Better Ventures

Better Ventures is a venture capital firm that provides funding and support to companies creating scalable solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Better Ventures Closes $21M for Fund II and Backs Werk

We are thrilled to announce our pre-seed investment in Werk, a New York-based startup that is building a marketplace of flexible work opportunities for women. The company raised $1M in the round with participation from seed-stage venture firms Precursor Ventures, Montage Ventures, Halogen Ventures, and Social Starts. Werk will use the capital to build out the product offering and grow their pool of job seekers within their membership-based model. The company fits nicely within our Opportunity investment theme (sub-theme: Future of Work), and we are bullish on their ability to unlock the immense latent potential of retaining more women in the workforce.

In other news, we are excited to report that we held a final close on Better Ventures Fund II just before the holidays! We finished up the raise with total commitments of $21M and brought on Prudential as a new institutional investor. TechCrunch covered the closing today. We've been busy putting that capital to work, as Werk represents our 11th investment in the fund, with two more deals on the docket we'll be announcing soon. As we look to augment our capacity to sustain the growth of our portfolio, we're hiring an Operations and Community Manager, and we'd love your help in identifying candidates. You can view the posting here, and please note that we're asking applicants to apply via a referral to one of us.

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Better Ventures is Hiring an Operations and Community Manager

 

Better Ventures, an Oakland, CA-based venture firm that backs entrepreneurs building a better world, is hiring an Operations and Community Manager.  We recently closed a $21M second fund, and we are adding an integral team member to support the growth of our portfolio and increase our capacity to service our portfolio companies.  First and foremost, this position is responsible for the operational aspects of our investing and portfolio management activities including managing and tracking new investment opportunities, organizing due diligence and drafting deal memos, investor reporting, interfacing with bookkeepers and auditors, calendaring and contact management, and any other administrative tasks necessary to keep our engines running.  Secondarily, the position also includes community-facing responsibilities such as event planning and logistics for our PreSeed startup support and deal-sourcing platform, building community within our founder network, social media and PR, and managing our website content.  The Operations and Community Manager will work directly with the two managing directors of Better Ventures and with our portfolio company founders. 

We are seeking an energetic and relentlessly resourceful “Jack/Jill of all trades” with a positive attitude who is willing to roll up his or her sleeves and get the job done, no matter what it takes.  The ideal candidate will possess both an entrepreneurial mindset to work effectively with little oversight and a mastery of details to seamlessly execute on all operational logistics.  Prior experience in operations, project management, program management, administration, running an accelerator, and/or starting a company is essential, while strong connections to the UC Berkeley founder ecosystem is a big plus.  This is a rare early-career opportunity for someone who is passionate about startups and venture capital to join an up-and-coming venture firm and be a significant contributor to take our work to the next level.  This is a full-time position based in Oakland, CA.  Please apply only through a referral to Wes Selke or Rick Moss. 

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Better Ventures Leads $850k Seed Round in Iris Plans

We are excited to announce our $250,000 seed investment in Iris Plans, an Austin, TX-based digital health startup that provides Advance Care Planning (ACP) solutions for patients facing serious chronic illness. Iris Plans uses a telehealth platform with secure video conferencing and decision support tools to enable patients and their families to better plan for and navigate their critical treatment decisions in a complex healthcare system. The company is building a B2B model through which it works with health insurers and healthcare providers to reduce unnecessary utilization by 25%, employing proprietary algorithms that identify patients who will most benefit from ACP. Iris Plans is finalizing partnership agreements with a variety of partners and will use the proceeds from the round to build out the platform and launch with new customers this fall. More on the announcement here.

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LeadGenius Raises $10M Series B Round

We are thrilled to report that Better Ventures portfolio company LeadGenius closed a $10M Series B round last week, led by Lumia Capital. We participated in the round along with Javelin Venture Partners and existing investors Sierra Ventures, Kapor Capital, Bee Partners, Y Combinator and others. This round brings their total financing to date to $20M. You can read more about the announcement here

LeadGenius, which was one of our first investments out of Fund I in 2011, is a Berkeley-based enterprise SaaS company that provides lead generation and qualification, leveraging both software and a platform of freelancer workers in the US and around the world. The company has strong intentionality around creating digital work opportunities for underemployed workers and to date has created 500 well-paying jobs, primarily for women and younger workers, in 40 different countries.
 

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Better Ventures Backs NextRequest to Improve Access to Government Records

We are pleased to announce our seed investment in NextRequest, a San Francisco-based "govtech" startup that provides modern, robust, and user-friendly Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and public records processing software to local government agencies around the US. NextRequest is bringing government into the 21st century by streamlining the process of requesting information - saving time and money - and dramatically improving public access to government records. Govtech has been described as a "$400B market hiding in plain sight" and the industry is poised for breakout growth due in part to increased adoption of cloud computing by government agencies and an influx of younger tech-savvy workers into the sector.
 

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PreSeed Fireside Chat with Legendary Impact Investor Mitch Kapor

When we created Better Ventures PreSeed to help catalyze the social entrepreneurship community in Oakland, we couldn't have hoped for a better speaker than legendary investor and philanthropist Mitch Kapor. 

Simply put, Mitch and his wife Freada -- along with Kapor Capital and Kapor Center -- are giants in the field of impact investing and philanthropy, and they are paving the way for so many others, including Better Ventures. They are a veritable force of nature in Oakland as philanthropists and investors.

As such, it was an honor and a pleasure to have a good, long chat with Mitch at Impact Hub Oakland to hear all about his work, how he got to where he is, his views on Oakland and diversity in tech and where he and the Kapor empire is headed.

As it turns out, Mitch may possibly be the most entertaining and quotable speaker in impact investing, so please indulge us while we provide more quotes here than we normally would. Here are just a few of the most noteworthy nuggets of wisdom in our talk.  The full video is below or you can watch it among our other past events in our Video Archive.

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Better Ventures Leads Seed Round in Localwise

We are pleased to announce our seed investment in Localwise, a Berkeley-based startup that connects local businesses with local workers. The company is building a technology-driven employment marketplace that is based on trust, which is a missing component in many of the leading jobs platforms including Craiglist. Localwise's DNA is local, and they are combining their local focus with social features such as employee references to build a better jobs platform that is a delight to use and results in better hiring outcomes. The company offers tiered pricing models for employers depending on size and hiring needs. Better Ventures led Localwise's seed round, with participation from Bee Partners and a number of angel investors. 
 

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SunFunder Raises $17M in Equity and Debt in 2015

SunFunder (BVFI and BVFII portfolio company) had a banner year during 2015, raising $17M in equity and debt capital. In December, the company closed a $3.8M Series B round led by Treehouse Investments with participation from Better Ventures and other existing investors including Kholsa Impact, Schneider Electric, and Radicle Capital. The company will use the capital to continue to grow the team, expand into new geographies and solar project segments, and further build out their risk-mitigation technology platform. SunFunder also closed out the year with $13M in Solar Notes raised, which will be used to provide working capital, structured finance, and project finance loans to off-grid solar in the developing world. Backers of the Solar Notes include Iberdrola, Deutsche Bank, Ceniarth, the Packard Foundation, and Calvert, among many others.  

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UtilityAPI Awarded $760k Grant from Department of Energy

We are thrilled to announce that Better Ventures Fund II portfolio company UtilityAPI has been selected to receive a $760,000 grant from the US Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative. The program, which was designed to address the challenges to ubiquitous, affordable solar energy deployment, is highly competitive with hundreds of companies applying for a small number of funding slots. The capital will be used by UtilityAPI to build more data connections to utilities and further expand the geographical footprint of the company's API service. With the Paris climate talks in full swing, a big emphasis is on technologies such as UtilityAPI to drive adoption of renewable energy and ween our planet from fossil fuels. 

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PreSeed Fireside Chat with Nancy Pfund from DBL Investors

Each month, Better Ventures convenes top leaders in impact investing and entrepreneurship for a fireside chat, networking, and workshops geared towards early-stage companies.  We held a PreSeed fireside chat with powerhouse social impact investor Nancy Pfund on October 29. The house was packed and Nancy delivered the goods. 

Nancy is without a doubt one of the leading impact investors of our day, with blockbuster successes including Tesla, Solar City, Pandora, Revolution Foods and more.  And she's an inspiration to entrepreneurs and investors alike, demonstrating every day that you can make money and do good on a very large scale.

It was a wide-ranging conversation covering her background, her portfolio, Oakland, gender and diversity in the technology industry, and where she's focusing the firm's new $400 million venture fund. Here are some of our favorite moments:

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Better Ventures Backs K4Connect to Improve the Lives of Seniors

We are delighted to announce our seed investment in K4Connect, a technology integration company that makes life simpler and healthier for seniors. K4's software platform seamlessly integrates disparate smart devices into a single responsive system, which transforms senior living facilities into smart homes. This automation technology not only makes life better for seniors but also provides valuable and actionable data to caregivers to improve the quality of care. Better Ventures Fund II participated in K4's $1.9 million Series Seed round, which included Sierra Ventures, Lowe's Companies, and Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners. We are excited to be working with Sierra Ventures again, which led LeadGenius' Series A round last year. 

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PreSeed Launches with Fireside Chat Featuring Serial Impact Entrepreneur, Xavier Helgesen

Each month, Better Ventures convenes top leaders in impact investing and entrepreneurship for a fireside chat, networking, and workshops geared towards early-stage companies.  

For our inaugural event, we couldn't have asked for a better guest speaker. Xavier Helgesen is the founder and CEO of solar-as-a-service startup Off Grid Electric, which has raised over $23M to bring clean energy to people throughout Africa, as well as the founder of Better World Books, an online used bookstore with over $70M in annual revenue. Along with his deep commitment to making the world a better place with scalable business models, his charming personality and great stories quickly won over the crowd. 

A few key themes and highlights from the evening:

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Better Ventures Approved for Investment by ImpactAssets and Joins the IA50

We are thrilled to announce that Better Ventures Fund II has been approved for investment by ImpactAssets' Giving Fund, a donor advised fund with over $200 million of assets under management. ImpactAssets (IA) is a leading financial services firm dedicated to increasing the flow of capital into investments that deliver financial, social, and environmental returns. Through the Giving Fund’s Global Impact Ventures platform, clients have unique access to high-quality, vetted private equity and debt funds that are pursuing both financial returns and positive impact. Better Ventures has also been selected to join the IA50, an annual list of the leading impact investment firms across the globe. The bar is high for inclusion on both the Global Impact Ventures platform and the IA50, and we are honored to be among a short list of funds to make the cut.

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Eko Devices Secures FDA Approval for Eko Core

We are thrilled about the news that Better Ventures portfolio company Eko Devices  has secured FDA approval to launch Eko Core, a Bluetooth enabled device that connects to a conventional stethoscope and wirelessly transmits heard sounds to a smartphone app (aka "Shazam for Heartbeats"). Eko Core has the potential to dramatically improve cardiac care by enabling clinicians to view heart sound waveform, save heart sounds to a patient's electronic medical record, and securely collaborate with a cardiologist. This both improves health outcomes by better identifying heart abnormalities and saves healthcare costs by reducing the number of unnecessary visits to cardiologists. Stanford University Department of Medicine will be the first institution to deploy the Eko Core, which is now available for purchase to millions of clinicians around the US.
 

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Better Ventures Commits $1M to Oakland Startups

We’re thrilled to announce a commitment of $1 million to back pre-seed stage technology companies based in Oakland and Berkeley that are pursing social and environmental outcomes.  Through our Better Ventures PreSeed program and backed by our recently launched second fund, we will invest $100,000 in 10 pre-seed stage startups, with an emphasis on companies based in Oakland, CA and those started by UC Berkeley founders. PreSeed convenes thought leaders, networking, and resources to advance a thriving impact startup ecosystem in Oakland. Our next event is a fireside chat with serial impact entrepreneur Xavier Helgesen (founder of Off-Grid Electric and Better World Books) on September 29th at ImpactHub Oakland. 

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Announcing Our Seed Investment in BrightCurrent


We are pleased to announce our seed investment in BrightCurrent, a leading customer acquisition platform for residential solar and other clean energy solutions. The Oakland, CA-based company combines proprietary technology with a scalable fulfillment service to acquire residential customers below market rates at major retailers including Costco, Sears, Orchard Supply & Hardware, Ace and others. They originate solar sales, which are then sold to their customer base of top solar installation and finance partners such as SunRun, SunPower, and OneRoof Energy. 

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Eko Devices Raises $2M Series Seed Round

We are thrilled to announce that Better Ventures Fund I portfolio company Eko Devices has raised a $2 million Series Seed round led by Founder.org. Stanford University's StartX Fund, former Health and Human Services adviser John Noonan, and the co-founders of music analytics company Shazam also participated in the round. This fresh round of capital will be used to fuel Eko’s clinical trials with the University of California San Francisco, achieve FDA clearance, and launch commercially. Eko Devices’ product (aka "Shazam for Heartbeats”) is a Bluetooth-powered attachment to an analog stethoscope that enables heart sounds to be recorded on a smartphone or tablet and analyzed in the cloud by specialists and a murmur detection algorithm. 

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UClass Acquired by Renaissance Learning

We are excited to announce that Better Ventures Fund I company UClass has been acquired by Renaissance Learning, a K-12 assessment and learning analytics company, which has a valuation of over $1 billion. The deal was officially announced last Thursday and covered by several media outlets including TechCruch. This is a big win for the UClass team, as they'll be joining forces with a formidable edtech industry giant that is backed by Hellman & Friedman and Google Capital and whose services are used by a third of UhS schools. The combined platform will now enable teachers to assess how students are doing and then quickly match them to resources in the UClass library, where content is tagged for compliance with Common Core standards. Currently UClass is used by hundreds of thousands of teachers and students in more than 5,000 schools with over 16 million pieces of learning content.

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Announcing Our Seed Investment in UtilityAPI

We are thrilled to announce our seed investment in UtilityAPI, an enterprise software company that is accelerating the worldwide shift to renewable energy by making it easier and more cost effective to switch to solar. The company's API portal service enables solar companies to seamlessly connect to prospective customers' utility accounts and instantly download structured data that is used to better qualify leads and improve the likelihood of a sale. Accessing historic usage and billing data from utilities is a major customer acquisition pain point for solar companies, resulting in as much as a 30% loss in lead conversion.

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