The 21 Startups I’ve Invested In and Why

May 10th, 2017

The 21 Startups I've Invested In and Why

I was having dinner with a friend at the National Speakers Association conference a couple years ago. During dinner, this friend (let’s call him “Chris Ducker” because it was Chris Ducker) said something about the popular social media tool, Buffer. I mentioned that I am an investor in that company, and Chris said, “You are? I had no idea you did that kind of stuff.” And it got me thinking about how I almost never write about the work I do as a venture capitalist and advisor.

But, given that many of the companies I’ve invested in are tools that we use daily here at Convince & Convert, I figured I’d update a post I wrote about what I’ve supported financially. And since your visits to this site, and your email clicks, and your podcast listens help generate the sponsorship revenue that (in part) allows me to make those investments, I’d argue that you’re a part of these companies too, at some level.

Here’s what I’ve backed financially and/or as an equity-holding official advisor, listed alphabetically.

Breather – Quiet on Demand

Breather is the brain-child of the uber-smart Julien Smith. It’s Airbnb for privacy. Breather rents unused office space in many cities and then allows people to rent the space for an hour or three at a time. Great for a conference call, small meeting, a quick “breather” when you’re traveling, actors working on their lines, etc. The space is booked via smartphone app, and the door is also unlocked that way, using electronic locks. It’s incredibly slick. I’m in love with this idea.

Breather recently raised a $40 million C round of investment.
Breather.com

Buffer – Social Scheduling and Content Recommendations

Probably the best known of the companies in which I’ve invested, due to their very large customer base and colossally popular blog. Buffer does everything right. It makes social media participation way easier, and their new iPhone app, Daily, that recommends content for you to share is genius. It’s an honor to be associated with these guys, and I use Buffer daily.
Buffer.com

Captora – Automated Marketing Optimization

I get excited just thinking about this company. Captora has a very powerful engine that analyzes the entirety of your digital marketing efforts and the efforts of your competitors, in real-time (and all the time). Then, based on that data, Captora automatically creates new campaigns (including landing pages and other web copy) and/or changes existing campaigns. Imagine having an entire department of data analysts and digital marketing geniuses, but deciding that maybe you could build a freaky robot to do their jobs. That’s Captora. It’s a game-changer for B2B, especially for top-of-the-funnel lead gen.
Captora.com

CloudPeeps – Remote Community Management

CloudPeeps is a collective of digital marketing free agents working inside a match-making platform that enables companies (or even solopreneurs) to find, select, and hire experienced freelancers to handle social media, community management, and virtual assistant tasks. It adds clarity and structure to the noisy freelancer marketplace.
CloudPeeps.com

Clustertruck – Food Delivery Powered by Big Data

A centralized kitchen, lightning fast delivery, plus fresh and tasty food. I have Clustertruck delivered twice a week and am delighted to be part of this fast-growing concept founded by Chris Baggot, co-founder of ExactTarget. When it opens in your city, you’re going to be very, very happy.
Clustertruck.com

Command Post – Social Media Segmentation and Disclosure

Formerly known as cmp.ly, Command Post has pivoted to focus on providing useful social media analytics and delivering nuggets of insight and intelligence that help you identify hidden advocates (for example). The firm still has its cmp.ly disclosure capabilities, originally developed to ensure that brands are in compliance with FCC guidelines. Command Post is now essentially defunct. It’s a shame, because their ideas around social media disclosure where spot-on, just too early.
GetCommandPost.com

CoSchedule – Marketing Calendar and Automation

I’m a big advocate for this solution (we use it here at Convince & Convert). It’s an inexpensive, easy-to-use, powerful marketing calendar with a ton of smart features that save time and hassle. Great blog and content marketing output from this team, too, who are taking a page out of the Buffer playbook. CoSchedule just raised their first round of financing.
CoSchedule.com

Gravity Ventures – Boutique Tech Venture Fund

I am a member of Gravity Ventures Indiana 3, a small technology venture fund based in Indianapolis. The fund is now closed, and has investments in Mighty Signal, Bluebridge, Petbrosia, RivalIQ, Visible, and more.
GravityVentures.com

Green Nurture – Crowdsourced Sustainability

My second-oldest active investment, Green Nurture, built a turn-key platform that allows companies and government organizations to solicit sustainable, green ideas from their workforce in an easy, gamified format. Largely defunct, Green Nurture is working on partnerships to revive the core technology.
GreenNurture.com

High Alpha – B2B SAAS Venture Studio and Fund

I am a member of High Alpha, which creates and funds SAAS companies with a B2B focus. Founded by several executives of ExactTarget and other experienced VCs and operators, the High Alpha portfolio includes Salesloft, Dwolla, ClearScholar, Zylo, Doxly, Drone Deploy, When I Work, Lessonly, Crowd Riff, Visible, Sigstr, TinyPulse, Octiv, Narvar, Structural, and G2Crowd.
HighAlpha.com

InsightPool – Influencer ID and Engagement Platform

I am an equity-holding advisor of this Atlanta-based firm that used big data to identify topical influencers. Unlike other influencer databases, Insightpool also offers semi-automated technology for reaching out to social media influencers, turning them into advocates.
InsightPool.com

Lesson.ly – The Easy Training Software

These guys are on fire and recently raised a $5 million A round of financing. They have a terrific team (very similar to Buffer in style and values), and the product is outstanding. Lesson.ly offers quite literally the easiest way to create and distribute training for anything. Fully drag-and-drop, you can have a course up and running in minutes.
Lesson.ly

LittleBird – Social Business Intelligence

LittleBird helps you find influencers and experts in any topical category, and then keeps you updated, alerted, and informed about what’s happening with those influencers in that category. Amazing tool for keeping tabs on thought leaders about anything. Recently sold to Sprinklr.
GetLittleBird.com

RivalIQ – Social Media Analytics and Competitor Monitoring

I got introduced to RivalIQ by Marcus Nelson, former CEO of Addvocate, who used some Rival data in a board of directors presentation. I immediately started using the tool for Convince & Convert clients and invested right away. RivalIQ gives you easy, fast data about how your company is faring in social media versus its competitors. Reasonably priced, and lots of slick features like the ability to automatically export data into a Powerpoint doc customized with your own branding.
RivalIQ.com

Senestech – Safe Sterilization of Pests

My oldest active investment. Senestech is a biosciences start-up that formulates special baits that, when ingested by the targeted species (only), sterilize undesirable mammals. This reduces the need for poisons and other toxins. Recently became a public company, now trading on NASDAQ as SNES.
Senestech.com

ServiceGuru – Ratings and Reviews for Hospitality Workers

I am an equity-holding advisor of this new platform that gives restaurant patrons the ability to rate individual hospitality workers (servers, bartenders, hosts, etc.). This “service score” is appended to the workers profile, and follows them when they change positions or locations. Very smart idea from experienced operators.
ServiceGuru.com

SproutBox- Indiana Venture Studio

When I moved to Bloomington, Indiana I quickly invested in SproutBox, a venture studio that creates and funds tech companies in the region. Portfolio companies include Cheddar, Proposable, Periodic, StoryAmp, Earbits, and Peoplocity.
SproutBox.com

Terminus – Effective Account-Based Marketing

Terminus is a fast-growing ABM company with an easy-to-use platform for reaching target accounts in social media, email, paid display and beyond. Terminus is also the proprietor of the FlipMyFunnel community and conference. Terminus recently closed a $10 million B round of financing. I love what they are doing, and I’m very bullish on ABM in general.
Terminus.com

TrapIt – Social Selling and Employee Advocacy

I was an angel investor and board member in Addvocate, a pioneering employee advocacy tool. Addvocate merged with TrapIt, a full-featured platform that empowers salespeople and team members at large to curate and distribute content in social media.
Trap.it

Uberflip – The Best Content Hub Platform

I love these technology. Uberflip provides easy-to-use hubs to store and manage content assets in just about any format. No IT guys needed—marketers can build and tweak hubs in a flash, as well as create new CTAs. Integrates into just about every marketing automation platform, too, for lead nurturing and follow up. Smart team, who also run the excellent Content Experience conference in August.
Uberflip.com

Unified – Intelligence-Driven Social Media Advertising

I originally invested in Facebook analytics start-up Pagelever, which was then purchased by Unified Social. Top ranked by Forrester, Unified has a true end-to-end solution for social marketers, with an emphasis on using big data to improve social advertising results. Rich content creation tools, deep analytics, and best-in-class programmatic ad capabilities. Unified has raised a total of $44 million.
UnifiedSocial.com

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