Jake Wayne and Lexie Ernst, founders of Companion, with mentor Gary Vaynerchuk on Planet of the Apps.

How 1.5M People Get Home Safely — Our Investment in Companion.

In the US alone, home security is a $35B market which only penetrates the top 20% of homes. While out of your home, there is no solution other than 911, and not every emergency requires that severity. As millennials continue to migrate towards urban metros and are natively accustomed to on-demand/on-the-go services, the needs around personal security have changed as well. It’s common to say “get home safe”… what if you could actually help?

We first heard that insight from Lexie Ernst and Jake Wayne of Companion on the show Planet Of The Apps, which launched on Apple Music tonight. On the show, Gary Vaynerchuk and the Companion team explain Lexie’s personal story as to why she built the app when she felt unsafe walking home from campus or using a ride-share service. With this new app, she could invite the people most important to her and they could virtually travel with her around the city. If something went wrong, they would be notified and could help.

When Lightspeed first met Lexie and Jake, Companion had 700k downloads and 80k monthly active users on only $100k in funding and no marketing spend, which is quite impressive. In that moment, it became apparent to us that this product has the rare potential of being viral and having network effects — the product works when you invite people you care about and improves the more users you know who use it. This team also showed a propensity towards being hungry, using a fast iterative process and learning from data quickly.

These are the characteristics of a product and a team I’m excited to back and that’s why I’m proud to announce our $1M seed investment in Companion.

You can also watch the episode here or on Apple Music or iTunes.

Also, follow me on twitter to learn more. twitter.com/abatalion

I sat down with Jake and Lexie recently to ask them a few questions about what led them to found Companion, where they draw their inspiration from as founders, and where they’re headed next.

Aaron: How did you get the idea for Companion? What was the evolution of the idea, and how did being from the suburbs of Detroit — outside the heart of Silicon Valley — help shape your idea?

Lexie: We are both from the suburbs of Detroit, and Companion was ideated while we were studying at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. We truly value our roots, and realize that the impetus for Companion was born largely as a result of our environment. As students in Ann Arbor who often studied late in the library and often found ourselves walking alone — especially at a time when ubiquitous ride-sharing had not yet reached smaller cities — we came to realize a major technological gap. There was no way for students on campus to connect with peers in order to prevent emergencies and stay safe, and we wanted to target this issue head on with a product that we’d use ourselves.

Aaron: Being a founder who is also in the core demo of your end user — how did you shape the product keeping your end user in mind?

Jake: We aim to provide peace of mind and security to anyone who has ever felt the uneasiness that inherently comes with traveling alone — and yes, Lexie and I both have felt that at times walking on campuses alone. Companion aims to reinvent traditional security solutions. Almost all existing security solutions focus on the home unit, yet nearly ⅔ of the average individual’s day is spent outside of the home. In a world that is becoming increasingly experiential, we hope to provide an untethered solution to traditional security systems that first focuses on the individual in the on-demand and mobile era that we currently find ourselves in.

Aaron: What’s your ultimate goal for Companion and what does success look like to you?

Lexie: The ultimate goal for Companion is to fill the very evident gap between modern consumer needs, and the personal security systems at their disposal. In all corners of the globe, people oftentimes travel in fear, and there’s no viable affordable solution to overcome this hurdle. For the people that can’t afford a bodyguard or private driver, our goal is to deliver a cost effective, mobile-first, and on-demand security solution so that these consumers can always travel with absolute confidence and peace of mind. What defines success to us is simple: positively impact as many people as possible, the rest will sort itself out.

Aaron: What kind of culture do you both thrive in? What sort of culture are you trying to create as you build out the team at Companion? Congrats on your new NYC office space by the way!

Jake: Thanks! Yes, lots of exciting changes. As Co-CEOs, Lexie and I both are so lucky to have both an amazing friendship and working relationship, and we appreciate how rare that delicate balance is to come by. We keep each other in check, and have a constant sound board to push innovation and fuel creativity. Our system is founded in meritocracy — the best idea wins. We involve every member of our team in analyses and decision making as we feel strongly that diversity of opinion consistently yields a better outcome.

Aaron: What are some of the apps you can’t live without?

Jake: Twitter, Spotify, Clash Royale, Evernote, Slack.
Lexie: Medium, Postmates, CNN, Clash Royale (Jake got me addicted), Rap Genius.

Aaron: What founders do you admire?

Jake: Ryan Hoover @ Product Hunt. I’ve been a user for years. I believe in the community. I am so impressed with how the website is constantly iterating, testing new ideas, always in constant contact with members of community for feedback. It’s that kind of ecosystem / work ethic that I try to replicate within Companion.
Lexie: Brian Chesky @ Airbnb is someone who has greatly inspired me. When VC funds started holding back near the end of 2015, it was a hard time for Companion; institutional investors seemed apathetic, and it was hard for me to visualize the end game. I came across an article by Brian in which he talked about 7 VC rejections. That propelled me to keep fighting for what I was building.

Aaron: What tech leader do you look up to and/or would most like to ask for advice? What would that advice be?

Lexie: The tech leader that I look up to the most is undoubtedly Mark Zuckerberg. Mark was able to conceptualize something so simple, yet this concept has arguably been the most influential paradigm in the Information Age. If I could ask Mark for advice, I’d ask him how he weighs shareholder vis-à-vis stakeholder value perspectives, and how to strike a sustainable balance between the two in order to deliver on (and exceed) your stated mission.

Aaron: Your 5 must follow people on Twitter?

Jake: Twitter is so integral to my daily life, however I really can’t say I have “go-to” people that I check the tweets of, it is really just a place for me to get a pulse on what’s going on in the world at that very moment…I don’t think any other social/news apps can compete in that respect. However I am a big newsletter person so here are a few that I open religiously → CB Insights, Finimize, Pitchbook, Medium Daily Digest, and Crunchbase. Seriously can’t live without these, so ingrained into my morning routine.