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Meet the LBS founders in the Sequoia Arc program 🌟
October - November 2022 Edition
Whether this is the first time you read our newsletter or have been following us from the start, you will quickly realize that this edition of LBS Ventures Spotlight is special.
Among startups and early-stage VCs, there is one firm that everyone looks up to, and talks about in an almost reverential tone: Sequoia Capital.
And in this edition, we are proud to spotlight not one, but two LBS founders who took part in Sequoia’s inaugural Arc accelerator for seed-stage companies:
💡Otto Finance is a B2B2C financial health platform for employees that democratizes access to wealth management services through an optimal mix of human expertise and technology, co-founded by Jan Erwin Thomas (MBA 2017)
Let’s jump right into it!
🚀Synativ - Andrew Kanapatski, MBA 2023
Two co-founders walk into a bar… Almost.
In reality, Andrew and Tom connect over a whitepaper on Telegram, they meet, engage, decide to work together for a month, and create a solution to use generative AI to generate missing images and fill the gaps in datasets - Synativ.
So, let’s understand the problem they’re looking to solve…
The Problem & How Synativ Solves It
Engineers at companies around the world are constantly struggling with a lack of cohesive data with which to train their models.
Think about Tesla trying to build an algorithm for its Autopilot to spot kittens or foxes at night on the streets of London - they would need a wide variety of images of different animals under different lighting conditions. How can they get these images? Well, either they dispatch a team for a nightly hunt, or they use Synativ.
Synativ uses generative AI to quickly expand a dataset of images and adapt it to different lighting/ weather conditions, allowing companies to build comprehensive training sets and develop models that perform under all use cases.
More on Andrew & Tom
With a background in enterprise sales, convincing decision makers to pull the trigger on digital transformation, Andrew Kanapatski has had no shortage of experience in the realm of AI and digitization. As Head of Growth at Kira Systems, an AI legal-tech start-up, he built their first strategy practice and commercialization strategy for new products, taking them from Series A funding all the way to acquisition.
When Andrew met his co-founder, Tom Bruls, a PhD from Oxford in Computer Vision & AI, they connected on Tom’s whitepaper on using generative AI to solve dataset gaps and thus, Synativ was born. In Andrew’s words, they are both in the business of building a “category-defining company” and the world is very much their oyster.
What’s next for Synativ?
After being selected for the inaugural cohort of Sequoia’s exclusive Arc program, the possibilities are infinite. With the support of investors and mentors as well as incredible market activity in generative AI (read about DALL-E-2 and Stable Diffusion if interested), Andrew believes the next 12 months will be dedicated to building out a world-class team, gaining customers across industries with a budding focus on computer vision, and developing a strong product, iteration after iteration.
Learning from Seqouia’s focus on reflection and personal development, this team sees the next year as not only one to grow the business, but to grow the personal side of the founding team alongside it - for true founder + product market fit. In Andrew’s words - and a useful nugget for all aspiring founders out there - there is nothing more important than determining:
🚀Otto Finance - Jan Erwin Thomas, MBA 2017
It's as if putting in the hours at a big tech job wasn't enough - once you build wealth, you need to figure out how to invest or save for the future - something that most employees struggle with, as Jan Erwin Thomas - Co-Founder of Otto Finance points out.
60% of employees struggle with financial concerns leading to worse mental health, contributing to a 15-20% larger payroll costs for employers.
Sliding into the market as the equivalent of the Tesla Autopilot for your financial life, Otto Finance has already made heavy inroads with white-collar workers in the tech industry.
More on Jan's background
Jan was a consultant at Bain & Company before his MBA at LBS. Post-MBA, he had a stint at Morgan Stanley before joining Raisin, a Berlin-based Fintech in the savings and investments space. Not a stranger to taking a fintech business from zero to one, he established Raisin's UK and Ireland business during its rocketship growth journey to unicorn status and successful exit to Deposit Solutions in June 2021.
While most of us were watching cartoons, Jan started investing at 12 and was always the go-to person for any investment advice, even today. When he and his Co-Founder - Madi, an MBA from INSEAD and ex-BCG and Fidelity employee - started thinking about helping friends in their circle with investment advice, the lack of a hub for such decisions helped conceive the idea for Otto.
How does Otto Finance work?
Otto aims to address the underserved gap between exclusive wealth management services by traditional financial institutions and the day-to-day spending management tools offered by app-based solutions like Nutmeg or Monzo.
Otto is initially targeted at white collar tech workers, who tends to be early adopters of new tools to help generate wealth and increase personal productivity. Also, their employers are keen to ensure that financial worries don't create additional mental health burdens on their employees.
Otto Finance has used technology and behavioural science to influence its product decisions. It aims to create a go-to place for all its customers' financial holdings, enabling them to gear up for the critical financial decisions to retire, buy a home, plan for a family, or live within their means in uncertain times.
What lies ahead?
Graduating from the inaugural class of the 17 startups from the Sequoia Arc program announced earlier in June, the highly technical team at Otto has been relentlessly iterating on feedback from early users. Their goal: a best-in-class product to make financial wealth management the next ubiquitous employee benefit.
📈LBS Ventures Funding Recap
Between the funding winter in October and November, 20 startups co-founded by LBS students and alumni have announced a collective $500m in rounds ranging from Pre-Seed to Growth. These startups come from the US, EMEA, China, and MENA. Talk about LBS’ global footprint 🌍
Let’s review some of these rounds together:
Safely, a provider of insurance services intended to serve the vacation rental industry raised a $12m Late Stage led by Greenlight Capital Re, Highgate Technology Ventures and Lago Innovation Fund. 👏 Andrew Bate
Benivo, an employee relocation management and support platform, intended to offer relocation assistance on a budget by reducing costs raised $12 Mn in Late Stage led by Update Partners. 👏 Kailash Tomar
Lokky, Developer of a digital platform intended to offer tailored insurance products raised $3m from Azimut Libera Impresa. 👏 Sauro Mostarda
🌟Our Team Expands!
For this year, the LBS Venture Spotlight can rely on two superstar new joiners.
Dhruv Tandon is an MBA 2024 at LBS, and an experienced product manager with 5+ years of experience under his belt, including jobs at Indian Fintech unicorn Razorpay and SF based Drip Capital (YC S15).
Ayesha Forbes is an exchange student and Dean Fellowship recipient from MIT Sloan. She has 5+ years of experience in IB across New York and London, after which she worked in VC as a principal at Hiro Capital, before pivoting into strategy at BCG London.
Thanks for reading, see you next month! Do you have any comments or feedback? Get in Touch!
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