Forbes Midas List 2019: Aspect Ventures' Theresia Gouw named for 8th time

[Read on Forbes]

  • Theresia Gouw cofounded Aspect Ventures, an early stage venture firm that focuses on software and security technology, in 2014.
  • Prior to Aspect, she spent 15 years at Accel, where she was the firm's first female partner. Accel was one of Facebook's first venture investors.
  • Through her investments, she's become America's wealthiest female VC with a net worth of $500 million.
  • In January 2018, Aspect raised a $181 million second fund with the backing of Melinda Gates and Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.
  • Of its portfolio startup cofounders, 40% are female, half are immigrants or first-generation citizens and about 30% are from a racial minority.

CB Insights and The New York Times name Aspect Ventures co-founder Theresia Gouw to Top 100 Venture Capitalists

[Read on CB Insights]

For a fourth consecutive year, we worked with The New York Times to develop a data-driven ranking of the world's best venture capital partners. Here are the top 100.

The rankings were based on CB Insights data which is gathered via our machine learning technology (dubbed The Cruncher) and complemented by thousands of submissions that we received from VC partners and firms via The Editor.


12 Top Women in Tech right now

[Read on Techopedia]

Look at any list of the top names in tech, and you will invariably notice that women are very much outnumbered, often representing only a third at best. To find the women who have risen through the ranks, you may have to look at the lists that are devoted to women specifically. There are a number of them, and this list cannot take them all into account. Instead, it presents a dozen. Some of the names are very well known, and some are less so.

Whether they have worked their way up the ranks of a well-established business, have developed a completely innovative concept that forms the basis of a new one, or have the vision to realize which new tech company they should be investing in, they all are highly accomplished in their field. So as not to appear to rank them in order of importance, they are simply presented in alphabetical order. (To learn about some historical female tech pioneers, check out The Women of ENIAC: Programming Pioneers.)

3. Theresia Gouw, Co-founder, Aspect Ventures

In 2014 Gouw co-founded Aspect Ventures, an early stage venture firm that usually invests in software and security. Before that she spent 15 years at Accel, one of Facebook’s venture investors, where she was the firm's first female partner. She holds the distinction of America’s wealthiest female VC with a net worth of $500 million, according to Forbes, which includes her among the 100 Most Powerful Women and America’s Richest Self-Made Women, as well as on The Midas List: Top Tech Investors 2018.

 


International Women’s Day 2019: Who Inspires Some Of Today's Top Businesswomen

[Watch on Forbes]

Who inspires the success of today’s greatest changemakers, leaders and entrepreneurs? As each of us navigates our own pathways and pitfalls to the top, the community of role models, collaborators and mentors around us has the power to ignite our passions and place our biggest career aspirations within reach.

In this spirit, I asked seven women who inspire me to share the stories of those who have been an inspiring for force in their own lives. On International Women’s Day, as we celebrate our achievements and the progress of what’s possible together, Tory Burch, Theresia Gouw of Aspect Ventures, Full Picture's Desiree Gruber, Jamie Kern Lima of IT Cosmetics, Acumen's Jacqueline Novogratz, Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code, and Melanie Whelan of SoulCycle recount the wisdom, motivation and courage they’ve gained from the women they admire most.


Airbnb Acquires HotelTonight to Expand Travel Portfolio

[Read on The New York Times]

SAN FRANCISCO — Airbnb says it plans to acquire HotelTonight, a service for travelers seeking last-minute hotel bookings, in a deal that will expand the lodging-rental company’s portfolio with traditional and boutique hotel listings.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition values HotelTonight in the vicinity of its last private valuation, $465 million, said two people who were briefed on the deal and were not authorized to disclose the price. That would make it Airbnb’s biggest acquisition.

In a statement, Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, emphasized the company’s desire to expand into all aspects of travel. “A big part of building an end-to-end travel platform is serving every guest, whether they plan their trip a year or a day in advance,” he said.

Airbnb, which is valued by private investors at $31 billion, is preparing to go public, though it has not specified a time frame. Ahead of that, it has expanded beyond home stays to appeal to a broader range of travelers. The company now lists boutique hotels, luxury hotels, activities and a hotel-like service called Airbnb Plus. In February, Airbnb hired Fred Reid, former chief executive of Virgin American, to strike more partnerships in the transportation industry.

The San Francisco company is part of a coterie of highly valued start-ups, often called “unicorns.” Many of these unicorns are now moving toward the public markets, including the ride-hailing firms Uber and Lyft. Last week, Lyft unveiled its public offering prospectus, which showed that the company was growing quickly but was also losing money. Airbnb has turned a profit, excluding certain costs, for the past two years, the company said in January

Founded in 2010, HotelTonight has raised $127 million in venture funding, according to Crunchbase. It began as an app that listed discounted rooms to last-minute travelers. But the company put a priority on growth over profits in its first five years of operation, burning as much as $30 million a year, according to a blog post by Sam Shank, HotelTonight’s chief executive and co-founder. In 2015, HotelTonight laid off 37 employees, or 20 percent of its staff.

In 2017, HotelTonight expanded the time frame in which customers can book hotels to 100 days, putting it in direct competition with the likes of Expedia and Booking Holdings, the $80 billion travel behemoth that owns Priceline and Booking.com.

Airbnb is also locked in competition with Booking Holdings. The two companies have taken turns announcing ever-larger numbers of home listings in the last year; Airbnb currently touts six million. Buying HotelTonight gives Airbnb access to even more properties. Airbnb said HotelTonight would continue to operate as a stand-alone business.


Pie Insurance raises $45 million for workers’ compensation policies

[Read on VentureBeat]

Insurance is a moneymaker. That’s the opinion of analysts at Research and Markets, who predict that the global market will reach $1.11 billion by 2023, fueled by growth in verticals like health, property, casualty, and life insurance. Moreover, according to a recent analysis of CB Insights data by XL Innovate, over $1 billion has been invested in commercial insurance startups since 2015. And FinTech Global estimates that deals totaled $2.5 billion in the first three quarters of 2018 — an 89.8 percent increase year-over-year.

Yet another firm riding this wave is Pie Insurance, a Washington, D.C.-based workers’ compensation insurance provider that today announced it has raised $45 million in a series B funding round led by SVB Capital, with participation from Sirius Group, Greycroft, Moxley Holdings, Aspect Ventures, and Elefund. This follows an $11 million series A round in July and brings Pie’s total capital raised to $61 million.

CEO John Swigart, previously a senior executive at Esurance, says the fresh capital will be used to expand Pie’s geographic footprint and add new distribution sources. “I’m so proud of what our team has accomplished in a short period of time. We’re grateful to work with such supportive investors to take Pie to the next level and fundamentally change the way small businesses get workers’ compensation insurance,” he added. “Shopping for insurance should be simple and accessible, just like other products and services we buy online. America’s small businesses deserve a better workers’ comp insurance experience, as well as the ability to find savings in the process.”

Pie — which was founded in 2017 and operates as a managing general agency for Sirius America Insurance company — sold its first insurance policy in March 2018 and claims to have generated nearly $10 million in written premiums from the “thousands” of small businesses among its customers. It saves those customers an average of 30 percent, the company says, thanks to a proprietary analytics backend that identifies risk, prices policies, and eliminates steps from the purchase process.

Pie currently offers A.M. Best A-rated workers’ compensation insurance for up to $25,000 that covers illness or injury, disability, and death for employees of construction, restaurant, manufacturing, cleaning and janitorial, landscaping, auto repair, retail, and health care companies. Is policies are available in 19 markets across the country: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.

“In addition to their strong growth, Pie is producing outstanding underwriting results,” Greycroft cofounder and partner Ian Sigalow said of today’s news. “The company is positioned to make a huge impact on the small business market for commercial insurance.”


Online bank Chime now valued at $1.5 billion after new funding round

[Read on CNBC]

  • Financial technology company Chime closes a Series D funding round led by DST Global that more than triples its former valuation.
  • Chime also announces it has 3 million users, triple that of last summer.
  • "There's pent-up demand for more consumer-friendly banking services," says Chime CEO Chris Britt. "We think there's a better way to do this that's actually aligned with best interests of our members."

Digital bank Chime has tripled its valuation, officially passing the $1 billion-mark this week.

The San Francisco-based company announced a $200 million Series D financing round that brings its new valuation to $1.5 billion. Investors were led by DST Global, which also participated in earlier fundraising rounds, and new investors Coatue, General Atlantic, Iconiq Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group, Chime said Tuesday.

"There's pent-up demand for more consumer-friendly banking services," Chime CEO Chris Britt told CNBC. "We think there's a better way to do this that's actually aligned with the best interests of our members."

The online-only bank lets customers deposit and save money on its platform and spend using a no-fee debit card. Chime earns revenue from debit card transaction fees paid by merchants. Accounts are FDIC-insured through a partnership with Bancorp Bank. The partnership model is an increasingly popular setup for financial technology start-ups that don't have their own bank charters.

The digital-first approach and promise of zero fees has helped Chime attract roughly 200,000 users per month, the company said. Chime said it now has more than 3 million bank accounts, up from 1 million last summer.

So-called challenger banks are an increasingly popular option for consumers who don't want traditional branch-based banking options. These upstart banks often cite the competitive advantage of building their companies on modern technology with a lower cost structure than traditional banks. Since they're only online, they also avoid costs associated with maintaining branches.

 

Co-founder and CEO Chris Britt of Chime

Source: Chime
Co-founder and CEO Chris Britt of Chime

Tuesday's announcement marks the highest valuation for a private, venture-backed U.S. challenger bank. Chime's previous $70 million Series C round was led by Menlo Ventures last May, with a $494.73 million valuation, according to data from Pitchbook.

Europe has historically led the challenger banks movement with names like Monzo, Atom Bank, Tandem Bank and Revolut collectively attracting $1 billion in funding and more than 2.5 million customers since 2014, according to CB Insights. U.K.-based digital bank Revolut was most recently valued at $1.5 billion, according to Pitchbook, and it said earlier this year it plans to expand into the United States and Canada.

Chime's new cash injection will allow the company to "aggressively expand" into other areas of financial services like lending and credit, Chime's CEO said. It also plans to expand its 120-person team to 200 by the end of the year. In the past year, it hired Brian Mullins, the former head of risk ops at Square, and Aaron Plante, former business unit leader for student loans at SoFi.


Aspect co-founder Theresia Gouw named to Marie Claire's 6th annual New Guard list

[Read on Marie Claire]

It’s been declared the Year of the Woman for so many years running, it’s about time to acknowledge what we already know: We’re challenging paradigms, upending business as usual, and building a new world order. Not just this year, but from now on.

At Marie Claire, we make it our mission to celebrate women’s triumphs every day, and for our 6th annual New Guard list, we're highlighting the 50 women who really owned 2018. They're disrupting billion-dollar industries (like Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd and Glossier’s Emily Weiss), founding billion-dollar companies (including Adi Tatarko of Houzz and Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe), taking them public (see: Eventbrite’s Julia Hartz and Stitch Fix’s Katrina Lake), and of course, running them (congrats Susan Wojcicki of YouTube and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy of StubHub). Women are also changing the stories we tell (yes, Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay) and how we tell them (a round of applause for Netflix’s Cindy Holland and Disney’s Jennifer Lee).

Listed in alphabetical order—because they’re all on top!—these 50 disrupters, creators, and innovators are seriously leading the charge. We promise by the time you finish scrolling, you’ll feel inspired, empowered, and ready to join them as they shake up the status quo.

Theresia Gouw

An early investment in Facebook helped Gouw’s net worth skyrocket to a reported $500 million, prompting Forbes to proclaim her the richest self-made female venture capitalist in the U.S. this year. What’d she do with the cash? Launched Aspect Ventures—one of the few funds run by two women (Jennifer Fonstad is cofounder)—which closed a $181 million round earlier this year and oversaw its first billion-dollar IPO in cybersecurity startup ForeScout. 


Ockam releases open source code to solve IoT developers’ greatest challenges

[Read on Medium]

We are excited to announce the open source release of Ockam which is now available in GitHub.

Today’s product launch furthers our goal to make IoT developers’ lives easier with simple tools that tackle their biggest challenges.

The Ockam open source Software Developer Kit (SDK) contains a library for Golang developers and a Command Line Interface (CLI). Additional language support, features, and tools will be included in future releases. The Ockam SDK allows a developer to build Ockam functionality into their applications or embedded software. When a developer adds the Ockam SDK to the firmware in their connected devices they become clients to the Ockam Network, receive a unique Decentralized ID (did:ockam), can share data as a verified claim with another device, and can verify data that they receive from other IoT devices that are registered with the Network.

Why developers love Ockam

It’s simple

The Ockam SDK gives developers an experience that allows them to add identity, trust and interoperability in IoT devices. They do not need to have a deep understanding of secure IoT network architecture or complex cryptographic key identity management to use Ockam.

Interoperability of a service oriented architecture

Ockam is a new backbone for the next generation of high performance IoT ecosystems. Ockam is interoperable and built for multi-party IoT networks.

Serverless experience with simple pricing

Developers interact with the network with simple functions incorporated in their code, and only pay for what they consume.

Ockam is the ‘Twilio of IoT’

Ockam builds upon the proven developer-first model of Heroku/Twilio/Stripe, which abstracted away the technical complexity of cloud, telecommunications & payments. Developers only need to know a couple Ockam functions from the SDK to tune their IoT devices and applications with best practices.

Ockam is the ‘100x better’ solution for an IoT developer

Every developer gets to the point in a project where they must choose how to add identity, trust and interoperability into their IoT devices. Yesterday they could only choose to:

  • Do nothing: this is exceptionally common and leads to botnets and massive security vulnerabilities in devices.
  • Build their own end-to-end IoT infrastructure: this is a massive undertaking and costs million of dollars and requires specific expertise.
  • Buy an IoT platform vendor solution: end-to-end platforms are complex to implement, have high switching costs and lead to vendor lock-in which limits interoperability.

Today, with the Ockam SDK Launch, developers now have a better option: write a couple lines of code to give their device a secure immutable identity that is interoperable with the rest of their technology stack.

How Ockam works

“Ockam is tuned for IoT”

The architecture of Ockam is tuned to meet the complex needs of an IoT system. We eliminate the blind spots for developers so that they don’t need to focus on difficult architecture decisions or go to the expense required to build and maintain their own infrastructure.

Ockam is serverless

A developer only needs the SDK. The technical complexities of the Ockam Network are completely abstracted away. The developer only has to pay on a per use basis.

Ockam is built on rock solid cloud infrastructure

The Ockam network delivers high performance thanks to Azure confidential compute. Microsoft Engineering is a dedicated technical partner, sharing our quest to make life for IoT developers easy.

Ockam is Open Source, and built with Open Standards

Ockam’s founding team are deep Open Source veterans and have seen the magic that OSS delivers. We have curated the Ockam stack with the best features available and believe in a modular open source tech stack.

About the Founders: The right team at the right time

Developer Platforms and Open Source

While at Microsoft, Ockam CEO Matthew Gregory led Azure’s OSS developer platform strategy. He was a core member of the team responsible for Microsoft’s resurgence via Azure’s pivot to open source. He left Microsoft to revolutionize the IoT industry in the same way that the cloud world was revolutionized. See his thesis on the IoT developer stack here.

IoT Innovation and Security

Ockam CTO Mrinal Wadhwa built a full-stack IoT solution as CTO of Fybr. He’s taking the hard lessons learned from building an end-to-end IoT system and is now applying his knowledge to the Ockam architecture — his second IoT network.

Blockchain

Ockam COO Logan Jager is a seasoned Wall Street Veteran and spent the last decade in global credit markets at Citigroup. Logan’s deep experience in regulated financial markets has been instrumental in orchestrating a high level corporate strategy that turns the legal and regulatory considerations of blockchain into a competitive advantage for Ockam.

For more information


The Mom Project, a job site for moms returning to work, nabs $8M from Initialized and more

[Read on TechCrunch]

If you are a mother who has taken a break from full-time employment to raise kids, you may have also experienced the challenge that is jumping back into the working world after your break.

You may find you need more time flexibility; you have been out of the job market for years and so your confidence is knocked; your skills are no longer as relevant as they were before; or you just want to rethink your career; plus many employers — whether they say it or not — seem less interested in you because of all of the above, and no level of burnishing your resume on LinkedIn will help. It can be tough (and I say that from first-hand experience).

Now, Chicago-based startup The Mom Project, a platform specifically built to help female knowledge workers find jobs after pausing to raise kids, has raised a little egg of its own to take on this challenge. It’s picked up a Series A of $8 million that it plans to use to bring its job marketplace to more cities — it’s currently in Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco — and to expand the kinds of services it offers to make the challenge of juggling work and parenthood easier.

The funding is being led by Grotech Ventures and Initialized Capital, with another new investor, Aspect Ventures, and previous backers Atlanta Seed Company, Engage Ventures, OCA Ventures, BBG Ventures, IrishAngels and Wintrust Financial also participating.

This brings the total raised by The Mom Project  to $11 million, and with 75,000 registered moms and 1,000 companies, including Procter & Gamble, BP, Miller Coors and AT&T, the startup claims it’s now the largest platform of its kind in the U.S.

From selling diapers to changing diapers

Allison Robinson, the founder and CEO of The Mom Project, said she came up with the idea for the startup in 2016, when she was on maternity leave from a strategy role at Pampers.

“I started realising a lot about moms before I became one,” she says about her last role before striking out as an entrepreneur. “But what I hadn’t understood until I was on maternity leave myself was that your priorities can change after having a child.” (She’s pictured up above with her son.)

Citing a study she’d seen in the Harvard Business Review that estimated 43 percent of skilled women exit the workforce after having children, Robinson realised there was a gap in the market for those among them who had timed out from returning to their previous roles, but still wanted to make the leap back into working at some point.

And she has a point: Not only do people who decide they want to return to work face all of the usual issues of newly needing more time flexibility, wondering whether their skills are still current enough, general confidence and so on, but the average recruitment process, and job sites overall, do not really have ways to account for any of that very well.

And the gap exists on the employer side of the marketplace, too. Businesses — both large corporates very much in the public eye as well as smaller businesses that are not — are rethinking how they hire and keep good people in the overall competition for talent. (Just this week, the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics said that the number of unfilled positions in the information and communication technology sector rose by 24.3 percent compared to last year in the country, a shortage that’s reflected in other markets.)

Having a diverse workforce — including more women and women from different walks of life — is key not only to helping counteract that, but to contribute to better overall work culture. That’s a fact that many employers have realised independently or have simply been thrown into the spotlight unwittingly and now are trying to repair.

And yet, there haven’t been many opportunities for them to pursue more diverse hiring practices.

LinkedIn recently made a tiny move into exploring diversity in hiring by at least allowing recruiters to search their job candidate results by gender, but this is a far cry from actually addressing the specific predicaments that particular segments of the working population have, and how to help them connect better with employers who might be keen to bring more of them on through recruitment.

In fact, the idea of providing improved job search for knowledge workers in specific cases is actually a very interesting one that shows there is definitely still room for innovation in the world of recruitment: Handshake earlier this year raised $40 million for its own take on this, which is providing a better LinkedIn-style platform to connect minority university graduates with interesting job opportunities at companies keen to make their workforces more diverse.

“Companies have started to realize the value in building a diverse workforce, but we still have a long way to go in achieving equal representation and opportunities,” said Julia Taxin, a partner at Grotech and new Mom Project board member. “Allison and her team have built an incredible marketplace of diverse talent for companies and I look forward to working with The Mom Project to execute on their vision of helping to close the gender gap in the workplace.”

The Mom Project, Robinson said, is tackling the challenges at both ends of the spectrum.

On the employer side, she said there is a lot of educating going on, talking to HR people and getting them to understand the opportunity they could unlock by hiring more parents — which tend to be almost entirely all-women, but sometimes men, too.

“We want to provide more data to these companies,” she said, pointing out that it’s not just a matter of providing a job opportunity, but also giving parents options in areas like childcare, or flexible working schedules. “We want to show them ‘here is where you are doing well, and here is where you are not. Fixes don’t cost a lot of money, but a lot of companies are just not aware.”

“We’ve got 75,000 women on our platform, and currently around 1,000 companies posting jobs,” she said. “The goal is to have 75,000-plus jobs. We want to make sure that all the moms signing up on the platform are getting work.”

“The Mom Project is determined to create a future where women aren’t forced to choose between their families and their careers,” said Alda Leu Dennis, partner at Initialized Capital and new Mom Project board member, in a statement. “There is a huge pool of experienced talent, parents and non-parents, that is sometimes overlooked because companies haven’t created the kind of diverse, flexible workplace culture that attracts and retains them. Initialized wants to be part of making this cultural shift happen.”

On the parent side, not only is it also about making the platform known to people who are considering a return to work, but it’s also about some fundamental, but very important basics, such as giving would-be jobseekers the flexibility to go to interviews. Robinson said that one campaign it’s about to launch, in partnership with Urban Sitter, is to provide free childcare credits to Mom Project jobseekers so that they can get to their interview.

“Sometimes you have to go to an interview with 24 hours’ notice, and lining up a sitter can be stressful,” she said. “We want to alleviate that.”

Parents also know that this isn’t just an issue for the interview: Many towns and regions have what Robinson called “childcare deserts,” where there is a scarcity of affordable options to replace the parent on a more daily basis.

Contract work is king (and queen)

For now, Robinson said that the majority of jobs on the platform are focused on fixed-term employment — that is, not permanent, full-time work.

This is due to a number of reasons. For example, parents coming back to working after a break may be more inclined to ease in with shorter roles and less long-term commitment. And employers are still testing out how this demographic of workers will work out, so to speak. Equally, though, we have seen a huge swing in more general employment trends, where businesses are hiring fixed-term workers rather than full-time employees to account for seasonality and to give themselves more flexibility (not to mention less liability on the benefits front).

While Robinson said that the aim is definitely to bring more full-time job opportunities to the platform over time, this has nonetheless presented an interesting business opportunity to The Mom Project. The startup acts like Airbnb, Amazon and a number of other marketplaces, where it not only connects job-seekers and employers, but also then handles all the transactions around the job. When the job is fixed-term, the Mom Project essentially becomes like the job agency paying the employee, and that is how it makes a cut. And it also becomes the provider of benefits and more.

In other words, while there is an immediate opportunity for The Mom Project to compete against (or at least win some business from) the likes of LinkedIn to target the specific opportunity of providing jobs for women returning to work, there is a potentially and equally big one in becoming a one-stop employment shop to handle customers’ other needs as employers or workers, providing a range of other services, from payroll through to childcare listings and more.