One of the most important things that we have built at FirstMark Capital is our platform and community. It is an infrastructure that connects and empowers hundreds of employees across our portfolio companies and tens of thousands of people in the NYC ecosystem to world class content, relationships, customers and expertise.
Every journey has its start, and ours began shortly after we launched FirstMark Capital in 2008 and held our inaugural Marketing Summit. The idea was simple: marketing was evolving rapidly, the channels through which customers and consumers engaged were changing, and those that moved to take advantage could build unfair scale ahead of others. If we could get the best minds talking about leading technologies and their approaches, the entire portfolio could benefit.
One of the earliest speakers at our Marketing Summit was Jon Miller, the co-founder of Marketo, who evangelized a new way of thinking about customers, content, and marketing automation. Jon and I stayed in touch over the years, becoming an advisor and friend to several of our portfolio companies. Marketo, of course, went on to become a powerhouse in marketing automation and is a $1B+ public company today.
Fast forward 6 years and I’m delighted to announce that we are leading a $10MM Series A financing for Engagio, a new company created by Jon Miller and his co-founder Brian Babcock. I have gotten to know Brian more recently, but he has a fantastic and very relevant background for what Engagio is doing from both the ad tech and big data worlds, having been an early engineer at successful companies like RocketFuel and Platfora. Jon and Brian in fact worked together at Epiphany in the 90s, which was one of the early pioneers in the world of marketing software.
Engagio is at the start of its mission but is building a new software platform focused on Account Based Marketing. Jon has written an entire post dedicated to the topic here. Said simply, Engagio provides one place for B2B marketers to understand all the campaigns, touch points, and interactions a company has with a target customer and plan the optimal ways to engage them over time.
We are excited to be joined by many of Marketo’s prior investors, including Storm Ventures and Bruce Cleveland/Doug Pepper, alongside First Round Capital and Amplify. Stay tuned for much, much more!
The Seaboard is a beautiful redesign of one of the world’s most iconic instruments – the piano – for the modern digital world we live in. It is the first in a line of digitally programmable, highly interactive, connected music products for ROLI that combine novel design aesthetics, proprietary touch interfaces, and powerful social elements.
The degree of difficulty on executing a product like this is extraordinarily high. It requires expertise in material design, fabrication, manufacturing, hardware, and software. It has to satisfy the demands of the world’s leading artists, while incorporating social elements that appeal to the masses. Getting to a shipping product was no small feat, and we believe ROLI is at the forefront of a transformation in the music creation, collaboration and consumption process.
We are delighted to partner with Roland Lamb, the founder/CEO of ROLI, and welcome him to the FirstMark family!
Well, we foreshadowed we’d be doing more around the intersection of healthcare and technology. On the heels of our BioDigital and Recombine announcements, I’m excited to publicly announce our newest investment in Gravie.
Gravie sits at the intersection of some profound changes in healthcare. Consumers are becoming empowered (or forced) to take control of their healthcare decisions more than ever before. Employers are struggling with the increasing cost curves in healthcare, and in many cases, as disinterested parties, are phasing out coverage. Insurers and insurance remain incredibly complex to navigate and difficult for the lay person to understand, often times only figuring things out in their moment of greatest need. And finally a regulatory backdrop that is forcing major change on the system in the form of the ACA (“Obamacare”).
Gravie emerged to bring simplicity and transparency to this new world order. An intelligent, easy to use platform to navigate all the complex decisions in terms people can understand and a single place to consolidate all the information around health in one’s lives. Gravie also offers advocacy to consumers, acting as a voice for individuals and offering help when questions or problems arise. In short, Gravie is one place to go for peace of mind around your family’s health.
The company was founded by three fantastic entrepreneurs who have a long history together and in the space. Abir Sen, Jill Prevost and Marek Ciolko all worked together at Bloom Health, a company they started to bring Private Exchanges to employers, and successfully acquired by Wellpoint. Abir has also been part of the founding team at Definity (acquired by United) and Red Brick Health (pioneer of corporate health & wellness plans).
We seeded the company in the summer of 2013, and have witnessed swift execution on both product, launch and adoption. We are delighted to announce the close of a $10.5MM Series A, in which we participated heavily. We are quite excited to continue our partnership with the team at Gravie and welcome in Mo Kaushal and the Aberdare team!
I am excited to announce one of our latest investments, BioDigital. BioDigital is one of several investments we have made at the intersection of healthcare and technology. I laid out our rationale at a high level here.
BioDigital is based in NYC and has built a powerful platform around 3D visualization and immersion of the human body. Our short hand for BioDigital is “Google Earth for the human body”. Their team sits at the intersection of 3D / CAD software, web technologies (HTML5/WebGL), human anatomy and physiology, bio mechanics and high scale back end infrastructure. A rich, deep, powerful service made simply available via APIs. If you want a wicked engineering challenge, apply here.
The team has been working on complex 3D human modeling for the last several years, but with the introduction of WebGL and HTML5, saw a profound opportunity to instantiate all of their models into a Web based platform called the Human. In the brief period of time since launch, the company has surpassed over 1 million registrants. Even more exciting to us was the breath of use cases for the product. Frank Sculli, founder and CEO, details some of them here.
There will be a number of ways to access the Human. Their web, mobile and tablet apps will appeal to the millions of consumers interested in learning what’s inside our body and how it works. Consumer health sites will be able to easily use our widgets to offer much richer representations of health conditions that afflict us. Search engines can embed physiology and conditions directly into rich snippets. Content publishers can enrich the learning experiences for students across the globe. Doctor offices and hospitals can use the Human as their front end UI, with patient records mapped to the Human’s ontology. And more exciting are the ways we cannot think of via our APIs.
In addition, we also can’t predict the ways in which individual consumers will add to the platform People will be able to append all sorts of information into the Human to improve it in a Wikipedia like model – MRIs, content, interactions, etc. People will also be able to personalize the human to the things they care about and share them out to the people they love or groups they interact with. It will be exciting to see how people engage with an experience that was never possible before.
We believe this will be a transformative project and we are at the very beginning. We are delighted to partner with Frank Sculli, John Qualter, Aaron Oliker and the entire BioDigital team! Frank’s announcement on the BioDigital blog is here.
Today, we’re announcing an investment in Schoology, a next generation collaborative learning platform that combines the elements of a learning management system, a social networking platform, and enterprise resource system all in one hyper-intuitive interface.
I’ve known the Schoology team for some time, having spent the last year getting to know them. It’s a testament to the power of building enduring relationships. We’ve had a clear set of mutual expectations of what we were driving towards and it all finally came together. It is a fantastic team and I am amazed at the power and complexity of the system they have built in the short while they have been around. The uptake has been tremendous for good reason.
Teachers can sign up for the platform in under a minute and have the best in modern technologies available to them, for free! Teachers can easily invite students into the system using a unique access code. From there, the sky is the limit. Teachers can build a curriculum, create lesson plans, build tests and quizzes, have students submit homework into a dropbox, grade assignments, see classroom analytics, encourage students groups formation for peer learning, and much more. In addition, teachers can collaborate with one another and share content. Pushes us one step further towards the notion of Open Educational Resources. Teachers can also add apps, such as plagiarism checks, directly into their workflow. All this with a Facebook like interface that requires no training.
The best part of the system is that technology selection has been completely democratized to the actual users. Schoology does not spend months and years convincing heads of a system as to whether the technology suits their needs. Users simply adopt it. Upon seeing users within a system grow naturally, Schoology has the privilege of notifying districts or universities about additional capabilities available to them with a few clicks of a button. Schoology can also enable powerful integrations with existing legacy systems. No more promises of what can be, no vaporware, no millions of dollars spent on configuration and changes.
The platform also has transformational capabilities. Because it is social at its core, it benefits from powerful network effects. With nearly 1 million users already on the platform across 18,000 K-20 and higher education schools, you can bring the power of a developer community to build on the platform. Content can be built, shared and purchased directly from within. Teachers can be given micro-credits to personalize the system for their needs. Parents can be invited to participate in the educational process. It is truly a radical shift.
And it’s not just schools that can leverage the technology. Any institution that views training and learning critical is a potential customer. In addition to schools, corporations have signed up to use it internally. One of the largest corporate users is Groupon, which uses the platform for field sales training. They have their proprietary materials that need to be mastered and tested and revisted regularly to ensure a well trained team.
The next generation of education will bring stark changes: transition to digital textbooks and content, movement towards adaptive learning, advancement of the flipped classroom. But most powerful of all is potentially the technology platform that connects it and us all together. Schoology represents just that. We’re thrilled to be involved with the team.