From writing $1k checks to running a $1m rolling fund
Each week on The Cap Table (TCT) we highlight investors, operators, founders, and industry leaders in the private markets to share their tribal knowledge of how to get onto “the cap table.” Know someone we should feature? Let us know here!
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Previously serving as Community Lead at Product Hunt helping makers launch their companies, Ben’s early exposure to launching products accidentally led him to no-code by way of building websites and software. Since going ‘all in’ on this industry, he’s built the #1 no-code education community in Makerpad and in parallel, has invested in no-code companies like Supabase and Circle through Makerpad Fund. With deep domain expertise within the red hot no-code space, so we sat down to discuss all thing cap tabled related, including:
The Investor opportunity: bridging the no-code to code gap💰
From $1k checks to running a $1m rolling fund: the story behind Makerpad Fund 📈
The biggest surprises of running a fund 🤔
Cap table tips and insights ⼏
The state of no-code infrastructure in 2030 🔮
TCT: You’re largely considered “the” no-code person, running Makerpad (CEO), as well as Makerpad Fund (GP). How did you get into the no-code space, and where do you see the biggest opportunity for no-code investors in 2021?
I got into no-code by accident really and it wasn't really called that then. I was working at Product Hunt and was seeing thousands of people building and launching projects large and small. I just wanted to do the same but didn't have engineering knowledge to do so. I saw companies like Zapier, Carrd and Typeform which let me put them all together to make things that looked/worked like a 'real' product. So, I started building simple sites over and over and they got more complex each time. I wanted to be able to realise my ideas in a weekend rather than spending months and months learning to code. People started following me and showing a lot of interest in what I'd built but mostly of HOW I'd built those things.
I think the biggest opportunity for no-code investors is in the bridging of the gap/the grey area of no-code to code. But also there's a huge opportunity in B2B applications.
You launched Makerpad Fund in October of 2020, investing in early stage companies building in the no-code/low-code space through a $1m+ a year rolling fund. How did you transition from personal investing to raising your own fund?
I'd submitted a $1k investment here and there on AngelList and/or Republic but was never really an “angel” investor. I looked at launching a fund in March 2020 which is when the pandemic really kicked off globally so it was bad timing. We focused on Makerpad rather than get semi-distracted with raising a traditional fund. Later that summer, Rolling Funds were being launched properly so I got in touch with AngelList to talk about setting one up. I had a bunch of LPs already interested from our first time thinking about it and we could obviously talk about it publicly to get more LP commits.
In summary, I’d say that it was a combination of people that believed in the no-code space and wanted to invest as well as luck and timing (like most things in life!) after seeing the successful Rolling Funds launched in 2020.
You have an impressive list of investors at Makerpad as well as LP’s in Makerpad Fund, including folks like Earnest Capital, Andrew Wilkinson (Tiny), Sahil Lavingia (Founder of Gumroad), Balaji Srinivasan (ex CTO Coinbase & a16z), and many others. How did you go about building this network?
Surprisingly, I've never intentionally built my network. But what I will say is, I’ve just been obsessed with something specific (building with no-code) and had timing on my side by being one of the earliest voices in the market. Beating the drum of this space brought the network to me which made it very easy to connect with these awesome folks. My time at Product Hunt definitely helped me get a leg up on Twitter followers and emailing tech folks but the majority of my followers etc came from after my time there. Being a subject matter expert in a niche space and creating value helps drive organic interest from others.
You note that after investing, you help founders with advice on how to build, engage and grow a community, help with potential customer introductions, fundraise, and anything else along the way of building a company. In your experience, what do founders need the most help with at the early stages of building a company?
We're likely one of the smaller checks in any round so we don't pretend that we're going to be most involved. We'll get involved as much as our portfolio company wants us to. My experience has been in building communities and it's a huge advantage to a company to have an engaged community - I think the wider startup space is really seeing a focus on community building especially since the pandemic.
How often do you evaluate fund performance? At what point do you start thinking about increasing your quarterly or annual commits for your rolling fund?
The fund's relatively new, so we can't really look at performance in such a small time frame. However, the indicator for the fund will be in years to come - obviously portfolio companies raising further. Larger rounds will be a great signal as well, as we’ve seen happen in the last few quarters.
We have 4 quarters commitment required right now and I'd like to look back at the end of the first year to see if we're going to change that at all.
What’s been the biggest surprise of running a fund thus far?
There's just so many companies to chat with.
The strange dynamic of a rolling fund is that you have allocated capital to deploy each quarter, so you have you think about who you're committing to, when, when the quarter is coming up and whether your timeline fits with founders fundraising too
How do you stay organized with your investments (managing notes and SAFEs pipeline, etc)? What does your tech stack look like?
As you can imagine, no-code is sprinkled in throughout our tech stack!
AngelList manages all of our back-office, which is key because we couldn't do that with just me running the fund alongside Makerpad. We also use a simple combo of Airtable, Notion, Zapier and email to actually run day to day.
Can you tell us about a competitive round that you were able to get into, and how you won over the founder(s)?
Supabase was a large competitive round and I got chatting to the founders early - they knew my work at Makerpad. I introduced them to Coatue who ended up leading the round.
Circle was also a large competitive round. I'd been an early Circle customer and they are a Makerpad partner. I'd been chatting with Sid over the last year, sharing feedback, ideas etc and we were able to get an allocation.
The takeaway here is that building relationships really do matter and the more genuine connections you can make, the better spot you’ll be in for future opportunities.
You’re an operator and investor. What’s your secret for staying balanced and how do you divide up your time and effort each week?
It varies each week but honestly, the crossover of what I do at Makerpad and the fund is huge. Meeting founders working on products in the space is something that's needed for both Makerpad and the fund. Since I’ve chosen to go all-in on no-code, there’s no major opportunity cost of switching from being a “CEO” vs. “Investor”, so to speak, since I’m actively building a company and have an idea of what needs to be done to scale and grow.
What advice would you give to first time angel investors?
I'm not really qualified to give advice on this at the moment - I won't know if I'm an ok or great one until 10+ years most likely (on average, most exits are 7-10+ years out, or something close to this)
However, what I would say is that the biggest hurdle is, you've got to actually see the deals. Deal flow takes time and comes through various outlets including your networks, building a reputation, etc.
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What’s your secret for getting on the cap table?
By being laser-focused on one thing: no-code.
Being a loud voice in the space and building a brand around that means that we're top of mind when other investors see deals in this space. We need to make sure that they want us to be involved.
Based on your experience so far, what cautions or advice would you give to other first time fund managers?"
I think it's important to figure out the frameworks you want to follow early on to guide your investments. This framework can evolve over time but staying aligned with the thesis of the fund, how you want to work with companies, your responsibility to LPs and the types of companies you want to back.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
Tennis and cooking!
They're two things that when I'm doing them I'm not actually thinking of anything else. That kind of activity is needed when almost everything online is related to your work in one way or another.
What’s the state of no-code infrastructure in 2030?
I hope 'no-code' isn't a thing...
I hope software development is just seen as the development of software. The “how” could be drag and drop, low-code or line by line code but I hope it's all part of the same conversation.
There are no sides here, no-code is the first rung on the ladder - programming is the top. We're all on the same team and trying to create software. There's no future world in which people are going to want to have to write more lines of code.
Follow Ben (@bentossell) for more insights into no-code, startups, and investing!
Deal News 2/22-2/26
NXCR: $30,000,000 led by Moonshots Capital. NXCR makes mobility flexible, affordable, and fully digital.
Founda: $15,000,000. Founda uses software to develops applications, techniques, and tools for the healthcare sector.
Hydrolix: $10,000,000 led by Wing Venture Capital. Hydrolix is an early-stage startup with an ambition to change the economics of high density data.
STOKE Space Technologies: $9,100,000 led by MaC Venture Capital, NFX. STOKE Space Technologies seamlessly connecting earth and space.
DataJoy, Inc.: $6,000,000 led by Foundation Capital. DataJoy unifies data from across the entire revenue funnel and delivers ML-powered insights to grow revenue faster.
TreeCard: $5,120,000 led by EQT Ventures. TreeCard is the free top-up debit card that reforests the planet with your everyday payments.
OpsCruise: $5,000,000 led by The Fabric. OpsCruise automates the performance assurance of cloud applications using a model-driven open source based observability platform.
ZenHub: $4,700,000. Agile Project Management within GitHub
Patch: $4,500,000 led by Andreessen Horowitz. Patch businesses can leverage our API to programmatically calculate their emissions and make any transaction climate positive.
Katana Graph: $28,500,000 led by Intel Capital. Katana Graph develops performance graph databases designed to interact with unstructured data.
Optimism: $25,000,000 led by Andreessen Horowitz. Instant transactions and scalable smart contracts on Ethereum.
Hubilo: $23,500,000 led by Balderton Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners. Hubilo is a virtual and hybrid events platform that utilizes a range of insights to track attendee engagement & other event-related data.
Reforge: $21,000,000 led by Andreessen Horowitz. Reforge offers selective growth-focused programs for experienced professionals in marketing, product, data, and engineering.
EquityBee: $20,000,000 led by Group 11. EquityBee helps startup employees get capital to exercise their stock options before they expire by linking them to investors.
Saltmine: $20,000,000. Saltmine’s enterprise workplace platform empowers companies to create spaces where employees love to work.
SoundCommerce: $15,000,000 led by Emergence. SoundCommerce is a data platform that drives profitable growth, customer experience, and CLV for brands and retailers.
Maze: $15,000,000 led by Emergence. Rapid, remote testing for agile teams, from idea to launch
PureStream Trading Technologies: $14,000,000 led by AllianceBernstein, Bank of America, Bank of Montreal (BMO), Goldman Sachs, MaC Venture Capital, Nasdaq Ventures. PureStream is a technology platform company with a singular focus on making institutional trading scale efficiently and securely.
FundGuard: $12,000,000 led by Blumberg Capital, LionBird, Team8. FundGuard is an artificial intelligence powered and cloud based investment funds operating system.
Zelros: $11,000,000 led by Benhamou Global Ventures. Zelros is an end-to-end AI business platform that integrate standard scenarios for sales & claims.
Sunroom Rentals: $11,000,000 led by Gigafund. Find, tour & apply for any apartment or home
Nyobolt: $10,000,000 led by IQ Capital. Nyobolt is a developer of high-power battery technology used to serve automotive applications.
Perrone Robotics: $10,000,000 led by CapStone Holdings. Perrone Robotics provides MAX, the only general purpose operating system software platform for robotics and autonomous vehicles.
Bitwise Industries: $50,000,000 led by Kapor Capital. Bitwise is a tech ecosystem that provides access to resources for those in marginalized communities.
Malta: $50,000,000 led by Proman. Malta is a provider of industrial-grade, grid-scale energy storage solutions
Emotive: $50,000,000 led by CRV. Emotive is a conversational texting platform for eCommerce brands, enabling two way text message communication at scale.
Otter.ai: $50,000,000 led by Spectrum Equity. Otter.ai offers an app to capture, search, and share meetings, lectures, and live events.
Miroculus: $45,000,000 led by Cota Capital. Miroculus is a hands off sample-to-answer solution for molecular testing.
Foxtrot: $42,000,000 led by Almanac Insights, Monogram Capital Partners. Foxtrot is a mobile app that lets customers shop a curated collection of drinks, food, and everyday essentials.
Evisort: $35,000,000 led by General Atlantic. Evisort is an AI-powered contract management platform that provides visibility into any document.
Stori Card: $32,500,000 led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Stori Card provides inclusive financial services in Latin America, powered by innovative technology.
Armorblox: $30,000,000 led by Next47. Armorblox uses deep learning and natural language technologies to protect enterprise communications.
Fi: $30,000,000 led by Longview Partners. Fi is a provider of next Generation of Smart Dog Collars.
EarnUp: $25,000,000 led by Bain Capital Ventures. EarnUp is an intelligent loan payment automation.
Torch Leadership Labs: $25,000,000. Torch is a leadership development platform with integrated coaching, software, and feedback to raise high performers to the next level.
Heyday: $20,000,000 led by Level 5 Capital Partners. Heyday is a skincare company offering customized facial treatments.
Episode Six: $20,000,000. Episode Six offers a highly configurable ledger and payments system. The financial technology is readily accessible via over 550 API.
Rows: $16,000,000 led by Lakestar. Rows is a platform that allows users to create applications using only spreadsheet skills.
Mosa Meat: $10,000,000 led by Blue Horizon Ventures. Mosa Meat is a food producer of a slaughter-free hamburger made directly from cow cells.
Truvian Sciences: $105,000,000 led by 7wire Ventures, TYH Ventures, Wittington Ventures. Truvian disrupts the blood-testing industry by developing an automated diagnostic system that provides lab-accurate results.
Anuvia Plant Nutrients: $103,000,000 led by Pontifax AgTech, TPG Alternative & Renewable Technologies. Anuvia Plant Nutrients is an agricultural technology company developing a product to replace traditional fertilizer.
ABclonal: $93,000,000 led by LYFE Capital, Sequoia Capital China. ABclonal is a biotechnology company located in Woburn.
Terminus: $90,000,000 led by Great Hill Partners. Terminus is on a mission to build the ABM platform and community to empower B2B marketers to be heroes in their organizations.
Anchorage: $80,000,000 led by GIC. Anchorage is the premier digital asset platform for institutions.
Shield AI: $70,000,000 led by Point72 Ventures. Shield AI develops AI products for the protection of service members and civilians.
Lob: $50,000,000 led by Y Combinator Continuity Fund. Lob provides direct mail and address verification APIs which allows businesses to send personalized mail to their customers.
VidMob: $50,000,000. VidMob is a video content creation network and platform where brands can create digital video ads with expert teams.
Electric: $40,000,000 led by Greenspring Associates. Electric is an information technology company that helps businesses manage their IT security, support, and devices in real-time.
Blueshift: $30,000,000 led by Avatar Growth Capital, FortRoss Ventures. Blueshift offers the SmartHub CDP, which helps brands deliver relevant and connected experiences across every customer interaction.
Medisafe: $30,000,000 led by ALIVE Israel HealthTech Fund, Sanofi Ventures. Medisafe offers an AI-powered app that helps people manage their medications
Burrow: $25,000,000 led by Parkway Venture Capital. Burrow specializes in selling various luxury furniture online.
Nanit: $25,000,000 led by GV. Nanit is a startup developing smart baby monitors and sleep tracker devices.
Provivi: $10,000,000 led by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Provivi develops biopesticides for agriculture, commercial, household, and public health pest management.
BetterUp: $125,000,000 led by ICONIQ Growth. BetterUp is a mobile-based leadership development platform used by Fortune 500 companies.
Aviatrix Systems: $75,000,000 led by General Catalyst. Aviatrix is a multi-cloud network platform that provides security and operational visibility.
PerimeterX: $57,000,000 led by AllianceBernstein. PerimeterX offers a web security service, protecting web sites from modern security threats.
Splice: $55,000,000 led by GS Growth. Splice provides a technology platform for music creators that streamlines the process of creating and sharing music.
Shippo: $45,000,000 led by D1 Capital Partners. Shippo is a shipping platform that helps e-commerce companies manage their shipping operations more seamlessly.
Redox: $45,000,000 led by Adams Street Partners. Redox is the modern API for healthcare.
Codecademy: $40,000,000 led by Owl Ventures. Codecademy provides an online learning platform that teaches employable digital skills.
Platform9: $12,500,000 led by WRVI Capital. Platform9 delivers a SaaS-managed hybrid cloud solution that turns existing infrastructure into a cloud.
Plume Design: $270,000,000 led by Insight Partners. Plume is a SaaS platform that provides the delivery of technological services for connected homes.
Highspot: $200,000,000 led by Tiger Global Management. Highspot is an AI-fueled sales enablement platform that helps companies worldwide improve the performance of their sales teams.
ScienceLogic: $105,000,000 led by Silver Lake Waterman. ScienceLogic is a provider of AI-driven monitoring solutions for hybrid cloud management.
Sources: Crunchbase, Twitter, LinkedIn
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