- 📦 Crate: Get Your (Online) Life in Order
📦 Crate: Get Your (Online) Life in Order
How Anna Bofa is building the next great consumer platform
We have another founder profile for you this week. It’s a fascinating early stage consumer business with just about the strongest LA ties possible. Read on below for more!
🏃♀️ Quick hits
The Founder: Anna Bofa is an LA native and Dartmouth graduate (go Big Green 🌲🌲), who has worked for some of the most successful consumer internet companies in Silicon Valley, including both Google and Facebook (pre-Meta shift).
The Company: Today, Crate is your AI-enabled space to save all your content, from any source and any file type. As it matures, the AI engine will learn about you and be able to curate “Crates” of content for your next trip, research project, hobby, or event without you having to lift a finger. Crate has raised pre-seed and seed rounds and is actively raising capital now!
I don’t know about you, but my online life is a mess. I have five email addresses, files stored across a multitude of Google Drives and my personal desktop, social media accounts on the major platforms, a notes app full of random ideas, shared albums on my phone, and a multitude of other content saved in places I don’t even know. I’m sure I’m not the only one in desperate need of a digital Marie Kondo. If you’re like me, Anna Bofa and her company Crate are coming to save the day.
🌴 Anna Bofa was born in sunny LA but went about as far from home as possible (in the continental US) to attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. At Dartmouth she immersed herself in the startup scene. While her classmates were prepping for jobs on Wall Street, reading the Financial Times and WSJ, Anna was avidly poring over TechCrunch, starting from its earliest days in the mid 2000s. Anna was hooked on reading about the seismic shifts in the business world, led by companies like Google and Facebook. Her jumping off point into the world of technology happened when she organized a speaker from Google to come all the way to Hanover New Hampshire to speak to her business club. After the talk, she and the speaker were at dinner, where he asked her why she was still thinking about a career on Wall Street, when she should be working for an innovator like Google.
In 2009, Anna applied to Google’s bizdev team, got the job, and moved to the Bay Area right out of school. For context, in 2009, Google’s share price was less than $10 per share (adjusted for stock splits), while it’s now trading at $136 per share. It was already a massive company, but it wasn’t yet a true pillar of the business world as it is today. When she was starting out, she still had to explain to business owners what internet marketing was and why it was superior to advertising in the Yellow Pages and in magazines.
My first job at Google was to help businesses understand the world had changed. Back then most businesses still used the Yellow Pages. There was this divide between the internet and the physical world, which was just starting to get bridged.
After two years helping transition the world to the digital age, Anna moved to Dropbox, which had just raised a Series B. She was one of the first hundred employees, and got her first taste of creating software for storage and organization of information. She then left to be an early employee at Pinterest (which was pre-revenue at the time), where she was even more immersed in the world of consumer content curation and organization.
After three years at Pinterest, Anna decided to do something a little different. She left Silicon Valley for Africa, working for a year with the Grameen Foundation in Kenya and Uganda, helping local entrepreneurs build a for-profit mobile data collection business. While Anna had been in the tech and startup scene for almost a decade at that point, she had never truly been on the ground floor of a startup, and she started getting the entrepreneurial itch.
That said, she still had to get one more feather in her Silicon Valley cap before setting off on her own, so she joined Facebook in 2017.
Thanos collecting Anna’s resume
2017 was an interesting year for Facebook. The 2016 election had just happened, moms - not college students - were now the dominant force on the platform, and the company had to do some soul searching. Zuck and co decided the core of the product should be Facebook Groups, and Anna joined to help lead that effort. Facebook Groups are still massive, with over 1.8 billion users per month in 2021. Anna was on the ground figuring out what made groups like “New Moms of Los Angeles” and “Massachusetts Real Estate Agents” tick. What she found was that the most successful, happy, and engaged groups were those where curated content was shared constantly.
This helped crystalize her vision for a new startup - one where content curation, sharing, and discovery was central, but people were not the product.
📦 Initially, Anna thought about building her new idea within the Facebook ecosystem, but (rightly) decided that building something just to be owned by her employer was probably not the best use of her time. So she struck out on her own, going through months of “co-founder dating” before eventually realizing she could just build the initial product herself as a solo founder.
I had this idea in my head that you need to have a co-founder to start a company. And I felt like I tried it, but I was sort of being held back because I was trying so hard to fit in with another person. So that's when I just decided to just go out on my own and be a solo founder.
Anna had been trying to get the company off the ground in London and then in San Francisco, but eventually connected with LA-based Upfront Ventures to lead her pre-seed round, after which, she decided it was time to move back home to Los Angeles. She then went on to raise another round led by another top-tier LA fund, MaC Venture Capital.
The idea for Crate at inception was pretty much what it is today, two years later. The goal is to help you organize your online life by saving content across all platforms and file types into a single location, a “Crate,” and making that Crate shareable and AI-enabled. For those of you who love Pinterest, Crate definitely has echoes from Anna’s time there. The key difference is that, according to Anna, Crate is a data company rather than a social company - more a Google than a Facebook or Pinterest.
🤔 So how does Crate work?
The easiest way to understand is with an example. Let’s say I’m planning a trip to New York. I’m scrolling on Instagram and see a photo a friend took. I add that to my crate. Next I’m looking at flights on Kayak or Google Flights and am deciding between two flights. I add them to my crate. I go on Yelp or Tiktok and find cool restaurants, I add them to my crate. Now this Crate is shareable, but the unique part comes from the AI enablement. Crate has built its own AI models, which take in data from all Crate’s users and build you custom Crates based on what the community is adding to Crates, and what you’re personally adding.
The end goal looks something like this: You’ve used Crate for a while. It knows your general preferences across entertainment, travel, education, etc. Now you’re planning a trip to Mexico City, and instead of you manually pulling in everything for your Mexico City experience, Crate takes what it’s learned about you, adds it to what it’s learned from everyone else going to Mexico, and pulls together a completely AI generated Crate with the best possible restaurants, activities, and travel details curated for you. This doesn’t only work for travel, but also for anything else you do on the internet. It will be able to help with research, with news, with entertainment. It will be like a personal assistant organizing your internet life for you.
Crate is still in its early days. Anna and team have spent the last two years building a cutting edge product, which is finally available as public beta. I’ve been playing around with it, and it’s been pretty helpful to have a single place to go for topics I’m passionate about (e.g., Los Angeles tech, dinosaurs, etc.), and the AI recommendations are just starting to kick in.
What’s next for Crate? Anna and co are actually just hitting the market now to raise some new capital to “build the next great consumer platform,” so if you’re interested in learning more, feel free to reach out to her directly or to dot.LA, and we’ll put you in touch.