Like most investors, we spent the early part of Q2 focusing on our portfolio — helping founders with planning for the “new normal” we all found ourselves in, figuring out runway and where to cut costs, as well as weighing potential bridge financings.

However, by late April we began to find that with plans in place, most of the portfolio was in “execution mode” and our calendars began to open up enough to take a few initial meetings with interesting-looking startups. Bear in mind that at the time we had no idea how the pandemic would affect the startup ecosystem (I don’t think any of us expected a private market tech bull run, reflected in the pace and price of deals we witnessed in the following months) and were bracing for a funding nuclear winter where we might all but withdraw from new deals. …

Every so often you witness a product launch that captures the imagination of its intended audience, and very, very occasionally you have the good fortune to be involved in some small way. Last week we were excited to announce our investment in Tailscale as they pushed their product into general availability.

For the uninitiated, Tailscale is a new mesh network security product that uses the “zero trust” principles popularized by Google’s BeyondCorp project to secure each node in a network versus just the perimeter. But what does that mean in practice? …

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) is everywhere. According to a new report by KBV Research, the global SaaS market is expected to attain a market size of $185.8 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 21.4%. SaaS now touches almost every aspect of the modern business, regardless of industry, location, size, or company age. Amazing tools are available to do literally everything from helping startups manage their communications and people, via allowing agencies streamline their client processes and billing, to specialist products to drag hundred-year-old industrials into the 21st century. …

There is a small but elite group of founders in the Uncork family who decided to not only take another ride on the new company rollercoaster but also graciously allowed us to back them for the second time. This list of intrepid souls includes Manish Chandra with Poshmark; Jessica Alter with FounderDating; Jack Abraham with ZenReach; Jonathan Abrams with Nuzzel; and — with our most recently announced investment — Bob Moore with Crossbeam.

Jeff backed Bob’s first startup RJMetrics back in 2010 and worked with Bob and co-founder Jake Stein through the highs of early growth and follow-on fundraises, the lows of the business becoming over-extended and needing to scale back, through selling to Magento in 2016, and spinning out Stitch which was subsequently acquired by Talend at the end of last year. …

Conventional wisdom in our industry says that cold emails generally don’t equate to great deals. Most VCs (including us) put a great deal of emphasis on our network — upstream investors, potential syndicators, accelerators, our family of founders and execs — referring deals to us. This makes a lot of sense in most cases as great people tend to know great people, and folks we trust will (hopefully) bring us great opportunities.

However, there is risk in being too myopic on this front — our network certainly isn’t universal and we simply can’t be connected to every great founder. Despite most cold emails simply not being very good (the bad mail-merge or ‘dear sir / madam’ is a common sin) or poorly researched (no, we’re not interested in leading a Series B in South America) it would be silly to disregard each one immediately because occasionally something genuinely interesting can find you. …

This past Wednesday was not my favorite day ever — England crashed out of the World Cup with a subpar performance against a gutsy Croatia; I had to watch the game on a cramped United flight (which was delayed and the wifi was down); and at 8pm I found myself in Cleveland, Ohio. Joy.

This newsletter piece isn’t a reflection on another poor experience flying United, nor is it about trying to find a decent place to eat on the outskirts of Cleveland (whilst trying to keep a toddler who hasn’t napped all day amused). …

As a founder, it takes guts to admit that your company isn’t working. It’s all too easy to believe that with just another month of cranking things will improve — your sales conversations will convert better, your margins will improve, or your marketing channels will start producing. Too many founders wait too long to hit pause, often because they still believe it can work. Just a little more time, more funding, more something.

We invested in FirstLine Medical, an on-demand urgent health care provider, at the end of 2015 for a number of reasons — strong leadership with a deep personal connection to the space, healthy margins, good growth and glowing customer reviews. However, within nine months of investing it had become clear to Bryan, FirstLine’s CEO, that sustaining the early growth and margins was going to be incredibly difficult — demand remained strong but finding enough doctors to supply the service was proving hard. Their early providers loved the freedom of working on-demand but it turned out they were a rare breed — most doctors wanted the comfort of a home base and fixed schedule. …

Until relatively recently, if someone were to ask for your opinion on the “The Edge” you’d probably default to talking about why he’s no Bono but U2 really couldn’t function without him. However, over the last couple of years there has been an increasing buzz around a different Edge, “Edge Computing”.

Image for post
Image for post
Not this Edge, silly

In a nutshell, this non-U2-related Edge refers to pushing large amounts of compute down from the cloud (so 2016, darling) to the devices themselves. From the center of a theoretical network diagram to the edge.

So why is this a thing, given we’ve all been so excited about cloud computing for so long? In the longer term, as smart devices like robots, drones, autonomous vehicles and various IoT thingies become ubiquitous, they will need to be able to make intelligent decisions through processing data incredibly quickly — much faster than networks can send information to and from the cloud for central processing. Although this won’t make the cloud completely redundant, investors like Peter Levine from A16Z believe that the vast majority of processing will soon become decentralized. …

It’s been just a few short weeks since we rebranded from SoftTech VC to Uncork Capital and we’re already seeing our new name in the news as our superstar portfolio continue to make headlines with successful IPOs (hello Sendgrid!), fundraises (Pi Charging’s Series A, Panorama Education’s Series B, and Poshmark’s monster Series E) and M&A (August’s acquisition by Swedish lock giant Assa Abloy) being picked up.

This month also saw LaunchDarkly announce their $21M Series B funding, co-led by Redpoint Ventures and Vertex Ventures, less than 12 months after raising their Series A from DFJ. LaunchDarkly, considered the leader in the emerging Feature Management space, was my first end-to-end deal at SoftTech / Uncork (i.e. sourcing to diligence to closing) and I’ve loved watching Edith and John build their early product into a business that now serves more than 20 billion (with a ‘b’) feature flags every day to organizations like Microsoft, Atlassian, AppDirect, GoPro and the US Government. …

It feels like barely a week goes by without a new email-borne threat making the headlines. Recently, hundreds of thousands of computers were infected by the WannaCry ransomware attack, causing hospitals and businesses to shut down.

The program utilized an exploit named EternalBlue which targets Windows’ file system and is believed to have been developed by the NSA. In the end, a kill-switch in the code allowed a security researcher to easily disable the attack but many security experts feared this would be the first of many similar threats.

Their fear was justified this week when a new ransomware infected the corporate systems of banks, railways, utilities, oil companies and pharmaceutical firms across Europe and the US. “Petya” is a nastier, self-replicating threat that is delivered cloaked inside emails that appear to be normal if not examined closely. …

About

Andy McLoughlin

Partner at Uncork Capital (formerly SoftTech VC). Previously founder of Huddle and angel investor. Brit in SF. Probably taller than you. Tech. Whiskey. Music.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store