Last week, I wrote a post referencing Invited Guest, one of the six points that make up our ethos at NextView. Today, I’m calling on another of our ethos points, an adjective that can consistently describe the founders we work with: Authentic. If you’ve had the chance to explore the NextView website recently, you may have found the homepage Easter egg that reveals each ethos point. Authentic is the first one you’ll see:
It may not be surprising then that many of the most successful companies in the NextView portfolio to date were born out of authentic founder experiences.
In the past few months, we’ve invested in three New York-based companies; each hatched by founders whose backgrounds and visions for what they’re building epitomize authenticity. As examples of the types of founding teams that we love to work with and in order to announce some of NextView’s newest investments, I’m thrilled to now shine some light on the founders and founding stories of Dia & Co., Roam, and Timber.
Nadia Boujarwah and Lydia Gilbert met at business school and by the time they graduated were off and running with a startup idea: building a new brand for plus-sized woman’s fashion. And thus Dia & Co. came into being.
The company was not simply the result of a shrewd examination of market opportunities or a spreadsheet-powered analysis of sizing trends in the U.S. Dia exists because their customers have been ignored by the fashion industry. Nadia and Lydia saw a woman forced into the backrooms of brick-and-mortar stores to find her size or resorting to online orders without consideration to her unique fit. They saw a woman with nowhere to shop and no brand she trusted. Nadia and Lydia have since dedicated their waking hours to making life better for this woman.
The Dia mission is to encourage self-confidence and personal agency through ensuring their customers have styles they love in cuts that fit. The whole company values the needs, nuances, delights, and trust of their customer above all else. From profound sizing data that’s collected down to every article of clothing picked and packed for home try-on, Dia is literally built in service to the plus-size woman. Need some proof? Watch this video from Mic.com and then search YouTube for “Dia+Unboxing”. A community is emerging that’s finally getting what it’s deserved. Nadia and Lydia have brought staunch and sincere authenticity to the notion of customer-first. This isn’t a played-out marketing message on a splash page, but the entire reason that their company exists.
Bruno Haid believes that our accepted definition of “the home” is outmoded and restrictive. The 30-year mortgage may not be for everyone and is in fact not viable for many people, yet we’re indoctrinated with the notion that the home we eventually buy as we get older will be both our static, long-term residence and most valuable asset we’ll ever possess. Bruno started Roam as a new living option: a tech-enabled network of communal residences across the globe within which subscribers can move as they so desire.
Who signs up for this? Digital nomads? The freelance workforce? Remote employees? Empty-nesters? Divorced adults? Students taking a gap year? Professors on sabbatical? Regardless of the subscriber demographics, Roam is being built as a conduit for a massive behavioral change. Bruno is the kinetic energy that flows through the conduit, hell-bent on affecting a watershed moment for how we may live. A true nomad, Bruno champions flexible living in practice and conversation; he has opened and resided in communal properties throughout his life. If Roam is a company that exists to offer an alternative to the static homestead, Bruno embodies the early-mover edge to establish this alternative today.
When founders solve a problem they’ve experienced themselves, they often employ a novel approach that’s so straightforward or simple as to appear an insufficient strategy to outsiders. There is, however, clear authenticity in building a company that you know solves your problem and potentially solves the same problem for many others. For Zach Sherman and Ben Johnson, engineering at SeatGeek meant swimming in a coded sea of user logs all the time. As a major ticketing platform, SeatGeek manages millions of logs every day, and anytime something goes wrong in the code or someone doesn’t get their tickets, those logs have to be called up and poured over.
As a result, Zach and Ben both became intimate with the treasure trove of unique information locked behind the static lists of logged events that were thrown out every seven days or so. For the Timber co-founders, the user log, despite being a huge hassle to access when needed, felt like the lifeblood of the entire company. These logs were the key to everything that was happening on the platform at any given time. It didn’t take long for the duo to unify this notion about user logs into a company focused on unlocking the power of the log.
Timber gives application engineers a lightweight interface for real-time search, filtering, and analysis of clickable, semantic user logs. Born from a painfully sincere toil in accessing logs when there was a problem, Zach and Ben have crafted an original product of which they may well be their own most active beta testers.
Starting a company for the sake of starting a company is a doomed endeavor. ‘New founder’ is one of the most challenging job titles anyone can take on. authentic, sincere passion for what you’re building – whether born out of a problem you’ve faced, a wider vision for something you’ve experienced, or a need you’ve felt that’s never been answered – can carry a concept through to becoming a company. Launching a startup from origins of authenticity is a more likely road to entrepreneurial success and a characteristic we seek out in the founders we meet with at NextView.