionals, reduce costs and give patients a more personalized experience. From 3D food printing, home farming and connected home devices to mobile coaching and concierge medical services, there will be disruption in traditional health distribution channels thus broadening mHealth business models.

I also think that marketers will get a big boost from an upcoming set of ambient products and services such as Amazon’s Echo, Wit.AI, IBM Watson’s virtual store assistant etc, to derive further insights on consumers and enterprises.

Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?

I think there’s a big opportunity in women’s empowerment in emerging markets. There’s a large untapped market — for both social and economic gain. I would love to see more mobile companies focused on transforming women’s livelihoods, literacy and education levels through: mobile store fronts, mobile education platforms, business tools, social communication applications for learning and helpline or medical applications for their daily lives.

I also think 2015 will be Bitcoin’s year. I am specifically interested in block applications focused on increasing security and trust through decentralized smart contracts, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and distributed applications as a whole, and having real world use cases for these applications. Eg. Blockchain based risk management models for insurance or blockchain-based identity ledgers rivaling government-run databases utilizing biometric authentication.

If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?

A faster plane or transit system for long-distance international travel. My immediate family lives in Singapore and extended family is in India and other parts of the world, and I would love to have a faster way to reach them and see them more regularly. Currently it takes me between 16–22 hours to get to Singapore / India. Whether this is a change in the airline industry or through something like Hyperloop, it would be great to see a faster, more efficient solution here.

If you have a startup or you’re interested in any of Crosslink’s portfolio companies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Aditi directly at amaliwal@crosslinkcapital.com.

If you think there’s someone we should feature in an upcoming issue, nominate them by sending us an email or tweet. Alternatively, if you have startup ideas, submit them here.

Requests for Startups is a newsletter of ideas that investors, companies, and influencers would like to fund. This issue was curated by Isaac Madan and Shaurya Saluja.

Requests for Startups: Jonathan Struhl (Indicator Ventures)

Jonathan is Co-Founder and General Partner at Indicator Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund that backs founders leveraging digital to drive efficiencies for businesses and consumers. Indicator’s investments includeLob, Circa, Nimble, Edyn, Bond, and Unikrn, among others. Prior to Indicator Ventures, Jonathan was an active investor, mentor and advisor to a number of different early-stage companies. Jon’s experience is deeply rooted in digital marketing having founded a Digital Marketing Agency that worked with complex global brands, athletes and celebrities to help connect them with startups. Jonathan is a graduate of Yeshiva University, Sy Syms Business School.

What startup verticals interest you most right now?

The “Internet of Things” space is very exciting, and that should come as no surprise. It plays perfectly into Indicator Ventures’ core focus: digital efficiencies. We have a great example in our current portfolio: Edyn — think Nest for your home garden. The IoT will bring many conveniences and comforts to both consumers and businesses alike. But with it will also come security concerns, infrastructure challenges and likely implications we haven’t yet considered. However, we see this transformation as a massive opportunity.

I also love anything that facilitates curation. I call it “CoE”, the Curation of Everything. There is so much bullsh*t out there — everything from content to data to apps — that it’s impossible to sort through all the clutter. That’s why I love companies like Product Hunt that are building specific and lightweight curation solutions.

What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?

Now that crowdfunding has started to reach the masses and has become socially acceptable, there is a huge opportunity to apply the model to different industries. One of our portfolio companies, Inkshares, did just that, and is shaking up the antiquated and volatile book publishing industry. Think about all of the archaic industries that can greatly benefit from crowdfunding. I like to think of crowdfunding as the new age survival of the fittest.

Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?

Over the past few years, I’ve been obsessed with creating a platform where people can donate unwanted items with ease and efficiency. In our busy and cluttered lives, we find ourselves accumulating more and more things. Right now, the Salvation Army or a dropbox on the side of the road are your best options to give these things away, but you have no clue where those items are going. I want to see Seamless Web for donating. It matches a charity with specific items they need. I’ve got a business plan and own a great domain name (DontWasteDonate.com), but would love for someone roll with it!

If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?

No one has addressed sleep. About 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems, but most of the innovation today is meant for when we are awake, (meanwhile we spend half our lives asleep). Products available today (pills, a sleep app or a comfortable mattress, for instance) do not address the root of the problem. I’m talking about a game-changing innovation that can help millions of people.

If you have a startup or you’re interested in any of Indicator’s portfolio companies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Jonathan directly at jon@indicatorventures.com.

If you think there’s someone we should feature in an upcoming issue, nominate them by sending us an email or tweet. Alternatively, if you have startup ideas, submit them here.

Requests for Startups is a newsletter of ideas that investors, companies, and influencers would like to fund. This issue was curated by Isaac Madan and Shaurya Saluja.