Enterprise investor Jason Green on SPAC hopefuls versus startups bound for traditional IPOs

Jason Green has a pretty solid reputation as venture capitalists go. The enterprise-focused firm the cofounded 17 years ago, Emergence Capital, has backed Saleforce, Box, and Zoom, among many other companies, and even while every firm is now investing in software-as-a-service startups, his remains a go-to for many top founders selling business products and services.

To learn more about the trends impacting Green’s slice of the investing universe, we talked with him late last week about everything from SPACs to valuations to how the firm differentiates itself from the many rivals with which it’s now competing. Below are some outtakes edited lightly for length.

TC: What do you make of the assessment that SPACs for companies that aren’t generating enough revenue to go public the traditional route?

JG: Well, yeah, it’ll be really interesting. This has been quite a year for SPACs, right? I can’t remember the number, but it’s been something like $50 billion of capital raised this year in SPACs, and all of those have to put that money to work within the next 12 to 18 months or they give it back. So there’s this incredible pent-up demand to find opportunities for those SPACs to convert into companies. And the companies that are at top of the charts, the ones that are the high growth and profitable companies, will probably do a traditional IPO, I would imagine.

So [SPAC candidates are] going to be companies that are growing fast enough to be attractive as a potential public company but not top of the charts. So I do think [sponsors are] going to target companies that are probably either growing slightly slower than the top-quartile public companies but slightly profitable, or companies that are growing faster but still burning a lot of cash and might actually scare all the traditional IPO investors.

TC: Are you having conversations with CEOs about whether or not they should pursue this avenue?

JG:  We just started having those conversations now. There are several companies in the portfolio that will probably be public companies in the next year or two, so it’s definitely an alternative to consider. I would say there’s nothing impending I see in the portfolio. With most entrepreneurs, there’s a little bit of this dream of going public the traditional way, where SPACs tend to be a little bit less exciting from that perspective. So for a company that maybe is thinking about another private round before going public, it’s like a private-plus round. I would say it’s a tweener, so the companies that are considering it are probably ones that are not quite ready to go public yet.

TC: A lot of the SPAC fundraising has seemed like a reaction to uncertainty around when the public window might close. With the election behind us, do you think there’s less uncertainty?

JG: I don’t think risk and uncertainty has decreased since the election.There’s still uncertainty right now politically. The pandemic has reemerged in a significant way, even though we have some really good announcements recently regarding vaccines or potential vaccines. So there’s just a lot there’s a lot of potential directions things could head in.

It’s an environment generally where the public markets tend to gravitate more toward higher-quality opportunities, so fewer companies but higher quality,  and that’s where I think SPACs could play a role. I’d say first half of next year, I could easily see SPACs being the more likely go-to-market for a public company, then the latter half of next year, once the vaccines have kicked in and people feel like we’re returning to somewhat normal, I could see the traditional IPO coming back.

TC: When we sat down in person about a year ago, you said Emergence looks at maybe 1,000 deals a year, does deep due diligence on 25, and funds just a handful or so of these startups every year. How has that changed in 2020?

JG: I would say that over the last five years, we’ve made almost a total transition. Now we’re very much a data-driven, thesis-driven outbound firm, where we’re reaching out to entrepreneurs soon after they’ve started their companies or gotten seed financing. The last three investments that we made were all relationships that [date back] a year to 18 months before we started engaging in the actual financing process with them. I think that’s what’s required to build a relationship and the conviction, because financings are happening so fast.

I think we’re going to actually do more investments this year than we maybe ever done in the history of the firm, which is amazing to me [considering] COVID. I think we’ve really honed our ability to build this pipeline and have conviction, and then in this market environment, Zoom is actually helping expand the landscape that we’re willing to invest in. We’re probably seeing 50% to 100% more companies and trying to whittle them down over time and really focus on the 20 to 25 that we want to dig deep on as a team.

TC: For founders trying to understand your thinking, what’s interesting to you right now?

JG: We tend to focus on three major themes at any one time as a firm, and one we’ve termed ‘coaching networks’. This is this intersection between AI and machine learning and human interaction. Companies like [the sales engagement platform] SalesLoft or [the knowledge management system] Guru or Drishti [which sells video analytics for manual factory assembly lines] fall into this category, where it’s really intelligent software going deep into a specific functional area and unleashing data in a way that’s never been available before.

The second [theme] is going deep into more specific industry verticals. Veeva was the best example of this early on with with healthcare and life sciences, but we now have one called p44 in the transportation space that’s doing incredibly well. Doximity is in the healthcare space and going deep like a LinkedIn for physicians, with some remote health capabilities, as well. And then [lending company] Blend, which is in the financial services area. These companies are taking cloud software and just going deep into the most important problems of their industries.

The third them [centers around] remote work. Zoom, which has obviously has been [among our] best investments is almost as a platform, just like Salesforce became a platform after many years. We just funded a company called ClassEDU, which is a Zoom-specific offering for the education market. Snowflake is becoming a platform. So another opportunity is is not just trying to come up with another collaboration tool, but really going deep into a specific use case or vertical.

TC: What’s a company you’ve missed in recent years and were any lessons learned?

JG: We have our hall of shame. [Laughs.] I do think it’s dangerous to assume that things would have turned out the same if if we had been investors in the company. I believe the kinds of investors you put around the table make a difference in terms of the outcome of your company, so I try not beat myself up too much on the missed opportunities because maybe they found a better fit or a better investor for them to be successful.

But Rob Bernshteyn of Coupa is one where I knew Rob from SuccessFactors [where he was a product marketing VP], and I just always respected and liked him. And we always chasing it on valuation. And I think I think we probably turned it down at an $80 million or $100 million dollar valuation [and it’s valued at] $20 billion today. That can keep you up at night.

Sometimes, in the moment, there are some risks and concerns about the business and there are other people who are willing to be more aggressive and so you lose out on some of those opportunities. The beautiful thing about our business is that it’s not a zero-sum game.

Talking tech’s exodus, Twitter’s labels, and Medium’s next moves with founder Ev Williams

Earlier today, we had the chance to talk with Twitter and Medium cofounder Ev Williams, along with operator-turned investor James Joaquin, who helps oversee the day-to-day of the mission-focused venture firm they separately cofounded six years ago, Obvious Ventures.

We collectively discussed lot of venture-y things, some of which we’ll publish next week, so stayed tuned. In the meantime, we spent some time talking specifically with Williams about both Twitter and Medium and some of the day’s biggest headlines. Following are some excerpts from that chat, lightly edited for length and clarity.

TC: A lot of tech CEOs saying have been saying goodbye to San Francisco in 2020. Do you think the trend is attracting too much attention or perhaps not enough?

EW: I moved away from the Bay Area a little over a year ago, with my family to New York. I’d lived in San Francisco for 20 years, and I had never lived in New York, and thought, ‘Why not go? Now seems like a good time.’ Turns out I was wrong. [Laughs.] It was a very bad time to move to New York. So I was there for for six months, and quickly came back to California, which is a great place to be in a world where you’re not going into bars and restaurants and seeing people.

TC: You moved when COVID took hold?

EW: Yes. In March, Manhattan suddenly seemed not ideal. So now I’m on the peninsula.

I’m from San Francisco. It was really, for me, just honestly looking for a change. But an enabling factor that could be common in many of these cases is the fact that I no longer have to be in the office in San Francisco every day, [whereas] for most of 20 years [beforehand], all my work life was in an office in San Francisco, generally with a company I had started, so I thought it was important to be there.

This was pre COVID and remote work. But remote work was becoming more common. And I noticed in 2018 or so, with this massive number of companies that were in San Francisco —  startups and large public companies and pre IPO companies — the competition for talent had gotten more extreme than it had ever been. So it got me —  along with a lot of founders and CEOs — thinking about maybe the advantage of hiring locally and having everybody in the same office [was a pro] that was starting to get outweighed by the cons. . . And, of course, the tools and technology that make remote work possible were getting better all the time.

TC: As a cofounder of Twitter, I have to ask about this presidential transition that is maybe, finally happening. In January, Donald Trump will lose the privileges he enjoyed as president. Given the amount of disinformation he has published routinely, do you think Twitter should have cracked down on him sooner? How would you rate its handling of a president who really tested its boundaries in every way?

EW: I think what Twitter has done especially recently is a pretty good solution. I mean, I don’t agree with the the notion or that he should have been removed altogether a long time ago. Having the visibility, literally seeing, what what the President is thinking at any given moment, as ludicrous as it is, is helpful.

What he would be doing if he didn’t have Twitter is unclear, but he’d be doing something to get his message out there. And what the company has done most recently with the warnings on his tweets or blocking them is great. It’s providing more information. It’s kind of ‘buyer beware’ about this information. And it’s a bolder step than any platform had done previously. It’s a good version of an in between where previously [people would] talk about just kicking people off, [and] allowing freedom of speech.

TC: You started Blogger, then Twitter, then Medium. As someone who has spent much of your career  focused on content and distribution, do you have any other thoughts about what more Twitter or other platforms could be doing [to tackle disinformation]? Because there is going to be somebody who comes along again with the same autocratic tendencies.

EW: I think all of society gets more information savvy — that’s one hope over the long term. It wasn’t that long ago that if something was in “media,” it was accepted as true. And now I think everyone’s skeptical. We’ve learned that that’s not necessarily the case and certainly not online.

Unfortunately, we’re now at the point where a lot of people have lost faith in everything published or shared anywhere. But I think that’s a step along the evolution of just getting more media savvy and knowing that sources really matter, and as we build both better tools, things will get better.

TC: Speaking of content platforms, Medium charges $50 per year for users to access an unlimited amount of articles from individual writers and poets. Have you said how many subscribers the platform now has?

EW: We haven’t given a precise number, but I can tell you it’s in the high hundreds of thousands. It’s been a been a couple years now, and I’m a very firm believer in the model — not only that people will pay for quality information, but that it’s just a much healthier model for publishers, be they individuals or companies, because it creates that feedback loop of ‘quality gets rewarded.’

If people aren’t getting value, they unsubscribe, and that isn’t the case with an advertising model. If people click, you keep making money, and you can kind of keep tricking people or keep appealing to lowest-common-denominator impulses. There were a couple of decades where the mantra was ‘No one will pay for content on the internet,’ which obviously seems silly now. But that was that was the established belief for such a long time.

TC: Do you ever think you should have charged from the outset? I  sometimes wonder if it’s harder to throw on the switch afterward.

EW: Yes, and no. When we first switched to this model in 2017, we created a subscription, but the vast majority of content was — and actually still is — outside of the paywall. And our model is different than most because it’s a platform, and we don’t own the content, and we have an agreement with our creators that they can publish behind the paywall if they want, and we will pay them if they do that. But they can also publish outside the paywall if they’re not interested in making money and want maximum reach. And those those models are actually very complimentary because the scale of the platform brings a lot of people in through the top of the funnel.

Scale is really important for most businesses, but for a paywall, it’s especially important because people have to be visiting with enough frequency to actually hit the paywall and be motivated to pay.

TC: Out of curiosity, what do you make of Substack, a startup that invites writers to create their own newsletters using a subscription model and then takes a cut of their revenue in exchange for a host of back end services.

EW: There’s a bit of a creator renaissance going on right now that is part of a bigger wave of a people being willing to pay for quality information, and independent writers and thinkers actually breaking out on their own and building brands and followings. And I think we’re going to see more of that.

TC: Medium has raised $132 million over the years. Will you raise more? Where do you want to take the platform in the next 12 to 24 months?

EW: We’re not yet not yet profitable, so I anticipate that we will raise more money.

There’s a very big business to be built here. While more and more people are willing to pay for content way, I don’t think that means that most people will subscribe to dozens of sources, whether they’re websites with paywalls or newsletters. If you look at how basically every media category has evolved, a lot of them have gone through this shift from free to paid, at least at the higher end of the market. That includes music, television, and even games. And at the high end, there tend to be players who own a large part of the market, and I think that comes down to offering the best consumer value proposition — one that gives people lots of optionality, lots of personalization, and lots of value for one price.

I think that the same thing is going to play out in this area, and for the subscription that’s able to reach critical mass, that’s a multi-billion dollar business. And that’s what we’re aiming to build.

AliveCor, which helps its users manage their heart health, scores another FDA approval

Last week, AliveCor, a nine-year-old, 92-person company whose small, personal electrocardiogram devices help users detect atrial fibrillation, bradycardia, and tachycardia from heart rate readings taken from their own kitchen tables, raised $65 million from investors.

Today, it’s clearer why investors — who’ve now provided the Mountain View, Ca., company with $169 million altogether —  are excited about its prospects. AliveCor just received its newest FDA approval under the agency’s software as a medical device designation for an upgrade that generates enough detail and fidelity that AliveCor says its cardiological services can now serve as stand-in for the vast majority of cases when cardiac patients are not in front of their doctor.

Specifically, the company says the FDA-cleared update can detect premature atrial contractions, premature ventricular contractions, sinus rhythm with wide QR.

In a world where the pandemic continues to rage and people remain hesitant to visit a hospital, these little steps add up. In fact, CEO Priya Abani, along with AliveCor founder and chief medical officer David Albert, formerly the chief clinical scientist of cardiology at GE, say AliveCor’s “Kardia” devices have been used to record nearly 15 million EKG recordings since March of this year, which is up over 70% year-over-year.

They also claim a 25% increase year-over-year in what they call physician-patient connections, meaning doctors specifically asking their patients to use the device, either at their medical office or at the patient’s home. Indeed, the pair says that while the company has focused historically on consumer sales, so much new business is coming through doctor referrals that roughly one out of every two of its devices is now sold through these recommendations.

Patients still need to pay out of pocket for AliveCor’s personal EKG devices, one of which currently sells for $84 while a more sophisticated model sells for $139.

The company also more recently rolled out a subscription product for $99 per year that “unlocks” additional features, including monthly summaries of a customer’s heart data, and hopefully soon, says Abani, access to cardiologists who will be able to answer questions in lieu of one’s own cardiologist.

Abani — who joined AliveCor last year from Amazon, where she was a general manager and director of Alexa — says other offerings are also in the works that should help customers measure their hypertension and blood pressure. She adds that the company more broadly sees itself as becoming a way for people to manage chronic conditions from home and that, if things go AliveCor’s way, employers will begin offering the service to employees as a way for them to take better care of their own heart health.

In the meantime, AliveCor’s bigger push into the enterprise appears tied not only to COVID and its ripple effects but also to competition on the consumer front from Apple Watch, which also now enables wearers to records the electrical pulses that make one’s heart beat and to determine whether the upper and lower chambers are their heart are in rhythm.

Though the company has sung Apple’s praises for raising awareness around heart health, last year, owing to shrinking sales, AliveCor stopped making an earlier product called the KardiaBand that was an FDA-cleared ECG wristband designed for use with Apple Watches.

AliveCor’s products are currently sold in 12 countries, including India, South Korea, and Germany, and it has clearance to sell in more than 20 others.

In addition to selling directly to customers through its site, its devices are available to buy through Best Buy, CVS, and Walgreens.

Very worth noting: Neither Apple nor AliveCor can detect actual heart attacks. While both can diagnose atrial fibrillation, acute heart attacks are not associated with atrial fibrillation.

Steve Case’s Revolution is targeting $500 million for its fourth growth fund

Revolution, the Washington, D.C.-based investment firm founded by AOL cofounder CEO Steve Case and former AOL senior exec Ted Leonsis, is raising $500 million for its fourth fund, shows a new SEC filing.

Asked about the effort earlier today, the firm declined to comment.

This new fund was was expected. It has been more than four years since Revolution announced its third growth fund, a vehicle that closed with $525 million in capital commitments. That’s a longer time between funds than we’re seeing more broadly across the venture industry, where teams have tended to raise new funds every two years roughly, but Revolution’s pacing could tie to its mission. The firm tends to invest primarily in what it long ago dubbed “rise of the rest” cities, where the cost of living and talent is less extreme.

It has in recent years formed  Rise of the Rest seed funds, in fact, closing the second of these last year with $150 million in capital commitments.

Revolution is also having pretty good 2020, all things considered. Earlier this year, its Boston-based portfolio company DraftKings closed on a three-way merger and debuted on the Nasdaq. Meanwhile, BigCommerce, an Austin-based SaaS startup helping companies build, manage and market online stores, went public via a traditional IPO in early August and currently boasts a market cap of $4.2 billion. (Revolution provided the capital for the company’s Series C round in 2013 and continued to invest in subsequent rounds.)

Others of its notable investments include Orchard, a tech platform that helps users sell their current home while simultaneously purchasing their next one and whose $69 million Series C round was led by Revolution in September; TemperPack, a maker of thermal liners meant to address the longstanding plastic waste consumer issue and which raised $31 million in Series C funding this past summer, including follow-on funding from Revolution; and sweetgreen, the fast-casual restaurant chain that has endured some ups and downs owing to the pandemic but that closed on $150 million in funding a year ago and which first received backing from Revolution in 2013.

Last month, we talked at some length with Case, including about his involvement in the creation of Section 230 Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which helped create today’s internet giants.

We also talked at the time about whether COVID-19 will cause Silicon Valley to finally lose its gravitational pull. Said Case at the time:

“Obviously the jury is out. I think a lot of people who decided to leave Silicon Valley to shelter someplace else, most of those will end up returning. I don’t think you’ll see a mass exodus from the city, whether that be Silicon Valley or New York or Boston, which some have predicted.

I do think some of the people who decided to leave at least temporarily will decide to stay, and most of them will end up still working for their current company, in part because some of the tech companies like Facebook and Square and many others have have made it easier to work remotely. But some, once they get settled in another place, and their family is settled, will likely will decide to do something different [and] I think it could be a helpful catalyst in terms of these rise-of-the-rest cities that were showing some signs of momentum. This could be an accelerant.”

We had also talked with Case about data that suggests that women and other founders who are not in the networking flow of traditional venture firms are getting left behind as deals are being struck over Zoom. He’d also seen the data and was surprised by it. As he told us:

Yeah, that’s a concern. And it’s a concern about place. It’s also a concerned about people. If you just look at the the NVCA data, last year, 75% of venture capital went to just three states and more than 90% of venture capital went to men and less than 10% to women, even though women represent half our population. And last year, even though Black Americans are about 14% of the population, Black founders got less than 1% of venture capital. So if you just look at the data, it does matter where you live, it does matter what you look like, it does matter the kind of school you went to.

I would have thought that because of the pandemic and because suddenly, Zoom meetings for pitches were becoming increasingly commonplace . . .that that would open up the aperture for most venture capitalists. They would be more willing to take meetings with people in other places, and also be willing to get to reach out to some of the diverse communities that they haven’t traditionally have invested in.

Some of that has happened, for sure. We have seen more interest among coastal investors in opportunities in these in these rise-of-the-rest cities. I think the challenge more broadly, when you go beyond place toward people is what you hear from more of these venture capitalists. They say, ‘Yes, we understand that it’s a problem we need to be help solve. It’s also an opportunity we can potentially seize, because some of these entrepreneurs are going to build some really valuable companies. But we don’t really have the networks. We tend to be mostly situated where we live and have worked or went to school and also where we’ve previously made investments. So we just don’t have the networks in the middle of a country. We don’t have networks with Black founders,’ and so forth.

So that’s an area that we’re really focusing on now: how do we extend the networks. I do think most VCs realize they should be part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

Case mentioned during our call — ahead of the U.S. presidential election —  his longstanding friendship with now President-elect Joseph Biden. Case isn’t the only one at Revolution with ties to Biden, however. Ron Klain, an executive vice president at Revolution, previously served as Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president and as the world learned last week, Klain is again heading into politics, after being chosen to serve as the White House chief of staff beginning in January.

Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney likens fight against Apple to fight for civil rights

Earlier today, Apple announced it will reduce the App Store commissions for smaller businesses so that developers earning less than $1 million per year pay a 15% commission on in-app purchases, rather than the standard 30% commission.

Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games, says the move — an apparent reaction to current investigations into Apple by Congress, the European Union, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission on antitrust grounds — doesn’t go nearly far enough. He told the Wall Street Journal that Apple is merely “hoping to remove enough critics that they can get away with their blockade on competition and 30% tax on most in-app purchases. But consumers will still pay inflated prices marked up by the Apple tax.”

Sweeney — whose company has been embroiled in a battle since launched a direct-payment system in its popular “Fortnite” game to bypass Apple’s fees — went even further today in conversation with Dealbook during a two-day event.

Asked about Epic’s fight with the tech giant — which began in August with its payment system, which led to Apple kicking Fortnite off the App Store, which led to Epic filing a civil lawsuit against Apple in the U.S. and more newly to begin legal proceedings against Apple in Australia using the same argument that Apple is acting monopolistically — Sweeney didn’t mince words. He even likened Epic’s ongoing campaign to the fight for civil rights in the U.S.

Epic vs. Apple

Said Sweeney:  It’s everybody’s duty to fight. It’s not just an option that somebody’s lawyers might decide, but it’s actually our duty to fight that. If we had adhered to all of Apple’s terms and, you know, taken their 30% payment processing fees and passed the cost along to our customers, then that would be Epic colluding with Apple to restrain competition on iOS and to inflate prices for consumers. So going along with Apple’s agreement is what is wrong. And that’s why Epic mounted a challenge to this, and you know you can hear of any, and [inaudible] to civil rights fights, where there were actual laws on the books, and the laws were wrong. And people disobeyed them, and it was not wrong to disobey them because to go along with them would be collusion to make them status quo.”

While the analogy undoubtedly prompted some eye rolls by attendees, Apple’s announcement today suggests that Epic, which has itself evolving into a powerful and lucrative platform — one valued at $17.3 billion during in August following a $1.78 billion funding deal — is moving the needle, if slightly.

Per a New York TImes report that cites Sensor Tower data, Apple’s fee change will affect roughly 98% of the companies that pay Apple a commission — but those same developers account for less than 5% of App Store revenue.

The company reportedly derives the vast majority of its revenue from 2% of developers.

In the meantime, the question is where it all ends. Interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin noted that Epic has a price in its own app store, asking if there is any “fair price” in Sweeney’s mind that Apple could charge.

Sweeney noted that Epic itself pays 2% to 3% in transaction costs in developing countries, another 1% for payments support and “maybe 1%” of revenue to cover its bandwidth costs and suggested that an 8% Apple tax, as it has come to be called, might be acceptable in exchange for the service it provides to developers.

In fairness to Apple, Sorkin also observed that similar to Apple, Sweeney talks about “Fortnite” as a platform, one that is “right now not open; there’s not a competitive marketplace where others can effectively develop on top of [the] platform [to] create their own in app purchases right now.” He asked if that might be changing.

Sweeney said the company is “moving in that direction.” Pointing to Fortnite Creative, a mode in Fortnite allows users to freely create content,  he said that “tens of millions of creators are sharing their content with their friends and with the general public, and there’s a little bit of a business model there. But it’s in the very early stages of development.”

 

Masayoshi Son says SoftBank now has “$80 billion in cash on hand” just in case

Masayoshi Son, the founder and CEO of the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, has had a topsy turvy year or two, but the story he is eager to tell is that he is back and in the black.

Such was the overarching message delivered at a virtual Dealbook conference earlier today, with Son joining from Tokyo and sounding sanguine about a wide range of issues, from TikTok’s future (SoftBank is an investor in its parent company, Bytedance); to the future of ousted WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann, a company on which SoftBank has lost billions of dollars (“I’m a big believer that someday he will be very successful”); to SoftBank’s ability to shop opportunistically, thanks to a massive asset sell-off that Son says has provided SoftBank with “$80 billion in cash on hand.”

In case you missed the chat, we’re bringing you some highlights, starting with the one thing that is causing the “optimistic” Son to feel “pessimistic in the short-term.”

On COVID-19:

Son says that in March, he was accused by local medical professionals of trying to cause a panic after tweeting about his concern over the coronavirus.

SoftBank has since begun operating the largest private testing facility in Japan, a country of 126.5 million that is currently seeing roughly 1,300 new cases each day (compared to the U.S., home to 328 million people and currently seeing more than 166,000 new cases each day).

Son credits Japanese citizens with the country’s success to date in battling back the pandemic, saying they “all wear a mask by themselves . . .they are very conscious about this.” But he said that “any disaster” could happen “in the next two to three months” before the mass production and distribution of a vaccine.  A “major company could collapse” causing a domino effect, not unlike what happened when Lehman Brothers was abruptly forced to file bankruptcy in 2008, shaking up the entire banking industry.

“Anything can happen in this kind of situation,” said Son, adding, “I think it’s getting better with this news of the vaccines’ success. But I still want to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, so that’s why today we have almost $80 billion cash in hand ourselves.” Son went on to say that SoftBank has “enough funding,” but that “I thought cash is very important in this kind of crisis.”

On that massive cash pile:

Interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin did not ask, and Son did not remark, about Elliott Management, the hedge-fund firm believed to be the second biggest shareholder of SoftBank and which reportedly pressured Son to sell off assets and buy back some of the company’s own shares, whose price had fallen precipitously earlier this year.

In the meantime, Son suggested that it was his own decision to snatch up depressed SoftBank shares, saying that when in March, its stock had sunk almost 70% in value, “I said, ‘Oh my god, this is the best time for me to buy back shares, when our discount to the our underlying asset went over 70%, like 75%.’ So I could buy our own company for one-fourth the price of underlying assets. I said, ‘Oh my god, I should buy, I should buy it.'”

Son did answer whether part of that asset sale was also driven by an interest in plugging more money into SoftBank’s existing portfolio companies — some of which have suffered during the pandemic — or whether he anticipates being able to swoop in and buy up other, new assets.

Unsurprisingly, Son said that “If we can invest in these front end companies, if we can invest more into those opportunities, I will be aggressive,” noting that pricing for so-called unicorns that need funding has improved.

On the WeWork debacle and lessons learned:

Speaking of unicorns, Sorkin brought up WeWork, the coworking company into which SoftBank somewhat famously jammed at least $18.5 billion — “billions” of which it subsequently lost, acknowledged Son.

Sorkin asked what lessons were learned from SoftBank’s involvement with the company, but Son, who later said in the interview that he is someone who accepts his bad decisions so he can learn from them, didn’t exactly acknowledge a failing on SoftBank’s part, pointing the finger instead at cofounder and former CEO Adam Neumann, who was elbowed out the door of the company roughly a year ago.

Said Son: “I think this is a lesson that Adam Neumann himself is telling himself he made a mistake. He’s a smart guy. I think he admits he made a few mistakes. I think that he’s a smart guy, he’s an aggressive guy, he has lots of capability, he can convince people, he’s a great leader. But he made some mistakes. Any human makes some mistakes.”

The furthest Son went was to say that, “I’m part of the responsibility of his mistake,” before continuing on regarding Neumann, saying: “So, I still love him. I still respect him. I’m sure he would come back and do some great stuff in his rest of the world and his life. So I’m a big believer that someday he will be very successful. And he would he would say he has learned a lot from his prior life.”

On the Trump administration’s efforts to ban TikTok in the U.S.:

Son also has a vested interest in TikTok’s success. It was roughly two years ago that it led a $3 billion round in TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance, which was valued at $78 billion at the time and which is currently raising a new round from investors that would value the still-private company at a whopping $180 billion, according to recent reports. (It’s very much a SoftBank-style deal in this regard, and it will be interesting to see if SoftBank is leading this next round at more than twice the company’s previous valuation.)

As for the pressure that Bytedance came under this fall to sell its TikTok’s U.S. operations, with Oracle and Walmart both involved in the bid, Son called it a “sad thing” if a service that “people enjoy a lot gets discontinued because of some political concerns [over] something that is actually not happening.”

Indeed, Son insisted that, based on his discussions with the company’s top brass, Bytedance has no interest in compromising the privacy of its users or the national security of the countries in which TikTok operates, be it the U.S., India, Japan, or European countries. He added that for those regions with lingering concerns, there is “always a solution, like putting servers in each country where the politicians may feel much more comfortable about protecting security national security . . .there is always a technical solution.”

These Stanford students are racing to get laptops to kids around the U.S. who most need them

The digital divide is not a new phenomenon. Still, it largely took Americans by surprise when, as the U.S. began to shut down to slow the spread of Covid-19 in March, schools grappled with how to move forward with online classes.

It wasn’t just a matter of altering students’ curriculum. Many lacked either internet access or home computers — and some lacked both. According to USAFacts, a non-partisan organization funded by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer,  4.4 million households with children have not had consistent access to computers for online learning during the pandemic.

It’s a problem that two Stanford students, Isabel Wang and Margot Bellon, are doing everything in their power to address, and with some success. Through their six-month-old 501(c)(3) outfit, Bridging Tech, they’ve already provided more than 400 refurbished laptops to children who need them most — those living in homeless shelters — beginning with students in the Bay Area where there are an estimated 2,000 homeless students in San Francisco alone.

Unsurprisingly, it began as a passion project for both, though both sound committed to building an enduring organization. They always cared about the digital divide; now they’ve seen too much to walk away from it.

Wang, for her part, grew up in the affluent Cleveland, Oh., suburb of Shaker Heights, which has “always had racial tensions,” she notes. (The best-selling novel “Little Fires Everywhere” is set in the same place, for the same reason.) Partly as a result of “racism in our community,” Wang became involved early on in public health initiatives that address those from underserved backgrounds, and part of that focus centered on equitable access to education.

Bellon, a biology major who met Wang at Outdoor House, a student-initiated outdoors-themed house at Stanford, had similar interests early on, she says. Growing up in San Mateo, Ca., she volunteered in homeless shelters in high school and in college, experiences that made her aware of the challenges created by a lack of access to technology. For many, just getting WiFi can mean having to linger outside a Starbucks, she notes, and often, the only computer available is inside a library.

As the world shut down in the spring, Bellon realized these options were no longer available to the many people desperately needing them, just as Wang was coming to her own worried conclusions. The friends joined forces and now 30 other volunteers, almost all fellow Stanford students, are also contributing to the effort.

So far, Bridging Tech has been most focused on securing laptops for students lacking access to tech. Citrix Systems and Genetech have been among the bigger donors, but it’s easy to imagine that the nascent organization could use far more help from the region’s many tech giants.

Once it has lightly used computers in its possession, they are distributed to a handful of refurbishers with which Bridging Tech has partnered. All guarantee their work for a year. One of these partners, Computers 2 Kids in San Diego, also provides clear instructions so that children can get up and running without much assistance.

Bellon says that homeless shelters in the Bay Area typically have tech volunteers who help children turn on the computers and get set up, and that organizations like ShelterTech have partnered with Bridging Tech to ensure these young computer recipients also have access to WiFi.

The devices are also gifted permanently.

In the meantime, Bridging Tech has also launched a tutoring program, as well as a mentorship program based on more skill-based activities like computer science.

It’s a lot of moving pieces for two college students who not so long ago were primarily focused on getting through the next assignment. That’s not keeping them from barreling ahead into other geographies based on the traction they’ve seen in Northern California. Bellon says that they’ve already talked with shelters in New York, L.A. Boston, Washington, Atlanta, and a handful of other cities.

As they’re made more aware by the day, all around the country, disadvantaged kids who’ve been forced into distance learning because the pandemic are falling further behind their peers.

It’s not an issue that the federal or state governments are going to solve alone without more resolve. Consider that about one in five teenagers in America said in a 2018 Pew Research Center survey that they are often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments because they don’t have reliable access to a computer or internet connection. In the same survey, one quarter of lower-income teens said they did not have access to a home computer.

One of the biggest questions for Wang and Bellon is how they scale their ambitions. Right now, for example, the computers being refurbished by Bridging Tech are being delivered to shelters directly by volunteers who drive them there. Bridging Tech doesn’t yet have the network or infrastructure elsewhere to ensure that the same happens in other cities.

Both founders are aware of their limitations. Wang says very explicitly that Bridging Tech needs not only more device donations but could also use the skills of a grant writer, a marketer, and a development professional who can help introduce the outfit to other potential partner organizations. “We’re college students, so anything people can teach us is very valuable,” she says.

She also readily concedes that Bridging Tech “doesn’t have the process nailed down for in-kind donations in other cities, so we’re mostly beginning to purchase those devices.” (One way it’s doing this is via an organization called Whistle that pays users for their old devices but also enables them to donate the proceeds.)

Still, the two want to keep at it, even after Wang returns to school and Bellon moves on next year to a master’s program.

“For a more equitable society,” says Bellon, tech clearly needs to be equitable. “Covid has exacerbated these issues, but you need tech for everything and that’s not going away.”

This fintech-focused VC firm just closed a $75 million debut fund; backers “came out of the woodwork”

It’s no secret that a massive digital transformation is happening within financial services companies and amid the growing number of non-financial outfits that are also adding financial products to their offerings.

Still, Sheel Mohnot, who was formerly a general partner at the fintech fund of 500 Startups, and Jake Gibson, co-founder of personal finance startup NerdWallet, were a little taken aback by investor interest in their fintech-focused early-stage venture firm, Better Tomorrow Ventures, or BTV.

The outfit just closed its debut fund with $75 million in capital commitments, exceeding their original $60 million target, and even one of their earliest investors, Michael Kim of Cendana Capital, expresses surprise. “Remarkably, they raised a lot of it during Covid,” says Kim.

We talked yesterday with the pair, who have already invested in 13 startups with the fund’s capital and, they say, led nine of those deals.

TC: The good news is you’re focused on fintech. The bad news is that valuations are going through the roof right now. How do you compete in this kind of environment?

SM: It’s true. Everybody decided that what we’ve been talking about all along is in line with their beliefs too, after exits like Plaid and Credit Karma. Everybody became a fintech investor. And you’re right that that has led to an increase in valuations. To some extent that’s good, though. It’s meant that one of our companies has already had a pretty massive markup in part because of this phenomenon.

I also think we’re finding we’re able to win deals at better prices because we’re both founders [Mohnot sold a company, FeeFinders, to Groupon 2012], and all we do is fintech, so we tend to understand better what founders are building than generalist investors.

JG: I do think that resonates in that we’ve been able to pay prices that we think make sense and get the ownership we want. This isn’t the 4 on 16 game that others are playing (where VCs invest $4 million at a pre-money valuation and so own 20% of the company). I think all but one or two of them were repeat founders who see the value of working with partners like us.

TC: How much ownership are you targeting for that first check — 10%?

JG: Right, 10%, though we’re really shooting for 12%.

TC: And will you turn to [special purpose vehicles] to maintain your stake if certain companies begin to gain traction?

JG: Yes, I’ve done quite a bit of SPVs in the past. I’ve invested in 90 companies as an angel investor and I think we’ve probably deployed more than $40 million between the two of us over the last five years leading up to BTV, including SPVs on top of angel investments. [Editor’s note: some of those earlier deals include Chipper Cash, Albert, Clear Cover, and Hippo.]

TC: What companies are in BTV’s portfolio? 

SM: None have been announced.

TC: Not one?!

SM: Nobody announces their seed rounds anymore. When I started my company, I wanted as much coverage as possible. I thought that was great for the company. Now founders don’t feel that way, with very few wanting to announce.

TC: But there are benefits to recruiting and getting on the radar or later-stage investors. Why eschew it altogether?

JG: Competition to some extent. They don’t want people to know what they’re working on because once you see a competitive seed round, you see a lot of other startups pop up to do the same thing, I also just think there’s not as much upside anymore to announcing, so most founders, when you’re seeing their seed round, it’s because they’re about to raise their Series A. The data you’re seeing in Pitchbook is typically six months [behind].

TC: Who are your investors?

SM: We have a lot of individuals — founders of fintech unicorns. We have a couple of fintech venture funds, fintech-focused GPs from later-stage funds, a few insurance companies, and a bunch of Wall Street people who help us keep track on that side of the market, as well.

JG: We’re also backed by kind of a who’s who of fund of funds that back emerging managers: Cendana, Industry Ventures, Vintage [Investment Partners], Invesco.

TC: Did you know a lot of these investors before the pandemic shut down everything?

JG: Some, but we had to sell a lot of them cold over Zoom. We held a first close last December — that capital was from Cendana and individuals. We’d started conversations with other institutions at ths point but everyone said it would take a while and that institutions won’t come until you raise your second fund, so we didn’t have high hopes that we’d get a lot of them on board.

When March and April hit, we figured we’d have to raise a smaller fund. But then things re-opened, people got back to work, and we were able to close institutions we’d started conversations with. Then people came out of the woodwork, because tech got hot fast but especially fintech, with all the IPO and M&A activity.  People said, ‘We want fintech exposure now, and we want to invest in a fintech-focused fund, and you’re the only game in town.’

TC: What do you need to see to write a check?

SM: The team is the most important thing, of course. Product and market is important, but the team is the thing that’s least likely to change and with so many past winners, the product or market changed and they found something that worked and were able to pivot and cockroach their way to success. Having a leader who is able to articulate a vision that other people want to get behind — customers, investors, future employees — is especially critical.

JG: Our thesis is that everything is fintech, so we invest across the board: payments, lending, banking, real estate, insurance, b2b, consumer — anything that’s ostensibly fintech. We think a lot of companies that aren’t typically fintech today will look like fintech later, with more and more tech platforms that get into financial services. We’re investing at the pre-seed and seed stage but also meeting with founders at the idea stage, sometimes to talk them out of starting another neobank.

TC: Do you? Every time I wonder how many neobanks make sense in this world, an investor tells me that if their company can get .00001% of the market, they’ll have a multibillion company on their hands.

JG: No. Most will never figure out how to get profitable. A lot o f investors like to argue that with neobanks, you lose money on every trade but you make it up in volume. Yet very few have a path to getting to positive economics. You need huge scale to get to profitability, and that means you have to spend a ton of venture capital on marketing. More, a lot are going after audiences that are already over-served by traditional financial products.

SM: The same is true for “Plaid for X” type companies. After the announcement of Plaid’s exit — or what we all thought was Plaid’s exit — we looked at five companies, many of them hitting on the same ideas and duking it out for the same customers.

TC: Will the fact that the DOJ is suing to block Plaid’s sale to Visa, citing Visa’s monopoly power, have a chilling effect?

JG: We haven’t seen that. A lot of people are discounting that complaint and thinking it will gets ouf this in the end via SPAC. The company was doing north of $100 million in revenue, and given where these businesses trade, Plaid could go public and see an amazingly successful outcome.

It’s not just Plaid, by the way. There are 40 SPACs that are focused on fintech alone [meaning publicly trade blank-check companies that have to merge with a target in two years’ time]. Just think about the outcomes that have to happen in the next two years.

Former Dropbox CFO Ajay Vashee is joining the powerhouse venture firm IVP in January

Ajay Vashee — who spent the last eight years at Dropbox, rising from the head of finance to CFO over his tenure and helping to take the company public in 2018 — is joining the Silicon Valley venture firm IVP in January.

It’s the realization of plans established long ago by Vashee, who fell in love with venture years early on and has always known he wanted to return to it, though he wasn’t sure when or where that night happen. Indeed, he says that when he announced that he was leaving Dropbox in early August to join the world of venture capital, he didn’t know where he would land. He instead “wanted my intentions out there.”

It was an effective tactic, from the sounds of things. Vashee hints that he talked with numerous firms, deciding that later-stage IVP was the best fit for a variety of reasons, including experience he’d gained at Dropbox, helping to navigate the company through multiple stages of growth, including both as a private and then a public company.

Vashee also had experience working with IVP, which led Dropbox’s Series B round, and he says he saw firsthand the value the firm brings to a deal. “They helped us build our board, they were a sounding board for so many strategic decisions and always hustled for us.”

As an added bonus, he isn’t starting until January, giving him a little extra time to spend with his extended family in the Bay Area and, most importantly, with his young daughters, ages 4 and 1.

Vashee, who attended to Columbia and headed to Morgan Stanley as an analyst right out of college, first fell in love with venture during his second job, which was a senior associate with NEA where he spent four years. “I absolutely loved investing and wasn’t planning to leave the join a company, but the opportunity to join Dropbox came up, and, knowing that I ultimately wanted to build a career as an investor, it if felt like something I couldn’t pass up.”

Though a generalist at NEA, Vashee says he will be focused on enterprise software — including companies focused on collaboration and finance automation — at IVP.

Vashee has already made some personal bets in the area, including investing in startups Metronome, Mosaic, and Layer.

He’ll suggests that he’ll also be spending a lot more time thinking about the going-public process, now that many choices are on the table in addition to traditional IPOs. Interestingly, he says that if he were taking Dropbox public today, an option like a direct listing is something he’d want to evaluate.

Unsurprisingly, he says a handful of IVP partners serve on the boards of companies that are right now evaluating tie-ups with special purpose acquisition companies or SPACs, too.

In either case, he stresses that companies eyeing the public market need to be prepared, noting that the “operational readiness and rigor” that was instilled at Dropbox has proved “invaluable” to the company. Adds Vashee, “I don’t think the IPO process is broken, but has room for improvement.”

IVP announced its last fund — its biggest to date — in September 2017, closing at the time on $1.5 billion in capital. Given that three years have elapsed and that fund sizes have only continued to balloon, and that new partners are usually brought in just before a new fund closes, the firm appears poised to announce an even bigger vehicle any day now.

One of the firm’s highest-profile investors, Todd Chaffee, has already said that he won’t be actively investing that new fund, following a 20-year run.

Mirror founder Brynn Putnam on life with Lululemon — and whether or not she sold too soon

Brynn Putnam has a lot to feel great about. A Harvard grad and former professional ballet dancer who opened the first of what have become three high-intensity fitness studios in New York, she then launched a second business in 2016 when — while pregnant with her son — she was exercising at home and couldn’t find a natural way watch a class on her laptop or phone. Her big idea: to install mirrored screens in users’ homes that are roughly eight square feet and through which they can exercise to all manner of streamed and on-demand exercise classes, paying a monthly subscription of just $39 per month.

If you’ve followed the home fitness craze, you already know these Mirrors quickly took off with celebrities, who gushed about the product on social media. Putnam’s company also attracted roughly $75 million in venture funding across several fast rounds. Indeed, by the end of last year, people had bought  “tens of thousands” of Mirrors, according to Putnam, and she was beginning to envision Mirrors as content portals that might feature fashion, enable doctors’ visits, and bring both kids’ classes and therapy into users’ homes. As she told The Atlantic back in January, “We view ourselves as the third screen in people’s homes.”

Then, in June, the company revealed it had sold for $500 million in cash — including a $50 million earn-out — to the athleisure company Lululemon. For Putnam, the deal was too compelling, allowing her to secure the future of her company, which continues to run as a subsidiary. Investors might have liked it, too, given that it meant a fast return on their investment, not to mention that Mirror had steep competition, including from Peloton, a growing giant in the home fitness market.

The deal seems to be clicking. Just today, Lululemon announced that it is installing Mirrors in 18 of its now 506 U.S. locations, including in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Miami. Lulemon hasn’t started selling products directly through Mirror yet, but “shoppable content” is “certainly on our radar” too, says Putnam. Meanwhile, Mirror’s revenues, expected earlier this year to reach $100 million, are now on target to surpass $150 million in revenue, she says.

Still, as the pandemic has raged on, it’s easy to wonder what the young company might have grown into given the amount of time that people and their children are spending at home and in front of their screens. Late last week, we put the question to Putnam, who continues to manage a team of 125 people. Our chat, lightly edited, follows. You can listen to the full conversation here.

TC: People who follow the company know why you started Mirror, but how, exactly, did you start Mirror?

BP: In the case of Mirror, I had this concept for the product, and then really, the first step was buying a Raspberry Pi, a piece of one-way glass, and an Android tablet, and assembling it in my in my kitchen to see if this idea in my mind would be able to work and come to life.

TC: Did you take any coding classes? People might not imagine that a former ballet performer with a chain of fitness studios would put something together like that in her kitchen.

BP: No, I’ve been very fortunate to have a husband who has a bit of a development background. And so he helped me to put the first little bit of code into the Mirror and just really ensure that the concept I had in my mind could be brought to life. And then from there, obviously, over time, we hired a team.

TC: Are they manufactured in the States? In China? How did you start figuring out how to put those pieces together?

BP: I had heard a lot of hardware horror stories about teams working with design agencies to design these beautiful products and who, by the time they actually got to manufacturing, found out that something wasn’t feasible about their design when it came to commercialization or just running out of money in the process. So I actually went backwards. I drew a sketch on a napkin and did a small set of bullets of the things that I thought were really just crucial to make the product a success. And then I went to find factories in China that were familiar with digital signage, working with large pieces of glass, large mirrors, learned about their systems and processes, and then brought it back to the U.S. to a local manufacturer here on the East Coast to refine into a prototype. And then we eventually moved to Mexico when we were ready to scale.

TC: The mirror is about $1,500 dollars. How did you go about winning the trust of consumers that would lead them to make such a sizable investment?

BP: When you’re when you’re building an innovation product, you can’t really compete on specs and features like you do with phones or laptops. So you’re really building building a brand, which means that you’re telling stories. And in our case, we spent a lot of time, from the very early days, really imagining the life of our members and figuring out how to craft that story and tell that story.

And then we were fortunate early on to have members fall in love with the product. And then they started to tell our story for us. So once you have that customer flywheel that starts to kick in, your job becomes much easier.

TC: You had actors, celebrities, designers, and social media influencers talking about their Mirrors. Was it just a matter of sending it off to a few people who started getting online and sharing [their enthusiasm for the product] with their followers? Was it that simple?

BP: We knew that we wanted to make big bets early on to make the Mirror brand seem larger and more established than it was, because it’s a premium product in a new category. And we wanted people to trust in us and the brand. And so we did things like out-of-home advertisements quite early, we moved into television quite early, and we also did some very strategic early celebrity placements. But the way in which the celebrity placements grew and expanded was very much not intended and was just kind of a fascinating early example of the network effects of the product. One celebrity would get it and then another would see it in their home. Or they would see it in their stylist’s home or their agent’s home. And it spread through that community very, very quickly in one of the earliest examples of member love for us.

TC: How did you convince early adopters that your business had staying power, and were investors persuaded as quickly?

BP: Trying to assure customers that they wouldn’t invest in this Mirror, and then the company would go out of business in a few years and they would be they’d be left with a piece of hardware but no access to the content or the community that they’d fallen in love with was very important. It was one of the factors in deciding to partner with Lululemon and have the incredible brand stability and love of such a premium global brand.

In terms of fundraising, I think we were we were really fortunate to have a product that once you saw it, you got it and fell in love with it in a market that was clearly big and growing, with a really good competitive data point in Peloton.

TC: Who started that conversation with Lululemon? Were you talking to Peloton and other potential acquirers?

BP: I’ve been really fortunate to actually work with Lululemon for my entire fitness career. There was a team of Lululemon educators here in New York who were the very first clients of my studio business, and frankly, in many ways were responsible for helping that business to grow and thrive and to give me confidence as a first-time small business owner. Then we reconnected with Lululemon about a year before the acquisition as an investor; they made a small minority investment in the company. And we began to work together on various projects . . .From there, really, the partnership just grew. Mirror was not for sale. We were not looking for an acquirer. But it’s really your responsibility as a founder to always be weighing your vision, your responsibility to your team and your responsibility to your shareholders. And so when the opportunity presented itself — before COVID actually — it felt like really just too good an opportunity to pass up.

TC: But you also you had ambitions of turning this into a much broader content portal where you would maybe have doctor visits and other things, which I would think won’t happen now.

BP: The vision for Mirror very much remains the same and we’re excited to continue to expand the types of content that we offer via the Mirror platform, really with an eye toward any type of immersive experience that makes you a better version of yourself. So I think you will see a broader range of content from us in the coming years.

TC: You’ve mention in the past as a selling point that Mirror is a product that’s used by families. Is there children’s programming or is that coming soon?

BP I think one of the things that surprised us but delighted us about Mirror has been the number of households that have over two members. More than 65% of our households have over two members, which means that you’re often getting younger members of the household involved. I do think that is a function of both the versatility of the platform and the fact that multiple people can participate in more content. At the same time, we’ve actually seen the number of users under 20 grow about 5x during the COVID months as young adults have returned home to be with their their families or teenagers have started doing remote schooling. So we’ve leaned into that with what we call “family fun” content that’s designed to be performed by the whole family together.

TC: Do you see a secondary market for refurbished Mirrors in the future? Will there be a second version, if there isn’t already?

BP: We’ll obviously continue to to refine the hardware over time, but the real focus of the business is through improving the content, community and experience, and so for us — unlike Apple, where the goal is to really release a new model every year and continue to have folks upgrade the hardware — we focus on providing updates via the software and the content, so that we’re continuing to add value onto the baseline experience.

TC: What can people look forward to on this front?

BP: We’re taking a major step toward  building a connected community through our community feature set launching this holiday, including a community feature that enables members to see and communicate with each other and their instructor; face offs that allow members to compete head-to-head against another member of the community and earn points as you hit your target heart rate zones; and friending, so you can find and follow your friends in the Mirror community to share your favorite workouts, join programs together and cheer each other on.

TC: Are you still selling Mirrors to hotels and businesses outside of Lululemon?

BP: We do have B2B relationships. You can find mirrors in hotels, small gyms, buildings, residences, and then obviously direct-to-consumer through the Mirror website, the Lululemon website, and both of our [offline] stores.

TC: When you look at Peloton now and how its stock has completely exploded this year,  do you think ever that you should have hung on a little longer? Do you ever think ‘maybe I sold too soon?’

I’ve woken up every day really for my entire career kind of focused on the same mission but trying to solve the problem and achieve my vision and in different ways. Which is: I really believe that confidence in your own skin is the foundation of a good and happy life. And fitness is an incredible tool for building that confidence that carries over into your personal relationships, your work performance, your friendships. And so for me, that’s always really been the North Star, which is, ‘How do we get more Mirrors into more homes and provide more access to to that self confidence?’ So I spend very little time comparing to competitors and much more time focused on our members’ needs and how to meet them.