One of the great benefits of selling out is that I get to be an angel investor in a whole new generation of amazing companies. I can’t give any greater endorsement of a company than investing, so here are the most promising startups I know.
It’s rare to find a company that has a mission. It’s rarer still to find one whose mission is about solving a major consumer pain-point and unlocking billions in revenue. Apptentive is about both those things: they’re about loving your customer, and getting them to love you back. When Urbanspoon deployed Apptentive to their tens of millions of customers on iOS and Android, they jumped from 3.5 stars to 5 stars in a matter of weeks. Favorite reason for investing: They make it easy to do right by your customers and your bottom line.
When Bill Harding came to me for advice a few years ago, he told me that his startup was going to take on Craigslist and eBay. Fortunately, he didn’t take the advice I gave him, which was something along the lines of “Abandon Hope”. Instead, a few years and many millions of visitors later, he’s more than proven me wrong. Bonanza is one of the best places to find brilliant shopping inspiration, carrying – in their own words – “everything but the ordinary”. Favorite reason for investing: they’ve done the near-impossible, building a vibrant marketplace that can compete head-on with the big guys.
Funders Club makes it possible – even easy – to invest online in high-potential startups. With the JOBS act comes the promise of real crowdfunding: being able to actually invest in companies online, not just “back” them by preordering merchandise. This wave is going to be huge. Funders’ Club is already starting to realize this, allowing accredited angels to make the investment online. And I did. I actually made my investment in Funders Club, with Funders Club, just after midnight, in my basement, without lifting a pen. Favorite reason for investing: as a YCombinator alum, they have an inside track on both sides of their marketplace, the investors and the promising companies.
Pathable delivers white-label social networks to event organizers. Who hasn’t wished that a conference was better organized – easier to find sessions, connect with people, follow up on key topics? Pathable’s improved everything about conferences, including the name tags. Favorite reason for investing: they were already profitable, and after years of working with Jordan Schwartzat Microsoft, I knew he was too stubborn to lose my money.
After running Ontela for more than four years, I merged the company with our biggest partner, Photobucket. Although I’m no longer involved with the day-to-day operations of the company, I’m an investor and in it for the long haul. Favorite reason for investing: the world’s biggest standalone photo site.
When Kate Matsudaira told me she was starting a company I couldn’t wait to hear what she was up to. As the former technology leader at Delve, Moz, and Decide she’s managed more top-notch engineers than just about anyone in the Seattle startup world. So when she explained a product that would actually make managers better mentors and coaches, it was a no brainer. Favorite reason for investing: I’ve known Kate since we went to college together so I have a lot of data to extrapolate from. Kate always accomplishes what she sets her mind to.
Smore delivers web sites in 5 minutes that are beautiful, easy to market, and convert like crazy. The founders are two brilliant engineer-designers who uprooted themselvesand flew 8,000 miles for a chance to participate in Techstars. Favorite reason for investing: the founders are so good, they got a 7-digit acquisition offer before they launched.
Vizify makes you look good. While Facebook may be the comprehensive index of your social graph, and Linkedin can splay open your resume for inspection, Vizify sucks in your entire online life and gently releases a beautiful you. My Vizify page took me about five minutes to create and represents me better than any of my other web presences can. Favorite reason for investing: Jonathan Sposato lead the investment round. The man has a nose for success.
The volume shift of browsing from desktop to mobile has been breathtaking. Zapd realized early on that there needed to be a simple way to create a great mobile site from your own mobile device, and their award-winning app can create a beautiful mobile site in under a minute. Favorite reason for investing: Kelly Smith, the founder, has an eye for success (including investing in my last company).
…and likely a few more investments that I can’t talk about just yet.