Our Investment in Meru Health – and Others

This post is by Brad Feld from Feld Thoughts

We just announced our investment in Meru Health. If you recognize Meru Health, it’s because I wrote about it in January as part of my explanation of Freestyle’s Leadership on Mental Health. I highlighted what Josh Felser and his team at Freestyle were doing, which included underwriting 100% of the cost for two programs – Meru Health and Hoffman Institute, for all of their founders.

We got to know Kristian Ranta and his team at Meru Health through Josh. Freestyle is one of our 32 partner funds (where we are LPs) and most of our new direct investing activity is in conjunction with one of our partner funds.

Forbes wrote a detailed profile of the company and the investment in Foundry Group And Slack Are Backing A Virtual Therapy Startup That Raised $8.1 Million and we are excited to be part of Meru Health.

Over the past two months, I’ve been asked almost daily if “VCs are investing during the Covid crisis.” Generic questions like this are impossible to answer, as “VCs” are not a singular archetype (there are many types of VCs with different strategies, goals, personalities, and constraints.) So, I answer it from the frame of reference of what we are doing at Foundry Group.

In general, I think the best answers are examples.

For me, the Covid crisis started on March 11th. This was the first day I worked from home and haven’t left my house since then. We were planning to have our CEO Summit in Boulder on March 12th and 13th but cancelled it on March 9th. My parents were coming to Boulder on March 12th for a long weekend and to celebrate my dad’s 82nd birthday. My brother Daniel and I decided to cancel their trip and told them the night of March 11th. Bryan Leech at iBotta hosted the first “Denver Business Leaders” call the morning of March 11th. So, when I look back and mark this moment in history, it started for me on March 11th.

Since then, Foundry Group has closed three new investments.

We generally make about 10 new investments a year. While it’s not spaced out monthly (we don’t try to manage timing that granularly), if you look back to when we started Foundry Group in 2007 we’ve done a maximum of 14 new investments in a year and a minimum of 8 new investments.

When asked if we are investing, I answer “yes – on the same pace as we always have.” We have a deeply held belief that time diversity in investing matters, and the key is to keep the same pace of new investments no matter what is going on in the macro.

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Voluntarily Extending Work From Home Until At Least The End of May 2020

This post is by Brad Feld from Feld Thoughts

At Foundry Group, we’ve decided to voluntarily extend our Work from Home policy until at least the end of May 2020. Until then, our office is closed. We will re-evaluate this on May 25th and decide whether to let our Work from Home policy expire, or extend it further.

We encourage all Colorado-based software and professional services businesses to consider this policy. Given our State’s current “Safer at Home” policy, overall limitations on testing, uncertainty around the current state of the Covid crisis, and the existing stress on many healthcare-related systems, we believe that many businesses can do their part to ease the strain by continuing Work from Home policies.

We are fortunate that we can run our business in a completely remote and distributed fashion, with everyone working from home. While the Safer at Home policy allows offices to have up to 50% of their staff working at any one time, to be truly safe at work requires numerous processes, including regular testing and tracing of employees, extensive office cleaning, and controls around visitors. We are not prepared to do this at the level we believe we need to in order for our team to feel safe and think that, at a minimum, we need more time to prepare.

We also recognize that many businesses cannot operate remotely. While we immediately think of hospitals and frontline health care workers, many essential businesses have not been closed during the “Stay at Home” order. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these people and recognize that one thing that we can continue to do in May is work from home to keep the burden on the system lower.

Numerous businesses have been extremely impacted by the Covid crisis, including some, such as restaurants and retail, that are going to open more slowly and on a limited basis. Their environments are different than a software or professional services firm, as their employees and customers physically interact continuously throughout the day. Many of them, especially restaurants, are already tuned in to health and safety issues in a way that traditional office environments are not, so putting additional safety measures in place, while burdensome, is more natural for them.

We have been studying many things that larger companies are doing. It’s apparent that the private sector will need to be very involved in creating a safe working environment for their employees. While the government can give us parameters and constraints we are going to have to have to carry them out on a daily basis. And, to do that well, will require real preparation.

A number of tech companies led the movement to work from home, including a group of us in Colorado. You don’t have to be in an office environment to develop software products, practice law, trade stocks, or make investments. If you have the flexibility to work from home, we encourage you to consider being the last to exit the Work from Home dynamic, just as we were the first to enter it.

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Molekule hopes to clear the air with $58 million in Series C funding and Berkeley Lab’s seal of approval

This post is by Sarah Buhr from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Silicon Valley air purifier startup Molekule was born out of an idea Dr. Yogi Goswami had back in the ’90s using photo-voltaic technology to kill air pollutants. His son, a young boy at the time, suffered from severe allergies and Dr. Goswami wanted to build something those like him could use in their home to clear the air. But the sleekly designed Molekule took a bit of a blow last fall when Wirecutter called it “the worst air purifier we’ve ever tested.”

Molekule pointed out to Techcrunch the Berkeley Lab did not test for particulate matter larger than .3 microns (which is what Wirecutter tested for) but Intertek Laboratories, which ran a separate test from Berkeley Lab on a Molekule unit, did.

Molekule has since told TechCrunch comparing its PECO technology to the more common HEPA air filter technology is like comparing apples to oranges. “Up until now, everything has been air filtration, not real air purification,” co-founder and CEO of the company Jaya Rao told TechCrunch.

To disprove the naysayers, Molekule sent off its tech for testing at the Berkeley Lab, which concluded no measurable amount of VOC’s or ozone were emitted; Molekule effectively removed harmful chemicals in the air, like toluene, limonene, formaldehyde, as well as ozone, and that “no secondary byproducts were observed when the air cleaner was operated in the presence of a challenge VOC mixture.”

Compare that to Wirecutter’s own assessment that, “on its auto setting, which is its medium setting, the Continue reading “Molekule hopes to clear the air with $58 million in Series C funding and Berkeley Lab’s seal of approval”