After five years of investing in world class founders, we’re excited to open up the Story Blog. We started writing this in 2016, at a time when blogging was going to be a big part of our strategy. Yet half a decade later, here we are, just now ready to publish. Talk about the challenge of prioritizing at an early stage firm. But as we learned quickly at a startup, better late than never.
We launched Story Ventures in 2016 to capitalize on a trend we anticipated would change the way people interact with technology: systems that utilize digital data to automate manual processes in legacy industries.
This data stack, as we call it, originated from our work on autonomous vehicles at Fontinalis, Bill Ford’s mobility fund. At the time, billions of dollars were being poured into autonomous vehicles: sensors were decreasing in price and improving in quality, data infrastructure was creating new ways to organize, aggregate, and structure data, and the advent of machine intelligence was ushering in a new wave of smart applications. We saw the impact this data stack had on vehicles and asked the simple question, ‘how will it impact the rest of the world?’
That question stuck in our minds as we met entrepreneurs bursting at the seams to leverage new types of data across various industries. Yet despite talented founders imagining a future driven by data, very few investors were willing to look around the corner. This gap was particularly glaring in NYC and the middle of the country, where we struggled to find early stage investors willing to take the leap.
With this backdrop, we officially launched our first fund in 2016, combining experiences at Fontinalis, Cravath, and Gunderson, to build the first exclusively data-focused firm in NYC. The fundraise for our first fund was brutally tough — second only to our next fundraise — and probably merits a post of its own. In short, we had an army of people who put their reputations on the line to help us succeed. Among them, our colleagues at Fontinalis, particularly the three Chris’s, went above and beyond to teach us the art of venture capital. Ward Breeze, our first ever investor, sent us the first Story deal and became our biggest champion. Friends like Nick Goss, Dave Gold, and Scott Lombart emphasized the importance of questioning all our assumptions, and remain our most concentrated investors to this day. In the end, with the support of 20 investors, we received $5M to pursue our vision around how data would transform the world.
In 2018, on the heels of a successful first fund — or at least the beginnings of a successful first fund — we raised $25 million to continue investing in data tech entrepreneurs. Our checks increased from $100k-$200k to $500k-$1M. We also started leading rounds and taking board seats. We were fortunate to receive investment from many incredible LPs, particularly the founders of our first ever portfolio companies, Petal, Freightwaves, Sayspring, and Jiko. We were just as fortunate to receive mentorship from tremendous investors like Hadley Harris and Nihal Mehta at Eniac, as well as first-time GPs like John Neamonitis at Lakehouse, Wes Barton and Keith Hamlin at Third Prime, Lucy Wang at Divergent, and Julian Counihan at Schematic Ventures.
Most importantly, we benefited from working in the trenches with all the Story founders. The investors, board members, and people we are today arose because of how these friends have influenced our paths. We intend to write much more about these experiences, starting with a series on Why We Invested In _________. Without giving too much away, here is a sampling of the most recent companies to become part of the Story portfolio:
- True Footage, a three-dimensional mapping company leveraging the ubiquity of LiDAR to extract floor plans from videos for residential appraisals.
- Phood, a food waste management company that utilizes computer vision to track and optimize end-of-day waste for food services companies.
- Particle Health, an electronic medical record aggregator that provides digital health companies with low cost, secure access to patient electronic medical records.
- Motorq, a connected vehicle data platform that enables automotive manufacturers and enterprises to properly store, manage, and access vehicle data.
- Aware, a network of therapists who use treatment based on first-party patient data to deliver personalized mental healthcare.
- Livez, an automated preventative medicine platform that codifies CDC guidelines to turn EMR data into preventative recommendations.
- Zaya, an insurance-enablement platform to help maternity specialists become in-network providers.
- Aether Biomedical, a bionic limb company that leverages bio-signal processing to automate EMG-to-prosthetic body movement.
We have much more to write, and hopefully many more people to build alongside. Thanks to everyone who has been part of the journey. We’re just getting started.