KredosAI and the Power of Nudging

What’s in a nudge? That is the question we asked ourselves after meeting Balaji Sridharan at a founder conference in Seattle last Fall. It turns out, a simple communication can be the difference between a customer paying their bills early, late or maybe never. Nudging as a lever is something well known to behavioral economists, but testing which messages work best used to be a painfully difficult task.

Until now!

Balaji’s team at KredosAI understood this problem given their work experiences in telecom and financial services and they developed a remarkable AI tool that takes the guesswork out of the equation. Enterprises can have anywhere between 15-20% of their customer base past due at any point in time. At risk are millions of dollars of impact to the bottom lines of mobile carriers and financial services firms who strain to keep customers from falling into the black hole of collections. Also in the balance are customer relationships that once broken, can be impossible to repair.

Today, we are pleased to announce our investment in KredosAI, the leading human-centric AI SaaS platform that provides a superior experience for delinquent consumers while helping enterprises improve their bottom line. StartFast is excited to lead the investment in KredosAI with participation from SaaS Ventures, Stout Street Capital, Okapi Ventures, Early Light Ventures and Seachange Fund. KredosAI’s proprietary AI model learns from actual customer payment behavior, enabling the platform to experiment with large numbers of approaches that scale effectively. KredosAI customers are seeing a 20X return on investment, an 8-10% reduction in suspend rates, and longer customer lifetime value versus companies using legacy systems or outdated approaches.

As cofounders, Balaji and David Thoms have decades of experience in credit risk management, corporate strategy and enterprise software. They are on a mission to change how enterprises resolve late payment issues for the benefit of all parties. StartFast is excited to join the journey and help the KredosAI team accelerate product development, hire new talent, and expand globally.

Welcome SelectFI to our portfolio

We're thrilled to announce SelectFI as the newest member of the StartFast portfolio!

The "LendingTree" for automotive dealers, SelectFI is a financing pre-qualification and compliance tool that swiftly matches car buyers to optimal lending sources without requiring a hard credit pull – Increasing time-to-quote efficiency and maximizing dealership profits, all while providing customers the lowest possible monthly payment.

Leveraging a decade of experience at a Top 15 U.S. dealership handling $1.5 billion in annual financing, Founder and CEO Tom Vullo has the sort of expansive domain expertise we rarely see and love to invest behind.

SelectFI is onboarding new customers weekly and projects to secure hundreds more by year's end. Amidst an automotive macro environment with insufficient financing availability and staffing challenges, SelectFI's solution is poised for rapid growth.

StartFast will leverage its experience investing in the pre-seed round automotive GenAI company Impel in the course of guiding SelectFI. Impel has gone on to raise more than $100M in follow-on capital serving auto dealerships in 50+ countries.

StartFast participated in SelectFI's pre-seed raise totaling $3.5M.

Welcome In-Seam to our portfolio

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 include Techstars 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.

2022 Reflections

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!

You can read the press release here

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.