We are excited to announce StartFast's investment into In-Seam!
In-Seam is a private B2B marketplace founded by fashion veteran CEO Ann Wehren to support the multi-billion dollar personal shopping market. Today in the United States there are thousands of personal shoppers individually driving hundreds of thousands of dollars in incremental revenue for luxury retailers, and yet inventory access, logistics management, and billing remain a challenge for these small business owners.
The founding story and vision behind In-Seam forged by CEO Ann Wehren is emblematic of StartFast's thesis: back a talented CEO, who owing to their deep domain expertise, have been able to identify a multi-billion dollar market hiding in plain sight. Already, Ann's mission to empower personal shoppers has proven deeply resonant with both personal shoppers themselves and with luxury brands.
In-Seam is rapidly scaling through word of mouth and other unpaid marketing, and counts top luxury retailers such as Dior, Khaite, and The Row among its early adopters. In-Seam expects to have over 150 brands on its platform by the end of 2023.
StartFast participated in In-Seam's pre-seed round alongside Far Out Ventures. Prior investors includeTechstars and strategic angels in fashion and e-commerce.
Welcome CodeCombat to our Portfolio
We're super excited to add another world changing company to the StartFast Fund II portfolio!
CodeCombat teaches kids 6-16 to code while playing online games. Students learn naturally through gameplay and progress at their own pace through increasingly sophisticated levels, eventually creating their own games and websites.
CodeCombat is CEO and Co-Founder Nick Winter’s second startup. His first, Skritter, became the number one platform for learning to write in Chinese characters. We are believers in Nick’s mission to inspire a generation of young people to learn how to code, an increasingly crucial skill in the age of AI. The company has attracted top investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and Y Combinator.
The upcoming launch of CodeCombat Worlds on Roblox in August holds the potential to create new and exponential growth opportunities. Roblox is a $2.29 billion online game platform that allows users to program their own games and play games created by other users. Roblox' CEO, David Baszucki, contracted with CodeCombat to reimagine how its under-16 users would create their games within the Roblox experience.
We are impressed by how this team has persevered and adapted to thrive in difficult market conditions. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nick moved the company out of its San Francisco headquarters and drove the business to profitability. The founders have continued to innovate, positioning the company to take advantage of an asymmetric opportunity. These are the hallmarks of winning teams and part of the reason StartFast has joined other CodeCombat investors in a $2 million round aimed at developing both its new Roblox game and an upcoming generative AI product.
Interview with Steve Buslovich, CEO and Co-Founder of Patient Pattern
StartFast Fund II had its first exit with the recent acquisition of Patient Pattern by PointClickCare. Our Vice President, Olivia Goldstein, had the opportunity to catch up with Steve Buslovich, CEO and Co-Founder of Patient Pattern recently to discuss the big news, and his advice for founders.
OG: Steve - great to see you and congratulations! Everyone is buzzing about the big news and I'm hoping before we dive in, you can share a little bit about what it is that Patient Pattern does.
SB: Sure, Patient Pattern is an integrated care management platform. We essentially service value based care organizations in the healthcare space that take risk for various patient populations. These are typically subsets of Medicare type plans, some of them are smaller, some of them are quite large and national. Ultimately, we provide the technology to help them run their plan operations, connect to the clinical teams out there, and then ultimately help them from everything with respect to the workflow, coding, quality, documentation, compliance and claim submission.
OG: This was your first private capital backed company and you faced the intense pressures of fundraising in a tightening market. What are some of the things you would advise other founders to be prepared for as they fundraise?
SB: I think it's fair to say that it's definitely harder to raise capital in this environment than it probably should be for successful companies. First, it's very important to navigate the rocky landscape by focusing on your customers. That's been our claim to fame that, despite any challenges, our customers have had a white glove experience. Supporting and knowing your customers is really what buttressed us throughout the years, but ultimately, through this period as well. Number two is both trust your team and spend time reevaluating the team that you have. This is the time to find the most talented team members that you can have and try to keep costs down by incentivizing them through equity offerings in lieu of salary. And number three, make sure that you have product market fit, and use this time to reevaluate whether or not what you're selling is incredibly sticky.
OG: And what role did your board and investors play in this regard?
SB: Having a strong board is obviously important. However, there's never the right answer - there's always differences of opinion. Though, I think it's important to understand that there are sharky waters out there. So your board can come up with alternative strategies, including internally supporting the company for a longer period of time to get great adoption & greater ARRs and then helping to find the right partners. And so that's where our board has been incredibly helpful in evaluating those alternative options.
OG: What can we expect next from your team?
SB: Well, right now we're merging with a very large strategic partner and ultimately are looking to grow our team. We're hiring fairly aggressively at the moment, across different specialties, product engineering, marketing, as well as customer support and customer success. We're looking to recruit across the country, but ultimately, it would be great if we can recruit folks locally and support the local ecosystem.
OG: I love that. Thank you, Steve. We're looking forward to seeing what's next.
Welcome Kanarys to our portfolio
StartFast Ventures is thrilled to invest in Kanarys, the premier SaaS solution for companies who are serious about getting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion results. Their SaaS platform uses data and analytics to help companies identify and address areas of bias, discrimination, and inequality in their workforce. As the world becomes more aware of the importance of DEI in the workplace, Kanarys is a leader, well-positioned to make a significant impact in this space.
The events of the past few years have brought issues of systemic racism and inequality to the forefront, and many companies are actively seeking ways to address these issues within their organizations. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that companies with more diverse workforces tend to perform better financially, which provides a strong incentive for companies to prioritize DEI.
Kanarys is well-positioned to tackle this by providing a data-driven solution that can help companies improve their DEI efforts. The platform is easy to use, affordable, and scalable, making it accessible to companies of all sizes.
CEO Mandy Price and her team have built something truly compelling and StartFast is proud to be a part of helping the company reach the next level.
Check out more here about Kanarys' Series A round.
As we approach the end of 2022, all of us at StartFast Ventures want to wish you a healthy and happy holiday season and a new year filled with promise and opportunity.
2022 has been a challenging year for many sectors of the economy, not the least of which for public technology stocks. If history is to be a teacher, it is during uncertain economic times that some of the most world changing companies tend to be built. To wit: Uber, AirBnb, Slack, WhatsApp all were founded in the '08/'09 recession.
The very budgetary decisions public technology companies must make during these times: freezing hiring, making layoffs, and slashing R&D budgets all come to the benefit of startups. It is during these uncertain economic times startups find easier access to labor markets and industries underinvesting in innovation. With the majority of StartFast Fund II yet to be deployed we are excited to invest a new wave of world changing businesses that will be forged in this environment.
Stay strong, healthy, and join all of us at StartFast in looking ahead to a 2023 filled with optimism.
-Michael Quigley, Managing Partner
Business Legacy Podcast interview with Chuck Stormon
Business Legacy Podcast sat down with Chuck Stormon and discussed how Chuck got started in the industry and the decisions that led him to look for businesses outside major VC hubs.
Welcome Hitch to our Portfolio
We are excited to welcome Mexico City based Hitch to our portfolio. Hitch provides an integrated suite of hiring solutions for small to midsize businesses throughout Mexico, Latin America, and South America.
While the pandemic transformed how companies are recruiting and retaining talent, and now more than ever finding better ways to evaluate candidates has proven to be a mission critical challenge for employers. Hitch is solving this very specific problem, helping SMBs hire and analyze candidates in LatAm, with massive demand. The opportunity is unique because there is no clear leader in this wide open geographic market.
As a further testament to the power of the StartFast network, this round was led by Evergreen Mountain Equity Partners (EMEP) in Colorado. EMEP founding partner Greg Moran's Saratoga, NY based startup Chequed received its first institutional funding from StartFast's precursor Seed Capital Fund of CNY in 2009.
Hitch is led by smart, aggressive sales focused founders. We look forward to working with Gabby, Daniel, and the EMEP team to reshape the employer-candidate relationship!
The Founder's Journey Podcast featuring Chuck Stormon
Chuck Stormon chats with Peter Dean and Greg Moran on The Founder’s Journey about how great entrepreneurs are everywhere, how remote work is changing the way companies and investors operate, and how this drives StartFast Fund II’s unique thesis.
Reverse Engineering Market Strategy with Mike Quigley
Michael Quigley talks about reverse engineering market strategy and how to know when the time is right for a name change on MARL Startup Studio’s podcast Think Build Launch.
Interview on Investor Connect with Nasir Ali
On this episode of Investor Connect, Hall welcomes Nasir Ali, Managing Partner at StartFast Ventures.
Nasir has been building a high-growth entrepreneurial ecosystem across Upstate New York for the past 18 years and investing as an early-stage VC since 2007. Nasir launched The Syracuse Technology Garden incubator in 2004, followed in 2007 by the Seed Capital Fund of CNY, Upstate NY’s first angel investor fund. In 2010, Nasir joined with TriNet founder Martin Babinec to form Upstate Venture Connect, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that has helped organize six angel funds in Upstate New York; built an online communications platform that reaches more than 15,000 startup community members; created the UNY50 Entrepreneur Leadership group; and established the Upstate Venture Ecosystem Awards.
Nasir also co-founded and is the Managing Director of StartFast Fund I, Upstate NY’s only private capital-backed startup accelerator program. Nasir’s 60 portfolio companies have raised over $300MM. He is a board member and highly sought out advisor to numerous entities including the NYS Innovation Venture Capital Fund, Next Gen Venture Partners, Fitzgate Ventures, and multiple portfolio companies. Nasir received his undergraduate degree in Physics from Princeton University. He also holds an MBA from Yale University and resides in Rochester, NY.
Nasir discusses the state of startup investing and his investment thesis. He advises investors and entrepreneurs and shares some of the challenges they face.