Fundraising

NextView Investment Themes: A Search for Authenticity

NextView Investment Themes: A Search for Authenticity

At NextView, we’ve long had a set of ethos or guiding principles behind all we do, which includes internal work as a team, external work as investors, and the lens through which we view seed-stage startups and their founding teams. The ethos we mention most often is authenticity — we firmly believe that the best companies are borne out of authentic passions, experiences, and relationships.You might be able to build a reasonably successful business by spotting a hole in some market somewhere, but it’s much more likely that outlandish success will be won by founders (and, really, people) who are authentically interested in solving a problem. You’re more likely to run through walls, find creative solutions, and maintain a sense of grit and purpose if something is true to your experiences in life. Maybe you struggled with something in a former job or as a consumer. Maybe a loved one or friend did. Maybe a past employer as a whole.

Whatever the case, we admire founders who are authentic in their founding purpose, and we find the most successful partnerships happen when we are equally as authentic in our desire to support their missions.

So, rather than simply write a list of themes and trends in tech that are attractive to us as investors, we wanted to practice what we preach by tying each theme of interest directly to why it’s authentic to us — not just the flavor of the week in tech.

To that end, here are just a few of the themes and areas of interest the NextView team is excited about right now…

David Beisel

@davidbeisel  |  LinkedIn

beisel

Sector: B2B On-Demand

To date, nearly all of the startups riding the mega-trend adoption of on-demand services have been geared towards the consumer. However, the same revolution which is empowered by smartphone adoption will also be extended to business users as well, particularly those workers who are already mobile themselves. Some already participate in the on-demand economy as labor, but what about serving them and all of the others who work outside the office with real-time help in accomplishing what they need to get done?

Authenticity to NextView

B2B on-demand is the perfect combination between two of our existing portfolio strengths: The fact that half of our investments are business-focused startups, and our expertise with consumer on-demand services like Paintzen, TaskRabbit, and Scratch.

 

Rob Go

@robgo  |  LinkedIn

rob go

Sector #1: Invisible Interfaces

The next evolution in the way we interact with computers is not going to be based necessarily on another breakthrough device like a smart phone but based on new interaction paradigms that go beyond reading, tapping, and typing. I’m excited about how the proliferation of smart devices will change the way we communicate to machines and the ways that machines communicate with us. This includes everything from new forms of non-visual entertainment (e.g. podcasts), to less visual consumer-to-consumer communication, to device control. I’m looking both at applications that leverage this trend as well as enabling technologies and picks-and-shovels businesses that enable other application layer products, all of which will form around this theme of invisible interfaces.

Authenticity to NextView

I’ve always been fascinated with next generation Human-Computer Interfaces. I’ve written multiple blog posts on this topic over the years, most recently this post about “Voice.” We’re also experimenting with the podcast medium quite a bit, launching a 5-star show, Traction, and experiencing the power (and challenges/opportunities) of the medium firsthand.

Sector #2: Invisible Applications

The basic idea here is to provide an application that gets a job done with the most natural, conversational interactions possible with end users. I think the success of these types of companies are driven by (1) better, faster, more natural user experience, (2) advances in machine learning and AI to be able to fulfill open-ended requests accurately, and (3) using data scale to make #1 and #2 better and better. This can be done with an application that mimics messaging or exists within these services, which have obviously massive audiences.

Authenticity to NextView

We’ve already made two investments in this area: Scratch in the consumer space and one unannounced company in the B2B space. We want to do more!

Lee Hower

@leehower  |  LinkedIn

lee hower

Sector: Insurance in the Internet Age

Insurance is the next big wave of the fintech revolution that has been going on for the last 5-10 years. The internet has disrupted stock brokerage (E*Trade), payments (PayPal, Stripe), and lending (LendingClub, OnDeck, et al), but little innovation has happened in insurance. In most advanced economies, 40-50% or more of insurance is bought and managed over the internet, but in the US, it’s 1-5% in most insurance categories. I’m looking at both next-generation insurance companies that own the consumer experience (like Metromile in auto or Oscar in health), as well as picks-and-shovels businesses that will empower both new and existing insurance carriers.

Authenticity to NextView

I’ve been interested in fintech for awhile, given that I started my career as an early employee at PayPal. We’ve made investments in payments companies Swipely and Plastiq and are excited to back entrepreneurs tackling the insurance space.

Tim Devane

@tdevane  |  LinkedIn

devane

Sector #1: Intelligence Augmentation

AI is a trending sector for startups and seed funds right now. Since around 2006, newly proven efficiencies in neural network structure and speed have improved the accuracy of document planning in NLP. These are still very early days for machine learning, and we’re many iterations and innovations away from a wholly independent AI that can understand all of our semantics, let alone incite the Singularity. That’s why the concept of Intelligence Augmentation compels me. IA is the side of the Smart Machine argument focused on AI collaborating with the human mind instead of replicating and eventually surpassing it.

To me there are two fascinating manifestations of IA today:

  1. Humans are freed of redundant or mundane work by machines.
  2. Human capabilities – for example, creativity, complex theory, and contrarian strategy – are enhanced and expanded by the current capabilities of machines – such as computational and analytical power.

Authenticity to NextView

We hold firm to the belief that working with inherently good people produces the most worthwhile experiences and outcomes. Intelligence Augmentation requires that entrepreneurs with a positive and altruistic outlook on the importance of humanity in technology development lead the way. These will necessarily be good people.

Additionally, my colleagues have often written about the long arc of the Internet and the continually disruptive role it will play along that arc. Part of what makes the internet so powerful is that it has extracted an unprecedented amount of data on all things human: our histories, our health, our laws, our thoughts, our interests, our secrets, our relationships, and every single one of our habits. Now we need to figure out what to do with it all. We believe that intelligent statistical engines and learning algorithms are going to make that effort significantly more straightforward and exciting.

Sector #2: Mobile Video Consumption

We seem to be at a watershed moment for mobile video consumption. Ephemeral and real-time video apps have broken new ground as we consider how and what types of video individuals are drawn to on mobile. Snapchat and Periscope just scratch the surface of what’s to come as far as aggregate viewing numbers and programmed or live event-based content are concerned. YouTube, Netflix and HBO mirror their desktop experiences on mobile and that’s fine for now. Where will people watch? What will broadcast television and the networks and providers behind them have to say? How does user-generated video stand up to or alongside highly produced content from Hollywood? What streaming, connectivity, UX, or platform challenges lay ahead in order for mobile video to truly compete with incumbents? When-oh-when will a movie premiere online only to a virtual theater audience?

Authenticity to NextView

While I’m still the new guy at NextView and so haven’t worked with companies in this space, I’ve written often about both the challenges of a shift to mobile video consumption and some of the opportunities for existing video-related industries to innovate during this shift: Premiere a Movie Online, Backwards TVs and Harmonized Commutes, Surviving Web to Mobile.

Lee Hower

I’m an investor, entrepreneur, and helper of technology startups. I’m currently a General Partner of NextView Ventures, which focuses on seed stage internet-enabled businesses. I co-founded NextView in 2010 with my partners Rob Go and David Beisel. I started in the VC business as a Principal at Point Judith Capital, an early-stage firm. I joined PJC in 2005 and served as a Principal at the firm through early 2010. During this time I co-led investments in FanIQ, Sittercity, and Multiply and sourced investments in Music Nation and NABsys. Prior to becoming a VC, I was a startup guy myself. I was part of the founding team of LinkedIn, and served as Director of Corporate Development from the company’s inception through our early growth phases. Before that I was an early employee at PayPal, and worked in product management and corporate development roles through the company’s IPO in 2002 and subsequent sale to eBay later that year. I went to college at UPenn and received degrees from both the School of Engineering and Wharton School of Business.


    • My respect and love for you guys just continues to grow. Great post!

    • Great article! Much appreciated on the insight as to what’s important to each of you when looking at a potential startup investment.

    Subscribe To Our Blog

    Expert tips, actionable resources, and exclusive stories dedicated to building and funding early-stage startups.