How Solo VC Brianne Kimmel wins contracts at hot startups

  • Brianne Kimmel’s venture capital firm, Worklife Ventures, generated 7x returns from its first fund.
  • Kimmel got into hot startups by opening up her network to founders before they even wrote a check.
  • Worklife has supported unicorns such as Pipe, Hopin, Deel and Public.

In just three years, solo venture capitalist Brianne Kimmel landed deals at hot startups like Pipe, Deel and Public, which Kimmel says helped generate seven times the returns for her company, Worklife Ventures.

Like many early-stage investors, Kimmel touts her ability to provide resources beyond pure cash to founders — only she’s willing to roll up her sleeves before she even writes a check. Such was the case when Kimmel started hearing about a new startup called Pipe shortly after launching her company in 2019.

The startup was set to “disrupt venture capital,” she had heard, by offering an alternative method of funding for software-as-a-service companies. Kimmel was intrigued.

She asked her circle of friends and colleagues until she got Pipe co-founder and CEO Harry Hurst’s phone number.

But Hurst wasn’t interested in chatting. He had already secured more funding than he originally requested and did not need more. Kimmel was undeterred, calling and emailing Hurst multiple times, offering connections to potential recruits and clients.

Finally, Hurst agreed to meet her for drinks at the Soho House in Los Angeles, where Kimmel had flown to celebrate her birthday. Hours later, she became an investor in Pipe’s seed round.

“I ended up transferring the money from the parking lot,” she said.

It was this hustle and bustle that earned Kimmel the trust of founders such as Hurst and Johnny Boufarhat, CEO and founder of virtual event platform startup Hopin, another of Worklife’s portfolio companies.

These investments, along with stakes in other unicorns such as Webflow, Public and Deel, created outsized returns for Worklife’s first $10 million fund as these companies raised additional funds at higher valuations. , Kimmel told Insider. It recently raised a new fund of $35 million from its original backers and plans to raise additional funds later this year.

“Finding Ways to Be Helpful”

Kimmel first became interested in investing in startups while working in growth marketing at Zendesk. There, she watched several of her colleagues go into angel investing and build a nest egg. She thought she would try it too and dipped into her personal savings to make her first investments.

One company that caught Kimmel’s eye was a startup called Webflow, which runs a platform for building cutting-edge websites without needing to code. She didn’t know if the company raised funds, but she wanted to know the founders.

So she emailed them and invited them to a workshop she was running on growing SaaS businesses. Later, she invited them to a dinner she hosted for founders working on no-code startups.

Webflow ended up being Kimmel’s first angel investment.

“As a new person, who didn’t have a track record and didn’t have a lot of money, my solution to making those investments in really competitive businesses was to find ways to be helpful,” said- she declared.

In September 2019, Kimmel launched Worklife Ventures, which invests in companies addressing the future of work. But his approach to connecting with founders hasn’t changed much from his angel investing days.

When Kimmel sought to invest in Hopin, for example, she reached out to everyone she knew who had hosted an event on Hopin and asked if they could put her in touch with Boufarhat, the company’s CEO. The two eventually had a seven-minute phone call, followed by a series of conversations on WhatsApp. She put him in touch with several of the company’s potential hires, including Sarah Manning, Hopin’s vice president of personnel.

“His network is phenomenal,” Boufarhat wrote in an email. He told Insider he also appreciates her willingness to offer support in other ways, like flying across the country for one of the company’s happy hours: “She goes the extra mile,” said he declared.

The future of working life

By proactively building relationships with founders, Kimmel gained access to early rounds of funding from companies that now boast high valuations. Pipe, for example, was only valued at $13 million when Worklife participated in its funding round, she told Insider. After the company raised $250 million last year, its valuation soared to $2 billion.

This has also earned him a strong following in the tech community. When Kimmel raised her first fund, she decided to seek money primarily from the CEOs, founders, and tech executives she had met over the years, as well as venture capital-focused funds. , rather than larger institutional investors. Worklife backers include tech founders such as Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and Zoom CEO Eric Yuan.

With the new $35 million fund, Kimmel is looking to lead seed rounds, writing checks for up to $2 million.

Kimmel told Insider she’s particularly interested in tools for small businesses, which she expects to benefit from trends like the big quit and remote work. Finding meaningful work is likely to inspire more people to start their own businesses, she said, and with more people working from home, they have more opportunities to visit neighborhood stores.

“I believe we will reconnect locally,” she said. “So I’m looking at restaurant technology, small business technology, things that are more human in nature.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.