Tag: Austin

RealWork Labs Lands $2.5 Million for its Software that Helps Home Service Providers Attract New Customers

While building a tiny home in Austin last March, Rusty Fincke turned to his neighbors and friends to find an electrician.

“I was using Nextdoor and asking friends for referrals,” he said.

That sparked the idea for RealWork Labs, which creates lead generation marketing software for the home services industry. Fincke joined with Pierce Birkhold, to launch the company in August of 2020. Its software helps home service providers improve their web presence by using video testimonials, customer recommendations, and social media to market. Its customers include plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, roofers, landscapers, and more. It also has a check-in feature that pinpoints on a map exactly where the workers have done jobs in a particular area.

In a short time, RealWork Labs has gained a lot of traction, Birkhold said. It has 500 customers in just about every state including Alaska and Hawaii, he said. They have also hired 30 employees and leased space at the WeWork University building.

On Thursday, RealWork Labs announced it had closed on $2.5 million in seed-stage funding, led by LiveOak Venture Partners. And Krishna Srinivasan, founding partner at LiveOak is joining RealWork Labs’ board along with John Berkowitz, co-founder of OJO Labs and Yodle.

RealWork plans to use the funds raised to accelerate product development and hire more employees to provide customer service and sales, Birkhold said.

Previously, Fincke and Birkhold worked at Yodle and Digital Pharmacist. Unlike other founders who come from a product development background, they both have experience in sales and customer service. They also only put in $3,000 each along with Warren Lentz, another Digital Pharmacist alum to startup operations. The company has been profitable and generating revenue since its earliest days, Fincke said.

“We’ve grown organically,” Fincke said. “We haven’t taken out a loan to hire a bunch of people.”

Now RealWork Labs is spending millions of dollars on continuous product development. Birkhold said.

“The business is profitable and cash-flow positive and we’re able to grow our support team and sales team and invest in tools and best practices for our teams to support those customers in the best way,” Birkhold said.

RealWork Labs origin story is like a lot of bootstrapped entrepreneurs in Austin who tend to be scrappy, resourceful, and run-on revenue before seeking funding.

“We definitely have the taco truck approach to getting to where we are now,” he said. “We’re not full P. Terry’s yet, or Torchy’s but we’re a little bit above hanging out in a truck.”

RealWork Labs has done a good job of keeping its finances in control and not spending above its means, so the company doesn’t go into debt, Fincke said.

“We’ve had a lot of laughter and a lot of arguments to get to where we are today and everything has continued to pan out in our favor,” he said.

It was important to the founders to build an employee first organization, Birkhold said. All employees have health insurance and are on staff, not contractors, he said.

“As we bring the best of breed from all the places that we’ve worked at we are hyper focused on our employees,” Birkhold said. They wanted to create a company that they enjoyed working at, he said.

“We have known the founders both by reputation and by working with them previously, as being simply exceptional in building and scaling software solutions that target SMBs. The incredible traction the company has had in such a short period of time is both a testament to the founders’ abilities in this area and the magnitude of the market opportunity”  Krishna Srinivasan, board member and Founding Partner at LiveOak Venture Partners, said in a news release.

The pandemic has slowed down the home services industry lately with material shortages and labor shortages, Birkhold said. Some home service providers are not taking on new business until next year, he said.

“Even devices like garage door companies and HVAC servicers are seeing shortages of materials that are impeding their ability to grow,” he said.

“The pandemic is both a headwind and tailwind at the same time,” Birkhold said.

But those businesses still need to develop and maintain relationships with customers. And the key is to generate trust. That comes from customers endorsing businesses, he said. With the RealWork Labs software, field technicians can use their cell phones to capture on-site video and tell better stories about their customer service, he said.

“We are doing that at the neighborhood level and generating media and furthering the ecosystem so neighbors nearby can see the video and content of what’s happening near them,” Birkhold said.

“It generates leads for the company,” he said.

“The first step is getting found. The second step is a new customer calling you. How do they choose one plumber versus another?” Birkhold said.  “You can engineer behavior between technicians, prospects, and current customers through the use of technology and cell phones and a platform that can really overhaul the way home services businesses operate.”

The best advocate they could ever have isn’t a marketing agency that edits their work it’s their customers, Birkhold said.

“And the best people for their customers to be speaking to are their neighbors and people near them,” he said.

What makes RealWork Labs special is that businesses can’t fake or force what it does, Birkhold said. Its video testimonials and social proof only work if the business does good work, he said.

Capstar Ventures Raises $41.3 Million Inaugural Fund to Invest in Innovative Consumer Companies

Capstar Ventures L.P., an early-stage venture capital firm, announced last week that it has closed on its $41.3 million inaugural fund.

The Austin-based VC firm founded by Kathryn Cavanaugh in 2019, invests nationwide in innovative consumer companies.

Capstar raised the fund from individuals, family offices, and institutions including Capital Creek Partners, Tiger Partners L.P., and J.P. Morgan.

Capstar Ventures is the first fund to close as part of J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s Project Spark, focused on supporting emerging alternative fund managers, including minority-led and women-led venture capital funds.

“Kathryn embodies the type of fund manager we set out to back through the launch of our Project Spark initiative and we are thrilled to partner with Capstar Ventures on its inaugural fund,” Jamie Kramer, Head of Alternative Solutions at J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Investment Committee Chair for Project Spark, said in a news release. “Kathryn brings a unique perspective, deep expertise and a differentiated vision for investing in the next generation of consumer companies, and we’re pleased to be participating in the fund.”

Capstar Ventures invests in seed and Series A rounds for digitally native brands, consumer goods and services, and technologies that power these startups. Its focus is on Millennial and Gen Z consumer products and services and platforms.

“We seek to invest in founders who are solving their own pain points and who directly relate to and resemble their customers because we have seen how that authentic connection translates into high growth companies,” Cavanaugh, Founder and Managing Partner of Capstar Ventures, said in a news release. “And how Millennial and Gen Z consumers resonate with that authenticity as they align their purchasing power with their values.”

Cavanaugh has been investing in and advising early-stage companies across consumer, healthcare, and technology for the past 15 years. While working at Grace Beauty Capital, Mainsail Partners, and De Novo Ventures, she deployed and actively supported over $350 million of equity investments, including early-stage disruptive consumer brands such as Rothy’sSupergoop!, ParachutePrimary, and M.M.LaFleur.

In 2019, she moved to Austin to launch Capstar Ventures with anchor capital from successful Texas entrepreneurs Steve Hicks, Kendra Scott, and Robert Gauntt.

“Steve, Robert, and I are thrilled for the opportunity to partner with Kathryn to launch Capstar Ventures because we share a commitment to supporting the innovation and passion that entrepreneurs contribute to our world, and believe it is critical to building a brighter future,” Scott, Founder of Kendra Scott LLC, said in a news release. “We feel fortunate for the opportunity to support those in the earlier stages of building their business and to work alongside phenomenal partners to provide more diverse founders a seat at the table.”

Capstar Ventures has invested in ten portfolio companies to date, including Culina, a leading plant-based food company; Stylust, a commerce technology platform; The Class, a health and wellness platform; Sarah Flint, a women’s luxury shoe brand; Packed Party, a celebration lifestyle brand; St. Frank, a luxury home décor brand; Museum of Ice Cream, an experience-first development company; Bravo Sierra, the first military-native wellness company; Eterneva, a grief wellness company; and Intraloop, a community insights technology platform.

From a Cold Email to an IPO: DISCO, a Story of Domain Strength, Grit, Collaboration, and Serendipity

DISCO became a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange on July 21, 2021

By Krishna Srinivasan, Chairman of the Board, DISCO and co-Founding Partner, LiveOak Venture Partners

In October 2013, we received a cold email – it had all the elements on first glance that begged to be ignored.  The email came from a person named “CeCe” who talked about a founder called “Kiwi” and a company called “DISCO” in the legal tech space, which was also a category that did not have a history of great companies or large outcomes. But, boy, am I glad that we did not ignore that email! 

LiveOak’s entrepreneur-first philosophy meant a commitment to look at all deals, even cold, inbound ones, and we quickly discovered that this showed a lot of promise. Kiwi was the youngest ever graduate from Harvard Law (graduated at 19), was the managing partner of his law firm, and, while practicing law, had hacked together a product that was generating early revenue. When we first met him, we were blown away by his domain knowledge and passion for transforming the future of law. Additional deeper diligence through some friendly litigators in our network indicated that this was an industry that was sorely in need of better products. During deeper discussions with Kiwi, we uncovered a fierce entrepreneurial spirt and a desire to learn and evolve into a world-class tech leader. Armed with the conviction around a domain-rich entrepreneur and large market opportunity, we decided to proceed forward as a founding investor. Ultimately, the company was formed (spun out of his law firm) at the same time as our initial investment.

            Wow, aren’t we delighted that we embarked on this journey. Since being founded in December 2013, the company has grown from minimal revenue to now a successful IPO (NYSE: LAW) with a first trade market capitalization above $2.5B As stupendous this trajectory has been, it neither has been a straight line nor influenced by a single factor. I would attribute the success to a combination of domain strength, grit, collaboration, and good ol’ serendipity.

Domain Strength

Yes, Kiwi’s rich domain expertise was what attracted us to DISCO (N.B. the LiveOak playbook entails backing domain-rich, often first-time entrepreneurs and helping them grow into world-class tech entrepreneurs by helping with all aspects of company building). Kiwi’s obsession with using technology to help lawyers practice law has permeated into a company-wide focus on infusing deep legal knowledge into every piece of code shipped out. Every product was conceived after thinking about the problem from the shoes of a lawyer. As a result, DISCO has fused seemingly orthogonal disciplines of deep understanding of law with world-class engineering to create powerful user experiences that lawyers and other legal professionals love. Lots of entrepreneurs have deep knowledge of their respective fields but Kiwi and team exemplified the desire and capability to create magical products – an incredible distinguishing feature of the company. In an industry not known for user delight, the product has an impressive NPS of 63. 

Like any other ambitious entrepreneur, Kiwi, even from the first pitch, articulated a multi-stage product roadmap for grabbing a market that was tens of billions of dollars. While that looked like a pipe dream then, today, the company is well on its way to grabbing that exact market he had outlined. 

DISCO is very much a story of Kiwi parlaying his rich knowledge of law and thinking many moves ahead for their customers and creating products, services, and experiences to meet current and future needs. That domain-rich inventor’s spirit is what positions this company to define and lead legal tech!

Grit

Kiwi and the company have gotten here in no small measure due to their grit. As with most startups innovating in markets not yet proven, there was some doubt from prospective investors, employees, and so on.  They questioned how difficult it may be to attract future investments in legal tech, to show strong traction in the market, whether the business model was right and the impact of competition, even with the strength of DISCO’s product. Now seeing how far DISCO has come, their uncertainties have not come to fruition. These folks simply underestimated Kiwi and the team’s grit to bludgeon their way through these issues. 

The financings of the company certainly involved significant effort. However, through them all, Kiwi never had a moment of self-doubt or reduced conviction on the scale of company that he could build here. So, for all the entrepreneurs out there, don’t be disheartened if there are challenges in getting the financing dollars and terms you want as there is not often a ton of term-sheet-love spewing out there.

There were challenges in hiring the optimal leaders for every function, given the preferences around possessing both legal domain knowledge and world-class enterprise software sensibilities. This unique combination is not often available due to the lack of standout winners in legal tech. In absence of optimal leaders, Kiwi has operated as a functional head for practically every department at some point of time. Waiting for the right leaders and gritting it out until the right one was available became the mantra. Today, more than half the executive team are lawyers and several others have deep backgrounds in the legal industry as well as experience at hyper-growth software companies.

Collaboration

            The DISCO success story has also been a textbook example of collaboration between a venture capitalist and an entrepreneur, one that began the day we signed the term sheet. We had finally agreed on all the terms, but that was only after a relatively intense set of discussions where I felt that Kiwi came across as a nitpicky litigator who was focused on corner case scenarios rather than a typical pragmatic tech entrepreneur. I told him, to go forward, we needed to be convinced that our relationship could be more collaborative rather than one that felt like a legal scrimmage. Kiwi countered that he would drive over to the office to “make his case”.  Now that was a rare icy November day and he was in Houston, 200 miles away!  But that would not deter him from driving to Austin! His action to make this future relationship successful was itself enough of a powerful signal that we signed the deal the moment he strode into our office – that cast the die for a trusting, collaborative style throughout our relationship.

            Indeed, we have had many spirited debates – should we stay as a pure-play software business or be full-stack with an AI-based review platform, what is the optimal organizational design to sustain our stunning land and expand model, should we stay mostly channel vs. make a big push on the direct business, how should we position ourselves (as a vertical software player or as a horizontal software for legal category), are we ready to go public – the list goes on and on and on. Every one of these questions had enormous underlying ambiguity and given the magnitude of the consequences, of course, had some fierce opinions on both our sides. Unequivocally, in all these situations, the process was intensely collaborative, intellectually honest, and with the sole emphasis on what was best for DISCO.

            It was hard to predict it that icy night in November, I simply could not have hoped for a more collaborative partner than Kiwi in this incredible journey.  

Serendipity

The origins of our first investment in the company was itself serendipitous. We at LiveOak were fortunate that we could spot this “diamond” in the volume of cold emails we received. 

Many of the unicorn-esque hires on the leadership team required deep legal and enterprise tech expertise and happened as a result of happenstance. We were so fortunate to find Michael Lafair (a lawyer-turned CFO). We were also lucky to find Andrew Shimek, a rare lawyer-turned Head of Sales who embodied both legal and enterprise sales traits, and Keith Zoellner, our Head of Engineering with expertise building world-class products and legal domain. Many other people and key board members such as Jim Offerdahl, Colette Pierce Burnette, and Scott Hill were connections that were made at the right place, right time. 

Finally, it was of course serendipitous that Kiwi and my favorite soul food cuisine was Sichuan food! Ma-Po Tofu from Mala’s Bistro in Houston or A+A Sichuan in Austin was added motivation to meet, eat and strategize often!

After all, good fortune favors the brave and those with grit!

In closing…

The future is even brighter, and the opportunity is seemingly unbounded, and we believe that the company is indeed poised to be one of the largest and innovative software leaders for decades to come. This is the first software IPO out of Austin in a while, and it’s extra special given it was birthed in Texas and seed invested at inception by a Texas VC firm. 

The success of DISCO and its IPO will be even more impactful for Austin and Texas at large as outsized successes are bound to beget many, many more in the future. Also, with Kiwi and a management team that is committed to building a long-term standalone company, DISCO is bound to have a powerful accelerating effect on the Texas ecosystem. DISCO Cares is a company initiative that is helping drive programs that support vulnerable populations across Texas. There are a number of DISCO-alum startups already sprouting, in Austin and Houston. 

Having started this journey as the only other board member besides Kiwi at the time of inception, I am honored to now serve as Chairman of the Board as a part of this milestone IPO event. I look forward to helping Kiwi drive and shape DISCO’s next phase of growth for years to come and to contributing to DISCO’s legacy-shaping initiatives, from their community impact to the spawning of more promising entrepreneurs in the decades to come. In particular, we look forward to partnering with many more entrepreneurs who might learn from and imbibe many of this successful young lawyer’s characteristics around domain strength, grit, and collaboration while building their respective successful ventures!

LiveOak Venture Partners’ journey with DISCO began with a cold e-mail from Kiwi Camara which led to its initial investment and today reaches a milestone IPO with a first trade market cap of $2.5B. LiveOak Venture Partners’ Founding Partner and DISCO Chairman, Krishna Srinivasan, shares an intimate look at this remarkable success story.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn and has been reprinted here with permission.

Austin-based Bandit Acquired by GoPuff

Photo courtesy of Bandit

GoPuff, a Philadelphia-based snack, and beverage delivery company, has acquired Austin-based Bandit, the App-only coffee shop founded by early Uber employee Max Crowley.

Bandit, founded in 2019, relocated its headquarters from New York to Austin in September of 2020 because it offered the startup an opportunity to experiment with curbside and drive-through technology in a booming city, according to a company blog post.

The financial terms of the acquisition of Bandit by GoPuff were not disclosed.

Bandit had raised an undisclosed amount of venture capital from Alex Pattis and four other investors, according to Crunchbase. GoPuff, founded in 2013, has raised $2.4 billion in venture capital to date.

Bandit is all about contactless delivery of a cup of premium coffee, matcha, or ice cream. It also offers sandwiches and local pastries. Bandit is a mobile app that allows customers to browse a menu, place an order and receive rewards for purchases. Bandit competes with Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts and other coffee shops.

“We’re proud to serve delicious coffee, a full matcha bar, exciting new treats like ice cream, and a menu full of local offerings like Tacodeli breakfast tacos, pastries from Texas French Bread, and other treats from Easy Tiger,” the company wrote in a blog post when it moved here last year.

Editor’s note: This story was briefly taken down because a representative from GoPuff said it was incorrect. GoPuff says the acquisition took place last year. A PR firm representing Bandit sent a release saying the acquisition took place last week. The story has been updated.

LitLingo Raises $7.5 Million for its AI-Powered Business Communications Platform

LitLingo, which makes specialized software that allows businesses to monitor and correct real-time communications, announced that it has raised $7.5 million.

Breyer Capital led the Series A round of funding with participation from former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano and existing investors LiveOak Venture Partners, Clarke Nobiletti and James Marsico.

To date, LitLingo has raised $9.5 million. It raised $2 million last August. LitLingo’s Co-Founders Kevin Brinig and Todd Sifleet met at Uber in San Francisco. They both moved to Austin and launched LitLingo in January of 2019.

The Austin-based startup employs artificial intelligence and natural language processing databases to help organizations communicate more effectively. LitLingo integrates with Slack, Zendesk, Gmail and Office 365.

The aim of LitLingo’s software is to help organizations communicate effectively and reduce litigation, compliance, and other problems. The software can flag questionable language in a real-time message before it is sent. LitLingo can also block message transmission and alert compliance teams for review.

 “LitLingo is an incredibly valuable tool in our new hybrid workplaces and positioned to be one of the most important players in the digital communications analysis and management space,”  Jim Breyer, Founder and CEO of Breyer Capital said in a news release.

“LitLingo is reimagining how we build culture and mitigate risk,” Sam Palmisano, Chairman of the Center for Global Enterprise and former CEO and Chairman of IBM said in a news release. “We have all seen the impact a few badly written emails can have on an organization. Yet, traditional approaches to compliance and risk mitigation are outdated, reactive, expensive, and hard to scale across large enterprises. LitLingo is a unique platform providing critical value to employees and organizations of all sizes.”

“LitLingo leverages artificial intelligence to proactively help good people avoid bad mistakes in the workplace and to help leaders foster a better workplace overall,” said Brinig, LitLingo CEO.

LitLingo plans to use the venture capital to hire key employees and double its headcount over the next 12 months at its Austin headquarters and remotely. Also, the company plans to spend money on product enhancements.

Tesla Energy, Brookfield, and Dacra Create the First Tesla Solar Neighborhood in Austin




The installation of solar panels on a residential roof at the first Tesla Solar neighborhood, located in East Austin, photo courtesy of Brookfield Residential

Not only is Tesla building a $1.1 billion Gigafactory in Austin to make trucks and other vehicles, but Tesla Energy is also creating a solar-powered local neighborhood.

Last week, Tesla Energy announced the first Tesla Solar neighborhood called SunHouse at Easton Park, 12 miles east of downtown Austin. Tesla is working with Brookfield Asset Management and Dacra.

“Neighborhood solar installations across all housing types will reshape how people live,” Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, said in a news statement. “The feedback we get from the solar and battery products used in the community will impact how we develop and launch new products.”

Installation of Tesla V3 solar roof tiles and Powerwall 2 battery storage began in June at select homes in the SunHouse community on land in Brookfield Residential’s Easton Park master-planned residential community.

The houses, being built by various homebuilders, start in the low $300,000s and go up from there.

“This initiative brings together multiple parts of our organization with innovative and forward-thinking partners that share a commitment to advance the development of sustainable communities,” Brian Kingston, CEO of Brookfield’s Real Estate business. “As consumers increasingly seek out energy security alongside sustainable places to live, combining Tesla’s solar technology together with Brookfield’s real estate and renewables development capabilities will help us meet demand for environmentally responsible communities of the future.”

“Our goal is to establish that fully sustainable neighborhoods are not only viable, but the best practical and economical choice,” Craig Robins, CEO of Dacra, said in a news release. “Together with Brookfield and Tesla, we are trying to change the world by creating technology-driven, energy-independent communities that make the world a better place.”

The master-planned community of homes seeks to become an energy-neutral, sustainable community and a model for the design and construction of sustainable large-scale housing projects around the world. The community also expects to produce enough energy to supply daily needs and reduce the daily demand on the electric grid. They will also have backup power and they will have the ability to sell excess energy back to the energy grid.

Tesla Solar will provide ongoing oversight of the homes’ energy systems, and Brookfield’s renewable power business will integrate a community-wide solar program to serve broader public use needs and surrounding neighborhoods. Brookfield Residential will also incorporate a suite of technology features, including electric vehicle charging stations in each home and throughout the community.

The City of Austin and Travis County have both announced commitments to sustainable development.

“The City of Austin is excited for the arrival of these affordable options to housing powered by renewable energy,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a news release. “I am excited for the Tesla, Brookfield, and Dacra partnership’s approach to sustainable energy and housing as an example of the out-of-box thinking that continues to make our community a beacon of innovation for the rest of the country and world.”

Legal Tech Startup CS Disco Files to go Public

Law scale rules regulations

CS Disco, a legal tech startup, filed papers with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering of stock.

The Austin-based company did not set a date to go public or a price for its shares, which will be traded under the stock ticker “LAW.”

CS Disco plans to use the proceeds from the stock sale for “working capital and other general corporate purposes, including developing and enhancing our technical infrastructure, solutions, and services, expanding our research and development efforts and sales and marketing operations, meeting the increased compliance requirements associated with our transition to and operation as a public company and expanding into new markets,” according to the filing. The company could also use the net proceeds to acquire complementary businesses, products, services, or technologies, but it doesn’t have any plans to do so right now.

CS Disco reported revenue of $68.4 million for 2020, compared to revenue of $48.5 million for 2019. It also reported a net loss of $29.8 million for 2020 and a net loss of $22.8 million for 2019.

The company gets less than 5 percent of its revenue from international sales, but it plans to expand further.

To date,  CS Disco has raised $161 million in venture capital, according to its filing. The company reported that it had $53.6 million of cash and cash equivalents as of March 31st, 2021.

CS Disco uses artificial intelligence and cloud computing to help lawyers and legal teams. As of March 31, 2021, the company reported it had 909 enterprises, law firms, legal services providers, and government organizations as its customers.

And the market is growing.

“Legal services is a massive, growing global industry that we believe is significantly underpenetrated by modern technology solutions,” according to the company’s filing. “According to Statista, total global legal services spend is forecasted to be $767 billion in 2021 and grow to $846 billion in 2023. Within legal services, DISCO Ediscovery addresses the ediscovery market. According to International Data Corporation, the worldwide ediscovery software and services market is forecasted to be $14.7 billion in 2021 and grow to $16.9 billion by 2024.”

Founded in 2013, CS Disco moved its headquarters from Houston to Austin in 2018. As of March, the company had 336 full-time employees.

Sana Partners with Proactive MD to Open a Health Care Clinic in Austin

Skyrocketing health care costs is a problem Sana, a health care startup, has set out to solve since its founding in 2017.

Recently, the Austin-based company took another step in that direction by announcing a partnership with Proactive MD to open a primary health care center, Sana MD in Austin. With the center, Sana and Proactive MD expect to improve care management and reduce health care costs, according to a news release.

The center is expected to open in late August, said Sheli Wibaux, Sana’s head of direct care. Sana MD will operate as a subscription-based unlimited care option to Sana’s health care members, Wibaux said. The nonprofit center will be located at 1715 W. 35th St. in Austin.

“Sana believes that exceptional, preventive-focused primary care is the most effective way to improve health outcomes,” Sana CEO and Co-founder Will Young said in a statement. “By establishing Sana MD as the foundation of our growing Sana Care ecosystem, we are empowering members to take advantage of free, high-quality primary care.”

Sana MD will include family medicine, urgent and preventive care, reduced cost-prescriptions through an in-house pharmacy, labs and diagnostics, chronic disease management, physical therapy and total wellness solutions including weight loss programs, diabetes education, stress management, smoking cessation, and wellness coaching. In addition, patient advocacy services will also be offered including mental health support and more.

“This partnership with Sana is a huge step toward our ultimate goal of transforming health care for the good of the patient,” John Collier, Proactive MD’s CEO, said in a statement. “We believe that primary care is the most powerful tool for risk management, cost containment, and overall patient wellbeing. Now that our Advanced Primary Care model has joined Sana’s innovative health plans, our positive impact on patient lives will be amplified in Austin.”

Sheli Wibaux, Sana’s Head of Care

Other Sana MD Centers could be rolled out to other locations if this one proves successful, Wibaux said.

“If we find the model works, we would like to expand this offering to our members nationwide,” she said.

Sana is providing access to Sana MD as an opt-in benefit to its members, Wibaux said. The clinic has the capacity to serve 2,500 members, she said. It also has a 24 hour, seven-day-a-week after-hours helpline and it also provides spots open for same-day appointments, she said.

Sana provides an alternative to big insurance providers like Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Cigna, and Humana. It competes with them by providing insurance that is, on average, 30 percent cheaper, according to the company. Sana’s platform covers health, vision, dental, telemedicine, and maternity, in addition to benefits like ClassPass. Sana moved to Austin in 2018 from San Francisco.

Homeward Raises $371 Million and Plans to Expand Into New Markets and More than Triple Employees to 1,000 by Next Year

Home for sale with real estate sign in spring or summer season.

By far, 2020 was the busiest year for Homeward, an Austin-based home finance company.

“No one knew at the beginning of Covid what kind of a recovery it was going to be,” said Matt Thurmond, Homeward’s Chief Strategy Officer.

In fact, in March and April, there was a sharp drop in home sales and listings. But by May and June, people realized this pandemic was here to stay for a while, Thurmond said. That’s when people started shopping for homes with backyards, home offices, swimming pools, updated kitchens, game rooms, and other amenities that make living and working from home nicer.

As a result, Homeward saw a huge surge in business, Thurmond said.

And to help fuel its growth in late May, Homeward announced it had secured funding of $371 million, including $136 million in equity and $235 million in debt. Norwest Venture Partners led the equity financing, with participation by Blackstone Alternative Asset Management, Breyer Capital, and existing investors, Adams Street, Javelin, and LiveOak Venture Partners. 

Homeward has created a product that allows its customers to make all-cash offers to secure their next home before selling their existing home. The Homeward Cash Offer eliminates the financing, home sale, and appraisal contingencies.

The company plans to use the funds raised to open additional markets. It currently serves homebuyers in select markets in Texas, Colorado, and Georgia.

“We anticipated cash offers becoming standard a few years ago — sellers prefer cash offers because they are much more certain to close,” Homeward Founder and CEO Tim Heyl said in a news statement. “We designed our cash offer in a way that enables real estate agents to make every buyer a cash buyer. Our instincts were right — that’s obvious from the tremendous demand we’re seeing today.”

Homeward works with real estate agents to complete the sales. It has partnered with Realty Austin, a brokerage team of more than 570 agents.

“Customers find a home they love, and we buy it,” Thurmond said. “We hold it. Then they can buy it back from us when they sell their house.”

That solution came from problems Heyl, a top real estate agent in Austin, encountered when he was closing deals. Buyers often couldn’t buy a new home until they sold their old home. So, he created Homeward to provide a solution.

Homeward also has its own in-house mortgage and title companies to handle the entire transaction. And the company is hiring across all divisions, Thurmond said. It grew from just 20 employees a year ago to 220 today and it expects to be at 500 by the end of this year, and 1,000 in 2022, he said.

All Homeward employees are working remotely, Thurmond said. They have the option of going into the office, he said. But the office has become more of a perk, he said.

Outdoorsy Raises $120 Million in Financing and Launches Roamly, its Insurance Division

A Young Couple Parked Van at a Viewpoint of Lake Tahoe

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck last March, initial bookings to rent Recreational Vehicles plummeted but that didn’t last long.

“Covid was a big, big spike for the company,” said Jeff Cavins, Outdoorsy’s co-founder and CEO. People realized they could quarantine in RVs and maintain freedom of movement in a controlled environment, he said. As a result, RV sales and rentals are at all-time highs, he said.

A record 20 million people visited Outdoorsy’s RV and outdoor travel marketplace last year and 89 percent of the renters were from Generation Z or Millennials, Cavins said. Today, more than 11 million U.S. households own an RV, according to the RV Industry Association.

“The upswing in RV ownership over the last 10 years is driven by strong interest from younger individuals and families who live an active outdoor lifestyle and Baby Boomers who are entering retirement,” according to the association. That trend only strengthened during the Pandemic because work-from-home arrangements encouraged more people to move and a shortage of houses also prompted people to look for alternative home arrangements like RVs, Cavins said.

In addition, there are thousands of people running businesses on Outdoorsy running mobile bed and breakfast businesses. In fact, one businessman in Atlanta made $8.2 million on Outdoorsy renting out RVs, Cavins said. And a 28-year-old woman in California earned $2.2 million last year, he said.

Jeff Cavins, Outdoorsy’s co-founder and CEO

Outdoorsy’s marketplace is open to anybody that has an RV – anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. Among its most popular rentals are Class C RVs which have a bunk over the cab that are popular with families and Class B RVs which are camper vans popular with couples.

The most popular destinations include anything in the Southwest, Cavins said. Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Montana are popular destinations for RV rental customers, he said. It also changes with the weather, he said. Florida is popular in the Winter.

The nomadic life seems to suit the Lone Star State. Texas is the number one market for RV purchases in the world, Cavins said. That makes it a great home base for Outdoorsy, which moved its headquarters to Austin in 2018.

And to further fuel growth in the RV industry, Outdoorsy announced Thursday that it has raised $120 million in equity and debt financing. To date, the company, founded in 2015, has raised more than $220 million.

Outdoorsy has 90 employees in Austin and 105 overall in Texas. The company has a total of 250 employees and is hiring.

Outdoorsy’s $120 million raise includes a $90 million private placement equity round led by Moore Strategic Ventures, ADAR1 Partners, Monashee Capital, SiriusPoint, and Convivialite Ventures, the corporate venture group of Pernod Ricard, with participation from existing investors Altos Ventures, iAngels, and Greenspring Associates. Pacific Western Bank provided the $30 million debt facility.

Outdoorsy Launches Roamly

Outdoorsy plans to use the funds raised to scale its operations and to drive growth and expansion of Roamly, its insurtech business.

“Roamly’s digital annual insurance product recently came out of beta in the U.S.” Cavins said.

Outdoorsy created the product in response to a problem its customers encountered in the RV rental industry. RV owners couldn’t get their insurance companies to cover their RVs when they rented them out to others because the insurance industry doesn’t view the RVs as commercial vehicles, Cavins said. So Outdoorsy created an insurance product for RV owners who want to rent their RVs to others on Outdoorsy’s marketplace.

“Roamly is insurance that moves with you,” Cavins said. “It’s a very unique insurance product.”

The world of RVs is viewed by the insurance industry with a unique classification like jet skis or snowmobiles and it basically considered a toy, Cavins said. And so, they don’t want them commercialized, he said.

“We’ve solved this problem,” Cavins said. “We’ve been working on it for over three years.”

Outdoorsy plans to expand Roamly’s market in the U.S. and Canada and launch Roamly in Europe, Cavins said. It will also aid in the expansion of Outdoorsy’s new accommodations venture with Collective Retreats, he said.

Earlier this month, Outdoorsy announced it is expanding its outdoor experiences portfolio by partnering with outdoor luxury accommodations operator Collective Retreats. The companies will work jointly to build a suite of offerings designed to cater to road travelers and guests looking for an elevated outdoor accommodation experience.  For example, Collective Retreat specializes in “glamping” or high-end camping experiences with good food and wine and champagne in places like Vail, Aspen and Governor’s Island, New York. Outdoorsy will offer its customers access to Collective Retreats services like good food and wine. It will blend glamorous camping with RV camping in select locations.

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