Today SoftTech VC announces a new name, identity, and website.
Ten years ago, I was on stage at TechCrunch 40 in San Francisco to officially announce SoftTech VC II, one of the first institutional seed funds in the market. Today, as my team and I begin our second decade of fund investing, I am excited to introduce our new brand: Uncork Capital.
I started angel investing in 2004 to serve a then-unmet need of startup founders: active support and capital for a new breed of capital-efficient companies in their first 18 months of life. The SoftTech name was a mash-up of the sectors I planned to invest in, and the name of my blog when I was one of the first VC bloggers back in 2004. The original red and black logo was designed on Paintbrush by my beloved wife. It was then replaced by the green-and-grey jumping man logo, which I bought for $500 online. (Those of you who have our old swag: You now own a collector’s item! ;-)).
A lot has changed over the years. One by one, I brought on new partners and support staff, and together we have built something special. We are investing out of our fifth seed fund, a $100 million vehicle raised in 2016, as well as a $50 million opportunity fund. In total our firm has $300 million in total under management. We’ve officially invested in 200 companies and we have had more than 60 successful outcomes. Along the way, we gradually became one of the most active seed investors in hardware startups (among them: Fitbit, August, Molekule, and Pi Charging), as well as frontier tech (i.e. space, AI, autonomy, robotics, AR/VR). We recently opened a new coworking space downstairs from our San Francisco headquarters, dubbed “The Cellar,” to help our younger companies get off the ground. More importantly, we have built an awesome, vibrant community of founders and company builders that we are proud to call the Uncork family.
Last year, my partners, Stephanie Palmeri and Andy McLoughlin, and I decided to undertake a study to learn more about our founders’ perception of the VC ecosystem, and what mattered most to them. We learned that they think of us a bit like their own large, loud family. In a family, you tell each other the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable, and you always have each other’s best interests at heart. When things are hard, you band together to work it out. When there is something to celebrate, you come together over a nice meal and some fine wine. No matter what, there is laughter — always laughter.
Our founders told us they appreciated that we were often the first firm to believe in them and the first to offer a term sheet. That early commitment, as well as our support and work on their behalf, helped them raise more capital. They learned a lot — from us and our community of founders and executives. When things got challenging and other seed investors disappeared, we stuck around.
Yet when we asked folks what the SoftTech name meant to them, they drew blanks. Some confused us with other firms (hello SoftBank), others thought it felt “dated,” lots of people misspelled it, some found it hard to pronounce, and a lot of people just didn’t like it.
We decided it was time to make a change. We wanted to come up with an identity that better reflected who we are and what we do. It had to be grounded in a sense of purpose and it had to tell a shared story.
We landed on Uncork Capital. The name refers to the idea that we help companies “uncork” their potential. If you look at the logo mark (especially the animated version, which you can see on our new home page), it evokes that little bit of magic and energy that comes out of a bottle when it is uncorked.
As part of this change, we also gutted, redesigned, and rewrote our website. We wanted to do a better job of highlighting our founders, their companies, and their stories, as well as describe more clearly who we are, what kinds of companies we invest in, and what our founders will get from working with us.
We hope you will visit us at our new website: www.uncorkcapital.com and on Twitter: @uncorkcap.