We are excited and proud to announce that Josh Brewer has joined EQT as an Executive-in-Residence. He will continue to work with and advise our portfolio companies, as well as evaluate new investment opportunities and meet with founders building B2B companies.
We got to know Josh while he was building Abstract, a design workflow platform that helped some of the world’s best companies scale design. The vision for Abstract came from Josh’s first-hand experience as Principal Designer at Twitter, where he led the design of key initiatives across the Twitter product. His unique perspective and experience are why, in 2012, Fast Company named him one of “fifty designers shaping the future of design.” After a decade of designing at startups, Josh left Twitter to start Habitat, an incubator focused on de-risking early-stage exploration. He spun two companies out of Habitat: Abstract, where Josh was the CEO and later, Executive Chairman, and Awesome.ai, one of Slack’s first ecosystem investments, where he served as the Executive Chairman.
Under Josh’s leadership, Abstract raised 55M in investment, went from 0–10M in ARR in under 3 years, and was adopted by over ⅓ of the Fortune 500. The company scaled quickly as a remote-first mindset allowed them to grow to 130 FTE before a massive market shift to browser-based realtime collaboration and COVID changed the trajectory of the company. Despite the realtime collaboration, many customers were still lacking the organization and workflow needed and the company built a new product — Notebooks — that was eventually acquired by Adobe.
After the sale of the company, Josh took on a few advisory roles and made some angel investments in companies like XMTP, Diagram, and Balsa. He also joined EQT’s Operating Executive Network, a global group of advisors with a variety of backgrounds who work with our portfolio companies.
Alex Bilmes, CEO of Endgame, spent time with Josh and said, “Josh is a world-class product coach for founders — he has a way of narrowing in on your most existential product questions to help you think more clearly, quickly. He’s also invaluable when it comes to building teams and has already helped us hire an incredible designer from his network. I’m beyond thrilled Josh is joining EQT and look forward to working closely with him.”
EQT Ventures invests in the US and Europe, with a team in the US since 2018 focusing on investing in B2B software companies in the “early growth” phase. We’ve been fortunate to lead Series Bs or Cs in category-creating companies like Netlify, Handshake, Airkit, and Endgame, among others.
We think this stage of company-building is, as Josh says, “Really f*cking hard… I mean, uh, full of incredible opportunities and challenges that require clear vision and relentless execution.” Josh brings a ton of experience, wisdom, and, yes, some scars, to help other founders navigate their companies through this phase. As we double down in the US and begin growing our presence here, Josh was an obvious hire — we feel very lucky that he agreed!
We asked Josh a few questions to help our community get to know him a bit better:
Q: What has been the through line of your career so far?
Relationships and connection are the core of who I am and the work that I’ve done over all these years. Connecting people, connecting ideas, connecting people to new ideas. Adding context to activity so that others can gain insight. To increase the number of intersections so we can find the “adjacent possible.”
Q: What themes and sectors are you excited about right now?
The future of work is definitely something I am interested in. I’ve worked remote on and off throughout my career and have seen the benefits and the challenges. Even Abstract was remote from the beginning. This had real pros (and cons) for us as a company. The tools and technology that shape how we communicate, collaborate, and coordinate are always evolving and the impact on how businesses operate is real. I also think a lot about how people younger than me, as well as my kids and their peers, are going to shape how we all engage with the world. How can we support them without dampening their creativity?
Health and wellness — physical, mental, emotional, financial — are all areas that are underserved and traditionally have been accessible to a very small fraction of the population to the degree that I believe they should be — very interested in technologies and tools that give each and every human being more sovereignty and more access to shape their destiny.
I am paying attention to web3 and blockchain technologies with a decent amount of curiosity and optimism — and an appropriate amount of skepticism. Not everything should be decentralized. Not everything can or should live on a blockchain. And, at the same time, there are real advantages to decentralized technology, protocols, and businesses built on them. We are still so early.
Q: What lessons from your Abstract journey do you think other founders can benefit from?
When it comes to building a venture backed business, there is immense value in people who have actually founded, operated, and scaled companies around the table, with aligned incentives, and a commitment to working together. Otherwise, it’s people’s opinions and/or what they have observed from a distance being thrown around as gospel.
As a founder, one of your greatest challenges is going to be balancing the needs of the customer, the needs of the team, and the needs of the business. Having people with different experiences and perspectives that can help you weigh the trade-offs, give you honest feedback, and help you get enough data to make the hard decisions is invaluable.
Building a deeply customer centric organization — not just in the Product org — is fundamental to long term success.
Toxic behavior, tribalism, and kingdom building is extremely detrimental to the health and longevity of a business. Enabling people to operate with agency and clarity of purpose is directly correlated with speed of execution and a culture of excellence.
I think that building a sound, ethical business is more important than ever. The challenge of understanding people’s strengths, weaknesses, and the overarching life experience they bring is hard. I also think that workplace trauma is a real thing that we don’t talk about enough. Building a safe workspace is extremely important and very difficult due to the dynamic of human nature and human behavior. However, if you have people around you committed to creating systems that foster vulnerability, reward honesty and integrity, and prioritize collective action, then you end up with a much more resilient company.