20 Bay Area Startups Ripe for a Series A Investment

It’s been a couple years since we shifted our product development focus at Mattermark to supporting sales and marketing deal sourcing, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost my love for speculating on which startups are most likely to raise funding next.

Living in San Francisco these past 8 years, I’ve noticed there are often companies that appear seemingly out of the blue and then raise a boatload of money. This was part of what inspired me to start Mattermark in the first place. Can we detect these companies earlier if we were paying closer attention to data exhaust they produce? If we were watching the web traffic, social media, mobile app downloads, and other signals around companies climb – even from super small numbers at first – could the slope of that growth tell us something about what a hot emerging company looks like in it’s earliest days.

I’ve spent over 4 years working on exploring these questions now, and it’s endlessly fascinating. Without further ado, here’s my list of Bay Area startups who haven’t announced a Series A funding round yet but should be on every venture capitalists shortlist:

This list is influenced by growth signals found in Mattermark (which is how I built my initial screen, as explained below) and then editorialized by me, based on a combination of what I think is interesting, trendy, backed back other investors with a track record of getting their seed investments graduated to the next stage. If you feel like your company should have been on this list just go raise a Series A, and prove me wrong!

Like this comic? Steve Hanov’s blog has a bunch more!

How I Built My Initial Screen

Mattermark has ~3K companies tagged with Bay Area and “Pre Series A”, which means they’ve raised some funding by not a Series A. When we increase this filter to also include all Bay Area companies with no known funding (like unannounced seed rounds) that number jumps to ~40K.

I wrote a Series A benchmarking analysis in January 2015 that determined the average Series A deal is announced when a company is at ~15 employees. I paid attention to companies approaching this size for my selection criteria, and also made sure the net team size had increased at least 1% over the past 6 months.

I’ve raised more than $18 million in funding for my company through several rounds, and I can confirm the rule of thumb that a company raises seed funding to last them 18+ months. Knowing this, I focused on companies who had gone at least 9 months since their funding announcement. With all these criteria applied, I’d already whittled the list down to just 477 companies (and yes if you click this link and sign up it is totally free to view it!). Btw, if you save this search with a name like “hot series A opportunities” Mattermark will automatically email you whenever a new company meets this criteria. This is exactly how the most data driven top tier VC firms in the business use us!

I realized after I wrote this that I had not placed an upper bound on months since last funding, and I didn’t want to get a lot of old dead companies in my list. So I put 24 months since last funding announcement as my maximum. Down to just 167 companies.

 

A Walk in The Land of Never Was: Lessons That Led to Green-Lighting Our Most Popular Feature

There are so many reasons not to do a thing. Fear, laziness, lack of skill or resources, and stubbornness all come to mind. But this year, I found a reason more dangerous than all of them, worse because its lackluster sound gives it the camouflage of dullness among a deluge of new shiny things.

The danger is in finding a great idea, but thinking it doesn’t matter and tossing it aside. “No, obviously we won’t do that,” is the catch phrase. Spoken with enough confidence, especially by someone powerful and respected who uses logic well, and that idea enters the Land of Never Was.

The Land of Never Was is the place where discarded ideas go to hang out. It’s the bottom of the backlog, the coldest corner of the icebox, the bottom right hand corner of the kanban board. It’s a mostly dull gray place; dusty, creased, redolent with the smell of crumpled and slowly disintegrating notebook pages and post-it notes that long ago lost their stick.

Around this time of year I like to take a vacation there, and walk along the shore of the Sea of Could Have Been with my little metal detector skimming the dunes for something shiny that I might have missed. Whenever I do this I keep my expectations low, so I’m not necessarily expecting to unearth any treasures, but it gives me an excuse to stare out at the horizon.

I’ve been working on my startup for nearly 5 years, and on startups overall for 10 years, so the sea has had a lot of time to break down and turn over the remnants. You’d think after all that time, walking the same stretch of beach, I’d find fewer and fewer items of interest, but it isn’t so. I keep finding new ways to circle back on old ideas, as my little detector beeps and I dig up some shiny scrap that I didn’t notice last time I wandered here.

“No, obviously we won’t do that.”

Self-help books are abuzz with find the life-changing magic of tidying up, saying ‘no’ more often, giving fewer fucks, and startup culture rewards being stubborn in a “Jobsian” ideal of the creative genius persona. For those of us who already drank all this Kool Aid and are tough stubborn self-directed intensely independent motherfuckers, I have a suggestion: take a walk on the shore of your own imagination, along your Sea of Could Have Been.

Find something you said “No” to that should have been a yes, and make it right.


It took us awhile to find this particular treasure, but we’re so happy that Mattermark now offers the ability to look up contact email addresses!

Also posted on Medium

Request For Startup: Personal CRM for Grown-up Friendships

My life is really full, as a startup founder and CEO there are endless things to do. There are always more meetings I could take (maybe should take?) and by the time Friday evening rolls around I’m usually pretty happy to head home and curl up for the next two days on the couch with a book, a drink, and some good music.

This is probably not new… but lately, the signals have been getting through.

“It’s hard to support someone I never see.”

“You’re really hard to get a hold of.”

These aren’t coming from business contacts, and they’re not coming to me by email. They’re coming from friends who I have to admit I don’t know when I last saw, and they are texts, Facebook messages, Twitter DMs. I saw friends 2 weekends ago who I met separately, knew as they met, courted, and got married and I was at the wedding… but that was 6 months ago! We are all shocked when we added up the time.

These are not casual acquaintances, theses are real friendships and the message is coming through loud and clear: invest here or you risk growing apart, losing touch.

Growing up I was one of those kids who wasn’t really part of any one clique, but had a friend or two in every single one. I was a serial monogamist when it came to best friends, usually those relationships would last a few years at a time and then we’d grow apart and move on. Now as a married career-focused woman, living in a major city, not planning to have kids I am realizing that my friendships are really important to my happiness in life. They are my chosen family, and the aloofness of how I’m acting doesn’t line up at all with how I actually feel.

Weird.

Over the years I’ve tried to solve this by building better habits, trying to bring my professional best practices to bear on my personal life. Off and on again I’ve had lists, Excel spreadsheets, even entered people into RelateIQ just so I could skim the list from time to time and make sure we were staying in touch. I always have this fantasy of sending Christmas cards, I even buy them!, and then it never happens because I don’t have the addresses. I’d say we host a party at our house every other month at most… it used to be every couple weeks. Frankly, Kevin and I aren’t even great about proactively scheduling dates — we usually just wing it and I’m pretty happy with that, until suddenly I’m like, “why haven’t we gone on a REAL DATE in 6 months?” and then I’m not happy with it til we do (I know you husbands out there are LOLing).

I need a CRM for my personal life, but not called a CRM obviously and much more tailored to stuff like birthdays, kids names, anniversaries, food preferences, and other stuff that matters but is just hard to remember. On top of that, I want to know when I last spoke with or hung out with a friend and I want to be reminded to do things like send flowers, write a quick congratulations email, invite them to a wine night or book night or boardgame night or whatever at my house.

I know this sounds super mercenary, but I bet it would work.

I think NextDoor could have been this, but won’t be because it’s too gossipy and impersonal. It isn’t Facebook. It isn’t anything I use today, because brand-wise I want it to be private. My Mom had this pretty blue book where she’d record all of this stuff about her friends and family. I remember they each got a page, and it was usually on the desk in our kitchen next to the phone. I want something like that, but for the modern age… preferably on my phone.

Who will build it?