One teen’s dream of self-driving cars turns into a $1B exit


General Motors announced today that it will acquire Maven portfolio company Cruise. Terms have not been disclosed, but it is rumored to be north of $1B. I couldn’t be happier for Kyle, Dan, and the talented Cruise team and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work together on this important vision worth fighting for. Joining GM now gives Kyle and team the massive platform where they can fulfill their vision of bringing self-driving cars to the world even faster. And, I have no doubt that they will be doing just that. They’ve never missed a milestone during the two years that I was a board observer. They are one of those rare teams that over-promises and over-delivers.

I loved being a trusted adviser with a passenger-side seat on this incredible ride. At the end of the day, the credit belongs to the founders and their team. Kyle and Dan are the classic “Originals,” as Adam Grant would put it– nonconformists who are able to move the world forward. When we did our Seed investment in Cruise, almost all the VCs I spoke to (and pretty much everyone else) believed that autonomous vehicles were likely decades away, but Cruise believed they could make it happen much, much sooner. I’m grateful I saw that their vision was right and backed a team that would not stop until they accomplished their goals.

The idea of investing in autonomous vehicle technology first crossed my radar at TED a few years ago. After hearing the inspiring presentation of a professional “futurist,” I asked him what would be the single most important innovation to affect consumers’ lives in the next few years. The answer: self-driving cars. It made sense to me: the lives saved, the increased productivity, and the recent technology innovations all pointed to this being a reality much sooner than most people pic After living through and successfully investing in very early groundbreaking tech innovations of the past 15 years – such as the first internet portals and search engines, social networking, and consumer mobile apps – I recognized self-driving cars as the next major hardware/ software movement. So when I saw Cruise founder Kyle Vogt present at a YC Demo Day in 2014, the fit was clear and we made a “handshake deal” to invest on the spot.
I remember asking him one question: “why isn’t Google going to own this?” His answer, “when was the last time Google out-innovated a tech startup in something outside of search?” was perfect for me. A startup is going to win here. He was absolutely right and I’m so grateful to Kyle and Dan for taking me on the alpha test drive that day at YC and giving me a glimpse of the future.
I even took Naomi, my teenage daughter, to experience it.

Though the YC pitch and the TED speaker were good proof points, it all really clicked for me when I saw a video of Kyle as a young teen programming a toy car to drive itself. Kyle’s passion was authentic, long-standing, and would prove to be a key factor in his eventual success. I knew he would stop at nothing to make this vision a reality. That belief led to Cruise being our largest investment in Maven Fund I. We invested two years ago in their first Seed round and have followed on several times at every opportunity. It has been a great lesson for me and the team at Maven. I remember sitting with them, pondering whether we would write our biggest check yet to buy a super pro-rata stake in Cruise. And, I’m so grateful we did just that.  We knew then, as everyone knows now, that this team would make something very special happen that would impact the lives of millions of people. What a journey it’s been, and I can’t wait to see what’s to come from Kyle and the Cruise team at GM!Slide1

Vision and Grit: The Story of Why We Invested in Homemade

I’m really excited to share the story of our latest investment, Homemade. This is a vision worth fighting for that we’ve been looking to back for three years and we’ve finally found the right team with the passion, perseverance and execution plan to actually bring this new idea into the world. Homemade lets any cook — from amateur to veteran chef — sell home cooked meals in a professional, simple way. The Homemade platform provides everything the cook needs to build a personal following and brand, including marketing, logistics, scheduling, and payment features — while ensuring that people will cook and eat homemade food for generations to come. It will enable the stay-at-home parent, the amateur cook, or the part-time or professional chef to share their talents and passions with their neighbors while bringing in some extra money. In some cases, it will launch new careers entirely. Homemade will build community in the most natural of ways: through food. Imagine a world with Homemade at scale — where you launch the app to see who’s selling amazing home-cooked food around you. You can pick up your home-cooked dinner on your way home from work, or have it delivered to you, at takeout prices. Imagine a world where low and middle-income families are cooking meals at home and selling extra portions to their neighbors. At scale, Homemade creates a new economy, brings together community, and possibly even makes a dent in the obesity and diabetes epidemics through making healthier, more natural foods available to communities that, today, rely on fast-food alternatives. Not only do we love the vision, but Homemade is also in line with some massive food trends in the US, as covered in this recent article from the Washington Post. First, almost two thirds of households are supported by two working parents today. Second, millennials aren’t cooking at home — and they also really, really don’t want to do dishes. These trends massively impact the frequency of home-cooked meals — without Homemade, it’s quite possible that home-cooked food would sadly be a thing of the past.

There’s also an interesting backstory to this investment. I first met Nick and Mike, the founders of Homemade, a year and a half ago when I was in New York visiting Techstars. I discussed some of the ideas that we were looking to fund with the team, and one such idea was what I called “Airbnb for food.” Nick and Mike had a very similar idea and happened to be at the Techstars office that day. We had a great first meeting, but we didn’t fund them at the time. Not only did we not fund them, but they were also initially rejected from the Techstars program. So, what did they do? They opened up their own café in NY to learn more about the industry, and continued to work on their own to launch Homemade, fully bootstrapped. That is the type of grit we love to see in our founders. Techstars was similarly impressed with their persistence, and they were accepted into the next batch. Fortunately, we reconnected with the team about 18 months later when they launched their product and are delighted to lead their Seed round. We’ll be working closely with Nick and Mike to build out their team and product and will do everything in our power to help them accomplish their big vision worth fighting for. Join the Homemade revolution: download the app to see who’s cooking in your community today.