How do angel investors get in front of companies prior to investing? Brianne Kimmel, founder of WorkLife Ventures, might know a way or two.
On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Kimmel discusses her work as an investor — how she gets into rounds, how she established herself as a top angel investor and then transitioned into a fund manager and her thoughts on work and life.
"I highly encourage people to build a list of companies that you would love to work with because founders really appreciate when you become very excited about their product and when you make that next step of finding ways to be helpful," Kimmel says.
Business Insider recently named Kimmel as a "top angel investor everyone should know," and for good reason. Kimmel is an early investor in companies like Hopin, Pipe, Webflow, Tandem and many others.
Kimmel tells L.A. Venture that her road to launching a venture capital firm did not come without obstacles. Traditional VCs and others discouraged her from trying to start her own fund.
"I had talked to a number of traditional VC firms. And many of them were like, 'this isn't going to happen. Like, you can go get your MBA and you could probably come in as an associate. But I think what you're trying to do is like a pretty big career leap'," she said.
But she launched her own firm, anyway. She adds that it has been a lot of "hard work and a lot of learning and educating myself on evenings and weekends."
Kimmel shares insight on the Gen Z communities she's a part of and talks about how they are choosing jobs based on their values and how companies are adapting.
Kimmel is a believer in product-led growth and that bottom up software-as-a-service is replacing the past enterprise sales notion of steak dinners and the like. She also believes that the tools available today empower everyone to be an entrepreneur and says that is the future of work.
dot.LA Audience Engagement Editor Luis Gomez contributed to this post.
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Turns out even well-paid lawyers want deferred payment services.
Dylan Ruga, an intellectual property attorney founded Steno Agency, along with two former executives at restaurant reservation platform Reserve, in 2018. Steno Agency gives lawyers the option to pay for the service once the case is settled.
One headache for attorneys is the cost they have to front when hiring court reporters. Attorneys representing the plaintiff don't usually recoup the cost until their cases have been resolved.
"That's where the idea for Steno was born because [Dylan] went looking for a court reporting agency that would defer payment until the case resolves," CEO and co-founder Greg Hong said. He couldn't find one.
The Westwood-based startup prides itself on its deferred payment system, DelayPay, that allows attorneys to hire court reporters and videographers without the worry of upfront costs.
Last week, the company received $20 million in debt financing from Rivonia Road Capital, a global alternative asset manager.
In other ways, Steno Agency isn't very different from most court reporting agencies that offer court reporting, videography, interpreters, remote depositions, litigation support services. But, unlike other court reporting agencies, it has a different payment plan.
Hong boasts that while there are court reporting agencies, litigation finance companies, tech companies within the legal space, "very few companies, if any, are offering all three under one umbrella."
Brad Smiedt, co-founder and managing partner of Rivonia, said strong management plays a role in their decision to finance a startup.
"We wanted to know that there is a reliable, experienced team that is going to be successful," Smiedt said and that's why they were able to finance Steno with $20 million in debt financing. "But because we are getting involved early in the company's lifecycle, we are taking some risk that the company is going to either be successful or not successful."
The agency also offers Steno Connect, a videoconferencing platform built for remote depositions and remote bench trials. Some of the funds will be used to hire more engineers to build and add to their products like Steno Connect.
"It really empowers an attorney to emulate what they would have done if they were there for an in person deposition in terms of the manner in which they would share documents and it just makes the user behavior more natural," Hong said.
In a traditional court setting, exhibit handling can be in the form of an 8x11 poster board that will be shown during a deposition. Attorney's using Steno Connect will be able to share documents seamlessly. Unlike Google Meet, when someone shares their screen, it takes over the whole monitor and prevents you from working.
"So when you would share that document, you'd see the documents side by side with the images and it would allow the participants to more fluidly interact with the exhibits themselves," Hong said.
The company operates in California, Texas, Illinois, and New York and plans on expanding across the country.
Shawn Colo's rise as an investor has tracked the rise of the internet, from the early days when Google began to index websites and radically change how media was created and distributed, to the present day, as ecommerce has surged.
Colo joined the LA Venture podcast to talk about being a founder of Demand Media and 3L Capital, his investments in L.A.-based AvantStay and Relativity Space and what he sees ahead in local delivery and logistics.
Colo started his career as a private equity investor in the late 90s in Silicon Valley. There, saw the media industry changing as radio, cable and satellite-based companies went through a period of consolidation as the telecom industry began to deregulate. At the same time, internet companies were building themselves off the back of Google.
"It sort of dawned on me that there was going to be another opportunity to aggregate media. And this new form of media was basically in the form of websites. So that was really the original idea. And we ended up putting together a couple of assets to start the company," said Colo.
That concept became Demand Media -- now known as Leaf Group -- a company designed to operate online brands.
Now a partner at 3L Capital, Colo uses some of that experience to write checks for $10 to 30 million for raises at around the Series B level. The L.A. and New York-based fund invests in a wide variety of companies, including The RealReal, Relativity Space and AvantStay, among many others.
Right now, Colo says he sees an opportunity in delivery and logistics that's as transformative as what he was seeing in the media space during the Demand Media days. 3L has invested in Goja and goPuff, two startups that he sees redefining the shopping experience and delivery infrastructure.
"We haven't seen this caliber of management matched with the size of this opportunity ever. So, it's probably one of the best times to be investing in technology right now," Colo said.
Hear his thoughts on the future of local retail, as well as his strategy behind investing in L.A. companies including AvantStay and Relativity Space in the rest of the episode.
dot.LA Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
Americans are expected to spend a record amount on online shopping this Monday. But inventory shortages caused by global supply chain disruptions could damper the holiday cheer.
Adobe Analytics, which monitors holiday shopping, expects Americans to spend more on the digital holiday than even Black Friday. But they are likely to see many items out of stock. On the top of the list of items expected to be sold out: apparel, electronics, sporting goods and products for young children.
Adobe estimates Americans will spend $11.3 billion over an average of 12 hours accumulated shopping per customer this season.
Hot ticket items to look out for this holiday season are Apple Airpods and Airpods Max, drones, Samsung and LG TVs, air fryers, weighted blankets, instapots, record players, smart mugs and water bottles.
An estimated 62.8 million people plan to shop on Cyber Monday this year, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation.
Malls and other stores started filling early as retailers bumped up their sales ahead of Black Friday. The early shopping has cut into store inventories.
The usual plethora of cheap tech gadgets like laptops, TVs and game consoles has also been harmed by the chip shortages that have reduced supplies.
"Inventory shortages will be very much of a concern, and the bottlenecks and the delays and the high cost will impact the price of products that are in high demand," said Nick Vyas, director of USC's Kendrick Global Supply Chain Management Institute.
He said readily available products will have steep discounts, while items with less inventory are likely to be marked closer to their retail value.
The disruption in the global supply chain will force many Americans who had counted on buying those cheap tech gifts to get creative with their gift-giving. The NRF expects gift card purchases to hit $28.1 billion as shoppers look for more flexible options for presents.
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