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RRE Blog

Our Investment in Clyde

Matt Gurin

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Over the past couple of decades, RRE has been lucky to work with some of the most innovative companies in financial technologies. Companies like Bread, accelerating point-of-sale financing, or Venmo, creating peer-to-peer payment networks, or Ladder, rethinking the way consumers purchase life insurance. Clyde's simple yet powerful approach to warranties clicked with our team from the very beginning.

We’ve seen plenty of RRE’s portfolio companies struggle to set up warranty programs because of the immense amount of work needed to get a warranty program up and running—despite the fact that warranty programs are almost always a pure profit center for the businesses that have them. Readying product reliability data, researching the massive array of insurers who might underwrite the program, and messaging each individual insurance company for quotes has to happen before the business can even get started.  Next, they’ll need to build the actual product workflow to manage those warranties effectively—it’s just too much work for a resource-constrained company to undertake as they scale their core business.

Clyde eliminates or alleviates all of these challenges by enabling companies to simply set up and manage warranty programs. Their API and e-commerce plugin makes it easy to improve companies’ bottom line and offer a great service to their customers.  They bring in insurers by allowing them access to untapped industries and markets, matching them with businesses who can set up risk-free, passive profit on autopilot within minutes.

The $44B warranty industry is already immense, and we look forward to partnering with Clyde to expand this lucrative market.


The 2018 RRE Gift Guide

Jason Black

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GIFTS FOR ALL

Tis the season for a gift guide! This year, we’re excited to present a list of awesome gifts for your loved ones from some of the hottest new startups around.

You’ll look like you’re ahead of the curve with this cheat sheet of the newest of everything that’s sure to delight everyone on your list, from your wackiest uncle to your mom’s new Pomeranian.

For the new parent, NANIT was named one of Time’s Best Inventions of 2018. Their smart baby monitor was designed to help your baby sleep like a baby.

Featuring an incredibly detailed overhead view that can be accessed from anywhere on your smartphone, its two-way audio lets you speak or sing to your little one through your app, plus play nature sounds that will help soothe your baby to sleep. But it’s also one part sleep coach: it tracks key factors about a baby’s slumber — including how long it took to fall asleep, how many times they woke up, and surrounding conditions, such as humidity levels — to offer parents data-backed tips on how to improve it. If a baby stays awake too long in her crib, for example, Nanit might suggest adjusting the temperature or darkening the room.

And when a baby sleeps well, so do its parents — really the greatest gift you can give someone. To save $20, enter code RRE20.

BarkBox ,  $35/1 month up to $249/12 months

BarkBox, $35/1 month up to $249/12 months

For dogs who deserve the very best (and really, have you met one that doesn’t?), there’s BARKBOX. If you know a pup who’s always dreaming about toys and treats, why not spoil them with this monthly delivery of the best dog stuff on the planet?

Each box comes stuffed with two original toys designed to your dog’s style of play, two full bags of scrumptious treats, and an all-natural chew. Every month is wrapped up in a fun surprise theme, like our holiday-themed box, so you can have fresh adventures this holiday season and throughout the year. Use code RREFREETOYS2018 for a free premium toy in every box when you order a 6- or 12-month plan.

That’s a free toy right now, a free toy next month, and free toys all year. What are you waiting for? Give BarkBox to your dog, your friend’s dog, or any dog you know!

BarkBox Super Chewer Box , $45/1 month up to $329/12 months

BarkBox Super Chewer Box, $45/1 month up to $329/12 months

If your furry friend happens to be especially mouthy, BarkBox’s Super Chewer line is for them. 6- or 12-month plans will get a free upgrade with 2x the toys and treats and a special limited edition Grinch-themed box.

For someone you’re, ahem, *comfortable* with, we recommend MAUDE’s new massage candle, which can be poured on the skin once melted or used to simply to infuse scent in the room.

It smells amazing: warming notes of amber, cedar leaf, lemongrass, tonka bean, and Medjool date, all developed with a master scent house in Brooklyn. Plus, the jojoba oil will leave your skin softer than ever.

Maude makes even more fuss-free sex essentials if you want to upgrade your gift to a personalized kit of simple, quality items like personal lubricant and condoms. For 10% off any product, use code RREHOLIDAY.

For whoever you’re worried about: CARE/OF provides personalized daily vitamin and supplement packs, recommended for them based on their diet and health goals. Packs are delivered to their door each month with a touch of joy.

With your purchase of a gift card, you can choose what’s printed on your giftee’s daily vitamin packs — a cute way to remind them you’re thinking about them every day. Plus, what better gift for your kids or loved ones than an effective insurance policy for their long-term health?

Paperless Post Personalized Stationery ,  starting at $62 for 20 sets

Paperless Post Personalized Stationery, starting at $62 for 20 sets

Holiday season means two things: holiday parties and holiday cards.

Get your most festive friends ready to send their invites, holiday cards, or thank you notes with customized stationery from PAPERLESS POST. Despite the name, Paperless Post isn’t just the best site for beautiful digital invitations anymore. Now, they’re offering IRL cards (the customized stationary + holiday cards) with their signature eye for design through Paper Source. Your friends will love this gift that’s both useful and truly personalized. Order sets for everyone on your “nice” list!

(And, if you need a casual little something for your own party, their new Flyers are beautiful, shareable over text, and totally free to send.)

Magic Leap One ,  $2,295

For the person on your list who already has everything: give the gift of a universe of creative possibilities.

MAGIC LEAP’s Magic Leap One lets you see the real world, but with magic. Their advanced VR headset combines unique design and technology to let in natural light waves together with softly layered synthetic lightfields. Both the real world and virtual light rays initiate neural signals that pass from the retina to the visual part of the brain, creating unbelievably believable VR experiences.

We promise your hard-to-please loved one will be impressed.

Our Investment in CAMP

Alice Lloyd George

It’s been hard to read the news over the past year without seeing another headline proclaiming the death of a big box retailer. From household names like Sears to JCPenney to Radioshack to Macy’s, an estimated 3800 U.S. stores are expected to close in 2018.

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This situation has been building for some time. Part of the answer is the internet, smartphone penetration, and that e-commerce behemoth in the Northwest. But partly it’s because retailers have not been listening. Stores used to serve customer needs - baby boomers wanted convenient access to mass-produced, global, status products. The new generations want something different. They want authenticity, community connection, and experiences.

This shift could not be more true of toys - a category rich in consumer emotion, engagement and spend. Overall toy industry sales grew by 7% year over year in the first half of 2018 to $7.9 billion. Yet despite this strong demand, brick and mortar has been flailing. With companies like Mattel laying off workers and Toys ‘R’ Us filing for bankruptcy, the supply void is more apparent than ever.

Enter CAMP, a modern retail chain built to engage and inspire young families. At RRE, we believe the CAMP team has hit on how to deliver a magical experience that responds to customer preferences while also abandoning the cost structures of legacy retail. Their fresh approach reimagines store design, combining merchandise with play and media and offering themed, curated, and immersive experiences. They also fundamentally rethink the retail model, with a more modular, agile approach that reduces dependence on third party IP and spans multiple lines of business from sponsorship to licensing, ticketing, and e-commerce.  

The team of big-kid creators, designers, architects and operators behind CAMP is uniquely positioned to build a bold new retail chain. We have known founder Ben Kaufman for over a decade, from his days as a visionary leading Quirky to his recent years as Chief Commerce Officer at our portfolio company Buzzfeed, where he has driven meaningful revenue (Buzzfeed will also be backing CAMP and serving in a partnership capacity.) One of the great things about being a VC is getting to work with brilliant product people who have a strong point of view on how the world works. Ben is exactly that. He understands each side of the puzzle - from his deep empathy for the customer to his product instincts to his ability to nurture partnerships. He is also good at building community, and this investment serves as another example of our thesis around building joyful, community-centered brands - something our portfolio company BarkBox has successfully demonstrated with dogs.

These team attributes combined with recent market trends make for the right people and the right timing to build a new brand in retail. Today we are excited to announce our investment in CAMP. And we are thrilled to work with Ben again and help him build his new venture alongside co-investors Lerer Ventures and individual angels like Rachel Schechtman, founder of Story. CAMP’s flagship store will be launching here in the heart of New York City on December 15th - next time you’re in NYC, please come by and see it for yourself at 110 5th Avenue 😀

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Introducing RRE’s new Platform Manager: Laurel Woerner

Maria Palma

Since our founding in 1994, RRE has supported countless entrepreneurs in building world-class companies. Because we’re passionate about partnering with these exceptional teams throughout their journeys, we decided three years ago to expand and formalize our platform efforts to better support our portfolio companies throughout their growth.

RRE’s platform mission is to help our companies as they grow and to expand RRE’s presence in the tech ecosystem.  While we will always go the extra mile to help our founders and their teams with any needs that come up, there are a few areas where we provide more structured support across the entire portfolio. At our firm, that means business development, talent, and community learning—areas where RRE can add unique value. As part of our platform efforts, we also look for new ways to continue to engage deeply with the NYC tech ecosystem, where many of our companies are based.  We look forward to adding new avenues of leverage to strengthen our platform efforts over time.

To that end, we are thrilled to announce the expansion of our platform team. Please meet RRE’s new Platform Manager, Laurel Woerner. Laurel has real passion for supporting startups and the NYC tech community, driving it to be a bigger, better, and more inclusive space. Laurel comes to RRE from x.ai, an AI scheduling software startup, where she worked to define and publicize their vision of scheduling nirvana. She executed the marketing relaunch of the company, and also created a thriving customer community of x.ai fans called Time Lords. Before that, she was part of the early Work-Bench team, where she helped build out their ecosystem of enterprise technology startups/buyers through community initiatives like content and events. By night, she’s into design, art, reading, boba, and dog parks. She’s excited to join RRE to help their portfolio companies navigate growth, and we’re glad to have her.  

Laurel will be supporting Maria Palma, Vice President of Business Development, who heads our platform team. We could not be more excited to have her join forces with RRE to support our companies and the broader ecosystem. Please join us in welcoming her to the team!



Our Investment in Ursa Space Systems

Will Porteous

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RRE is excited to announce our lead investment in Ursa Space Systems Inc. (“Ursa”), a company that is using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites to produce alternative data sets for major industrial and energy operators, financial services, and governments.

We’ve known Adam Maher, the Founder and CEO of Ursa, for several years and made a seed investment in the company last Fall. The team is exceptionally talented technically and commercially, with decades of experience in the satellite industry and the intelligence community.

The Earth Observation (EO) market represents a $43B opportunity over the next decade with SAR-based revenues one of the fastest growing components. Cumulative global revenues from SAR imagery alone is estimated to be $6.2B by 2025. That being said, there is a lack of data infrastructure to interpret the new radar data stream, leading to the current oversupply of existing SAR capacity. And while much of the new space industry’s focus has been on commercializing optical satellites, with startups like Orbital Insights and Descartes Lab providing analytics, there is huge potential in the SAR market given these satellites can see through darkness, clouds, and other obstructions.

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With Ursa, the difficulty in obtaining and analyzing radar data is abstracted away for customers. Ursa has secured relationships with all SAR satellite operators, built the digital infrastructure needed to properly ingest radar data, and created highly-tuned, expert processing to automate reliable, consistent measurements. The firm is further able to derive useful insights for its customers by layering on contextual data and machine learning / computer vision analyses.

Ursa’s flagship commercial product, Global Oil Storage Monitoring, is a weekly report measuring crude oil storage of over 340 oil terminals worldwide with 3.6B barrels of capacity. Customers in finance and energy rely on these comprehensive and timely analytics to gain decision advantages, changing the way they conduct business. In response to this first product’s success, Ursa is extending its focus across the oil supply chain and expanding the company’s custom monitoring to other global commodities. Ursa can extract considerable value from the raw image data given the significant overlap in commodity locations, areas of interest, and customer interests.

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“Ursa is making great progress across multiple aspects of their business,” said Will Porteous, General Partner at RRE Ventures and new Ursa board member. “They’re seeing early success with enterprise customers like S&P Global Platts, and users are already requesting new applications of the product for their business. There are many potential high-value applications for the technology. In addition, they have attracted some really impressive talent. We see a really strong team with a great value proposition and a huge opportunity in front of them that we are proud to help them achieve.”

Our Investment in Parallel Domain

Jason Black

I first learned about synthetic data generation from an article that described how researchers had used 3D renderings of eyeballs under a multitude of lighting conditions, in different orientations, of various colors, etc. to determine the direction of gaze for real world video analysis. As it turns out, it’s very difficult to determine, simply from security footage or for eye tracking applications precisely where a given person is looking — and there’s no good way to collect that data. You can estimate it by hand-labelling a human’s best guess at where the eyes are gazing frame-by-frame, but the level of inaccuracy is too high to produce useful data. As they say, “garbage in, garbage out.”

 

Synthetic data generated by 3D renderings of eyes.  Source .

Synthetic data generated by 3D renderings of eyes. Source.

Well, synthetic data is some of the most pristine data you can get your hands on because you get a pixel-perfect labeled data set right from the outset (because you generated it!). No outsourcing frame-by-frame images to literally thousands of error prone and probably incredibly bored humans. And luckily, because synthetic data is generated by a computer, once you have a system to procedurally generate that data, it’s a massively scalable data source.

A massively scalable data source is going to be critical for training and testing autonomous vehicle (AV) software. While it is indeed possible to drive millions of miles to gather data about the public roads (as Waymo, Uber, and others have spent untold millions of dollars to do), relying purely on real-world data is not a scalable approach.

Why? Roads, traffic conditions, weather, pedestrians, obstructions, and a whole host of other dynamic elements are in constant flux and present a gargantuan number of variations that make it incredibly difficult for AV software to safely navigate. And every time AV software companies want to push out a point update (e.g. Version 1.1 of your autonomous vehicle software), they will need to scalably test their new algorithms to ensure that their updates work safely across the trillions of possible scenarios a car can encounter on the open road. Just as much as your iOS or Android point updates sometimes inadvertently crash your entire phone based on an unforeseen bug, autonomous vehicles can and, unfortunately, will inevitably introduce bugs into their navigation stack while updating systems.

 

Realist rendering and the underlying pixel-perfect labeled synthetic dataset

Realist rendering and the underlying pixel-perfect labeled synthetic dataset

Realist rendering and the underlying pixel-perfect labeled synthetic dataset.

Parallel Domain is building software that can procedurally generate worlds that, due to their synthetic nature, are both scalable and come with pixel-perfect labels (see the labeled stripe on the image to the left). In doing so, Parallel Domain enables AV companies not only to drive billions of simulated miles before they push their software to the real world, but also generate more training environments where the AV software struggles. Say, for example, an update decreases safety when making a left turn in heavy traffic or if the sensors on the car get confused in fog, rain, or snow, then Parallel Domain’s software can generate millions of small variations of those exact scenarios to help the company improve performance without risking public safety.

 

Real-world map data can be used to generate virtual worlds that mirror the public roads.

The RRE team and I are incredibly excited to be supporting Kevin McNamara and his world-class procedural graphics team as they build the digital infrastructure not just important, but vital to the safety of our autonomous transportation future.