My pitch to Marc Andreessen, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan and investors in Work Life.

As an operator and active angel investor, I left Zendesk a year ago to build Work Life, a future of work focused fund, backed by Silicon Valley investors and executives from breakout $1B+ companies.

While there are many paths into venture, I’d like to share my background, fund strategy and how I raised $5M in just two weeks to help other operators, angels and emerging fund managers break into what I consider to be one of the most high impact and meaningful jobs in the world.

It’s an honor and a privilege to partner with founders on the long road to success. If nothing else, I hope this post inspires you to get involved with early stage companies in some capacity. Startups require so much more than capital to be successful.

  1. How to start angel investing
  2. Why start a fund?
  3. The pitch

The pitch is an early version of the deck that closed Marc Andreessen, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan and Silicon Valley investors and executives at Dropbox, Slack and other 🚀companies.

How to start angel investing

Like many angel investors, I got started by meeting early stage on evenings and weekends, while I was operating full time at Expedia and later Zendesk in various product roles and lastly in a GTM strategy role where I built Zendesk for Startups which included a network of incubators, accelerators and VC firms.

In addition to operating, I taught classes at General Assembly for over four years and built my own GTM bootcamp as a way to expand my reach and build a trusted network with 5,000+ operators in the Bay Area (many have gone on to start companies).

I then decided to rebrand the program as it’s own stand-alone entity and call it SaaS School, a self-funded & community-led program taught by executives from Airtable, Dropbox, Notion, Superhuman and other venture-backed startups.

In my recent interview with TechCrunch, I shared that “you start by advising, then you start with very small angel checks.”

Today, there are a number of programs to get started ie: First Round Angel Track, AngelList Spearhead (up to $1M for founders) and most VC firms operate their own variation of scout program.

In the beginning, I used my own capital to invest in early stage companies including Webflow, Command E, AirGarage , but most importantly I sent a high volume of companies to VC funds.

Through Zendesk for Startups, SaaS School and other events I hosted, I became a super-connector in Silicon Valley.

I would take the first meeting and help founders find their lead and access other angels in my network.

A few thoughts for those who are just getting started:

  • Access is everything when you’re just getting started: meet a lot of companies and start to narrow your filter over time
  • Lean into existing networks: Venture capital is an industry built on trust and reputation. Your reputation with colleagues and peers at other companies matter a lot, especially as they leave to start companies or you want to recruit them to your portfolio companies
  • Give, give, give before you ever ask for anything: Before raising a dollar for my fund, I had taught over 5,000 students, hosted weekly startup dinners and jumped on diligence calls when firms had questions that aligned with my experience in SaaS growth and GTM

Why start a fund?

While there’s no shortage of scout programs or ways to play an active role in the early days of a startup, I chose to start my own fund for three reasons:

  • Values alignment: People spend 1/3 of their lives at work. Technology has the power to create new jobs, improve existing ones and give people more control over their career progression without employer dependencies.
  • Market opportunity: “I had friends like Ryan Hoover,  who started Weekend Fund focused on consumer, and Alexia is one of my friends as well and I saw what she was doing with Dream Machine, which is also consumer. It felt like it was the right time to come out with a SaaS-focused fund.”
  • From SaaS School alone, I see 200 applications twice a year from Seed and Series A founders. There was increasing demand from the community for a dedicated program to technical/product founders learn GTM best practices from leading experts.
  • Skills alignment: The ability to partner with founders where I can immediately add value through operating experience, network and general interests was a core driver for not joining a firm. I wanted to stay focused and continue to develop my craft as a bottom-up SaaS and workplace product expert.

The Pitch

Work Life is a future of work focused fund not tied to “Consumer” or “Enterprise” labels, but rather focused on new tools and services to unlock individual potential through creativity, productivity and new types of work.

Here is an early version of the deck that I used to pitch early LPs.

Overview: bullet points to describe the fund strategy and high signal LPs involved

Fund I has a fairly high number of investments by design.
The goal is to build a broad network that aligns to my core thesis. I’m anticipating 70% of companies will fall under the “work” category and 30% will fall under “life” such as education, childcare and services that are consumer, but directly impact your work life.

Fund I has a fairly high number of investments by design.
The goal is to build a broad network that aligns to my core thesis. I’m anticipating 70% of companies will fall under the “work” category and 30% will fall under “life” such as education, childcare and services that are consumer, but directly impact your work life.

About slide: value proposition to founders, achievements and fund differentiators 

Market opportunity: Define the market opportunity and provide examples of companies that align to your thesis.

In this case, my LP base is focused on Silicon Valley investors and executives with deep expertise in the space, so this section is fairly light.

Theme slides: A key trend, unique insight or thought that demonstrates access, expertise and ability to win deals aligned to the theme.

In this case BYOT is a term I coined to describe tools that people discover on evenings and weekends, bring to work and land & expand inside of companies.

For creative tools such as podcasting, publishing, design platforms for architects, jewelers, graphic designers and animators, these tools grow through influencer adoption and social mentions, industry communities and creative agencies/freelancer platforms.

One of the core pillars of @WorkLifeVC is new technology that reimagine work.

The greatest innovations we’ll see in the workplace will come from new consumer tech that people discover & use daily to improve their work life. Technology gives consumers more leverage to advance their career without employer dependencies.

People want more ownership over their career and flexibility to seamlessly transition into new sectors and areas of expertise

People (not employers) will solve problems like career progression.

Affordable skills-based education is giving people more ownership over career progression @LambdaSchool and @WhiteHatGB accelerate & launch high earning careers not possible before @knowablefyi@superhi_ for ongoing learning to accelerate careers or start something new.

Online communities and forums create a compressed learning environment & safety net for members – Peers share insights and validate ideas – Members collectively refresh content & moderate – Safe space to job hunt or start something new @ThePracticalDev@girlboss

Professional coaching, on-demand advice & remote workspaces create new outlets for people to break into a new field Interests snowball into careers: self-education & consistent publishing to build expertise Interest based calls like Dial-up https://dialup.com

GTM for software companies is increasingly similar to DTC brands: brand matters, community reduces customer acquisition costs and customer support costs and social signals drive purchase decisions over pure functionality.

Your work life is part of your identity.

For early builders, you’ll have periods with long hours and insane focus but at the end of the day you’re building what you love.

As you scale, keep in mind: people spend 1/3 of their lives at work, it’s a big part of who we are and how we view the world.

The modern workplace is a community with shared values, a discovery platform for new goods and services and a trusted source for news and information.

Offices are designed for Instagram.

Employees choose companies based on benefits and services.

Companies compete on culture.

I recently told Harry Stebbings on 20 Minute VC that “great company cultures aren’t coincidental. It requires insane focus and a commitment to company values.”



Fund Strategy slide: A clear definition for how you plan to source, pick, win and support companies.

Track record: List angel investments and advisor roles to demonstrate both access and deal judgement.

In this case, Webflow had received raised a $72M Series A from Accel and all angel investments were alongside top-tier firms or high-signal angels in the cases where I invested before a priced round.

Personal brand: What are you known for in the ecosystem? Why would they pick you over other angels and micro-funds?

Access & Scale: How do you currently meet founders? How will you help your growing portfolio with limited resources?

Fund strategy: target fund size, average check size, carry & management fees

Strike zone: What companies and align with your thesis and fit within your strike zone of sourcing, picking, winning and supporting.

Note: LPs also look for examples of companies outside of your strike zone, however I have removed outside strike zone slides to avoid any signaling risk for founders.

If you’re an angel investor, scout or first time fund manager, I’d love to connect and compare notes.

I host monthly dinners for emerging managers and frequently share best practices for angels and emerging fund managers on my blog and Twitter @briannekimmel.

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Hi friends,

It’s been a busy month as I continue to explore the new building blocks for consumer technology, which I call “the unbundling of cool.”

I’ve asked dozens of founders working on social apps, gaming and other consumer tech: When do you build vs. use an API or Platform as a Service? What technology do we need to make online feel more IRL?

Based on these conversations, I have a few updates:

  • Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video
  • How I killed the phrase “I’m not curing cancer”
  • New CEO office hours: Summer School 

Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video.

In 2018, I believe many of our best moments will happen online.

With real-time video calling, we’re connecting with friends and family in a more meaningful way. We’re celebrating holidays, reconnecting with old friends and creating new memories from our phone.

And even though the experience is getting better, it still doesn’t compare to IRL. There’s distracting background noise, garbled noise and cross-talk.

What if we could add “same room” technology to make every video call feel real? With Voxeet, developers can bring IRL quality video to any website, app or hardware integration.

Voxeet’s TrueVoice™ 3D audio and video technology provides a true surround sound experience and removes distractions like background noise.

With Voxeet’s API library, widgets and UX toolkit developers can easily add real-time communication such as live broadcasting, video calling and messaging to websites, applications and hardware integrations on iOS, Android and all web browsers.

I’m excited to join a great group of investors:
Jason Lemkin (SaaStr), John Kim (CEO, Sendbird), Nicolas Dessaigne (CEO, Algolia), Bill McGlashan (Founder, TPG Growth)

P.S. If you’re an investor, please reply if you would like to receive my weekly update on companies. 

How I killed the phrase “I’m not curing cancer” 

When my dad was a kid, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He dropped out of school, my grandmother quit her job and they moved across the country so he could get treatment at St. Jude.

My dad can tell you a million stories about his experience, but most are related to the board games he played, snacks he ate and friends he made. When you’re sick, you need distractions to keep your spirits up. My dad frequently says he wished he had video games.

Fast forward to early 90s. Due to years of cancer treatment, my dad needs a heart transplant. We waited a long time for a heart and ultimately my dad gets on the list for an artificial heart at UPMC. As a kid, I spent an entire summer in Pittsburgh.

The entire experience was scary. I sat for hours in waiting rooms and my only distraction was video games. I made friends with kids who were in a similar position to my dad. We played Mario for hours and as a result, I believe in video games, silly apps, etc.

As a founder, you may never know the impact you have on the lives of individual users. There is so much more to life than curing cancer. Anything that makes someone smile & feel better about their current situation is worth building.

Follow me: @briannekimmel 

Sign up for CEO office hours: Summer School️

Want to practice your pitch, get product feedback & growth advice? Sign up for Summer School.

Keep building & stay cool! 😎
Brianne 



Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video.

Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video.

In 2018, I believe many of our best moments will happen online.

With real-time video calling, we’re connecting with friends and family in a more meaningful way. We’re celebrating holidays, reconnecting with old friends and creating new memories from our phone.

And even though the experience is getting better, it still doesn’t compare to IRL. There’s distracting background noise, garbled noise and crosstalk (🤐).

What if we could add “same room” technology to make every video call feel real?

With Voxeet, developers can bring IRL quality video to any website, app or hardware integration.

Voxeet’s TrueVoice™ 3D audio and video technology provides a true surround sound experience and removes distractions like background noise.

With Voxeet’s API library, widgets and UX toolkit developers can easily add real-time communication such as live broadcasting, video calling and messaging to websites, applications and hardware integrations on iOS, Android and all web browsers.

I’m excited to join a great group of investors: Jason Lemkin & SaaStr Fund, John Kim (CEO of Sendbird), Nicolas Dessaigne (CEO of Algolia), Bill McGlashan the founder of TPG Growth, the Webex co-founder, an early investor of Skype and the CEO and CTO of Nexmo.

In the coming months, we’ll be focused on building the developer platform and community. I’d love to connect with founders working on APIs, PaaS, Dev Tools and CTOs working on consumer mobile and video applications.

Connect with me on Twitter: @briannekimmel

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Here’s why perfectionism is killing our progress

Perfectionism is killing our progress. I’ve talked to 4 women this week who are “thinking about starting something,” but afraid to get an MVP live.

Here are some thoughts:   

If you have an early idea, but need help with an MVP: Y Combinator Leap, Dreamers//Doers and Women in Product are safe spaces to share ideas and get feedback from top product leaders and engineers.

Don’t overthink the MVP: Keep costs low. AWS, Hubspot, Zendesk all offer free tools and support for startups. For non-technical founders: Alyssa Ravasio built Hipcamp after learning how to code at a short dev bootcamp. Hackathons like Spectra and AthenaHacks are another way to get a low-cost MVP live.

Keep in mind: Other people are here to help. I’ve found this to be particularly true in SaaS.

In today’s environment, every SaaS company needs a partner integration strategy. Get your MVP live and get feedback from partnerships folks at other SaaS companies.

If you’re thinking about starting something (especially in SaaS), I want to hear from you.

Write me on Twitter: @briannekimmel

Socialize your financial goals

If there’s one topic I’m passionate about, it’s personal finance.
I tend to be very open about this topic and over the years many of my friends will buy me a coffee for some quick advice. Over the last month, I noticed some interesting observations from meeting with a dozen or so ladies:
  • All said they didn’t have a clear goal for savings and future investing (ie: I’m saving money, but don’t have a strategy or plan for investing)
  • All said they were not comfortable talking about personal finances (ie: I’m not seeing an advisor and I wouldn’t talk about it in a group setting)
  • Most said they keep 100% of their take-home pay ($100K+ annually) in just a checking account and standard savings account (Really?! That means no interest or compounding benefits)
Given that this is purely a personal qualitative study talking to friends who work in tech and live in San Francisco, I did some research and found my qualitative findings weren’t too far off…

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, shared some great findings in Refinery29.
  • About half (51%) of women report feeling positive about their financial futures
  • 42% of women say they are confident they are making the right savings and investment decisions
  • Of all the assets controlled by women, 71% are held in cash — a.k.a. not invested.
In addition to Sallie’s work, a number of studies attribute the gender savings and investing gap to lack of confidence. Only 47 percent of women feel confident when talking about finances with a financial professional—compared to 77 percent who would be comfortable discussing medical issues with their doctor.
If women are afraid to share with financial professionals, then we’re definitely not discussing savings or investing in social settings.

From my coffee date surveys, it wasn’t easy talking about this stuff at all.
But by the end of the conversation, all agreed that it was one of the most productive coffees they had all year. I’ll be the first to admit that socializing your goals is a really scary thing, but it’s the only way to build community and accountability.
So, here’s my story and some helpful tools curated from friends and mentors:
When I started a business in Australia in 2013, “the money stuff” was the one thing that scared me most.  As a first time entrepreneur, I didn’t want to take outside funding to ensure I had complete control of the business and the flexibility to exit whenever I was ready to move back to America.
I self-funded the business, which forced me to get really good with numbers.
As a self-proclaimed “words nerd,” I loved doing just about anything but activities involving the numbers. This forced me to seek out the best professional help and self-help programs to get the business running smoothly. Within in a week, I had a fancy financial advisor (who thankfully didn’t charge his usual fees and gave me way too much of his time for free) and enrolled in 10thousand girl.
As part of 10thousand girl, I joined a GIG group (Girl Investment Group).
Think: local book club, but we talk about personal finance, investing and goals
Outcomes from the group included: creating life plan, budget, day-to-day money management, increasing saving levels and understanding investing.
While all of these things you can learn on your own, I found it was much easier to do this in a group setting and hold each other accountable. If any or all of these things sound interesting, there’s also an online version which works too.

Once you set clear financial goals, there are a number of free tools to help you smash them.
Not to mention, most of these are new (launched in 2016) and free in the App Store:
  • Penny: Your personal finance coach
    • Penny will categorize your spending and text you updates
      • Food (and coffee and cocktails)
      • Transportation (hello, Uber)
      • Bills (rent, internet, etc.)
      • Other purchases such as groceries (Amazon)
      • Income
  • Digit: The app that’ll save for you
    • Automate your savings
    • Every few days, Digit checks your spending habits and saves a few dollars from your checking account if you can afford it
    • You can then transfer the savings back to our bank account (hint: vacation funds, etc.)
  • Truebill: Find, track and cancel your subscriptions
    • This app is a lifesaver… period. Comcast, Netflix, Rent the Runway, all in one place.
    • It pulls all monthly subscriptions, which is particularly helpful if you sign up for any “first month free” services
    • Plus, the average Truebill user saves $512 per year
  • Read Ellevest’s Seven Chapters on Financial Feminism 
 As we head into 2017, I hope to apply the same process to other aspects of my life as well.
Socializing goals is scary, but from my personal experience it’s the only way to really stay consistent. Would love to hear your thoughts and tools you’re using!