While the web3, metaverse and virtual HQs seem to be the loudest features of the “future of work” startup category, the founder of Worklife Ventures Brianne Kimmel has a more down-to-earth definition. The solo-GP has spent the past few years backing companies that will help modern workers, from virtual workspaces to email tools to a video chat platform that hopes to feel more human than Zoom.
“We want to be very conscious and intentional that we want to create software for the average person or software that enables greater access to meaningful ways to earn money,” she said. “I find that as it stands, the metaverse and even web3 to a large extent are not yet accessible.” WorkLife invests in Web3 companies, but only when the company has a strong position on education or serving people beyond those working in technology, she said.
It’s a prospect its own investors believe in enough to throw more money behind its efforts. Kimmel tells TechCrunch she’s raised $35 million for her second labor-focused future fund — nearly half of what she was originally aiming for, according to SEC filings that have since been released. removed. Asked about the gap, the investor, taking notes on Sequoia’s new structure, said she would eventually launch a structure that will allow WorkLife to continuously raise funds and grow total assets through funds. smaller ones, SPVs and an evergreen entity. Still, today’s installment marks a second chapter for WorkLife, one that comes amid an ever-present pandemic.
Kimmel first launched WorkLife Ventures in 2019, with an initial fund of $5 million backed by Marc Andreessen, Garry Tan, Alexis Ohanian, NFX, Slow Ventures and Zoom CEO Eric Yuan. At the time, Kimmel was one of the first female solo GPs to splash onto the scene, also joined by Soona Amhaz of Volt Capital, Shruti Gandhi of Array Ventures and more recently Katie Haun of Haun Ventures and Lolita Taub of Ganas Ventures.
At the launch, WorkLife said 40% of the new fund’s transactions will come from the SaaS School, a biannual workshop for entrepreneurs that Kimmel founded at Zendesk. Now, it looks like Kimmel is taking a broader approach. She says WorkLife has already issued five checks on the new funds with an average check size of $2 million and a post-money valuation of $20 million.
WorkLife’s first fund had an initial target check size of approximately $150,000 per startup. This target would have given WorkLife room for about 33 transactions. Fast forward, Fund I has backed 97 companies, presumably with SPVs and smaller checks. All of the portfolio companies have raised follow-on capital from other companies.
The company doesn’t track specific diversity numbers, but says it often writes the first checks for operators who leave tech companies and start their first business. All but one of Kimmel’s investments have had a founder, which she wants to take a “stronger stance to insure” in the second fund. There’s also a focus on supporting immigrants, which Kimmel, a Ukrainian-American, says has remained consistent since the company’s early days.
WorkLife’s performance was largely driven by a select group of unicorns in the portfolio, which includes Deel, Weblow, Hopin, Tonal, Clubhouse, Pipe and Public.
Yet despite the pandemic disrupting the way we work, some companies that exploded in the first two years of distributed work faced corrections. WorkLife, for example, invested in Hopin, one of its most successful bets, which recently laid off 12% of its staff.
Kimmel spoke about the layoffs saying that “these are very natural growing pains that happen over the course of a company’s history. One surprising thing that many outsiders overlook is the fact that this zero to $100 million growth in ARR has been compressed in two years. She pointed out that Hopin’s chief commercial officer, Armando Mann, had been instrumental in hiring other executives to manage the growth.
As for Clubhouse, another WorkLife portfolio company, growth was nuanced. About a year after the initial fundraising, Clubhouse skyrocketed to a $4 billion valuation and achieved mass-market virality. The company then faces moderation problems, in particular around the multiplication of an anti-Semitic room. As the world opened up, download growth also slowed.
“With Clubhouse in particular, scaling any social network is incredibly difficult,” Kimmel said. “I find that platforms like Twitter where you already have a cast, that’s where you’re most likely to see a much higher user contribution rate.” That said, Kimmel pointed out that WorkLife has continued to invest in Flow Club, a productivity-focused social networking app, and Moment House, a live media platform for musicians.
With new millions behind Kimmel, the remote work category will get a share of focus and reality that is sure to be appreciated.