What we do at Firework
At Firework Ventures, we invest in early-stage founders shaping the future of work.
We recognize that there has been a lot of noise around the concept of “the future of work” lately. We’d like to share what it means to us. We define the future of work as technology that creates access and opportunity, driving economic and social mobility. We believe this, alongside climate change, are the defining issues of our time. In an era of unprecedented change, we believe that there is an opportunity to invest so that both individuals and communities thrive.
We believe that venture, alongside technology, is rapidly changing. And we believe this change presents an opportunity to approach venture differently. Instead of investing solely within a “traditional” investment vertical, our thesis encompasses HR tech, fin tech, well-being tech, edtech, and even govtech, with work at the center. We focus on work because work is one of the primary ways we reach for more opportunity. We know that higher quality jobs lead “to improved economic stability and greater opportunity,” and that “good jobs help individuals and communities thrive.” Work can be a core part of our identity. It’s how many contribute to both society and the economy.
We believe the future of work is an emerging, multi-trillion dollar investment opportunity — we’ve sized it a $4T+ and growing. And we’ve been investing with this thesis for years, with early investments in category-defining, multi-billion dollar companies like BetterUp, Guild Education, and Degreed.
Why the future of work matters
- As technology advances, we’re learning there’s so much tech can’t do. Automation is eliminating a significant amount of work today–the amount of time spent on work by humans and machines is expected to be equal by 2025. With the rise of automation, humans can refocus on higher value work–the top skills demanded by employers include critical thinking, problem solving, resilience, and flexibility. This will require significant reskilling and upskilling–it is estimated that more than 1 billion people will need to be reskilled by 2030.
- This technological advancement is, for the first time in history, contributing to inequality. Although the U.S. economy has grown tremendously, most Americans are not sharing in this growth–U.S. national income grew by 60% between 1979 and 2016, during this time the bottom half of the income distribution saw 22% increases in wages while the top 10% saw 100% increases in wages.
- Those who are most affected by this disparity are already being left behind by tech at large. The “American Dream” does not exist for everyone–44% of Americans are employed in low wage jobs and the majority (60%) are unable to move into a job with a median salary above the low-wage threshold in 5 years. Without thoughtful investment, technological advancement could exacerbate inequality further.
- Catalyzed by the pandemic, people are changing their relationship with work. 36% of the US workforce engaged in freelance work in 2020, 76% of workers desire flexibility around where they work, and 93% desire flexibility around when they work.
- Investing in technology that supports people to thrive amidst significant change is key to achieving our broader societal goals. For example, investing in clean technology alone isn’t enough to address climate change. We also need to invest in the workers who will work with these new technologies and the skills they will require to succeed.
How we invest
We founded Firework to partner with founders that understand the challenges we’re facing as a society and are rising to meet them.
We like to invest at the Series A–when founders and their teams have found early product-market fit and are ready to scale. We invest with conviction, leading rounds and joining boards to work hand-in-hand with founders. We find that this is the time when founders can most benefit from Firework’s category-specific expertise.
We also find that this is the time when the job of a founder can dramatically change. The day-to-day job of a founder at the Series Seed can be very different than that of a founder at the Series A or Series B. During this time, a team may scale from 10–20 to 100+ in a matter of months. We help founders get connected with founder-specific coaches to support their individual growth as their company and team grows. And we help founders get connected with experts to help them invest in their growing teams as well. This is core to our thesis at Firework: investing in people amidst rapid change.
Firework was founded by category experts with extensive venture experience. From classrooms to board rooms, the Firework founders have dedicated much of their careers to moving the needle in the future of work.
Brigette Lau has two decades of experience as both a software engineer and venture investor. Prior to co-founding Firework, she was a co-founder and general partner at Social Capital and is a Kauffman fellow. She is an alumnus of Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and University of Waterloo. She is also on the board of the Golden State Warriors!
Ashley Bittner brings 12+ years of future of work and sustainability expertise in both the private and public sector. Before co-founding Firework, she was a principal at Owl Ventures, a White House appointee, a consultant with Boston Consulting Group, and a Teach for America teacher. She is an alumnus of the Wharton School and Harvard Kennedy School. She is a Truman Scholar for the state of Florida.