Goodbye Blue Apron and Hello NextView: Why I’m Headed Back to VC
After an incredibly exciting and rewarding journey at Blue Apron for the past 3.5 years, I decided it’s time to take on a new, different challenge. I am thrilled to announce that I am joining NextView Ventures as a Venture Partner based in their New York office.
As I shared the news with people in my network, I kept getting the same question: Why get back into VC when you have such a great role at Blue Apron?
The decision wasn’t easy — but I’m excited for the chapter ahead. Let me tell you why.
The Incredible Blue Apron Journey
I had been a happy Blue Apron customer for about four months when I received an email from Matt. He was looking for Blue Apron’s first product hire, and he wanted to talk with me about the role. I was so intrigued that I went in to interview on Christmas Eve and accepted the job offer just a few weeks later.
When I started at Blue Apron in February 2014, the company was about 18 months old and had 20 people in the corporate office — four engineers, no PMs, no designers, and a “roadmap” (i.e. department wishlist) in a Google spreadsheet. One week after I started, we got too big to all fit into the two rooms at The Yard in LES. We rushed moving into our new office space in Soho, filled with IKEA desks that the founders bought the weekend prior (and we naively thought we would never run out of space ever again!).
Reflecting back on where my personal journey first started with Blue Apron, I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished in the past 3.5 years as a company and a team. I was fortunate to have the front-row seat of Blue Apron’s hyper-growth: scaling its customer base and revenue 25X and changing how millions of households eat everyday.
Along the way, I went on to lead and scale the product management team, product design team, and eventually the analytics team at Blue Apron. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with an incredibly talented and passionate team at Blue Apron — and I’m especially grateful to the people on my team for helping me grow as a leader. Taking the team from a few IKEA desks in Soho to a 35-person team at a public company afforded me tremendous amount of learning, and I look forward to bringing these lessons to the next chapter of my journey.
Going (Back) to Venture Now, and Joining NextView
When I first started contemplating what might be next after Blue Apron, the answer wasn’t immediately clear.
I’ve spent virtually my entire career at the earliest stages of a company’s life. I loved witnessing shifts in technological innovation as an Associate at Time Warner Investments. My experience as the founder & CEO of an ecommerce subscription service and later early employee at Blue Apron helped me realize my love for building things — building products, building teams, and building companies.
So when I was thinking of my next step, I was drawn again to the earliest stage of growth. I knew that I missed the energy and excitement of early-stage companies (despite having little resources and few answers to most questions). But, I had an inkling it would be rewarding to use what I’ve learned as an operator to help the next-generation founders scale their businesses.
I had first met Rob, David, and Lee at NextView a few years back. I was a budding entrepreneur trying to make personalized wine deliveries a reality every minute I wasn’t required to spend in classes at HBS. After I moved back to NYC, Rob and I kept in touch — and through the years, I got to know both Rob and NextView. So when Rob posed the question of whether I’d like to explore the possibility of joining the team, there was little hesitation.
As I spent more time with Rob, Dave, and Lee, I learned about them as people as well as their vision for what kind of VC firm NextView should be. I have met many smart people in the industry, but I was thoroughly impressed with both the character and thoughtfulness they all displayed. The high-conviction, hands-on seed investment approach as well as the set of operating ethos that NextView strives to follow are very much aligned with my personal approach to early-stage investing.
One of the most important considerations regarding “what’s next” for me was the people and their shared values. This shapes the type of organization — be it a startup or a venture capital firm — and the products it puts out to the world. Over the next few months, I developed the conviction that I would enjoy going back to VC full-time at this stage of my career, and that I wanted to do so with the team at NextView.
The NextView team and I also share an excitement in building products and solving problems for the daily living of everyday people (what we call the Everyday Economy). Blue Apron is a prime example of a company shaping the Everyday Economy — the company uses technology to redesign how and what families eat everyday, as well as their relationship with food.
We also believe NYC tech is uniquely positioned to shape the Everyday Economy. Few other cities have such diverse industries that call it home (technology, finance, fashion, and media, just to name a few). Having spent my entire career in NYC tech, I’ve seen first-hand the benefit of the overlapping and intersecting industries. I believe this will give startups in this city a great opportunity to solve the problems we all encounter every day — and I can’t wait to play a part in that with our portfolio companies.
NextView’s NYC “Product Offering”
As the newest addition to the NextView team and our full-time partner in NYC, I have many ideas and hypotheses around the most impactful “product offering” that NextView and I could bring to NYC.
However, I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback around what you’d like to see from me and the broader NextView team. How I can be most helpful as an early-stage investor and what else NextView could do for the NYC tech ecosystem? Please leave me a note in the responses below or reach out on Twitter (I’m @melodykoh).
I am excited to meet many new faces and reconnect with old friends in the community as this new chapter begins.