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If you’ve ever sold to large enterprises, we suspect you’ve felt the pain of procurement. You might have faced a seemingly endless RFP cycle; the tedious back-and-forth of requirements and specifications; or a cumbersome workflow in an archaic ERP system.

On the other side of the table, procurement teams feel the same pain — and this has major consequences for the enterprise at large. At the end of a major sourcing process, it’s hard to know if one has found the best supplier, and achieved the best deal. It’s harder still to build a truly flexible supply chain, when RFPs alone can take over a year. And this is before we get to the long tail of business spend: the small purchases which can take up much of a procurement team’s time, and add up to a large volume of loosely controlled spend.

Now, all this matters more than ever. COVID-19 has reshaped supply chains in an unprecedented way: organisations need to procure more nimbly than before. And in a difficult macro climate, enterprises are compelled to scrutinise their cost bases more closely than ever.

Enter Alan Holland and the Keelvar team. Where procurement software has seen little innovation in the last decade, Keelvar is revolutionising the industry — not just with its modern UX and much-needed workflow automation, but also with the game-changing concept of autonomous procurement.

Keelvar emerged from a leading AI research laboratory at University College Cork, and started out by launching software to assist procurement teams in executing and optimising major sourcing events. This was an instant hit among customers frustrated by legacy products. Keelvar was quick to sign blue-chip customers like Siemens, BMW, Coca-Cola, and ABF — all of whom have enjoyed the dual RoI of improved outcomes and faster processes, benefiting both their buyer clients and their supplier bases.

But the next step in Keelvar’s journey is what excites us the most. What if key steps in the procurement process could take place seamlessly and autonomously? What if we could remove the complexity and inefficiency of long-tail procurement? Imagine if we could quickly deploy sourcing bots, to free up procurement teams’ capacity and give them superpowers to focus on what matters most? The Keelvar team is already executing on this bold vision: one early customer hailed Keelvar’s sourcing automation as “the fifth industrial revolution for procurement”.

Keelvar’s market opportunity is enormous. Today, global spend on procurement software is over $6B — but we think Keelvar is on the verge of creating a new market that’s far greater than this. Keelvar is not only demonstrating remarkable traction with its optimisation product, but also driving its customers towards an ambitious goal of autonomous procurement, a world where both buyers and suppliers use their own software bots to achieve mutually optimal outcomes.

Few teams could be better positioned to achieve this than Keelvar. We’ve been struck by Alan’s wealth of expertise, with his academic background in AI for combinatorial auctions — not to mention his tenacity, and his passion for helping smaller suppliers through difficult processes. With limited early capital, he and the team have built an impressive customer list, gaining a chorus of evangelists across the Global 2000. The business is now gathering tremendous momentum, and we’re thrilled to be part of the next chapter. …

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(The first documented instance of double-entry bookkeeping: Pacioli’s Summa de arithmetica, printed in 1494)

When Luca Pacioli first recorded the method of double-entry bookkeeping in the fifteenth century, he may not have anticipated the impact he would have on the modern world. He is certainly unlikely to have anticipated the pain felt by countless small business owners today — who find themselves managing cash flow challenges from day to day, and reconciling shoeboxes of receipts and invoices at year-end.

Now, given the pressure exerted by COVID-19, these financial challenges are more acute than ever. It’s a precarious time to run a small business, calling for policy interventions such as the UK’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. …

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COVID-19 is an immense human tragedy. We feel its reverberations not just in public health, but in almost every aspect of the wider economy, as it impacts jobs and industries in ways that few anticipated.

The heroes of this crisis are those on the front line: healthcare professionals, educators, supermarket staff, warehouse workers, delivery drivers, and local volunteers bringing food and medicines to the isolated and vulnerable members of our communities. What would we do without the tireless efforts of such dedicated individuals, many of whom have long been under-recognised as critical participants in our economy? …

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When reading about the state of retirement savings in Europe, one often encounters the journalistic trope of a ‘time bomb’. There’s some substance behind the hyperbole. Europeans are materially underprepared for retirement, in a convergence of demographic, social, and macroeconomic forces which policymakers can’t resolve alone. Will startups be able to defuse the bomb?

At Mosaic we’re excited about the transformation of the wealth management industry at large. In this post, we’ll focus on pensions specifically. Today, only 27% of Europeans aged between 25 and 59 have enrolled themselves in a pension product, and the continent’s retirement savings gap has been estimated by Deloitte and Aviva at >$2T. In spite of the tax benefits offered by pension products, consumers’ levels of engagement and education are low. …

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We’ve all been there. A warning light on your dishwasher panel, and when you open the door, a pool of water that won’t drain away. Or, perhaps, your new speakers fail to connect to your wifi network. You open a manual (or turn to Google), but you can’t do it alone. Then you spend an hour on the phone (half on hold) with a poorly-equipped customer service rep, only to wait days for a technician to show up in a 4-hour window. If you’re lucky, they come early and with the right part. If not … grrrr.

Troubleshooting is troublesome. Shahan Lilja and Gintas Miliauskas understood this problem acutely and knew they could better equip individuals to diagnose and fix their own devices. Their insight and tenacity crystallized in Mavenoid, and we are thrilled to become their business partner as the Series A lead. …

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Machine Intelligence is one of our main themes at Mosaic. That means we spend much of our time researching and meeting ML-driven applications and enabling infrastructure.

Looking back at 2019, one of the main themes of our conversations was, how do organisations implement ML into their core technology? The question was not simply one about hiring — as ML engineers are notably difficult to find — but rather about structuring their internal processes.

Was their data labeled such that it would produce meaningful results? How could they make feature engineering repeatable and recyclable? How could they monitor the performance of models after they are deployed?

This process of implementing ML we call “MLOps”. We’ll talk more about that term in a moment.

To learn about the space, we have met with dozens of founders and experts. The story we heard about MLOps tools and teams is broadly analogous to the one we heard about serverless. Operationalising machine learning processes at an enterprise scale, like deploying serverless applications, is still nascent. It is mainly larger enterprises with access to dedicated engineering resources for R&D which are building out their infrastructure. And much of what is being built in enterprises today is born out of open source libraries.

What was unique about our conversations about MLOps, though, was how enterprises were thinking about building their infrastructure. …

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Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling’s 1952 “Photo 51” X-ray diffraction image of DNA fiber, wrapped around a paperclip

“We have discovered the secret of life!” Ever since Francis Crick burst into The Eagle pub one February afternoon in 1953, the genetic code has seemed to promise riches. Commercialisation of gene sequencing technologies and the development of computational genomics, predicated on the realisation that evolutionary molecular biology can be conceived as an information science, enabled the Human Genome Project, heralded at its culmination in 2000 as a full revelation of “the Book of Life” — that biblical metaphor originary to the scientific revolution itself. But neither claim was quite true: Life kept on keeping secrets.

“If there are many secrets left in the world, there are probably many world-changing companies yet to be started.” At Mosaic, our job is to invest in these companies. In this and subsequent posts, we will explore the opportunities for building them out of genomics. …

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Shipamax announced their $7M Series A last week, so we thought we’d share why Mosaic is excited to be leading the financing.

We were introduced to Jenna Brown, Shipamax’s CEO, in 2016, just as she was applying to the fabled Y Combinator program. The referral came from Doug Monro, another founder (of a startup where she was an early employee), whom we knew well and had come close to backing. Doug confessed to knowing little about shipping, but described Jenna effusively — in short, as a star. …

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We are blessed to partner with great founders to build breakthrough startups — this is what we love to do.

When we set out to build Mosaic, we talked a lot about our dreams for the firm and the type of partnership we wished to nurture: one founded on intellectual honesty, learning, curiosity, accountability and teamwork. We aim to “do the right thing” by each other, our investors, and the founders we serve. We chose to create a small, collegial partnership, making what can sometimes be complex decisions with limited information, through Socratic conversation. Adding new partners who share these values and bring their own unique experience and ideas to the group is essential as we continue to develop Mosaic into one of the leading early stage venture firms in Europe.

We are thrilled to announce that we are expanding our partnership to add Bart Dessaint. In the last two years, Bart has brought a wealth of experience to Mosaic both from his time as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley in health services, and as a former VC at Andreessen Horowitz. Born to French parents in New York, Bart has an intimate understanding of the European startup ecosystem and a passion for working with rule-breakers and pioneers. He has thrived in Mosaic’s boutique culture, bringing a forceful intellect and a quirky personality — as well as opinionated aesthetics and taste in cheese and low-intervention wines. He has an insatiable appetite to learn and explore new ideas.

Last year, Bart co-led three investments for the firm in the areas of developer tools, personalized medicine, and proptech (all yet to be announced); and earlier in 2018 played a pivotal role alongside Toby and Simon with investments including Lyvly, Scape and super.AI (formerly Canotic), the latter that he helped to source. He has also been instrumental in building out the firm: identifying awesome talent to expand the investment team, as well as adapting lesssons from his a16z experience to improve our internal operations.

In Bart’s own words:

Why did you want to become an early-stage investor?
I’m generally curious with an aperture that spans numerous spaces, but the bow that ties them all together is the meta-idea of improvement. At an early stage, VCs play a small consigliere supporting role in helping founders develop their concepts into fully fledged businesses — that in turn have the potential to create fundamental change for the benefit of great causes.

What did you learn from your time working at a16z in Silicon Valley ?
There were so many lessons. I am very grateful to have spent time with an incredible group of people who helped shape me both personally and professionally. Personally, the relentless focus on execution and work ethic that pervades the Valley was incredibly impressive: it’s an open community of people who live to work, bringing profound creativity to each experiment, with limited fear of failure. Professionally, I was trained by the velocity of competition due to plunging infrastructure costs and operational speed from connectivity, but also was inspired by witnessing successful alchemy at different stages of companies’ journeys!

What do you look for in a founding team?
I look for founders who are obsessed by their field and have uncovered a “secret” kernel. For me, the founder is the most important single aspect of why I will get excited about a particular company and I love to meet folks at inception — so feel free to reach out!

Where do you see the greatest opportunities to invest in Europe ?
Europe has some inherent structural features that give rise to unique challenges. With unique challenges come unique insights. A great example of this is TransferWise: in a mono-currency market like the US or China there’s much less need for such a product; it’s far more natural for it to emerge here, from a team versed in community distributed utility (i.e. Skype).

It’s also the home to a vast range of world class technical research and practitioners, leading the way in their respective fields. …

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Marcus Buckingham is well-known for his books Now, Discover Your Strengths and First, Break All the Rules that use empirical evidence to support his unorthodox views that the best managers work on each person’s unique strengths (commonly called “spikiness” today), rather than trying to fix his or her weaknesses, and that this gets the best performance out of their teams.

The thesis of this book centres around what he sees as a paradox at work: many of the practices that are considered “truths” are deeply frustrating and unhelpful for the people they are intended to serve; for instance, that we should set goals for people or give them constant feedback, or sort them according to their potential. He reviews real-world evidence and finds that these practices neither reflect what we know about human performance, nor produce the results we desire. …


Mosaic Ventures

We love renegades who take a fresh look at the world and want to shape it their way —

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