It is an unconventional story even for the Bay Area. Sheltr was founded in November 2018, with a seed round in May and the acquisition by Hippo Insurance closing by end of October. In just a year the company went from 0 to serving thousands of people, non-trivial revenue and was sold at profit for investors & employees. I was lucky to join as an Angel Investor around April.
The founders, Praveen Chekuri and Andrew Wynn, are worth a separate article each. In short, after spending a year at Instacart, Praveen went on to work on a few early ideas with Justin Kan and later worked on mobile and growth at Houseparty. I knew him as a sharp and super fast learning colleague, who stood out as being very goal-oriented and always keeping an eye on business metrics and opportunities. Andrew had a remarkable career at Instacart, where he came to head Catalog — a crucial part of the company. At the same time, Andrew’s is an athlete, who continuously impresses me on Strava and who once swam 22 miles from Catalina Island to Long Beach. Although I secretly suspect that Andrew has fins, this demonstrates how competitive and focused he is.
Having known Praveen and Andrew from their time at Instacart, I was antsy to bet on their talent. The team continued to impress both with initial traction, as well as having raised pre-seed from top-tier venture scouts. As a result, we shook hands as the team was working on their seed round.
Throughout the next 6 months, my contribution was making intros and discussing the product. Early on, I was able to help by introducing Sheltr to a friend at Zeusliving, which resulted in a pilot and a partnership opportunity. I connected Sheltr with an early ops person from Uber, suggested a strong Business Development lead and through several referrals helped them find a design contractor that Sheltr team was very happy about. Over one breakfast we identified a growth opportunity and soon I put Praveen in touch with the person working on a similar problem at Instacart.
Eventually came the acquisition and after deliberation, the team made the best choice for the business, their colleagues and investors. Although it was a short journey, I am sure it is not the last company for Praveen and Andrew!
Celebrating Sheltr’s success is pleasant, but it is crystal clear that most of the other investments will take longer and won’t be as straightforward to enter or exit. Many other companies will require pulling more resources and developing more opportunities together. To conclude, even such short and “easy” experience emphasized the need to grow the span and strength of a personal network, as well as the importance to develop a product, business, and engineering expertise to be able to offer more to the companies I invested in.
P.S. Andrew recommended an interesting article that goes deeper into the effects of personal network and Social Capital on the Bay Area startup ecosystem.