Back in 2012, I was a sole GP investing from a windowless office in a shared workspace south of Market. With the backing of several remarkable and patient LPs, I had raised $7M of capital and invested in only 25 companies. I was learning a lot in a very hands-on manner.
The portfolio had its moments of high drama, as portfolios usually do. During this time, Sideqik (Bee I) was on the violent swing of the entrepreneurial roller coaster, with a big personnel change at the top. Co-Founders Jeremy Haile and Tree McGlown and I jumped on a call ... It could have been our last. We were brutally honest about the challenges ahead and the near-certain death as a result of an utter lack of capital and a product that just wasn’t working. On that call, I promised to work with them weekly to help right the ship. Sometimes daily, on those calls and in those meetings, we would discuss the upcoming opportunities, what was being learned every week, what was being accomplished, and what to do next. After every session, Jeremy and Tree would return to the grind and execute with what limited resources they had.
Through those meetings two things happened. One was that a spark began to be lit in these Founders that gave me measured confidence (hope, perhaps?) that these two were the right people to raise this phoenix from its ashes. The second was the conviction that Bee Partners would dedicate and devote time to any founding team that was truly struggling yet definitely had the functionality, the resource magnetism, the empathy, and the passion to execute for brilliance. And, we had LPs who had co-invested as well—we weren’t about to cut bait as would so many other “rational” VCs. We saw that this was not a situation where they weren’t cut out to be Founders, not at all. They just had their backs against the wall and had to make remarkably difficult choices in that phase of their entrepreneurial journey.
Just like a society should be judged by how it supports its most vulnerable members, so should investors be judged by how we support our portfolio companies in their darkest hours.
This was by no means a quick turnaround and I have long been inspired by how Jeremy and Tree navigated the very squiggly line of entrepreneurship. Every single time they generated some revenue, they would plow it back into the company, and Sideqik became a steady drumbeat of more customers, more employees, more resources. There were always trade-offs—should they hire for marketing or engineering—and real struggles to determine the best uses of capital. But they were making progress, picking up customers like Coca-Cola, Universal Music, and Procter & Gamble.
And then, in 2017/2018, growth rocketed—they had found product-market fit! Their phenomenal patience finally started to pay off and, as of this week, the company is now capitalized with a $5M Series A, led by Jackson Square Ventures.
So, congratulations to Jeremy, Tree, and the entire team at Sideqik, and to JSV for adding these resilient operators into your portfolio—Next step, $100M in revenue!