Wil Chockley

🔦 Spotlight

Does it feel like your power goes out more and more these days?

You’re not crazy - it actually does. Incidence of power outages has increased almost 20% in the years 2013 to 2021, from about 1.2 per household per year to over 1.4.

While that might not be noticeable to the average person, the average duration of power outages has increased by over 100%(!) from around 3.5 hours to over 7 hours.

And that isn’t the only problem with the electrical grid in California. The creatively (and aptly) named, duck curve is another.

Source: Energy Information Administration

Amazingly, California now generates so much energy during the day from solar, that the the net load (how much power is being consumed vs. produced) is actually about zero during the middle of the day, but the load spikes in the evening and remains high until the next morning. This means if you have rooftop solar panels, the energy you sell back to the grid during the day isn’t worth much, and you’re still reliant on grid power in the evenings when the sun isn’t shining.

To solve both the outage issue and the duck issue, LA-based Haven Energy wants to put batteries in your home, and the message seems to be resonating with both customers and investors. Haven just announced a $7M Series A, led by Giant Ventures, with participation from a number of other funds, including Lerer Hippeau and Comcast Ventures.

So what does Haven actually do?

For consumers, Haven is the all-in-one resource for adding batteries to your home. Whether you have solar panels on the roof and want to store some of that power for when it’s most valuable, or you just want to protect yourself from blackouts, Haven will walk you through which battery system makes the most sense for your home, connect you with professional installers and electricians, and manage the process from end to end.

For installers, the company offers both customer leads and a software solution to manage the sales, installation, and payment processes.

Haven was founded by former Casper execs, Philip Krim and Jeff Chapin, alongside former Uber leader Vinnie Campo.

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • LA-based Haven Energy, a tech enabled battery installer, raised a $7M Series A from Giant Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, Comcast Ventures, and others - learn more
  • Newport Beach-based Compa, a compensation data provider, raised a $10M Series A led by Storm Ventures, with participation from Penny Jar Capital, Indeed Ventures, NJP Ventures, Base10 Partners, and Acadian Ventures - learn more

LA Venture Funds

  • Clocktower Technology Ventures co-led a $20M round for Benepass, a NY-based employee benefits platform - learn more
  • Mucker Capital led a $7.5M Seed Round in Roofer.com, a Dallas-based roof scanning startup - learn more
  • MaC Venture Capital participated in a $14.75M equity/debt round for Chef Robotics, a SF-based commercial kitchen robot startup. Other investors in the round include Kleiner Perkins and Construct Capital, among others - learn more
  • House of Ventures participated in a $23.2M round for Transmutex, a Swiss nuclear engineering startup. The round was led by USV and Steel Atlas - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

If you don’t know Adam Miller, he is almost certainly the most important person in LA tech you’ve never heard of. If you know Adam, congrats! You’re a lucky individual. Read on anyway because I’m sure you’ll learn something new about one of the godfathers of tech in Los Angeles.

Given all the interesting things Adam has done and is doing, we’re going to be telling his story in two parts. Today’s edition discusses Adam’s first act, covering his early days through the eventual IPO and $5.2B sale of his company, Santa Monica-based HR tech juggernaut Cornerstone OnDemand. Next week you’ll read about Adam’s second act - how he’s taken the learnings from Cornerstone and used them to build an ecosystem of tech startups and nonprofit organizations bettering LA and the world.

Let’s get going.


👦 Early Life

Adam grew up in northern New Jersey, and, like a number of other successful entrepreneurs, was a late bloomer. Adam was a self-described “follower” until later in high school, when he came out of his shell. One clue that Adam might not be exactly like the other kids emerged when a beloved teacher and the principal of his high school both came under fire from the school board. Adam, a student at the time, led the defense of the embattled educators, organizing the student body to protest and successfully presenting to the school board to protect the teachers. Adam went on to graduate high school as student body president, editor of the school newspaper, and a varsity athlete.

As has become a theme in Adam’s life, he didn’t rest on his laurels. Moving onwards and upwards to the University of Pennsylvania, Adam prepped to become a lawyer. He studied history and business and got his start in homeless advocacy (more to come on that in our next piece on Adam’s second act).

👨🎓 Education

The summer before senior year, Adam took a class at UCLA and got a job as a bar manager at a restaurant in Westwood. Adam so impressed the general manager of the LA restaurant that the GM asked Adam to join him as his business partner in buying a new restaurant with him right out of college. He must have been a pretty good bar manager, right? The only problem was that Adam had already planned his life out and was going to be a lawyer. He was admitted to UCLA Law School for the upcoming year and was right on track. So of course, Adam said yes to both law school and the restaurant. If that wasn’t already doing enough to kill the average person, he then decided he wanted more formal business training as well, so he got an MBA from UCLA at the same time.

📈 Cornerstone

After finishing grad school and exiting the restaurant, Adam moved to New York to “keep learning about business” by working in investment banking for a couple years. At that time (the late 90’s), the dotcom boom was booming, and Adam had an idea to bring education via the Internet to people who couldn’t normally get it. Adam left his banking job and founded CyberU with a plan to provide an online direct-to-consumer continuing education platform for adults.

The timing was terrible. Adam started the company in 1999, and the dotcom bubble burst less than a year later. Funding for startups dried up, so the company had to keep costs minimal and generate revenue as fast as possible.

Startup funding plummeted just as CyberU was getting off the ground

CyberU wasn’t cutting it, so the company pivoted from a B2C model to a B2B model, shifting the target customer from individuals to some of the largest (and deepest-pocketed) companies at the time, including Washington Mutual, Smith Barney and Aon. The good news was CyberU, rebranded as Cornerstone OnDemand, quickly found product-market fit in the enterprise. Cornerstone was one of the first and, at that time, only companies to leverage the Internet to create an enterprise Learning Management System. The company delivered the classes and learning platform over the web, which often confused clients who expected all their software to live behind enterprise firewalls. Of course, today we call what Cornerstone did Software-as-a-Service.

From there, it took 6 more years, investments from family and friends, credit card debt, and money from a loan shark to keep the lights on before Adam raised his first venture capital round from Bessemer Venture Partners in 2007. Cornerstone raised more money in 2009 from Meritech Capital before going public with Goldman Sachs in 2011. From inception to IPO, the company only burned $11m, less than the average Series A round today.

Adam continued to lead Cornerstone as CEO after the company went public. Along with product diversification and multinational expansion, he navigated direct competition with Oracle and SAP, financial market volatility, activist attacks, and the challenge of integrating a massive acquisition during a global pandemic.

Then in mid-2020, after two decades at the helm, Adam transitioned into an Executive Chairman position and oversaw the 2021 acquisition of the business by Clearlake Capital for $5.2B.

Cornerstone’s broad product catalog today

At the time of the acquisition, Cornerstone had over 3,000 employees with offices in 25 countries, had helped develop over 75 million customer employees, and had delivered over a billion online classes. Today, the company retains its core learning management functionality and has built broader human capital management, talent management, and performance management software, along with a multitude of other solutions.

So what is Adam doing in “retirement?” More than most of us do in a lifetime. From co-founding and serving as CEO of a new tech startup to venture investing to combatting homelessness in LA to incubating and launching MORE startups, Adam is busier than ever.

Next week, we’ll cover all Adam’s new ventures in his second act.

Hi folks,

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!

LA Connection: Crate founder Anna Bofa was born and raised in Los Angeles, has raised money from multiple top LA VCs (Upfront Ventures, MaC VC), and the company is headquartered here as well.

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.

Today Crate is available as an iOS app and a Chrome extension, so you can find it wherever you live on the internet. 📦🎁📦🎁