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LBS Ventures Spotlight
Reshaping Online Communities - Sep '22
And… we are back! 🤗 After the heat wave summer here in London, we’re ready for another amazing new school year spotlighting founders and investors in the LBS community!
What better way to start than to spotlight two great founders and innovations in the world of online communities and social networks, or as it’s known in VC land, the creator economy:
But first, let’s look at some of the LBS Ventures which raised funding during the last months!
📈LBS Ventures Funding Recap
Between June and September in the midst of macroeconomic turmoil and a tough fundraising landscape, ca. 40 startups co-founded by LBS students and alumni have raised a collective $500m in rounds ranging from Pre-Seed to Growth. These startups come from the US, EMEA, India, and MENA. Talk about LBS’ global footprint 🌍
Let’s review some of these rounds together:
Centivo, a US provider of self-funded health plans for employers to provide affordable, high-quality healthcare to employees, raised a $81m Series B1 led by Maverick Ventures and B Capital Group, with followers including Alumni Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, Eight Roads, and F-Prime. 👏 Alan Cohen
GrowthSpace, an Israeli online coaching platform providing personalized learning and development to enterprise employees, raised a $25m Series B led by Zeev Ventures, and followed by M12 and Vertex Ventures. 👏 Dan Terner
Jify, an Indian fintech platform designed to build financial resilience by providing employees access to their earnings in real-time raised a $10 million Series A from Accel and Nexus Venture Partners. 👏 Anisha Aibara
Tamara, a Saudi BNPL platform for e-commerce, raised a $100 million Series B led by Checkout.com & Sanabil Investments, with followers including Endeavor Catalyst and Coatue Management. 👏 Abdulmohsen Albabtain
We cannot close the section without an honorable mention for 3 startups admitted to the most coveted accelerators in the world, Y Combinator and Sequoia Arc:
💡Founder Spotlights - Reshaping Online Communities
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past 10+ years, you would have witnessed the rise of social networks and the societal transformation they have created. And as social networking behemoths have become part of our daily routine, many have started to resent how these platforms feel less and less “authentic”, alienating and sometimes downright toxic (remember the Facebook papers, anyone?). Moreover, creators who made these communities their full-time job have started recognizing that they are not appropriately compensated or prioritized by these tech giants.
This shift towards social platforms offering more genuine, rewarding interactions and fairer monetization opportunities for creators is on the rise, and the two LBS entrepreneurs in this month’s spotlight are riding this wave of transformation.
Let’s dive in!
Superlinked - Ben Gutkovich, MBA 2013
Superlinked is a B2B SaaS providing an ML-powered social recommendation engine to help brands deliver relevant and engaging social experiences
Ben has always been passionate about driving technology innovation. After starting as a software engineer in the Israeli Defense Forces, he founded his first startup to automate stock trading for asset managers, where he managed to raise 2 investment rounds and helped clients outperform the benchmark by 50% over 3 years. Eventually, the technology proved too early for its time, and Ben joined Orange, becoming Head of Product Management in the Innovation and Strategy department, and - after his MBA at London Business School - moved to consulting at McKinsey and Strategy&. However, as Ben put it, the entrepreneurial bug bit again, and in 2020 he began looking for a new problem to solve.
Things took a turn when Ben met Daniel, an ex-Google engineer who had worked for 7-years on the Machine Learning models for optimizing the matching of ads to users on YouTube. Ben and Daniel shared the excitement about the move away from big, monolithic communities towards smaller, fit-for-purpose social platforms that offer fairer monetization opportunities for creators (e.g., Mighty Networks, Patreon). However, as they looked into the space, they realized that the communities built on these platforms offer limited personalization options for their members and - as they scale beyond the scope of manual interventions to 10,000+ members - they start experiencing low engagement and significant churn.
Enter Superlinked. Superlinked uses scalable Machine Learning models to understand real-time user behavior within a social product and suggest content and connections that are most relevant for each user, increasing engagement by 2-3x.
The platform quickly gained traction and collected its first success stories.
When CoFoundersLab, a global community of 500,000 entrepreneurs, piloted Superlinked in San Francisco to recommend relevant co-founders to community members, 27% of those who participated in the trial made valuable connections. The Stage, an initiative linking startups with 1,000 investors through a demo-day, used Superlinked to automatically connect members for highly relevant 1:1 introduction, The Stage achieved a 70% sign-up rate in the first month.
Unlonely.app - Grace Guan, MBA 2023
Unlonely.app is a web3 live-streaming platform that revolutionizes creator monetization, audience engagement, and content moderation
If you feel that the very social platforms that were supposed to connect us have instead made us lonelier, I would completely agree with you. But while you and I were googling “How to stop mindless scrolling”, Grace Guan and her brother Brian were thinking about how to solve this problem, powered by the conviction that the novel paradigms of Web3 could be used to overcome the key issues plaguing today’s social networks: audience engagement, creator monetization, and content moderation.
Grace and Brian have deep experience in both social networks and Web3.
Grace spent 5 years at Google, the majority of which she was at YouTube building partnerships with creators, where she grew passionate about their ability to drive connection and aware of the impact centralized platforms have on creator’s livelihoods. After Google, she began to learn about web3 solutions, leading marketing & community at Common Protocol (decentralized governance platform) and completed her plunge into Web3 with an MBA internship at Fabric Ventures.
Brian is the developer in the team, and after graduating in Applied Math and Chemical Engineering from UCLA, he started working at a biotech startup where he rose in the ranks to CTO. He was then recruited as a Founding Engineer at Mem Protocol, a startup building Web3 tools for social networking aimed at restoring users’ control over their data that raised $3.1m from the biggest crypto investors in Silicon Valley - Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).
Six months ago, Grace and Brian decided to join forces to build Unlonely.app, a Web3 live-streaming platform for decentralized communities. Launched in closed beta in August, Unlonely.app is already seeing 150+ hours of content viewed each week from their early adopters and 400 chats sent on average per daily stream.
Now, the siblings are preparing for their next milestone: the launch of their native token, which will allow them to unlock the power of their decentralized community. The token will feature a 2.5% take-rate (i.e., the platform’s share of creator’s earnings) at a time when their Web2 counterpart, Twitch, has just increased its cut from 30% to 50%, and enable a purely community-based approach to content moderation decisions. Finally, the token will be used to reward the most active members of the community, allowing us to stop our mindless scrolling and become Unlonely. Reach out to Grace on LinkedIn and follow Unlonely’s journey (and their daily stream times) on Twitter!
🚀Big news for the LBS eClub!
Also, Ankush - who was co-editor of the newsletter last year - has started a new role as VP in the VC Relations team, and big plans are brewing to connect LBS founders to the VC ecosystem. Finally, Rishad is the new superstar host of the new season of the eClub podcast. He’s building an amazing pipeline of founders and investors to interview, and in the eClub we are as excited to hear this season as we are for the release of House of Dragons…
Thanks for reading, see you next month! Do you have any comments or feedback? Get in Touch!
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