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RRE Blog

Our Investment in Pickle Robotics

Matt Gurin

By: Jason Black

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What’s in a name? Pickle Robot Co., despite its quirky title, is building some very serious tech to transform the package handling market, starting with palletization and de-palletization.

While this might sound like an oddly specific task — literally just stacking items on a pallet, or removing them — the larger package handling segment represents $11B of manual labor in the US alone ($20B globally) and it’s a segment that’s growing at 20% YoY. The growth is largely driven by a massive shift in delivery norms, which are rapidly transitioning from a pattern of monolithic shipments to brick and mortar stores to individualized packages delivered directly to consumer’s homes. Before, products produced in China, India, Germany, etc. would be loaded onto a pallet and arrive by pallet at a Walmart. Nowadays, those same pallets are shipped to US distribution centers where they’re unloaded, sorted, reloaded, and shipped to individual homes. Today’s loading and unloading operations are critical yet inefficient processes that lead to underutilized space on pallets or in trucks, all at a slow pace.

Pickle’s Dill robot (I know, I know, the names are too much!) can augment and, in the near future, replace dedicated loading and unloading labor, creating higher space utilization in trucks, higher throughput in distribution centers, manufacturing floors, and warehouses, and more cost-effective shipments.

Given the strong market forces surrounding them — major labor shortages, shifting international wages, increasing consumer expectations, the growth of e-commerce, and broad-based automation initiatives across industries — Pickle is uniquely positioned to usher in a new era of efficiency in the package handling industry in the US and abroad.

To learn more about Pickle Robotics Co., you can visit their website or see their open roles.

Our Investment in Pattern Brands and the Renaissance of Enjoying Daily Life

Will Porteous

By: Will Porteous and Maria Palma

What makes a great consumer brand? We ask ourselves this question all the time as venture investors. While there are always the business fundamentals that one needs to look at when considering any investment in this space (LTV:CAC, Unit Economics, Market Size, Scalability), at the core of it, the best consumer brands have soul. They are purposeful, intentional, and speak often about finding new ways to build community or express identity. No one understands this more than the Pattern Brands team, given their history as Gin Lane.

Whether you know it or not, chances are you have been touched by the work of the Gin Lane team. Their branding agency has worked on many of the most iconic new brands of the past decade — giants like Smile Direct Club, Hims, Harry’s and Quip. Over the past ten years they’ve worked with over 50 companies that collectively went on to create more than $15 billion worth of market value. Unbeknownst to them, the Gin Lane team was doing consumer research for what would ultimately become Pattern. As they conducted hundreds of consumer interviews across categories, they noticed recurring challenges for today’s adult generation.

Brands that Gin Lane worked on such as Harry’s, Hims, Dia & Co and Everlane.

Brands that Gin Lane worked on such as Harry’s, Hims, Dia & Co and Everlane.

Their thesis: today’s adult consumer is living in a burnout culture. Between full work schedules and technology always at your fingertips, people try to squeeze out every last ounce of “wasted time” in their day to become as productive and efficient as possible. In 2019, busy has become a badge of honor and you can never be enough. You can always be more or do more. Moments that used to be filled with wandering thoughts or doing nothing in between activities are now filled with responding to emails, listening to podcasts, or checking social media to be reminded of everyone else’s seemingly perfect existence. We live to work instead of work to live. As Anne Helen Peterson, a journalist at Buzzfeed (another RRE investment, tapped into the zeitgeist in the same way we think Pattern is), expressed in her article on the Millennial Burnout generation, “this generation has been trained, tailored, primed, and optimized for the workplace.” And it is tiring. The nationwide General Social Survey of 2016 tracked the attitudes and behaviors of American society since 1972 and found that 50 percent of respondents are consistently exhausted because of work, up from just 18 percent two decades ago. And people aren’t just optimizing for work, but for other parts of their lives as well. As Malcolm Harris points out, parents today are trying to optimize every aspect of their childrens’ lives to decrease the risk and increase the probability of their future success.

These articles and observations resonated with the Pattern team, as it mirrored what they heard from consumers they met through Gin Lane. It was also a reflection of their personal experiences, and ours at RRE. You don’t have to look far to see this cultural backdrop. It makes you wonder if there is a better state of being. Perhaps this is why we see a renaissance of books written about the value of wasted time and doing nothing, a cult-like following for Marie Kondo’s mandate to declutter your home, or the growth of meditation practices and apps like Headspace as people try to find ways to introduce calm and balance into their overscheduled lives.

Pattern aims to help today’s adult consumer tackle these problems. Their goal is to help their customers enjoy daily life and find fulfillment in simple pastimes. They will be launching multiple consumer brands all aimed at helping you enjoy daily life more in the home, whether it be through cooking, organizing and maintaining your home, or creating new hobbies. Each brand is not just a set of products, but an opportunity to learn, discover, and enjoy. It’s about making a moment for yourself to be fully present and try something, even if you won’t be perfect or even good at it.

And there is no better team to bring this vision to life. As early-stage investors, we always over-index on team. From our first interaction with the founders to deeper connectivity amongst the broader team, we have been blown away by the thoughtfulness of this group and their desire to help create a more balanced life for themselves and adults everywhere, starting with their generation. The culture of the broader team is one of trust and collaboration born of working together for years. In today’s norms of switching jobs every few years, we knew Pattern had a special culture when we watched the same team that had worked together for ten years to build Gin Lane present to us about how excited they were to bring along the entire team to build Pattern together for the next 10+ years.

The Pattern team.

The Pattern team.

After we knew the team and understood what they were setting out to build, it was obvious that this was a company we needed to back. Set against a backdrop of fragmented consumer brands and limited consumer attention span, we also fundamentally believe in building multiple brands underneath one company and central mission. There are real economies of scale in building multiple mission-driven brands under one roof, but there are also many complications in executing this approach. Like anything worth building, it will be challenging and come with its ups and downs, but it will also be rewarding and fun along the way. We recently led the Series A in Pattern Brands and couldn’t be more thrilled to be on this journey together with this incredible team.

In an effort to be present more ourselves, we thought we’d end this post with a challenge for you, and for us. Chances are, many of you reading this article are doing so in a moment where you are not fully present, perhaps filling some blank space with commuting, waiting for a meeting to start etc. If you do one thing differently today, try putting down the phone, looking around, letting your brain wander, or focusing all of your attention on the person sitting across from you. We will do the same. We’re all ready for permission to enjoy our daily lives.

Our Investment in Fi

Stuart Ellman

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We have been excited about the opportunity for new brand creation in the pet market for the last decade. Our first investment in the space was a seed check into BARK in 2012 when the overall spend on pets in the US was $53B. Now, people in the US spend over $72B on their pets and BARK has grown to be a very valuable company. Next, we made a seed investment in Wag, a dog walking company, which has also gained tremendous momentum and raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Our continued excitement about the market and our confidence in the team and product at Fi led us to lead their last round of financing.

Product

Fi is the maker of the longest-lasting smart dog collar on the market—no other collar comes close to matching Fi’s product performance. Through innovations in hardware (Fi’s collar uses the latest LTE-M technology) and firmware, Fi is able to achieve an unprecedented 3-month battery life for its collar. Most other competitive products have battery life measured in hours or days.  The Fi collar links to a mobile app on a user’s phone, which allows users to monitor their dog’s activity and GPS location, and owners can set up a geofenced area so that the application alerts them if their dog escapes with real-time tracking of the dog’s location. Innovations on the software side allow the product to understand when a dog is in the car, on the road with a dog walker, or running around a park, without tripping the geofence.  

The product has only been in market for a limited time but has already helped several worried dog owners find their lost dogs. Fi’s capability gives people the peace of mind that they will quickly be able to find their dog if it wanders.

Market

Dogs are an increasingly important part of the modern family. Today, an estimated 68% of all US households own at least one pet, and 66% of those households treat the pet as a part of their family. Look no further than the fact that over a quarter of dog owners celebrate their dog’s birthday and that high-quality dog food is a booming business. In addition to this humanization of pets at home and in the media, millennials are further delaying having children, opting instead for getting pets. We believe these factors will continue to drive up pet spending to $75B next year, and Fi will be able to position itself as the premium tech product in this growing space.

We've been fortunate to work with BARK, where we have seen how consumers are thrilled to subscribe to a service that delivers products that their pets love. You only have to watch one video of a group of dogs tearing apart a Barkbox to understand why those consumers come back, again and again, each month! Some of these videos include pet influencers who command significant revenues through their social media following—all for showcasing pet products. It’s also been our pleasure to witness BARK build a broader pet ecosystem over the last few years beyond the core Barkbox product.

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Team

The Fi team (including Thor and other office dogs) is well positioned to capitalize on these trends. The strong, technical team has experience in both hardware and software development at high growth startups and large companies. The team is led by two amazing founders, who we are confident will be able to build a generational company.

The CEO, Jonathan Bensamoun, worked on product teams at several early stage companies, including ShopKeep and Handy. He also founded a location-based application that was acquired by Square, where he subsequently worked as a product manager.

The CTO, Loren Kirkby, has deep domain expertise in consumer hardware. He was the first employee at Dropcam, and he grew with the company as the Chief Architect, helping steer it to a $500M+ acquisition by Nest.

The team, the product, and the recent market trends made this an easy investment decision for us. We are thrilled to work alongside the amazing Fi team and our co-investors, Lerer Hippeau, and Freestyle Capital, to make Fi’s vision a reality.

Our Investment in Kindbody

Matt Gurin

Alice Lloyd George

Deciding if, when, with whom, and under what circumstances to have children is one of the most important decisions many of us face. For women in particular, the factors impacting this decision have changed dramatically. Gender equality has seen enormous strides over the last century — including women’s right to vote, own property, pursue education, careers, and make choices about their reproductive lives. With this newfound freedom, it turns out women across the globe are choosing to delay motherhood, and the shift has been rapid. As recently as 1970, the mean age of first birth was 21 years old. Now, for the first time, the birth rate for women in their 30s is higher than for women in their 20s.

Many things have changed, but one thing has not — biology. One of the last great battles is against time. Once a woman is in her late thirties about half of her eggs have abnormal chromosomes. For couples where the woman is over 35, a third have trouble conceiving. For women over 42, over half of pregnancies result in miscarriage. Yet many women aren’t aware of these statistics until it is too late. On top of that, the medical system is reactive and focuses on infertility, not fertility. Only once you’ve spent 6–12 months trying to get pregnant are you typically encouraged to seek care. Most women say they would have made different choices if they had known about the risks earlier.

Unsurprisingly, these trends are pushing up demand for both egg freezing and IVF, which have been growing at a 35% and 10% CAGR respectively. IVF has an expected TAM of $22 billion by 2024. This is in part because these technologies are now proven, standardized, and the playing field has leveled. It’s been forty years since the world’s first ‘test-tube baby’ Louise Brown was born. Since then there have been over 8 million births globally due to IVF and related treatments. Its been 33 years since the first birth from a frozen egg in 1986. In 2012 oocyte cryopreservation was deemed no longer experimental. 500 US women froze their eggs in 2009. That number shot up to over 10,000 in 2017. Studies show that there is now no significant difference between the success rates of fresh and frozen eggs. On a personal note, I have siblings that were cryopreserved for up to 10 years then born via IVF — and can attest to the efficacy of these techniques and the joy they have brought our family.

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Despite these developments, access to reproductive technologies remains limited. The existing system is ill-equipped to respond to demand and provide an adequate experience for a few reasons:

  • Women’s healthcare is fragmented. If you take a hormone or AMH fertility assessment with an at-home kit, the picture is incomplete — you still need to do ultrasounds and get a follicle count. If you go to your OB/GYN for an assessment, they may well refer you to a fertility specialist. If you get pregnant through a fertility clinic, you must go back to your OB/GYN to care for your pregnancy. If you miscarry, you’re back to the fertility clinic. They may refer you to a therapist, nutritionist, or acupuncturist for anxiety. Patients find themselves scurrying between office visits, often navigating this mess of a system alone. There’s no roadmap and no single guide overseeing the process from start to finish.

  • Opaque decision-making. When it comes to egg freezing, data is often withheld from patients, misleading, or given to them without context. Decisions are driven by anecdotal suggestions. Women report feeling under-informed by clinics and that there’s a lack of discussion with their doctors about expected outcomes. There’s not a clear understanding of the tradeoffs between age and cost of options.

  • Prohibitively expensive. Despite the fact that egg-freezing and IVF have commoditized, there are no incentives for legacy clinics to reduce price. In New York the average freezing cycle costs $18k, yet the cost to the clinic at scale is ~$3k.

Legacy clinics — egg freezing cost per cycle by region ( Fertility IQ )

Legacy clinics — egg freezing cost per cycle by region (Fertility IQ)

  • Quality of experience. The system is dominated by white, male, often celebrity doctors. But 80% of women say they would prefer a female doctor. And also someone who they can relate to. Freezing your eggs is an emotional process, and the current system can be paternalistic and unsupportive.

Enter Kindbody. The company is built around a core premise — if you want to create a better customer experience, improve outcomes, and lower costs, you have to be in the provision of care.

  • Continuity of care. Kindbody offers a full-stack, vertically integrated clinic with a patient-centric approach that brings all services under one roof — from fertility to gynecology, mental health, nutrition, and wellness. They are opening brick and mortar clinics in prime urban locations, in tandem with a mobile clinic that brings the conversation to the public. The team thinks holistically about a patient’s needs throughout their journey, not just when they are trying to conceive. As they expand into the self-insured employer market this year, this continuity allows employers to save costs and purchase benefits directly from a single provider rather than selecting from a maze of middlemen and separate solutions.

  • Transparency. Kindbody’s patient portal demystifies the process by consolidating and visualizing all diagnostic results in one place. Using the latest research, their fertility calculator helps patients understand that egg freezing is no guarantee of future success, and that a blend of factors drive outcomes — from age to ovarian reserve. The portal also allows for easy messaging, cycle tracking, and appointment scheduling.

The Kindbody patient portal

The Kindbody patient portal

  • Price. Kindbody is bringing down costs (more on how) starting with egg freezing, which they are offering at $5000 for the first cycle (vs the $18k NYC average) and can be supported via payment plans. Pricing is also clear and upfront— no more surprise add-on charges for things like medications and bloodwork.

  • Education & Empathy. No one should tell women whether to freeze their eggs — it’s an inherently personal decision. But knowledge is power. And providing test results alone is not enough. Kindbody’s providers are trained to have open, compassionate conversations and help patients contextualize their data. By equipping women with information and context they can assess risks and make a choice that’s right for them. The company is also focused on hiring female and diverse OB/GYNs and REIs. It is a company built by women, for women. Management is also committed to democratizing access to care and helping patients that are underserved or alienated — including LGBTQ and same sex couples, single mothers, and the african american population, which has doubly high rates of infertility.

A 101 information session at Kindbody

A 101 information session at Kindbody

  • Community. Taboo topics like egg freezing, infertility and miscarriage have remained behind the closed doors of doctor’s offices for too long. Women don’t realize how common their struggles are, and navigating a labyrinth of unverified and impersonal Google results is unhelpful. They report feeling like they’ve failed and that having a baby naturally is the only “right” way. Kindbody hosts open, informal 101 sessions where women gather to ask questions about their bodies in a non-sterile setting. These sessions are oversubscribed in minutes.

Michelle Obama on getting pregnant — “I felt lost and alone. I felt like I had failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were, because we don’t talk about it… The biological clock is real, egg production is limited — I was 35 so we had to do IVF. It’s the worst thing that we do to each other as women, not sharing the truth about our bodies, how they work and how they don’t work.” ( Clip )

Michelle Obama on getting pregnant — “I felt lost and alone. I felt like I had failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were, because we don’t talk about it… The biological clock is real, egg production is limited — I was 35 so we had to do IVF. It’s the worst thing that we do to each other as women, not sharing the truth about our bodies, how they work and how they don’t work.” (Clip)

Clearly there’s a huge gap in both knowledge and the provision of care, and Kindbody is tackling a large and global problem. From RRE’s perspective there were a few key reasons why we were excited to invest in this company in particular:

  1. We are bullish about companies building strong brands in consumer health — as reflected by our investments in NoomGroupsMaude, and OneDrop. Fertility is a category that is especially high in emotion and spend, and there’s an opportunity to build a national brand that families trust. Kindbody is built by women who get it, and this is reflected in their brand, which is already resonating.

  2. The potential for data network effects in women’s health is powerful, and vertical integration helps Kindbody achieve this. With each new patient that cycles, the company adds data and improves its predictive algorithms. When egg freezing patients eventually return for IVF services, that data will be continuous and connect to outcomes. Their proprietary EMR and tech stack allows for true research grade outcomes data.

  3. Team: When we met Kindbody’s founders it was clear that their depth of experience makes them uniquely suited to solve this problem. Gina Bartasi is a four-time CEO with over 20 years in the industry, previously at the helm of Fertility Authority and eventually Progyny, the leading fertility benefit solution for many of the Fortune 100. Cofounder Joanne Schneider hails from Flatiron Health and Google, Founding Physician Dr. Fahimeh Sasan from 12 years at Mount Sinai, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lynn Westphal from 23 years at Stanford University School of Medicine, and advisor Jacques Cohen is one of the world’s leading embryologists. The rest of the team includes execs from Quartet, Oscar, One Medical, and Equinox.

Kindbody team

Kindbody team

Women’s reproductive choices has long been a fraught topic and startups in the space will inevitably receive flak. Our rationale is simple — we trust women. We trust them to make their own decisions. We believe that providing them with information and options is the best way to do this. It is empowering to know about your body, and to plan for your future, on your own timeline in your own way.

We are thrilled to be leading the Series A in Kindbody and welcome Gina, Joanne and the whole team to the RRE family.

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.