If I Ran It: Angel Investing
Nov 27th, 2013
I’ve been reading a lot recently about angel investing (highly recommend Brian Cohen’s new book: What Every Angel Investor Wants You To Know) and I thought I would play armchair angel and talk about companies that I think are interesting that I would probably invest in if I wasn’t a bootstrapping entrepreneur (2 years strong!). Heres where my monopoly dollars will go:
Kloof - Pet pictures. I know, you are going to dismiss this as a toy, but these folks have something special. They have a community of pet lovers engaged on mobile, helping them pick out great content. I see elements of Reddit + Pinterest + 9gag + Cheezburger in what they do. You dont get to 1mm facebook fans this quickly by accident, and hearing about their secret sauce for rating and publishing the best content lets me know that they can expand far and wide to other verticals. If they can find a creative monetization plan, they will be set.
App.io - Apps in the browser run off of mac minis running the iOS simulator. Brilliant! Not an easy application to pull off, technically. Apple should buy them and let app creators upload playable previews of their apps.
Beacon Reader- Directly fund writers of original content. Has the potential to help writers and the public create original content on the stories that are not written about in mainstream media. So many journalists would jump at the chance at writing (or video recording?) really interesting media that they are most passionate about creating. Beacon could end up having engaging, exclusive content, which is a powerful asset. One to watch.
Keen.io - Analytics as a service. Its the type of thing you don’t realize you need until you see it, and then it makes
sense. I’ll be using this for the Startup Threads dashboard. Pretty much every small and medium SaaS company that provides analytics to their
users needs to use these folks to run their analytics for them quickly.
1 Second Everyday - Recording one second of every day and putting it in a video. I knew this was an impactful app when I saw two friends at dinner in Seattle sharing the videos they had made with each other. The story and purpose behind it inspires people to create. And its basically a one man show, with Cesar Kuriyama putting his all into it (check out his TED talk that inspired the app). Have to salute fellow solo entrepreneurs making it happen.
GiveIt100 - Similar to 1 Second Everyday but for longer form videos of daily goals, they have already built a great community and have great stories coming out of it. I’m doing my own 100 day challenge and it helps me to keep on track (even though my content isn’t up on the site yet). Was inspired by Karen Chang’s Dance In A Year video. Would love to see a 1 Second Everyday and GiveIt100 collaboration.
Easypost - API for postage. Boring to most of you but good lord do I love this company. We are already using it in
Startup Threads and plan to integrate even more. Massive market since all e-commerce sites have to deal with it. They should integrate with
Shopify, BigCommerce, Magneto, Volusion, etc immediately. Beautiful service that can completely take over this market.
Lob - API for printing. Similar to EasyPost but for printed items like postcards and letters. Have used this for thank you notes and its a solid API. If they can find the pockets of users/companies who will make large apps on top of it, they’ll make a mint.
Freakn Genius - Apps for animation / creativity. Led by Kyle Kesterson, a creative genius with a knack for
storytelling. I can see this team building more apps that impact how young kids (and adults) express themselves creatively. I watched kids
light up in Montreal during Startup Festival while playing around with the Yakit app, it strikes a nerve. Check out Kyle’s TEDx
JackPocket- App for playing the lotto. Addictive, much more efficient than running to 7 Eleven. Can use push notifications to drive usage. I doubled my money ($2) so I’m biased. Peter Sullivan is a hustler in the best way (creative, go-getter).
Tailwind - Pinterest analytics. As this ecosystem gets bigger (see the Shark Tank company Grace and Lace that made 1m in sales off the back of Pinterest?) tools like this will become increasingly important. Alex Topiler is another hustler and their team is growing thanks to the round they just raised and the revenue that has been growing.
Namo Media - In stream adds for app creators. Taking the model that is working for facebook and twitter and
giving every app owner. If it is as flexible and customizable as they say in their intro
video, then app creators will eat it up. Streams are becoming a default format for content related apps so theres lots of opportunities to create engaging (think Facebook App install) stream ads.
Teddy The Guardian - Teddy bear with sensors that measure a kid’s vital signs. Reminds me of Ava The Elephant(Shark Tank, $1mm retail sales 1st year). This could be sold directly to medical organizations & hospitals as well as direct to consumer for parents who want a way to monitor their child’s health. I liken it to my freshman year business plan idea at Lehigh for a “SportsTech Patch” that would track athletes vital signs. Met at TechCrunch in Berlin, solid team.
NaturalSins - Baked fruit chips
that retain the look of the fruit. Met them through mentoring at La Idea (laidea.co) and was impressed with the product. I snacked on it through the full pitch (actually I am craving it now). They need to build a stronger brand and hustle their way onto more store shelves (very
difficult industry) before some big player tries to copy them. Rooting for this one.
Plae - Kids shoes designed for them. As someone
who has foot problems because of wearing the wrong shoes as a child, I
know how important this solution is. They have developed shoes that promote the healthy growth of children’s feet (which are mostly cartilage and quite malleable). They have opportunities to also make it “cool” with the interchangeable straps. Even Batkid had his own pair. Hope they spread far and wide.
Teespring - Crowd-sourced apparel campaigns. Traction. Traction. Traction. These guys are killing it (probably over $1.5mm / month top line) and have a baked in viral loop that converts to sales. Not bad for “just a tshirt site” thats not 2 years old right? ;-) Its a great model (very different market / target customers than Startup Threads) that still has room to scale (notice how CustomInk raised $40 mm? This market is much bigger than people realize). With a team of at least 50, I expect them to do well.
Diseclar - Furniture made from agricultural and plastic waste. Their tagline should be “I cant believe its not
wood!” I felt their materials and couldn’t believe it was made from waste product. Like Diseclar, they also have a solid product but need to amp up the distribution and marketing efforts to really make a splash.
Another La Idea team I spoke to about their pitch that blew me away.
Pijon - Care packaged for college students. Simple concept that has room for growth (reminds me of DormAid, a HS colleague’s startup and my PimpMyRoom I did back in the day). Hard part is that the LTV of many of the customers is going to be short (for
example if you get the parent of a student who is a junior to purchase) so have to reacquire quickly. I would go after companies and be their
snack delivery service (throw in some surprises in each one). Bigger order volume for the effort and longer customer lifetime (another idea on my todo list that I have no time for).
Stripe - API for payments. They are huge and well known but I still am so bullish on this company. I continue to be impressed by the tools they create for developers and how they continue to make progress. As they find ways to cut down on the time for transfers and the rates, they’ll convert more and more of the bigger customers.
What do you think of these companies? Are there any underrated ones that you think are interesting?