Convince and Convert

The 12 Startups I’ve Invested In and Why

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badge-jay-saysI was having dinner with a friend at the National Speakers Association conference a few days ago. During dinner, this friend (let’s call him “Chris Ducker” because it was Chris Ducker) said something about 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. It’s probably silly, but I’ve long felt that what I do in that arena isn’t particularly relevant to Convince & Convert readers (or clients), which is why information about my investing and advising is now located on the site.

But, given the rise of participatory financing via Kick Starter, et al and Angel List syndicates (a great way to get involved with startups with a smaller cash commitment), combined with the fact that many of the companies I’ve invested in are tools that we use daily here at Convince & Convert, I figured I’d write a post 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.

I’m by no means a Vaynerchuk-esque investment mogul, but here’s where I’m at as of July 7, 2014:

Addvocate – Employee Activation in Social

I’m probably most involved day-to-day with this company, as I’m also on the board of directors. Addvocate is a leader in the fast-growing field of employee social enablement and advocacy software. If you want your employees (or your team) to share something in social, or your employees want to recommend content to the marketing hub, etc. Addvocate makes it happen. It’s secure, mobile-friendly, super easy to use, and affordable. This is a corner of the social media world that will be accelerating quickly, I believe. We use this tool every day to find and internally distribute topics for our One Thing email.

the Breather mobile app

the Breather mobile app

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 New York, Montreal, and San Francisco (your city coming soon) 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.

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.

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.

CloudPeeps – Remote Community Management

My newest investment, CloudPeeps (I think) is the right idea at the right time. It’s a collective of eLance-style free agents working inside a match-making platform that enables companies (or even solopreneurs) to find, select, and hire community managers to handle their routine social media tasks. It’s going to be very, very popular among SMEs.

Command Post – Social Media Segmentation and Disclosure

Formerly known as the recently re-branded 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 disclosure capabilities, originally developed to ensure that brands are in compliance with FCC guidelines. You’ll see an example of those disclosure “badges” at the bottom of this post.

Green Nurture – Crowdsourced Sustainability

My second-oldest active investment, Green Nurture has a turn-key platform that allows companies and government organizations to solicit sustainable, green ideas from their workforce in an easy, gamified format. Some exciting new customers are starting to kick the tires on Green Nurture, and its nice to have an investment in the environment category. – The Easy Training Software

These guys are on fire! They gained 50 B2B clients in just one year, and are picking up momentum quickly. Two reasons for that. First, they have a terrific team (very similar to Buffer in style and values). Second, the product is outstanding. 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. I use for the Agency Pulse resource center that agency clients of Convince & Convert have access to exclusively.

A few of the 1,000 top influencers about beer, via LittleBird

A few of the 1,000 top influencers about beer, via LittleBird

LittleBird – Social Business Intelligence

Another one that’s really rounding into form, 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. Very smart and creative team.

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.

Senestech – Safe Sterilization of Pests

My oldest active investment, and it still blows me away. 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. Huge trial under way right now with the NYC subway system to reduce the rat population in the tunnels. They also have technology (currently on the back burner) that can sterilize dogs and cats using an aerosol spray. Enormous implications for shelters and pet over-population.

Unified Social – Comprehensive Social Marketing Platform

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. Rich content creation tools, deep analytics, and best-in-class programmatic ad capabilities.

So there you have it. Those are the 12 I have in play today. I’m also an investor in two venture funds/accelerators in Indiana: Gravity Ventures and Sproutbox. I’m an advisor to another five or six startups, as well, with minor equity grants associated with that role.

If you have any questions about these companies, or the angel investing process, etc. please feel free to leave a comment.

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  1. says

    Such a great list and outstanding products. I personally love the Breather idea. Once it’s in Europe I’ll have an eye on that. Jay, what’s the best place to look for investors when someone’s creating an app similar to Buffer but with different features and more advanced analytics? We’re completing tech team at the moment.

  2. NicoleMillerbooks says

    What an amazing list :) Thank you, Jay, for all your incredible support of Buffer! sounds amazing and I’m excited to learn more about all of these ventures!

    Community Champion at Buffer

    • says

      Hey Nicole, we’re looking forward to meeting you, too!’s director of marketing, Mitch, swears by you guys, and he has great taste. So thanks for your help!

      • NicoleMillerbooks says

        Aw that’s so sweet! :) Keep up your awesome work, Max! :) I’d love to connect more in the future!

  3. says

    I have been closely following your G+ updates, you have got an amazing influence on young entrepreneurs. Thank you for sharing this list; I knew about a few of these via @techcrunch or @producthunt.

  4. says

    Hey Jay, thanks a lot for sharing this list. Much appreciated. Looking into new ideas/ventures myself now.

    Best regards,
    Tjerja Geerts
    Freelance Digital Design Director, working with multiple startups

  5. jackilenners says

    Love that SenesTech is on that list. Loretta is one of my faves and her work is truly incredible.

  6. Jennifer says

    Jay – I completely need Senestech to create a tool to rid my yard of the CHIPMUNKS! Give them my endorsement to hurry that up! Thanks for a the nice piece on some interesting developments out there.

  7. says

    Hey Jay good stuff. I would definitely love to see more content around this topic. However the post said that it would go into why you invested and I don’t feel like you’ve covered that. It’s a nice list of some exciting companies but there’s not much detail on why you invested.

    Do you know if there’s any good content out there on exactly why investors made certain investments? Some specifics around what growth the company was at, what revenues they were doing, what they saw in the founders etc would be great. I know Buffer has put out their original pitchdeck which is really useful.

    Jason Calacanis is pretty transparent about this, at least on his email list which is always good info to know. I’m not so much interested in who is getting the funding (which I can find out from Angel list or crunchbase), but more what are the specific things that sold the deal.

    Any chance you could elaborate on some of those ideas? I’d also love to know how people decide which companies to advise.

  8. says

    Hey Jay! I’m curious, what do you think about the idea of a VC/angel having a dedicated strategist who works with their investments to ensure strategy + execution are progressing in a positive direction? eg. sort of a “check” to checks and balances. I have been involved in a dozen+ startups over the past decade and am trying to find carve out a role where I can advise/work with startups – something I greatly enjoy.

      • says

        Really appreciate your quick response, Jay! Would love to know of any VC’s who have someone like this (so I can learn more about who that is, expertise, what “larger VC” means, etc), if you happen to know any. Or a name for this role? Sounds very relationship based. Either way, you’re the first person who’s tipped me off on this – greatly appreciate it, will do some research. :)

        • says

          Usually they have an analyst title or something like that. But it has to be a big enough firm, with enough deals in play, that it makes sense to amortize a person like that. Also, in my experience in pretty much requires the VC to have a board seat. Otherwise, they can’t really insert their own strategy guy.

  9. says

    Inspiring! Yes have recognized that this is where i can give the most value and am getting into it as well Jay. Will check out and promote the startups you have chosen they all look great

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