Congratulations to Bitium, now a part of Google

We were fortunate to be able to invest in Bitium in early 2013.  With the rise in the sheer number of SaaS applications, it was evident to us that there needed to be a company and product to securely and easily consolidate all of the logins and permissions across the enterprise.  Founders Scott Kriz and Erik Gustavso built just that product, and have been successfully growing the company over the last four years.

Today we're proud to say that the company has been acquired by Google and that the product will help Google Cloud continue to deliver best in class identity management solutions to its customers.  We are very happy for Scott, Erik and the entire Bitium team.

Vacation Rental Pricing Optimization with Beyond Pricing

Beyond Pricing helps property owners optimize their yields for short term rentals.  That sounds like a mouthful, but what does it really mean?

From my own experience, I leveraged Beyond Pricing when I was living in San Francisco.  My family chose to spend summers in San Diego, given the vastly different weather during the summer months in those two locales.  As we were largely out of the house for two months at a time, I listed my house on AirBnb and quickly linked up Beyond Pricing.  I found that Beyond Pricing allowed me to set and update daily pricing for my listing many months in advance, taking into account supply and demand for hotels and short term property rental sites coupled with knowledge about local weather, events and many other factors.  These updated prices were often times much higher than I would have set for myself - and I was successfully booking out at a <70% level.  At the same time, I had set a threshold level on the lower end that I wasn't willing to pass - sometimes it's just not worth having people in your home even if that would allow you to achieve closer to 100% occupancy.  Beyond Pricing allowed me to have less renters in my property while actually making more money - that's what they do - and they do it automatically without any user intervention needed after the initial quick and painless setup.

The hotel industry has had this capability for decades.  If you've ever tried to book a hotel for various dates, you'll see daily fluctuations not just based on seasonality, but on day of week, events, weather, distance to booking time, perceived supply and demand ratios and more.  Beyond Pricing brings all of that sophistication down to the individual, allowing any person with a single room or a single property to do better with that listing. Somewhat surprisingly, the largest users of platforms like AirBnb, VRBO, Homeaway, etc. are not individuals but rather large scale property managers (the medium sized ones would have a minimum of a 100 listings).  Even more surprising, these property managers utilize property management systems (PMS) which also did not have the ability to price their listings in an intelligent and dynamic fashion, until Beyond Pricing came along.  Now the top property managers in the world are leveraging Beyond Pricing, through its integrations with property management systems like HomeAway Software's V12 and Escapia, Streamline and more.

In July, Beyond Pricing both acquired Smart Host and made their Market Data and Nearby Listings feature freely available, features that every vacation rental owner should use, whether or not they ultimately also leverage Beyond Pricing's automated pricing.  As Ian said in that blog post:

The ability to see comps and gauge their performance relative to neighbors is one of the most common features requested by hosts and managers.

Existing Beyond Pricing users can find the new Nearby Listings tab available immediately for each of their listings on their dashboard

Beyond Pricing now has a user base of over 120,000 listings in over 1,000 markets around the world and are continuing to innovate both on the product and the business model.  I'm excited to see what's still in store for this excellent team.

For those of you that have gotten this far and want to join the company for a front row seat, Beyond Pricing is hiring for a senior full stack engineer, a sales development rep (SDR) and a revenue manager - please apply and spread the word!

The Priceline of Commercial Lending

Last year we made the commitment to be more diligent with our efforts to find talent in the Phoenix ecosystem.  We started Social Leverage here in 2008 and it’s only fitting we open ourselves to the local opportunity.  With our larger presence in both New York and California, oftentimes smaller tech markets such as our hometown of Phoenix don’t get the attention they deserve. In 2015, we began to engage with several new Phoenix tech community members which ultimately led to an introduction to CommLoan.  It really hasn’t been since GolfNow that we leaned in locally and I’m really glad we did here. We tracked CommLoan for over a year before being nudged by one of our LP’s to dig in further. The company made a significant pivot at the start of 2016 that made a difference.   CommLoan is now nearly profitable and the business has proven to be highly scalable through the past two quarters. Their pipeline grows weekly with opportunity.

Yesterday CommLoan announced that Social Leverage and Via West as co-lead’s of their $2.25M seed round.  It’s been a pleasure getting to know the management team at CommLoan.  Founder, Mitch Ginsberg, has assembled a rock star team of experienced professionals, including former Starwood CFO, Alan Schnaid, who invested alongside us in this round and is joining CommLoan as their CFO/COO and board member.  

CommLoan is a company aiming to be the PriceLine of the commercial mortgage business.  The mortgage brokerage business has barely changed in the last 30 years and is yearning for technology to disrupt it. Mortgage brokers working on smaller loans ($10 million and under), the lion’s share of whom are small ‘mom and pop’ firms, have weak coverage of lenders in comparison to CommLoan, and typically take a week or more to provide loan quotes versus instantaneous results from CommLoan.

CommLoan provides the private label clients (primarily real estate brokerage firms around the country that do not have in-house mortgage brokerage) with a no-hassle method to steer business through their network for this service, thousands of potential “salespeople” for CommLoan are already in the market, resulting in a win-win opportunity for all parties involved. Through this approach, CommLoan can experience exponential growth to its platform and develop a reputation from name players in the industry. For 2017 the company will grow a Consumer Direct portion of the business, in which borrowers will go directly to CommLoan through existing relationships, introductions, or search engines, which has even greater margins than the private label.

There’s some exciting things happening in tech around Phoenix these days and I'm happy that we’re a part of it.

LiveStories Raises $3M to Continue Their Vision

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Seattle to congratulate the LiveStories team on making it to the next step of their journey.  LiveStories is changing the way governments work with data and there have now been multiple reports of their most recent fundraise.  While the fundraise is not the end goal, the additional capital and support of the new investors will be extremely meaningful in helping CEO Adnan Mahmud realize his vision for the company.

We had announced our original investment in the company about 18 months ago.  Since then, the company has grown significantly across every part of the business.  Eric joined as CTO and has been instrumental in building out a significant data ingestion and communication platform.  Samuel recently joined to build out the sales function and is already making his mark known.  Andy, Anders and EA are continuing to do great work.  From my perspective, perhaps one of the biggest testaments to the team has been their dedication to focus this product specifically on the needs of the public sector - dedication which is now starting to bear fruit as more and more government agencies adopt their technologies and more than 45 million constituents are now being served through the platform.

True Ventures is the lead for this most recent investment round.  Aside from True being a great partner, having them join along for the ride is especially great for me as they were (along with Social Leverage), the first investors in my last company, Assistly.  I've known Puneet for a number of years and he will be a terrific asset for the team.

As part of last week's event, Eric showed us a demo of a new product that LiveStories will be rolling out in the near future.  It's too premature to speak about this product, but I will say that I was thoroughly impressed.  The team was also clearly stoked and it was really nice to see the pieces coming together.  There's still a long road ahead, of course, but LiveStories is on the right path and Social Leverage is honored to be a part of the journey.

The Future of Your Digital Identity

The Future of Your Digital Identity

One of my first angel investments was in LifeLock ($LOCK) back in 2006. I have been bullish on the space ever since. In the last twelve months there have been hundreds of large scale credit breaches including Target, Ashley Madison and eBay.

If you’ve ever had your identity stolen, you know the pain of undoing the damage. That is why I’m excited to announce Social Leverage’s seed investment in Civic Technologies. I will also be taking a board seat.

Breaking Glass

Breaking Glass

Glassbreakers.co launched as a peer mentoring site for women in January of 2015.  In the year since then, more than 13,000 women with work experience from over 80,000 companies have registered and actively engaged on the platform.

Beyond their consumer-facing mentorship network, Glassbreakers is now expanding into the enterprise.  They are set to completely redefine how companies address, support and scale diversity and inclusion.  We believe that Glassbreakers’ enterprise model solves a huge pain point for large businesses by providing the tools to measure impact in hyper-relevant ways.  We see tremendous growth opportunities with Glassbreakers as the first to market enterprise software for diversity and inclusion.

Fantasy Sports is Serious Business

Fantasy Sports is Serious Business

A successful stock portfolio requires access to great statistical information, innovative ideas, and consistent performance, which is why I created the Stocktwits community. Building a great fantasy sports team is no different. When the stakes are high and you need to beat your opponents, you’ll need every bit of edge you can get.

That’s why we’re excited to announce our seed investment in Erik and Peter Groset’s Fantasy Sports Company. In their past lives, Erik was the co-founder and inventor of Zipbuds, an innovative solution to tangled earbud and headphone cables. Peter was a senior software engineer at San Diego’s own ecoATM. These smart, business-savvy brothers are passionate about helping fantasy sports players become real contenders.

E-Commerce Experiences Shouldn’t End When The Customer Clicks “Buy”

E-Commerce Experiences Shouldn’t End When The Customer Clicks “Buy”

I like to do my shopping online for the convenience and affordability. The shopping and browsing experience gets a lot of attention from online retailers. After all, they want to make it easy for you to click BUY. Unfortunately, once you’ve checked out, the experience gets pretty unpredictable. How long do I have to wait to get my package? Where is it now? What if I have to return it? Will it be a pain in the neck? Sometimes it feels like they stop caring about my experience as soon as I’ve paid.

Better Borrowers, Better Returns

Better Borrowers, Better Returns

As the economy recovers, investors are seeking new avenues for solid returns. One popular option is to lend on peer-to-peer marketplaces like Prosper, LendingClub, Funding Circle, and Kabbage. These services offer borrowers affordable personal and business loans, and promise better returns for lenders. However, most people may not realize that supplying the marketplace with investment opportunities is more difficult than attracting investors to fund those loans. Each marketplace looks for a slightly different profile from their ideal borrower. They end up struggling to find the right borrowers, and discard most of their leads during the qualification process.

Helping Farmers Feed America

Helping Farmers Feed America

We were introduced to Pablo by one of our LPs and were immediately enamored by his knowledge and passion for the farming industry. Born into a 4th generation farming family, he brings over 10 years of experience working with growers in the U.S., Mexico, and throughout South America.

Farmers are the cornerstone of America and a huge part of what makes this country great. Unfortunately when harvest season comes, the industry encounters major cashflow challenges.