Posture Correction Software Shows the Way to a Healthy and Productive Ergonomic Life

Founder Story - Daniel James

Currently Co-Founder & CEO at PostureHealth, Daniel James is building solutions to help people achieve their workplace wellness goals so that they can live a more healthy and productive life. Before launching PostureHealth, he spent time in various B2B product, sales, and marketing roles at startups and large companies like Adobe. Daniel is a recent graduate of Yale University where he was a member of the 2017 Ivy League Championship Football Team, A Joseph Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking Fellow, and Startup Yale 1st Place Winner.

What does PostureHealth bring to the marketplace?

At PostureHealth we are building unified digital ergonomic solutions - everything from guiding you to sit better in your new remote work environment with our posture correction software, to treating carpal tunnel via our virtual PT telehealth services, PostureHealth is the only app that you need to live a healthy and productive ergonomic life. We're helping individuals and companies across the world adjust to the new, remote and flexible work world that we live in.

What was your motivation while building PostureHealth?

A big personal problem, and a great group of friends. I went from living an active athletic lifestyle while playing football at Yale University to sitting for over 8 hours a day working at my desk. I developed severe low back pain and carpal tunnel. Luckily, I worked at Adobe, an awesome company that really values employee health. I spoke with Mary Kay Gilhooly, a Global Wellness Manager at Adobe and she helped me realize that the problem was bigger than what I expected.

In fact, back pain due to poor ergonomics costs U.S. employers over $100B a year and is the biggest disease burden in developed countries. My close friend and soon to be co-founder Ion-Alexandru Secara worked on posture recognition software projects throughout college. With his tech skills, my business savviness, and our soon to be third co-founder, Jack Cooney's deep postural rehabilitation expertise, I knew that it would be fun for us to tackle this problem unlike anyone else before.

What do you think is the most challenging thing you're facing at PostureHealth?

Demand. We knew that flexible, remote work would be a trend when we started PostureHealth, but we had no clue that COVID-19 would accelerate the shift so rapidly. This has led to increased demand for our still very small team. We want to help as many people as we can, but we also do understand the importance of receiving feedback from early customers to ensure we have a "must have" product as we look to scale.

Can you tell me a little more about your background before starting PostureHealth?

I've always been a savvy business person. My principal threatened to expel me from middle school for selling so many snacks that I put the school's concession stand out of business. I'd buy the snacks in bulk from Costco and sell them to all my friends before the school concession stand opened everyday. After graduating from High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana I decided to attend Yale University. This is where I became interested in technology, working for various startups in sales and marketing roles before moving to San Francisco to work full time at Adobe.

Out of all of your experience, what do you think best prepared you for your current role?

Playing sports throughout my life. Through sports you learn that the so-called little things are actually very important. Watching just ten more minutes of film on an opponent every day can lead to you making the game winning play. In my current role, I focus most of my time on sales and product management. Both require daily, very detailed focus. Over time, the constant repetitive tasks, like talking to users, ultimately will lead to us creating a game changing company.

Going back to the first day of working on your startup, what advice would you give yourself?

It's a marathon full of sprints. Often I hear the two separated. But, in my experiences, things have gone well when I shift my mindset to realize that everyday is a mini sprint within a long marathon. This keeps me on my toes, while also realizing that in order to sprint the next day, I need to recover and take care of myself. I don't always succeed, but I'm my best when I'm in this state of mind.

What entrepreneurial lesson took you the longest to learn?

Sleep is a superpower. I used to think that it was cool to say that I stayed up all night doing something, but now I've realized that the diminishing returns aren't worth it and that it's immature to devalue sleep.

What constitutes success for you, personally?

I like to break down my life into the eight dimensions of wellness. Emotional, Physical, Social, Occupational, Financial, Environmental, Spiritual, and Intellectual. I feel successful when I'm actively improving each dimension.

Do you have any insights that you want to share with the next generation of Alchemist Accelerator founders?

Team matters. Make sure that you are going on the mission with the right team.

Do you have any insights for the next generation of entrepreneurs who are specifically working in your space?

There's a ton of work to be done, so there's no need to follow another company's trail.

About the Alchemist Accelerator

Alchemist is a venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating the development of seed-stage ventures that monetize from enterprises (not consumers). The accelerator’s primary screening criteria is on teams, with primacy placed on having distinctive technical co-founders. We give companies around $36K, and run them through a structured 6-month program heavily focused on sales, customer development, and fundraising. Our backers include many of the top corporate and VC funds in the Valley—including Khosla Ventures, DFJ, Cisco, and Salesforce, among others. CB Insights has rated Alchemist the top program based on median funding rates of its grads (YC was #2), and Alchemist is perennially in the top of various Accelerator rankings. The accelerator seeds around 75 enterprise-monetizing ventures / year. Learn more about applying today.

Opportunities at Alchemist Network Companies

Hi Everyone,

We’ve collected all the new job postings from our network and wanted to share with all of you in case you were looking for new opportunities or know someone in your network who is. 

If you are interested in any, you can click the links below to learn more. And feel free to share this post to any lists / people you like.

And if you want to get involved in Alchemist in any other ways, please fill out this form and we will loop you into the program where relevant.

Our best,

The Alchemist Team

Acoustic Wells: Simple Industrial Automation. (Boston, MA; 1 - 10 Employees)
Hardware Engineer Learn More

Applied Particle Technology: Protecting High Risk Workers with Real Time Data Using Wireless and Wearable Sensors (Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Sales/Business Development Learn More

Attivo Partners: A Full-Service Finance and Accounting Firm. We Provide Our Emerging Growth Clients with Interim Accounting and Finance Services Across Industries and at All Stages of Early Growth – from Zero to $50mm in Revenue. (Southern California; 11 - 50 Employees)
Accounting Manager Learn More
Consulting CFO Learn More

Botco.ai: A Conversational Marketing Platform that Enabling Meaningful and Intelligent Conversations Between Businesses and their Customers. (Phoenix, AZ, and San Jose, CA ut other geographies considered too; 1 - 10 Employees)
Account Executive/Business Development Learn More
Director of Engineering Learn More

Carrum Health: A Digital Health Company that is Making Surgery Better, Less Expensive, and Easier — for Everyone. (South San Francisco. CA / Remote; 11 - 50 Employees)
Patient Care Specialist Learn More

Dashbot: An Analytics Platform for Conversational Interfaces Like Chatbots, Alexa Skills, Google Assistant Actions, Facebook Messenger, Slack, SMS, and More (San Francisco, CA / Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Sales Development Representative Learn More

Delightree: Workflow Management Platform for Franchise Businesses. (Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Senior Frontend Engineer Learn More

Hub Technologies: We Have Set Out to Create a Logistics System Working at Zero Waste, Without Any Middlemen and with Perfect Timing. We are Transforming the $800 Billion Trucking Industry and Making Freight Shipping Broker-Free. (California; 1 - 10 Employees)
Head of Operations Learn More

Issuu, Inc.: Hosting 50+ Million Monthly Publications, Issuu is a Massive Digital Publishing Platform and Cloud Service that Enables Marketers and Brands the Ability to Deliver Mobile and Story Optimized Messages in a Personalized Way to their Audience Digitally (Palo Alto, CA; 100 - 150 Employees)

Lifecycle Marketing Manager Learn More
Content Marketing Manager Learn More
Integration Engineer Learn More

Jirav, Inc.: Connects Your Operational and Financial Data to Analyze Your Historical Performance and Help Build Future Forecasts Across Bookings, Revenues, Workforce, Expenses and Cash Flow (Greater Seattle, WA area, San Francisco Bay Area, or Austin, TX, but open to candidates  nationwide; 11 - 50 Employees)
Senior DevOps Engineer Learn More
Senior Account Executive Learn More
Sr. Manager, Customer Success Learn More
Market Development Representative Learn More

Lets Dive: Social Space for Remote Teams (Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Software Engineer Learn More

MainStreet: A Government Incentives Search Engine that Automatically Identifies, Claims, and Advances Tax Credits on Behalf of Startups (San Francisco Bay Area, CA or Remote; 11 - 50 Employees)
Senior Front-End Engineer Learn More

Masterful AI: The Machine Teaching Platform - We Help Your Models Learn More Effectively from Your Training Data (Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Software Engineer – Deep Learning Learn More

MoesifAPI Analytics (San Francisco, CA; 1 - 10 Employees)
Enterprise Sales Development Representative Learn More

Senior Software Engineer Learn More

Mon Ami: Mission Driven Startup Building Tech Solutions for Aging Populations (Bay Area, CA or Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Director, Product Management Learn More

Onclusive: Communications Analytics Software Company (Austin, TX or Remote; 11 - 50 Employees)
Marketing Manager Learn More

PAL: Empowers the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Community Through Wearable Technology that Quantifies Therapeutic Outcomes. (Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Software Engineer Learn More
Business Strategy Lead Learn More
Technology Innovation Lead/ CTO Learn More

Parabol: Agile Meeting Platform (Remote (Anywhere); 1 - 10 Employees)
DevOps Architect Learn More
Senior Designer Learn More

Praisidio, Inc.: Talent Risk Management AI-Software Company (North America; 1 - 10 Employees)
Customer Solutions Architect Learn More

Sensegrass Inc: Soil Intelligence Platform for Fertilizer Management (USA; 1 - 10 Employees)
Account Executive Learn More

State Farm: This is for Sundial. A State Farm Company Dedicated to Providing Products and Services to Support Seniors/Older Adults and Those Who Help/Support Them (Palo Alto, CA; 10,001+ Employees)
Product Manager/Technology Manager Learn More

Text IQ: Building AI for Sensitive Information, So We Can Help Enterprises and Government Agencies to Reduce their Latent Risk (Vancouver, BC, New York, NY, San Francisco, CA; 51 - 200 Employees)
Senior Software Engineer Learn More
Director of Product Marketing Learn More
Enterprise Account Executive Learn More
Product Designer Learn More
Software Engineer Learn More
Strategic Account Director, Federal Learn More

Zageno: Life Sciences Commerce Company (Cambridge, MA; 51 - 200 Employees)

Marketing Program Specialist Learn More


"On-demand personal jets at a business class price point": Meet Jon Gibbs and Adrian Townsend, Co-Founders of Savion Aerospace

Today we’re talking to Jon Gibbs and Adrian Townsend, the founders of Savion. These two met while working at Boeing and their startup offers climate-friendly jet travel.

What does Savion bring to the marketplace?

Jonathan Gibbs, Savion Co-Founder and CEO

Jon: Savion offers on-demand personal jets at a business class price point. By bringing that price point down, our number of potential customers increases tenfold. We are greener than commercial flights with conventional gas, and carbon negative with renewable natural gas. The fuel that we’re using is not imported, not part of OPEC’s value chain, not tied to crude prices. Our natural gas comes from cow manure. When you capture the poop you can go carbon negative, even further than renewable electricity. In a well to wheels analysis as well as a cost to make and fly an aircraft analysis, natural gas really stands out. The weight of your energy is costly in aviation.

What motivated you to get into this space?

Adrian Townsend, Savion Co-Founder and CTO

Adrian: I knew that the current way of making aircraft wasn’t working. I lost this romanticism I had as a child, where if I make the fastest wing, it’s going to change the world. In aviation, iteratively better tech doesn’t necessarily sell or even get made. In order to do something special in aerospace, it wasn’t going to happen the way Boeing and Airbus were doing design. I left Boeing not knowing how I would transform aerospace but I stayed in touch with Jon.

Jon: It was all about the price of Jet A (aviation fuel). Our whole job at Boeing was to get fuel consumption down by 1% each year or about 20% for a new aircraft every 20 years. I learned about OPEC after the 2008 recession, when we saw the economy grind to a halt. Ben Bernanke, our graduation speaker, and fed chairman seemed powerless to stop the price spike.  For me, it was clear that the US is a banana republic. I personally don’t want to live in a banana republic, I want to control my destiny and I want that for my country. I wanted to get the US to get off of crude oil from an energy security standpoint.

Later in grad school, I learned more about the environment and that liquid natural gas (LNG) was the best solution to do both. But even better, that you could use capitalism to do it. Shale drilling increased the discovered natural gas supply by 5x with no new demand, in effect creating a permanent price drop. There’s no way for the market to say, “we don’t have any more gas” and make prices go back up the way you can with crude production.  Biofuels, on the other hand, would always need subsidies and still feed into the crude markets, supporting OPEC’s pricing power —not smart!

Tell us about your background

Adrian: We met at MIT. We had an actual kinship because there were only a handful of African Americans in the aerospace program. It was somewhat coincidental that we ended up working together at Boeing. I wanted to do some industry work. Jon had done two summer internships there and returned after graduating. We overlapped for about two years.

Jon: Legally Savion started December 2011. I was trying to make liquid natural gas (LNG)  fuel tanks for commercial planes. We entered a green aircraft competition from Airbus and MIT’s Clean Energy Prize (CEP).  In the second round of CEP, they force you to incorporate, so our team did. We also got legal mentors and a business mentor. Our legal guy gave us the best advice on how to get started. Then we tried to do liquid natural gas (LNG) truck tanks, but there weren’t enough trucks.

Then Lockheed Martin saw our poster at  MIT’s Energy Conference and gave us a $250k contract to investigate the idea for military cargo planes. They wanted to know if they could do a Prius version — a hybrid. I just happened to run the numbers one evening on a 100% natural gas plane. It was better than anything, billions better even with full R&D, manufacturing and infrastructure. We tried YC first but got Alchemist two months after. Adrian figured out the market at that point: to sell to the population flying commercial instead of the few already flying private. We had record traction at Alchemist - Adrian’s instincts were right.

Adrian: The infrastructure part is a big piece. When you have a smaller airplane, it’s easy to use existing infrastructure. We need to find the right people to join us. It’s a huge opportunity. We don’t need crazy amounts of money. We need a reasonable amount of money, by Silicon Valley standards.

How did you assign roles to each founder?

Jon: By experimenting. At the first investor practice day, we were both trying to pitch at the same time. Awkward. It led to probably our most tense discussion about what to do. Adrian is very good at convincing customers to upgrade to an on-demand plane. What I understood was Boeing is spending $10B to make seat capacity for commercial air travel. We’re spending 1% of that and ours are better. We’re selling a seat that flies around in sets of 2 instead of 200. People don’t like flying buses. We wanted to win. We’re both alpha dogs.

Adrian: Jon and I are different in interesting ways. We both start with the “what.” I tend to jump next into the “how” and then “why.” Jon tends to go to the “why” and then “how.” I was good at selling the dream, a vision of the future. A lot of the meat and potatoes in an investor meeting, beyond how you will execute, is, “why now?” and “why not already?” Jon’s great at that, he’s a historian of aviation.

Jon: Even after we’d finished our demonstration flight, friends who are investors were saying our story was confusing. I had to start orienting myself to talking to a consumer. I’m the moneyball person. I see the math, it’s obvious. Why is someone paying 10x more for a private jet? It’s slower, you can’t stand up in it, you can’t even poop in private. With ours you can and it’s cheaper. 

Adrian: That private jet they’re paying 10x more for probably doesn’t even have a bathroom.

What constitutes success for you, personally?

Jon: For me, my original goal was that I wanted to see at least three-quarters of all flying be on-demand and natural gas in 2050. I want to beat crude, United and Southwest so badly. This is the most cost-effective way in terms of R&D capital required vs market impact.

Adrian: Mine is similar. I wanna see Jet A go away. There will be a place for it but I don’t think anyone expects gasoline-powered cars to last forever. There’s gonna come a time when the majority of vehicles are electric. I want every commercial flight to be on natural gas or something greener. The bigger airlines will convert. There are some parallels with the Tesla story. Once we are successful and there’s some infrastructure and a critical mass of LNG airplanes flying, very quickly a lot of other things will shift.

Jon: Right now aviation is like a flying bus. We want to make it like getting in your car. We want to go from a flying bus system to a greener, on-demand system. If we’re 0.5% of the market, our company has positive cash flow in perpetuity. We worked really hard on the business model to make that work. 

What was the most valuable thing you learned at Alchemist?

Jon: You just have to perpetually keep pushing and experimenting. An ex-girlfriend told me, “It’s not over till the fat lady sings, and you’re the fat lady.” That’s how I think of it. Two technical founders have to spend a lot of time on demand validation with customers. It’s not rational, it’s emotional but once you understand a customer's true intent, you’re able to start problem-solving, and that’s what you’re good at.

Adrian: Agility, and to get feedback and read the feedback from investors. Don’t just take the no. Counter, evolve your pitch, take the feedback, process it. Figure out, and communicate what’s truly special about your product. If it’s a no, let’s talk about why not. Who do I really need to be talking to?

If you were in Alchemist again, what would you do differently?

Jon: We got our demand validation two weeks before demo day. I wish we had had it earlier. We should have built out our team earlier. I was so focused on getting the Powerpoint deck right! When I put the traction in that same Powerpoint we got so many meetings, but we failed to close a qualified round because we didn’t have a really experienced team behind us.

Adrian: We attempted to show we could execute by building a small prototype. We got little feedback to tell us about building the team. In hindsight building up that team, particularly bringing our chief engineer on board who has experience with certifying aircraft - those things are the appropriate proxy for execution.

Do you have any insights you'd like to share with the next generation of founders?

Jon: Technical founders, if you’re thinking of grad school or a lab to do something interesting, consider Silicon Valley instead or afterwards. Be able to talk to an end-user instead of a professor or grantmaking body in Grantland. Candyland (Silicon Valley) is faster and more fun. You can now skip the lab job. You can now go to the major leagues.

Adrian: If you’re like us and require considerable investment to develop a prototype, consider an alternative to investing a lot of money and time into a small-scale demo. Consider, bringing on a strategic and experienced team-member who can make a risk to your success go away.  In our case, Jon found Nancy Childress, our Chief Engineer, who explains, “we’re going to get FAA certification for the Savion jet similarly to how I did it for the Cessna…” If your idea is truly special (which I bet it is), Nancy will join, your team will become stronger, and investors will be that much more compelled.

About the Alchemist Accelerator

Alchemist is a venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating the development of seed-stage ventures that monetize from enterprises (not consumers). The accelerator’s primary screening criteria is on teams, with primacy placed on having distinctive technical co-founders. We give companies around $36K, and run them through a structured 6-month program heavily focused on sales, customer development, and fundraising. Our backers include many of the top corporate and VC funds in the Valley—including Khosla Ventures, DFJ, Cisco, and Salesforce, among others. CB Insights has rated Alchemist the top program based on median funding rates of its grads (YC was #2), and Alchemist is perennially in the top of various Accelerator rankings. The accelerator seeds around 75 enterprise-monetizing ventures / year. Learn more about applying today.

Patrick Beattie, Redbird - Founder Story


With 10 years’ experience using rapid diagnostic tests to improve global health and development, Patrick is passionate about empowering patients to proactively manage their health. He earned his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering, magna cum laude, from Princeton University and his MBA, with distinction, from the University of Oxford, where he was a Skoll Scholar.

Born and raised in Alaska, Patrick enjoys spending his free time outdoors, paragliding, rock climbing, or just going for a run. He’d love to walk on the moon someday.

What does Redbird bring to the marketplace?

Redbird lets community pharmacies offer rapid diagnostic testing, so that a patient who needs to check up on their health can pop into a conveniently located pharmacy and get a five minute test done with instant results, rather than having to go to a hospital and wait hours for the exact same test.

Tell us about your background pre-Redbird and how that led you to entrepreneurship and to Africa.

I did my undergrad in chemical engineering at Princeton, specifically focusing on the interface with biology, and I did some research into nanoparticles for drug delivery. Then, immediately out of college, I joined the US Peace Corps and was a volunteer teaching math and chemistry, first for two years in The Gambia, West Africa and then for another year in Guinea, also in West Africa. That was my first exposure to Africa. 

I enjoyed my time in the Peace Corps. It was great to feel really good about the work I was doing, but I did miss the more scientific, technical aspects and all the training I had done in chemical engineering. So, after three years I moved back to the US. I moved to Boston because I was interested in biotech and the startup scene. I ended up being the founding scientist at a non-profit medical diagnostics company called Diagnostics For All (DFA). This was using a technology out of George Whiteside’s lab at Harvard called paper microfluidics. We at DFA were developing this technology into diagnostic tests with an eye towards low resource settings. So, a lot of a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa, also Southeast Asia, and some Latin America.

It was, for me, a fantastic opportunity. It was the combination of the two things I enjoyed - I felt the work had a strong purpose, and it was still highly technical. I had to set up an entire lab from scratch. I was the only employee for quite some time. And so, I got that exposure to the earliest stages of growing a company. We grew it to about twenty people and a couple of million in mainly grant revenue per year. It was a wonderful experience that I was very lucky to have and it also set me on the path for Redbird. 

One of the things I would do when I was in Africa for say, trials of our diagnostic tests, was go around to pharmacies and just ask, “Hey, if you could test for anything in the world - don't think about what's possible, just anything that you want an answer to - what would you test for?” I thought that this would tell us oh, this is the next test we should develop. But nine times out of ten, the answer I got was a test that already existed. It was solved as far as the technology problem was considered. And so I started realizing that we're developing these new tests and that's great, but there's some sort of market failure here or opportunity where existing technology just isn't making that leap into wide scale adoption. Pharmacies seem like they could be using these tests, and they should, but they aren't. And so that's what set me on the path.

I did an MBA at Oxford as a transition year and used it to look at different markets, and got excited about Ghana as a potential market. I moved here but first helped start up a branch of a Tanzanian medical supply company that wanted to open up the Ghana market. I did that for them, met my co-founder Andrew during that time, and after we had about a year of working in our free time, we quit our jobs to go full-time and pretty soon after that, brought on our third co-founder Edward.

What kept you driving forward?

Like most entrepreneurs, I feel like I've got that builder-type spirit. Once you start thinking of something you could build that seems to make a lot of sense, it's hard to think about anything else. And that's what happened to me with Redbird. When I was still at DFA, I loved my work and it was still a small company and I was a very core part of the company history and loved living in Boston. But once I started thinking about this - why is no one getting pharmacies to do these tests and what that would open for decentralization of healthcare, and all the potential there - it was hard to not think about it. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got, and the more excited I got, the harder it was to think about anything else. Eventually, I realized that this is something I'm going to either have to do or somehow stop thinking about.

Of course there are times when it's more difficult to keep that enthusiasm going. Sometimes, as things get more real, it gets more exciting, and sometimes, as things get more real, it gets more difficult to keep that enthusiasm.

At different stages, there are different things that bring the enthusiasm back up when things get hard. Sometimes for me there's been stages where the team that we've been able to build has been a big part of that. The traction that you see has been a big part of that. For me, it goes often back to the fact that you're building something that is your choice. Even when it gets difficult, you can always lean back on this is something that I think can come into existence and I want to make that happen.

How has Redbird adapted and responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?

It’s been a very interesting time for us, as you can imagine. It’s interesting for all companies right now, especially for health tech companies. There was the initial, how do we modify everything that we do to be able to do this remotely? Work from home is not a huge culture in Ghana, because infrastructure is often more difficult to have. We're a small team, only thirteen people total. How do we now make sure that everyone on our staff is able to work when power outages hit or internet connectivity can go down for any number of reasons? There was a big scramble. Luckily, we were seeing what was happening elsewhere and got ahead of the ball. Ghana was one of the later places to get hit, and so we were able to have those plans in place. Then we ended up, like most countries, having a period of lockdown. Ghana’s was pretty short, but that was pretty drastic for our business. When no one's leaving their house, even for three weeks, suddenly we couldn't sign on new pharmacies because our sales guys couldn't leave their houses. And new pharmacies weren't necessarily that enthused about investing in new areas when everything was uncertain.

So I think those aspects of it were very similar to a lot of companies. Where health tech companies can be a bit different - and Redbird was a bit different - is that this also opened up some significant opportunities for us. Early on, a week after the first cases came to Ghana, we sat around (the three co-founders and our lead Dev guy) and we realized that we have a health tech platform. It’s not designed for COVID-19, but could we leverage this somehow to give benefits? We came up with this idea of symptom tracking. Diagnostic testing was a huge problem in Ghana, like it was in a lot of places in the world. We knew that we couldn't directly attack that (we weren't in the best place to be doing that from a capacity standpoint). However, we are in a great place to help the government understand better what symptoms were happening, because we already had a tech platform that could collect data like that easily and without any downloads.

Within the span of a week, we developed an add-on to our app that enabled anyone to log on or access the app, report any symptoms that they were having, and then send that to us, so that we could collate the data and help the government then understand where hotspots of symptoms like shortness of breath or coughing were happening and better target the capacity they did have for diagnostic testing. That was a pretty exciting time. It was a weird time to suddenly be thrown into you have to work from home and the business is very uncertain but, on the other hand, it also was one of those incredibly exciting times when it almost didn't matter. You weren't thinking about what is the market here because it was just obvious that someone needs to do this, this has potential, let's just do it.

Since then, business has come back very quickly for us because our core offering to patients is hey, here's a way to not go to hospitals if you don't have to and that is something that's really resonating with people right now. We see this as an acceleration of trends that were already happening. Decentralization of healthcare is happening all around the world. It's the leapfrog opportunity for Africa. They talk about cellphone networks and mobile money as the two biggest leapfrogs that the African economies have done. Decentralized healthcare will be next, I strongly believe that, because it's very similar. We're seeing this as accelerating some of that.

What are the key changes healthcare will undergo due to this crisis? Do you think the pandemic will spur more entrepreneurship in the space? 

Yes, I do think it will. I should caveat anything I say with, healthcare is very different. There's that saying: healthcare is local. Regulations and everything around data creates a different environment depending on what country you’re in. Whereas for other industries, there's less difference across borders, there’s a significant difference when you compare the US healthcare system, to Europe, to Sub-Saharan Africa, to India. Everything I say should have that caveat that I’m talking about the African healthcare sector, but I think the trends are very similar.

One of the strongest trends that we're seeing is a normalization of certain technologies that existed but weren't being widely used in healthcare previously, both with patients and with regulators or providers. On the patient side, it’s being more comfortable or exposed at all to new digital options. I'll take my parents, for example. They’re in Chicago. They've each done teleconsults with their doctors that they need to see on a regular basis. They needed to have this checkup, and it was also important that they not go in-person. And so thankfully, they made something work. The impact of that maybe isn't being completely appreciated now, but once you’ve gotten over that hurdle, the future's going to look different. With an older generation more comfortable with digital health technology, it becomes more difficult to ignore or more pressing to answer the question of why not this digital solution? If this was good enough now, why is it not good enough when it's maybe not a pandemic, but a much more convenient option for me or for anyone else?

A lot of providers are being forced to innovate and try out some of these new approaches. Again, it's getting over a hurdle and you see this as a possibility. Maybe it's not perfect yet, maybe there's some concerns that need to be worked out, but suddenly it's not sci-fi, it's a feasible solution. That's one of the ways that it's really changing the environment. It's getting people over these hurdles that then will spur future innovations. It'll create space that people have been trying to work in and push the industry forward.

What challenges have you faced leading a startup on the African continent? Do you see a future for widespread entrepreneurship in Africa?

I see a very bright future for widespread entrepreneurship. Part of the reason I moved to Ghana was because I was excited about the entrepreneurial scene here and just how quickly it's changing. I think of Ghana about five years ago when I first moved here - the Ghana at that time, as far as the entrepreneurial ecosystem is concerned, was widely different. Part of the reason it moves so quickly here is because it has to - like leapfrog opportunities or the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention.” It's very exciting what's happening over here and I think you're going to see more and more of it.

It’s definitely not without its challenges, though. A lot of challenges, a lot of opportunities. One of the biggest challenges is that the ecosystem isn’t as developed yet. One of the things that makes Silicon Valley so strong as an entrepreneurial ecosystem is that everything you need is there. If it’s not there, someone's working on making it there. The established ecosystem means that you can focus on your business and what's core to your business. You don't need to distract yourself with other aspects. That’s a key thing. This is definitely not of the same degree here [in Ghana] or in a lot of other markets. Sometimes that's exciting because it means that you're forced to innovate in different ways or collaborate in areas you might not think you would, or it opens up opportunities in areas you don't think you'd be involved in. Other times it's frustrating because you can't move as fast. But the more the ecosystem develops, the more you get that snowball effect. I absolutely think you're going to see even more exciting companies coming out of Africa in the coming years. 

Redbird identifies itself as a “for-profit social enterprise.” Balancing effective social impact with a strong bottom line can be a challenge. How is Redbird able to strike this balance? What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs attempting to create businesses that produce social as well as financial returns?

When I was at Oxford, I was fortunate enough to be a Skoll Scholar for social entrepreneurship. Social impact is something I feel strongly about. What I learned throughout my career and definitely my time at Oxford is it's a very broad spectrum of people, when you look at social entrepreneurs and social entrepreneur-founded companies or nonprofits. One of the things that I think has made Redbird successful in balancing those things is that we tried to make it not a balance. We tried to think of how you can find an opportunity where your monetary success is aligned with your impact success. It's one of the great things about healthcare, that oftentimes that's an easier thing to do. 

For instance, with our revenue model, we get paid effectively every time a test is performed. We like that for a couple of reasons. One, we see huge upside potential because there's a lot of tests that need to be performed. But the other thing is, we don't make money unless our customers, the pharmacies, are making money. And they're not making money unless patients actually want these tests. It aligns everything. One of the biggest issues in our theory of change is that more testing leads to better health outcomes - health monitoring especially, I'm talking a lot about chronic disease here. More testing leads to better health outcomes, and therefore we want to align our success with the increased testing. One of the nice things in healthcare is that this is more often possible. I think that's really important because if you don't have alignment like that and you’re fudging the alignment, then one of those two things is going to give pretty quickly. Because you're constantly having to rethink your business, especially in the early years, you're going to have competing interests and if you don't have alignment, then something's going to give.

What was the most valuable thing you learned from your Alchemist experience?

Two things really jump out in my mind. One is more personal and one is more to my cofounder. The more personal one was very specific demo day prep feedback that I got after our first run-through. We did two run-throughs as our prep for demo day in front of everyone on stage. I did my first one and got some very honest feedback that my energy was so down and they said, “This was bad. We know you, we know this is not you, but that was bad.” And so, the second time I got up there, I decided that I’m going to go completely the opposite direction. I'm going to feel like a clown up here. That’s the amount of energy I’m going to go for to try to fix this. And it worked! It was much better. 

We ended up being the second company to pitch on the actual demo day. What I learned out of that was you get so used to your own thing that sometimes it's easy to forget how to project the right enthusiasm, because to you, this isn't revolutionary or new. Now anytime I pitch I always tell myself two times the amount of enthusiasm I think is appropriate is still not enough. 

One of the things that my co-founder Andrew told me that really highlighted one of the core reasons we did Alchemist, why we felt it was very successful for us, is this: it was a couple of weeks into the program, and we were in San Francisco. We were working out of the coworking space with the other groups from our cohort. We've had a couple of weeks at this point of the sessions with the various mentors, and Andrew turned to me and said I get everything you've been saying now. It took me being exposed to all these other companies and to see what normal is out here to understand better why you weren't satisfied with things or why you felt we needed to move this quickly, or things like that. Seeing what's possible when you’re in the midst of a really high functioning group of entrepreneurs who are being coached by very skilled mentors, it just made it so much easier for him and I to work towards that. To Andrew especially, that exposure was invaluable because it made us realize that we were at half throttle and needed to be at full.

Any final insights for the next generation of Alchemist founders?

Besides the two times enthusiasm as you think is appropriate, use Alchemist to find your trusted advisors. That's something that's key and will always be key. The times when I'm really grateful are when I need opinion on something and I know there's four trusted people that I almost always go to, and some of those came out of Alchemist. Alchemist is a unique time to build those relationships with people. One of them, of course, is Ravi for me. He’s always one of the first people I think of when I need to source opinions on something, but it's others too. I think that's what you want, because that's something that is not just a near-term thing. That is something which is going to be useful to you forever, for as long as you have that relationship.

About the Alchemist Accelerator

Alchemist is a venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating the development of seed-stage ventures that monetize from enterprises (not consumers). The accelerator’s primary screening criteria is on teams, with primacy placed on having distinctive technical co-founders. We give companies around $36K, and run them through a structured 6-month program heavily focused on sales, customer development, and fundraising. Our backers include many of the top corporate and VC funds in the Valley—including Khosla Ventures, DFJ, Cisco, and Salesforce, among others. CB Insights has rated Alchemist the top program based on median funding rates of its grads (YC was #2), and Alchemist is perennially in the top of various Accelerator rankings. The accelerator seeds around 75 enterprise-monetizing ventures / year. Learn more about applying today.

Opportunities at Alchemist Network Companies

Hi Everyone,

We’ve collected all the new job postings from our network and wanted to share with all of you in case you were looking for new opportunities or know someone in your network who is. 

If you are interested in any, you can click the links below to learn more. And feel free to share this post to any lists / people you like.

And if you want to get involved in Alchemist in any other ways, please fill out this form and we will loop you into the program where relevant.

Our best,

The Alchemist Team

Attivo Partners: Full Service Finance & Accounting Consulting Firm that Works Exclusively with Venture Funded Startups. (San Francisco, CA; 11 - 50 Employees)

Accounting Manager Learn More

Augment: Customer Experience Management. (San Francisco, CA; 11 - 50 Employees )
Lead/Senior Front End Engineer Learn More
Senior Software Engineer – Back End Learn More

Botco.ai: A Conversational Marketing Platform that Enables Intelligent Chat Between Businesses and their Customers. We Have Large Enterprise Customers on Our Chat Platform using NLP Technologies that Automate 96% Coverage of Inbound Question. (Phoenix, AZ, and San Jose, CA,; 1 - 10 Employees)
Account Executive/Business Development Learn More

Bubbles: Lets You Drop Comments on Top of Any App and Invite Your Teammates To Collaborate In-Context. It's the New Way of Working Remotely. (San Francisco, CA / Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Senior Product Designer Learn More
Full-stack engineer (React.js / Typescript / AWS Lambda) Learn More
Head of Marketing Learn More

eero: The World's First Whole Home Wifi System that Delivers Hyper Fast, Super Secure Wifi to Every Room in Your Home. Upgrade Your Home Wifi Network Today. (San Francisco, CA; 51 - 200 Employees)
Growth Marketing Manager Learn More

Flivery: A Labor Free And Low Infra Cost Drone Delivery Solution. (Mountain View, CA or Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
VP of Business Development Learn More
All Levels of Software Engineers Learn More

FLYR In: Pricing Optimization for the Airline Industry. (San Francisco, CA; 51 - 200 Employees)
Technical Product Owner, UI Learn More

Gaia Wearables (PAL): Empowers the Autism Community with Behavioral Change Wearables. (Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Software Engineer Learn More

Issuu, inc.: A Leader Of The Digital Publishing Revolution, Issuu Is An Online Platform That Enables You To Digitally Distribute, Measure And Monetize Your Content — From Editorial To Catalog To Marketing To Everything In Between. (Palo Alto, CA; 1 - 10 Employees)

Integration Engineer Learn More

Jirav: Provides Financial Planning and Analysis in the Cloud that Helps Businesses Avoid Stale, Error-Prone Spreadsheets. Designed to be Completely Customizable, Jirav Lets You Track, Report, Forecast and Share the Data that Matters Most to Your Business. (Anywhere in the United States, Seattle, WA, San Francisco, CA; 11 - 50 Employees)
Senior QA Engineer Learn More
Senior DevOps Engineer Learn More
Senior Product Manager Learn More
Senior UI/User Experience Designer Learn More
Senior Account Executive Learn More

Moesif: User-Centric API Analytics. (San Francisco, CA; 1 - 10 Employees)
Sales Development Representative (SDR) Learn More
Account Executive Learn More
Head of Developer Relations Learn More
Senior Front End Engineer Learn More

Mozart Data: Data Pipeline Tool. (Bay Area, CA / Zoom; 1 - 10 Employees)

Backend Engineer Learn More

NachoNacho: Offers Businesses the Ability to Consolidate and Manage All their Subscriptions (Software, Content, Education, etc.) in One Account. (United States / Remote; 1 - 10 Employees) 
Full Stack/Backend Software Engineer Learn More

Onclusive: The Data Science Company for Communications. We Connect Content to Business Outcomes and Use Artificial Intelligence to Reveal which Strategies Drive Actual Brand Engagement. The Result is Thousands of High-Performance Campaigns. (Remote; 11 - 50 Employees)
Sales Development Representative Learn More

OpenChannel: Helps Companies Build Their Own App Store And Ecosystem. (Remote; 11 - 50 Employees)
Growth and Demand Generation Manager Learn More

PenguinSmart Inc.: Enabling Intelligent, Individualized Rehab Therapy for All. (Beijing, Taipei; 11 - 50 Employees)
Marketing & Business Development Manager Learn More
Sr. Software Engineer Learn More

Pico: Signups and Payments for Internet Communities. (Brooklyn, NY / Denver, CO / Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Technical Customer Success Manager Learn More

Retail Zipline: Communications And Task Management Solution Helps Retailers Coordinate Their Brick-And-Mortar Stores And Boost Employee Engagement. (San Francisco, CA / Remote; 1 - 10 Employees) 

Marketing And Customer Success Lead Learn More
Engineering Manager Learn More
Senior Rails Engineer Learn More
Customer Support Developer Learn More
Front End Engineer Learn More
Senior Product Designer Learn More
Sr Backend Data Engineer Learn More
Ruby on Rails Engineer Learn More

Run The World: We Enable Live Online Events That People Love Worldwide. (Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)

Account Executive Learn More

Social Glass: Software Ecosystem Powering High-Performing Governments. (San Francisco Bay Area, CA, Remote; 1 - 10 Employees)
Full Stack Developer (E-commerce platforms) Learn More
Backend Software Engineer (E-commerce platforms) Learn More
Senior Full Stack Developer (Marketplace Expert) Learn More

ZaiNar: Locates Radio Devices (Phones, Cars, Drones, IoT, etc.) in 3D with Sub-Meter Accuracy Made Possible by Our Patented Ability to Synchronize and Distribute Network Time to Sub-Nanosecond. (Redwood City, CA; 1 - 10 Employees)
Principal Embedded Software Engineer Learn More


Interview with Deb Noller, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Switch Automation

Deb Noller is a dynamic leader who brings more than 20 years’ experience in technology, sustainability and commercial real estate to her role as CEO of the Switch Automation team. She helps large enterprises apply technology for more efficient business operations, resulting in millions of dollars in cost savings for Fortune 100 companies. Deb loves cycling, strong coffee and mentoring young women in the tech industry.

What does Switch bring to the marketplace?

We are the first enterprise-wide platform for digitizing buildings. Most products in the market tackle buildings on a building-by-building basis. Switch offers scalable technology that lets people take a holistic view of their buildings and get everything under a single pane of glass.

What was your motivation while building Switch?

Frankly, buildings are an incredibly wasteful resource on the planet. I grew up in New Zealand in the seventies, and I value and appreciate the environment I had when I was a child. Buildings use 40 percent of the world's energy. Half of that - 20 percent of the world's energy - is used for heating and cooling. We could easily save 30 percent of the energy used to heat and cool buildings. And we could save six percent of the world’s energy if we just paid attention.

I’m fascinated by bringing efficiency to the industry.

What do you think is the most challenging thing you're facing at Switch?

It’s definitely the market. We are in one of the biggest and oldest markets. Real estate is the largest industry on the planet, but it’s also one of the last industries to be transformed by technology. The people involved in real estate are not familiar with how to buy technology, so a lot of people are trying out pilots. This causes both start-ups and established proptech companies in the space to burn time and money.  

The biggest challenge is determining how we can make the market move faster. To do so, we have to educate the market.

Can you tell me a little more about your background before starting Switch?

I studied national park management in the eighties, then later did a bachelor of commerce with a major in computer science. I met my co-founder, John Darlington, when we were both programmers. We started our first business in the nineties which handled logistics and freight tracking for large mining companies and became incredibly successful.

John and I were later introduced to building products and building automation because somebody was bringing a product into Australia, and it couldn't control the Australian lighting systems.

Out of all of your experience, what do you think best prepared you for your current role?

The first business that John and I created was a labor-based model. From this experience I learned very quickly and very early on that a labor-based model is not scalable. Later on, I looked at all the real estate markets and I noticed that most of the services have labor-based models. 

I also learned early on that you can use technology to have a digital business model. This allows you to grow a scalable business and go global. With technology and a digital business model, you can deliver a better experience and provide a better service while also producing higher margins and achieving higher levels of engagement with your customers. I’m fascinated by the concept of growing a global business using technology. When I look at real estate, I see an enormous opportunity to do exactly that.

Going back to the first day of working on your startup, what advice would you give yourself?

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient. Take good care of yourself. Take good care of your family and your friends. No matter how much work you do, it's your family and friends that we have backing us up, so make sure to look after them.

What entrepreneurial lesson took you the longest to learn?

Technical founders find it difficult to learn the rigor around the sale. Learning to accept that half of sales is a science and building a sales team is extremely challenging. I have built a sales team three times, and it’s been difficult every time - though  this may be a result of the market Switch in.

What constitutes success for you, personally?

Success to me means having an impact. When we get our technology into tens of thousands of buildings and it becomes the global standard for how people manage buildings, then I will consider Switch Automation successful.

Do you have any insights that you want to share with the next generation of Alchemist Accelerator founders?

Resilience is key. If you do not have resilience, give up now. You could get a nice job with good pay. There are many startups that will value your wisdom and skills.

Without resilience, you will not be successful.

Do you have any insights for the next generation of entrepreneurs who are specifically working in your space?

Give up now... or take the resilience that any typical entrepreneur should have, and multiply it by 100.

About the Alchemist Accelerator

Alchemist is a venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating the development of seed-stage ventures that monetize from enterprises (not consumers). The accelerator’s primary screening criteria is on teams, with primacy placed on having distinctive technical co-founders. We give companies around $36K, and run them through a structured 6-month program heavily focused on sales, customer development, and fundraising. Our backers include many of the top corporate and VC funds in the Valley—including Khosla Ventures, DFJ, Cisco, and Salesforce, among others. CB Insights has rated Alchemist the top program based on median funding rates of its grads (YC was #2), and Alchemist is perennially in the top of various Accelerator rankings. The accelerator seeds around 75 enterprise-monetizing ventures / year. Learn more about applying today.


Interview with Dijam Panigrahi, COO, Gridraster


Dijam Panigrahi, COO, Gridraster

“Passionate and excited about how technology is challenging norms and changing the way we interact and engage with the world around us. Particularly excited about the convergence of mobile technology, cloud computing and AI.”

What does Gridraster bring to the marketplace?

We observed, and we strongly believe, that augmented reality and virtual reality will change the way we interact or work and live in the long run. But we also had a strong feeling that if all those things were to be possible, they have to be made possible on a mobile device. On Oculus and other heavy devices, not all those experiences are possible.

As part of our team’s previous functions in Qualcomm, Broadcom, Texas Instruments, and Apple, we have worked on mobile, the network, and the cloud. We have seen a few technologies merging. For example, data pipes are becoming thicker, and you can do more using the network. The cloud computing thesis is falling into place with the virtualization of GPU’s. We saw that you cannot do this sort of intensive experience on the mobile device, but mobile is the only way that we can actually make this use case of this medium mainstream.

What we can do is leverage the cloud infrastructure, which is available to act as a co-processor to the mobile device, and be able to enable any kind of complex intense immersive experience at scale, not just trying to confine it to a single device or two. Essentially, what we bring to this industry is the software stack to allow any content provider to enable those experiences on any of the devices over the network so you don't need those heavy devices anymore. You can use the software stack that we are building to make the experience possible across different devices.

Can you tell me a little bit of your background and the team’s background before starting Gridraster?

We started the company back in 2015. Before that, in all of our fourteen to fifteen years of experience, we worked on the next generation of network-based products, whether it's the first dual processors for the smartphones or the 3G and 4G networks. We have built those products and taken them to different markets, international markets and scaled the revenues from zero to multimillion dollar sizes.

So I bring mostly product and business development expertise. Rishi Ranjan is the technical brain. He was a system designer within Qualcomm and Broadcom, working on the product for five or six years ahead of when they came into the market. Venkat Dass brings expertise in delivering to the customer. As part of Broadcom, he was the person who was applying 4G, 3G, and LTE into the networks for Samsung and Apple. He led our engineering effort. 

Recently Bhaskar Banerjee, somebody we knew over the years, joined us from the Apple team, where he was working on the immersive display technologies there. Now he takes over the CTO role. 

How does your experience in business development and product management help as Chief Operating Officer? Could you talk a little bit about your experience more on the BD side versus your co-founders experience on the technical side and how you are able to bring that together?

What we're doing is deeply technical, and we have multiple patents that have been filed, a couple of which have already been approved. We weren’t trying to do a research project, but rather make something commercially viable. That’s why we wanted to have multiple people come together.

When we started out it was Rishi and I who were both outward facing. We both had the technology base but we wanted to commercialize it. Before we conceptualized it, we actually spoke to at least fifty customers, trying to understand their pain point. I was trying to understand how it was going to be used, what business problem we were going to solve, what value it was going to bring, and how we can take this technology and productize it. Rishi was focusing on how you map that out from the technical requirement and from the systems requirement so that the engineering team, at that point led by Venkat, could implement it and come up with viable product that we can show to customers in our target audience.

We continued to iterate and evolve our roles. We started developing the product and we raised some funding and strengthened our team. Rishi focused more on the fundraising and top leadership and Venkat focused more on ensuring successful deployment with customers.

There are a lot of specific applications to aerospace and industrial industries. Can you go into detail on those applications and give a few examples?

Those use cases were developed from the conversations that we were having. The first part of the process for us was: okay, we have this awesome technology, how do we leverage this? 

We needed more data points that in a certain industry, there is a problem they're facing that we can solve. When we went out to the market and spoke to the customers in aerospace and defense, we talked a lot about value for price. For example, the HoloLens costs anywhere between  $3,000-$5,000. That's going to be pretty expensive if you’re looking at medical, education, or any other industry. But the amount that the aerospace customer or automotive customer or any of the manufacturing companies were actually spending on a device like Hololens was humongous.

For an aerospace customers that we're working with today, one use case is the manufacturing process where they're building out the spacecraft. What they're doing is aligning the virtual CAD models, which are pretty heavy and complex, onto the physical assets. When you're overlaying those virtual assets on top of the physical spacecraft that you're building, you're identifying spots where it needs to be put. If you can get those accurate overlays done using our technology, the cloud infrastructure, which you can do to almost a millimeter precision, you are able to save big by cutting down the time required to do the job and eliminating errors. 

Another use case is engineering design. One of the automotive companies has been designing cars using the clay or foam model. The problem is, any changes that you want to make to the design takes weeks and months. Now they're replacing the clay or foam modeling with the mixed reality pieces where you could overlay those virtual assets very precisely on the physical assets . This they can do now in near real time instead of waiting for weeks or months.

What was the most valuable thing you learned from Alchemist?

Learning to stick to the process and believe that the outcomes will come. If we focus on the outcomes too much and we don't focus on the process, we won’t have a scalable design. That's the thing that I found very valuable that we got from Alchemist, whether in the fundraising process or the building process.

If you were in Alchemist again, would you do anything differently?

I would get my co-founders to be much more immersed in the program instead of it being mainly me.

From my side, I think many of the processes, like for example creating a customer advisory board, we created over a time period, but we could have done it much more quickly. If you look back it looks pretty crystal clear but in retrospect there are many things I would have done differently. The two things I will say is that I would have put up those processes much earlier and I would have gotten my partners to be more involved in the Alchemist program.

What is the most challenging thing going forward?

Exploring product market fit. I know that our technology is going to be applicable across different domains and different industries, but we have to navigate that over a time period. Considering the team that we have, we can only focus on maybe a couple of use cases and a couple of industries. Based on all the data points that were available to us and customer conversations we had, we decided that aerospace, defense, and automotive will be our focus in the short term.

What entrepreneurial lesson takes the longest to learn, or are you still learning?

As an entrepreneur you're learning every day, such as, for example, building up the team. I’ve learned the value of letting go of certain roles. Maybe you at this point are the best person to do certain things, but maybe it's a good time to let go of a few of the things because it frees you up to focus on some things that are more important that others cannot do.

For example, my co-founder is the best in terms of technical skills, but as a CEO you know he has much more things to do now. But if he continues to get into the technical chops, he may not be able to do the CEO role effectively. 

Beyond that, from a sales point of view, everything takes longer than what you expect. 

Do you have any insights that you want to share to the next generation of Alchemist founders?

Bring the right team. Before you even build any of the product, validate with the customers or the users who are going to use it. I'm sure that's been said so many times, but when you are technical founders, you are so convinced of the technology that you lose sight of viability.

Apart from that, you are trying to build a business, not building a company to raise money. Sometimes that part of the process gets mixed up,as if you're just trying to raise another round. Right from the beginning I think you should be focusing on building out a company which can sustain itself. The capital should be able to accelerate that growth but should not be the end goal.

About the Alchemist Accelerator

Alchemist is a venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating the development of seed-stage ventures that monetize from enterprises (not consumers). The accelerator’s primary screening criteria is on teams, with primacy placed on having distinctive technical co-founders. We give companies around $36K, and run them through a structured 6-month program heavily focused on sales, customer development, and fundraising. Our backers include many of the top corporate and VC funds in the Valley—including Khosla Ventures, DFJ, Cisco, and Salesforce, among others. CB Insights has rated Alchemist the top program based on median funding rates of its grads (YC was #2), and Alchemist is perennially in the top of various Accelerator rankings. The accelerator seeds around 75 enterprise-monetizing ventures / year. Learn more about applying today.


Vinod Khosla: VC Discounting

Vinod Khosla is the founder of Khosla Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. His firm invests in experimental technologies such as biomedicine and robotics. Khosla co-founded computer hardware firm Sun Microsystems in 1982 with Andy Bechtolsheim, Bill Joy and Scott McNealy. He spent 18 years at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (now called Kleiner Perkins) before launching his own fund.

Would you say that you’re a venture capitalist?

You’ll never find me saying that we’re venture capitalists. If you look at the tagline on our website, in fact, probably since the 80s, I’ve never called myself a venture capitalist, I always say, I’m a venture assistant. That's what the tagline on our website says, since the day we started, because our focus is in trying to help with these kinds of issues, and the funding is incidental. 

We’re trying to figure out how much we are expected to discount from the listed price. What was your experience at Sun with this? Have you seen your Portfolio companies go through some of this?

Sun was a long time ago, a very different place. But there are a few lessons from there. One lesson I haven’t mentioned, people always asked me how to maximize market. I had this discussion today with a couple of them. I said, don't worry about marketing, what you want is to get the customer to love you, because most of the money you'll get from them will come later in other negotiation. So the first negotiation is, you get in the door and they become dependent on you, love your technology. Even zero margin businesses are fine initially, if it reduces your cost of sales.

So if making it attractive reduces the sales cycle from six or nine months to three months, do it every time, because you engage faster. You learn faster, what you think is a complete product is almost certainly very incomplete. The customer says, can you do that, can you do this. You’ve seen this. You want that learning to get incorporated into your product as quickly as possible. So that three or six-months delay in selling because you're trying to keep up your price point is worse than just losing the margin. You are also learning to create a better product faster. 

So get that first product refined in use, and you will hear this repeatedly, I’m a total experimentalist. You can't do a business plan, you can discover a business plan. You can’t define a product, you can discover product requirements by interacting and engaging. So I’m a total experimentalist on all these things. People have a tendency, especially when they don't know an area and entrepreneurs generally don't know the areas they're going after, to rely on experts.

I have watched a lot of my peers’ pitches. All the pitches seem like there's a prisoner's dilemma going on. They all get exaggerated to the point that they’re near uniform, and the VCs discount them all again, and there's no signal happening, where everyone says, we have an amazing team and a huge market and this enormous promise of traction. What concrete things do you do to try to get a signal out of that noise?

Especially at the seed stage, there's a lot that's not knowable, as I was saying earlier. What's most important to us is not the plan, but the quality of the thinking behind the plan, and judging because you can tell from the quality of thinking, how people approach a problem. When we ask for an answer, we're not looking for an answer, we're looking at how somebody thinks about the question. At least that's what I did. If somebody is trying to, you can have a big number. If you go to YC day, if you’re talking about hair salons, it's 10s of billions of dollars. If you’re talking about shoelaces, it's exactly the same number. So those numbers aren't really the issue. 

One of the things you realize if you've been in the venture business long enough, is that very few companies end up executing on their plans. Their plans three years later look very different. So you're looking at how people think, how do they respond to things they don't know, do they pretend they know, or, are they actually much better able to admit what they don't know, and how fast do they learn. Sometimes we talk to companies for a long time, it can be two months. We'll see what their learning is in those two months. 

When we talk to YCombinator or Alchemist Accelerator about, over the two months or three months, we look at how much has somebody changed. That’s maybe at the seed stage, the most important question I look for, because it tells me how fast they’ll keep learning in the next two years or three years. I'd rather have an athlete than somebody who knows the domain. 

Somebody may not be a great, wide receiver, to those of you who are football fans, but they had great zero to 40 times, they learn to be a wide receiver. It takes them six months longer. But over the course of five years of a startup they’re investing in, they'll be far ahead of somebody who's a better wide receiver, but not a great athlete. That, by the way is also thinks about who you should try to hire in any function.

About the Alchemist Accelerator

Alchemist is a venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating the development of seed-stage ventures that monetize from enterprises (not consumers). The accelerator’s primary screening criteria is on teams, with primacy placed on having distinctive technical co-founders. We give companies around $36K, and run them through a structured 6-month program heavily focused on sales, customer development, and fundraising. Our backers include many of the top corporate and VC funds in the Valley—including Khosla Ventures, DFJ, Cisco, and Salesforce, among others. CB Insights has rated Alchemist the top program based on median funding rates of its grads (YC was #2), and Alchemist is perennially in the top of various Accelerator rankings. The accelerator seeds around 75 enterprise-monetizing ventures / year. Learn more about applying today.


Vinod Khosla: Building your Initial Team 2

Vinod Khosla is the founder of Khosla Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. His firm invests in experimental technologies such as biomedicine and robotics. Khosla co-founded computer hardware firm Sun Microsystems in 1982 with Andy Bechtolsheim, Bill Joy and Scott McNealy. He spent 18 years at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (now called Kleiner Perkins) before launching his own fund.

We have noticed that there is a really strong network effect when you adopt the strategy of only hiring really great people. What’s your take on this?

An incredible network effect that’s seldom recognized. I’ll give you an example. I was talking about this particular company, the first four people they've hired, and we are talking about a really great person. I said, I’m not going to send him to them, because I look dumb in front of him, because I sent him to these tactical people. You wouldn't want to be interviewed by those people.  

With that strong network effect, how do you bootstrap?

Initial hiring is way more important than you think because of its multiplicative effect. So it's worth taking a little longer when you hire those people. You may pay them more in equity. That might be fair.. When we hired Andy Bechtolsheim and Bill oy, they were magnets for all sorts of people.

What's your feelings about remote and distributed teams?

Remote teams are hard to manage, but I don't invest because people have distributed teams or remote teams. You have to be doubly committed to keep a uniform culture. What makes it really hard is if the remote team is all junior people. So if the leaders in the remote team don't have credibility in the main team, then you're going to have a very hard time making it work, or keep the best people in the remote team, because they won't be motivated, because they don't feel part of it.

What are some of the irrational behaviors of investors, and how do you decide if you're missing out?

Investors really aren’t rational. When you say, if you're missing out, that's an emotion, not rational. I always say, keep in mind, investors only have two emotions; fear and greed. You know it.  So confidence in the team that matters more than anything else in getting your money. A very important question I’ll ask is for the next three people or the three most important people you're hiring in the next year. It’s not who they’re hiring, it’s how they're thinking about what they need. What that will mean for years two, three and four in terms of the teams, is for me, a way more important question than your financial forecast. But you have to keep in mind that most investors are emotional. When they're taking longer and longer and ask you more due diligence questions, the due diligence doesn't matter, they’re just fearful. So you got to say, how do I get the confidence up, it's not just answering their questions, which you’ll have to do.  

Typically, how long do you think it takes for most people before they feel like they know whether they're in or out?

There really isn't an answer for that. It's the dynamic you create. For really great teams, you really decide within hours whether you're going to invest or not. The due diligence is largely irrelevant. If it’s really uncertain areas, there are many things. If Twitter was starting up today, how do you do diligence? How do you know what’s the market? You just say, what confidence do I have in this person, and how rich is this opportunity space. Those are the only questions you can answer. You're not going to research the answers, use your best judgment. 

Others actually take serious diligence. At the seed stage, most things don't take a lot of diligence. So it's mostly in between, for most good investors. The people who are not that great as investors actually think they can diligence and don't know what's diligence and what's not. On your side, when you're writing, you're doing your spreadsheets, you know you're making shit. You know the answer and you just put the assumptions to be answered. Great thing about spreadsheets is you can hide all your assumptions. 

What do you think about solo founders versus co-founders?

I actually don't have a view one way or another. What matters is not what percentage you own, but the probability of success. If your expected value is ownership percentage in terms of probability of success, the far bigger variable to get far less attention is the probability of success. I always say, if you look at the risks in your business, adding more talent can increase the probability of success, then don't worry about the ownership percentage. 

I’ll give you a very real example. When my son did his startup, I had him keep a 60% pool. Nobody heard about it. But then he called the VP of engineering of Quora, and said, do you want to be my co-founder?  He said, no. To give you a sense, he was a fresh graduate out of Stanford. But you’d never get somebody like that, as a co-founder, but because if he had this school, he was able to attract somebody and that guy Shavia, is a great guy. He was head of machine learning for Netflix, and then became VP of engineering of Quora. The first three people he hired were three really valuable people in AI, they were old men making seven-digit salaries, and left to join a startup at 150K or whatever the salary was. Why? Because they got enough confidence. My son was able to give them 3-4%.

So now they have. So they’re just battling for somebody, somebody who is a great machine learning guy from Apple. His other offers are like seven-digit offers. He was one of the co-authors on the GAN paper with Ian Goodfellow. The guy called him and said, I looked at your team and I want to talk to you. Now, the other people all are offering really high salaries, so I don't know whether he went with them. But you got a chance because people looked at who you have, and the best people want to join. You have to work harder to get it going, but that's how I would answer the co-founder question. By the way, even at Sun, Bill Joy didn't join initially. Six months later, we just called him a co-founder. Hey, you’re going to be an attractive enough magnet, let's just call you co-founder. It doesn't matter.  

This, I’m very proud of. Sun was very successful. But after the first 15 or 20 people that we hired, Eric Schmidt was in the first 15, became CEO of Google. Carol Bartz was in the first 15, she became CEO of Yahoo. At least a dozen companies worth more than a billion dollars were started by the first 15 people at Sun. I was 25 when we started. I only wanted to hire really smart people, who shouldn't normally want to work with me.  That's the way to do it. But it paid off.

About the Alchemist Accelerator

Alchemist is a venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating the development of seed-stage ventures that monetize from enterprises (not consumers). The accelerator’s primary screening criteria is on teams, with primacy placed on having distinctive technical co-founders. We give companies around $36K, and run them through a structured 6-month program heavily focused on sales, customer development, and fundraising. Our backers include many of the top corporate and VC funds in the Valley—including Khosla Ventures, DFJ, Cisco, and Salesforce, among others. CB Insights has rated Alchemist the top program based on median funding rates of its grads (YC was #2), and Alchemist is perennially in the top of various Accelerator rankings. The accelerator seeds around 75 enterprise-monetizing ventures / year. Learn more about applying today.

Vinod Khosla: Building your Initial Team 1

Vinod Khosla is the founder of Khosla Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. His firm invests in experimental technologies such as biomedicine and robotics. Khosla cofounded computer hardware firm Sun Microsystems in 1982 with Andy Bechtolsheim, Bill Joy and Scott McNealy. He spent 18 years at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (now called Kleiner Perkins) before launching his own fund.

If you had to pick the single most common mistake that young startups make, what would it be?

Let me explain the process of building a big company, assuming that's the goal. It's like you’re trying to climb Mount Everest, but nobody ever got to the top of Mount Everest without going to Basecamp first, and then camp one, camp two, camp three. The other thing you notice; you look at the route to Mount Everest and it is not a straight line. I always say “be obstinate about your wishes, be flexible about your tactics”. Tactics are about zigging and zagging, but vision is about where you want to get to.

What if the vision is wrong?

You can adjust the vision along the way. That happens often. Here's the single biggest problem: a company doesn't depend on the plan you make. A company becomes the people you’ve hired, not the plan you make. This is hard to believe, but almost always true. I think the first 10 or 15 people you hire dramatically changes the probability of what you become. 

People don't think in these terms. The hard part, in this way related to Mount Everest, is getting to the base camp where the first few zigs and zags are very tactical. You might say, let me just hire a coder or somebody who can call customers and do sales. But once you have enough of those people, you may not have the team to go after the vision. So this split personality between worrying about the vision, worrying about the day to day tactics, and hiring for both is the single largest mistake I’ve seen.

We were just talking about a company that started about six months ago. They have hired five or six people. The first five people they've hired are low-level technical people who are there just to get the tasks done. I actually don't think they'll be able to hire the people they need for the bigger vision because people on the outside look at who they will be joining. It's really the hardest decision to make: how practical to be, how strategic to be. I always say, in hiring, be strategic with people who can be tactical because they can do a lot more when the time comes. It’s okay if they can just call for me, or do customer support for a while. After getting past the first few zig-zags, these are the people that will help build the company’s vision.

The right personality is in people who know they can do a lot more, know the vision, are into the vision, but are willing to do everything. So all of you probably recognize that characteristic, but the implications of hiring the wrong, tactical-only people comes two years later, three years later, because you can’t hire the people you need for the life vision, and because you can't scale. Everybody knows what to hire in a VP of engineering or a VP of marketing. The question I always ask is, this VP of engineering you’re hiring, will he or she make your VP of marketing better? 

Nobody asks that question, but it is the single most important question I ask. What kind of questions would you ask the marketing person? The VP of engineering may not know what makes a great marketing person, probably doesn't, but knows the right kinds of questions to ask. He’ll tell you a lot about the VP of engineering operating outside their domain, and also how they might add to this evolution of strategy of the company, which is what we are referring to.   

Do you have some advice about how to build up a quality enterprise sales team?

Yes. On our website, there are two documents I'd suggest companies at this stage absolutely look at One is called ‘’Team Building,’’ and the other one is called ‘’Gene pool engineering for entrepreneurs’’. Unlikely you’ll just be asked about hiring great people, which anybody can tell you, but it's not actionable, because I don't know of anybody who says they try and hire not-great people. It is specifically thinking about what your risks are and how your engineered gene pool is, who you're hiring to go after your risks. Those two documents are worth looking at. 

Then I would say, hiring each functional person is very different. Actually, sales is much easier to hire and fire than marketing. Here's the reason why. A salesperson is a very tactical person, and the best sales guys don't want high salary, they want high commission. If they don't meet their quota, you don't pay them. If they do meet their quota, you're happy to pay them a lot. 

In the early days of Sun, all the sales guys always made more money than anybody else in the company, because they were animals and you just want them to be that. If they weren’t, they left because they had very low base salaries. These people would do much better at IBM or DEC, because they had a high base and low commission. We purposefully made it very low base and high commission. The best guys had so much confidence in themselves. They’re just self-selected.  

Is it really that easy? You just change the comp and then suddenly you have a team full of winners?

Yes, comp works for sales people. Marketing is different, we can’t do that, we need much more cerebral people, who think more deeply about the short term and the long term. That's much harder. Marketing is harder than just about any other function. If you call somebody at Google, and say, ‘’Hey, you’re VP of Marketing for YouTube or something, help me recruit this person,’’ they don't have a clue on how to hire a marketing person for a startup. Here's why, what marketing people do mostly is make what I call maintenance marketing. You're selling widgets, you’re selling trucks, you're selling cars, you're selling clothes. 

What marketing people do is incremental. Everything is defined. The marketing people are essentially doing maintenance marketing. An ad campaign here, a press release there. What startups have to do is figure out from scratch what's a new way to sell, what's the new positioning for them. It's like starting from ground zero. So startup marketing people have to be almost experimentalists in every sense of the word, clever and out-of-the-box thinkers. 

Those are not the characteristics in bigger companies, where people have done marketing for an established product. It’s so different than marketing for a startup, where you're trying to find leverage, you're trying to find a new product market fit. In fact, that evolutionary product design, like, oh, we're doing this, but this thing looks incredible, let's just try that. That's where products evolve in startups and good marketing people are that agile. They don't have long term marketing plans; they don't have PR agencies. Any startup that wants to hire an agency is generally a bad sign. I hate startups hiring agencies because it means they don't understand their product. 

If not agencies, where do you find these mythical people?

They’re usually in other startups. But sometimes, you'll find engineers in your own organizations who are just asking great questions. I find really good startup marketing people are just people who think from first principles, as opposed to people who think from tradition, like this is how press releases are done, this is how ad campaigns are done. Good marketing people are first principles thinkers. Generally, one of the other mistakes is to say, if you're selling retail, let's find somebody from retail. 

When I have to choose between domain expertise and better thinking, I’ve always picked better thinking for that function. Interestingly for CFO, I picked domain expertise, because their job is much more linear. So my point is, sales is different than marketing is different than finance. Each one requires you to have this art of saying what's the right way to think about this person. In these papers, I actually define if you're hiring for a position that you've never worked in, how do you go about hiring. You should read this. They’re on our website for a reason. Meant to be a resource to all entrepreneurs, whether in our portfolio or not.

About the Alchemist Accelerator

Alchemist is a venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating the development of seed-stage ventures that monetize from enterprises (not consumers). The accelerator’s primary screening criteria is on teams, with primacy placed on having distinctive technical co-founders. We give companies around $36K, and run them through a structured 6-month program heavily focused on sales, customer development, and fundraising. Our backers include many of the top corporate and VC funds in the Valley—including Khosla Ventures, DFJ, Cisco, and Salesforce, among others. CB Insights has rated Alchemist the top program based on median funding rates of its grads (YC was #2), and Alchemist is perennially in the top of various Accelerator rankings. The accelerator seeds around 75 enterprise-monetizing ventures / year. Learn more about applying today.