Koru Thinks the U.S. Needs More Workplace-Ready College Graduates: Maveron Agrees and Leads $4.35 Million Investment

By Clayton Lewis, partner at Maveron

Last March, Kristen Hamilton, a co-founder at Onvia and the former COO of World Learning, joined Maveron as an Entrepreneur in  Residence (EIR). Her passion for entrepreneurship and education resulted in Kristen having a powerful idea: She will transform how college graduates prepare for success in the real world and become impactful contributors at the couKoru Logontry’s most innovative and fastest growing companies.

As a result, Koru was born to create and place workforce-ready college graduates. With Kristen’s equally passionate co-founder Josh Jarrett, most recently the Head of Higher Education Innovation at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and formerly McKinsey & Co, the idea could not have come at a more important time.

Over 50 percent of employers complain that they cannot find well-qualified entry-level hires and over 80 percent would pay more for new hires that are more ready to contribute on day one. In addition, only 36 percent of paid internships and 17 percent of unpaid internships resulted in job offers.

In Koru, Kristen and Josh have developed an immersive, experiential learning program Kristen Hamilton and Josh Jarrettdesigned to decrease the staggering—44 percent—underemployment rate among recent college graduates in the U.S. The team has already run successful pilot programs with REI and Trupanion and will kick off 2014 with a Winter Break program at zulily, which has more than 100 open positions. Additional programs and partners will be announced early next year.

The Koru team is supported by investors who are passionate about the sector and we’re proud to lead the $4.35 million investment. Kristen has been a friend to Maveron for many years, and to me for over 15 having hired me as employee number 16 at Onvia. Similar to how other early investments have started within the walls of Maveron, like zulily and most recently Lively, Kristen started working out of Maveron’s office to quickly accelerate the development of the business and the team has hit the ground running.

The $2.5 trillion education market bears the weighty responsibility of educating workers to succeed in today’s global knowledge economy and Maveron is focused on backing great entrepreneurs with scalable business ideas that will drive innovation in this massive market.

To all you college graduates out there concerned that you’ll have to transition from college to part-time under employment before starting the career you want, or employers who are nervous about hiring quality entry-level employees without first-hand experience, look to Koru to transform the college-to-career landscape.

Follow Koru and Maveron on Twitter.

Connect with Clayton Lewis on LinkedIn

Maveron awarded Deal of the Year by Evergreen Venture Capital Association


Here’s a picture of Dan Levitan humbly accepting Deal of the Year for zulily from the Evergreen Venture Capital Association (EVCA), which is a partnership of Washington state venture capital firms working closely together to nurture a vibrant and healthy venture capital and entrepreneurial community in the region. Once again, congratulations to Zuily on its IPO.

Internet of Things: Maveron Leads $8 Million Investment in Smart Lock-Maker August

By David Wu

There is no lack of lore around the Internet of Things. Cisco’s magic number of 50 billion devices connected to the web by 2020 has plastered the tech blogosphere; at least a half dozen hardware accelerators, incubators, and designated firms have emerged in the last 24 months; and even a quick look at Amazon’s Home Automation store that launched earlier this fall shows that we have officially begun the transformation of our homes and offices into what once was a scene from the Jetsons.


At Maveron, we’re excited, too. Beyond the $14.4 trillion market size, connected devices sit squarely in the center of the opportunity to bridge our offline and online lives, allowing the possibilities software has created on the web to extend to the physical world as well. There is huge potential not only to create massive, meaningful businesses, but also to build them off of innovative products that customers love, depend on, and integrate into their daily lives. But as sensors, robots, devices, wearables, gizmos, and gadgets emerge in rapid succession, what early indicators can differentiate cool products from potentially standout, category-defining consumer brands?



We believe August, the connected home company started by CEO Jason Johnson and award winning industrial designer Yves Behar, is in the latter camp, and our thesis behind our recent investment outlines our current ideas on making this distinction.


1) It’s not only a product, but also a brand—and that brand tells a story:

August smart lockWe’re big believers at Maveron that the difference between a cool product and a consumer brand is often not differentiated technology or even functionality, at least not on their own. Instead, the best consumer entrepreneurs are experts at wrapping those capabilities in a narrative that captures their customers’ hearts and minds to generate extreme excitement—something that flicks an emotional switch so consumers not only use it, but love it; not only install it, but talk about it to their friends.

From our first meeting with Jason, we saw that he was crafting that kind of brand we look for. August is launching with a line of smart locks. The lock, which can be installed on a door in less than 5 minutes, allows the user to control access to their home from their smartphone, both for themselves and guests to which they can grant virtual keys. They can designate the time period the key is valid for, receive notifications upon exit and entry, and unlock their door when they approach it–without even removing their phone from their pocket–through the power of Bluetooth low energy. But while that’s August’s product, the brand isn’t about locks, but, instead, about a combination of safety and convenience. August allows people to worry less about anyone entering and exiting their home. It’s that brand promise—and our conviction in Jason and his team to deliver it–that got us even more excited than the lock itself.


2) The product is an object of desire—which means it leads with design.

We believe that the best consumer brands delight their customers, and delight starts with standout design. Two primary schools of thought seem to have emerged surrounding connected devices. The first involves prioritizing speed to market and rapid manufacturing to reach early adopters quickly and wow them with an ability to do something new. The second involves a potentially slower product release, but prioritizes perfect design and shipping only beautiful devices. As soon as we met the August team it was clear they shared our conviction in the latter. Designer Yves Behar is the lauded mastermind behind products like the Jambox and Jawbone UP, and brought that level of detail, care, and craft to the August lock. Basically, the device looks awesome and you’ll be proud to show it off in your home—and we think that matters a lot.


3) You interact with the brand in your daily life—and do so in a way that’s meaningful and often.

The winning brands in the connected device category are likely to create not just one product but a series, moving from a solving a single problem (how I monitor my daily activity, for example) to an entire problem set (how I think about my health as a whole.)  We think the more personal, important, and recurring the first problem can be, the greater the chance the brand has to develop loyalty that will let it transcend beyond that first product or device. Our home—and the people who come in and out of it–is among the most personal, cherished parts of our lives. We love that that’s where August is beginning.


4) It has the chance to be a significant part of an ecosystem.

A key element of the connected world is not just individual devices but the dialogue between them—the Jetson’s scenario when you pull up to your driveway, the door unlocks, the lights go on, the temperature sets, the music plays. One step back, your home talks to your office and car, and interacts with data about your health and activity levels. We believe that for this category to succeed at the anticipated scale, the ecosystem has to develop along with the individual players. As a hub to the rest of the home, August is positioned to be an important voice in the conversation between devices.


We’re thrilled to announce our investment in Jason and be part of the August story as they create a standout consumer brand in the connected home category.


David Wu is a partner at Maveron and is an active investor and entrepreneur. Connect with David on Twitter or LinkedIn.



Congratulations zulily!


indexCongratulations team zulily on your IPO this morning!   We are forever grateful to Mark and Darrell for letting us be a part of the journey as zulily has grown from an idea in the back of our offices to serving millions of Moms. Thanks for the memories! Onward to the next phase of your growth as a public company!

Rebecca Kaden Talks Wearables at the Seattle Interactive Conference

Rebecca Kaden, principal of Maveron and Michelle Goldberg, partner at Ignition, sit down with David Shing at the Seattle Interactive Conference to discuss wearables during the AT&T Wearables Hackathon.

Watch the video to see some of the highlights as David Shing inquires about the state of investing in wearable technologies and find out where the two VCs see the physical device space heading. Check out Rebecca’s take on Maveron’s interest in investing in wearables and transformative consumer companies that can attack big and growing categories, bridge the gap between online and offline worlds, and capture the hearts and minds of consumers.

Link to article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-shing/sic-shingerview-michelle_b_4220380.html

Learn more about Rebecca or connect with her directly on LinkedIn.

Potbelly CEO: We’re About Our People, Our Product and Our Place (Video)

Congratulations again to Potbelly for the IPO. Make sure you listen to Aylwin Lewis, President and CEO of Potbelly. Watching him speak in this video makes us hungry!



Guest Post: “Internet of Things” Brings Connections Into All Our Everyday Devices

Hardware is hard but it’s not stopping entrepreneurs from jumping in

By Iggy Fanlo and David Glickman, co-founders of Lively

David and IggyAs sensors get smarter and smaller, it opens up a new world of connected hardware otherwise referred to the “Internet of Things,” or IoT. We have been excited to see how a new breed of smart sensors is transforming average, everyday devices into something more meaningful to the people who use them – even being embedded in the everyday life of older adults, providing a new safety net and enabling a whole new level of connection for them and their families.

As former software guys, we have been amazed to see the transformations taking place in hardware as internal system components get smarter, smaller and cheaper. So after working in the world of electrons, we decided to make the transition to work in the world of protons. We jumped in to successfully build and launched Lively, a smart system designed to keep older adults safe, independent and connected to loved ones.

Now looking back 13 months later, our belief that hardware is the new software is even more bullish. Software developers can move into the world of hardware, but first they need to know that design is everything!

From our experience, we recommend that entrepreneurs building businesses for the Internet of Things plan on spending more development time upfront with a specific focus on design, design, design. Hardware is not yet iterative (though 3D printers hold promise to bring hardware fixes and updates to all.) For now, entrepreneurs need to be very thoughtful about every design and functionality detail whereas in software, we plan out dot releases to buy more time. For hardware, entrepreneurs don’t have that same luxury, which means they need to do more homework to launch a device with a nearly perfect design. So, more than ever, there’s an incredible importance of having a clear vision to reach critical mass from hardware design, to development to distribution

When we built Lively, we did more consumer research and QA analysis than we had ever done. We studied every curve, angle, fonts, edging, colors and finishes before successfully launching one of many devices ushering in the Internet of Things. Our sleek white hub and multiple sensors should tell you that our research showed when it comes to hardware, looks matter – a lot.

Getting design right, requires hiring the right people with specific hardware experience who believe in the vision as well as have the capacity to help push things forward. For us, at times it felt like we needed an army to get things done, but the fact is, we had to keep things as lean as possible.

Of the 13 months that we started working together on Lively, it was just four of us for the first six months. To keep lean, we hired best of breed consultants with serious hardware experience, something that should be on the checklist for any entrepreneur looking to develop hardware. It’s a great way to quickly bring on an A-team with the right expertise in mechanical and electrical engineering, industrial design, and packaging design. There’s no way we could get the industrial designer of the Nest Learning Thermostat to come on board full-time, but instead of looking for an employee or co-founder we hired him as a consultant, something we will never regret. We also brought on a hardware aficionado, someone who knows manufacturing and gave us great advice based on personal experience and drove us to embrace things we would have never thought of. These consultants became part of our team and we all carried on an unwavering belief that we could make this happen against all the odds, and against all the constraints.

And in the end, only three metrics matter: how many units are sold, the cost of customer acquisition, and customer churn. However, simply focusing on these metrics doesn’t lead an amazing product. When it comes to the Internet of Things, it truly comes down to a team who knows the importance of design, a clear vision for building it, and an insane amount of passion for building a sustainable business. Now with a product in the market, we can continue our charge to rapidly grow our business knowing that we have the right people at the table to help us get Lively in front of the right consumers.

Connect with Lively on Facebook and Twitter.

Potbelly IPO: Congratulations

By Dan Levitan, Maveron co-founder and partner

An IPO in the middle of a government shutdown? Absolutely!

Maveron invested in Potbelly in 2001. This morning, the company went public and I could not be happier for everyone involved.

Potbelly is well known for its toasted sandwiches, great shakes and awesome cookies. I have also had the privilege of getting to know the Potbelly team on a more personal level. Their consistent emphasis on integrity, teamwork, accountability, positive energy and coaching is not only remarkable, but also a great foundation on which to build an enduring, game-changing consumer brand.

We look forward to watching (and cheering) their continued success in building the next household restaurant name.


potbelly photo












Congratulations to Lively for Shipping an Amazing Product to Help Older Adults Remain Independent

Lively started last year with a passion and commitment to deliver a delightful, loving, and empowering experience for older adults to live independently longer and we’re thrilled to watch them start taking orders today. We were excited to have Lively as part of our seed program and are happy to participate with Cambia Health Solutions in the Series A Financing.

Here’s what Iggy Fanlo, CEO and co-founder of Lively had to say recently about Lively and leadership at our CEO Forum earlier this year.

College accreditation and government regulation fail students and entrepreneurs

By Jason Stoffer, Maveron Partner

(Syndicated from PandoDailyStudents)

In 2009, I flew to Washington DC to meet Paul Freedman, an audacious young entrepreneur building what he hoped would be the world’s best community college.

As the son of UC-Berkeley professors, Paul wanted to give the higher risk students who typically attend community college the same educational opportunities he himself had accessed. He envisioned a school that provides individualized student support, gives students the skill set to transfer to the 4-year school of their dreams and incorporates the latest innovations in education technology. We invested in Paul’s company, Altius Education, which aimed to realize Paul’s dream through Ivy Bridge College (IBC), a partnership he launched with Tiffin University, a strong regional school in Ohio.

Since then, Ivy Bridge has changed the lives of thousands of students. Within three years of enrolling at IBC, 64 percent of IBC students graduate or transfer, a rate at least 50 percent better than the national average for other 2-year schools, according to industry-standard benchmarks published by CollegeMeasures and Complete College America.

IBC students have gone on to study at 4-year schools including USC, Penn State, Texas A&M, Pepperdine and Ohio State. We also built a competency-based learning platform called Helix, which uses assessment to understand what a student knows and then serves up course material to fill in the gaps. EDUCAUSE and The Gates Foundation awarded us a Next Generation Learning Challenge grant, to further develop the platform’s features.

In 2010, based on Ivy Bridge’s track record of helping a high-risk student body succeed in their goals, we became more public in our desire to spin out IBC into a separate stand-alone institution. We hoped to parlay our early success into building the most innovative community college in America.

As we began to apply for the necessary approvals, the regulators at the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the body that regulates colleges in the Midwest, acted to stymie our plans. They forced us into a change of control process when all we wanted was approval for a branch campus in California. In non-regulatory parlance, that means they created additional layers and processes to achieve independent accreditation, in a clear effort to prevent us from ever becoming a standalone university. The regulator’s hostility came to a head in late July, when HLC ordered the Ivy Bridge program to be terminated by mid-October.

In every industry, new entrants, funded by private capital, drive innovation and shake up existing markets. General Motors never could have created Tesla and Motorola couldn’t invent the iPhone. In post-secondary education, new for-profit entrants into the system are just not allowed. Since 2010, HLC has only approved candidacy for accreditation of a single for-profit school that has been started in the past decade – Rocky Vista University. At the same time, it has placed two of the biggest for-profit education organizations in the country, University of Phoenix and Bridgepoint, under regulatory sanctions.

We wanted to make sweeping changes to how colleges are run, changes that would rock the existing system to its core.

These include:

  • A $5,000 degree program
  • A competency-based instructional approach where degrees are granted based on achievement of learning outcomes rather than time in class
  • Separation of instructors and graders, so instructors are vested in helping the students vs. having to both help them and grade them
  • Compensation of instructors based on how well they affect student outcomes

The regulators represent legacy constituents that appear ready to do anything to prevent these changes. These hidebound incumbents want to maintain their ability to teach students the same way they did a hundred years ago. This is at a time when new technologies and approaches can truly improve how students learn.

Investors are excited about the potential: $600 million in venture capital was invested in education in 2012, five times more than 2002. However, this investment is largely going into technology tools, services and supplemental education. Regulators have stifled those investment dollars from going to where they could have the most impact – reinventing the core of what happens in the K12 and college classroom.

These regulatory actions are clinging to outdated practices and causing the US post-secondary system to fall behind global competitors. In 1995, the U.S. ranked 2nd after New Zealand in terms of the higher education graduation rate among 19 OECD countries with comparable data. In 2010, its ranking dropped to 13th among 25 countries with comparable data.

Our society is in a place where our government and the regulators they enable are counting on incumbent non-profit schools to transform education in the US. New schools cannot be started because for-profits are collectively demonized as capricious actors who do not have the students’ best interest in mind.

I’d ask where we would be as a society if the legacy AT&T monopoly was in charge of mobile innovation and bringing the Internet to the masses or if agriculture was viewed as a vital national interest like in Cuba and we could only get bread at government stores?

We are allowing the government to behave this way in post-secondary education and, in doing so, delivering a poor legacy product to students while our international competitors are leaving us in the dust.