After his startup, Wedding Party, was acquired by Instacart in 2015, Ajay Kamat joined Pear VC as a Partner. His reason? “Pear VC was one of Wedding Party’s investors. After working with them for close to five years, we had gotten to know each other so well. They were kind and helpful investors, and collaborated closely with our team during the good times and the bad”.
Pear’s portfolio includes names like DoorDash, Gusto, and Meme Box. The common thread; each founding team had a key insight into their customer and market that lent to their eventual success. Read on to learn why audio fitness is the future and the one word that led to Wedding Party’s success.
What makes Pear not your typical Silicon Valley VC firm?
The magic is the level of effort that we put into working with very early stage companies. Pear is a firm that was built on 15 years of Angel Investing experience. My Partner, Pejman Nozad, noticed that when he was investing, a founder would come back and say they were ready for investment from larger firms after their first year. But actually, they weren’t. They needed institutional support at the preseed and seed stage.
We don’t just spend a few weeks with our portfolio companies— we work with them actively on their first 5 hires, on their strategy, on their activating plan, etc. We stick with them. That is one of the main reasons I joined the firm.
There has been a trend of firms moving away from focusing on specific sectors, to becoming sector agnostic. Why is Pear sector agnostic?
At the preseed and seed stage we believe that founders know the future, and it’s on us to identify which founders can take their concept or their core IP and build a successful business around it. They may be aware of an emerging vertical that we are not.
You Co-founded Micromobs in 2009, then Wedding Party (acquired by Instacart) in 2012. What are your major takeaways from founderhood?
- Who is on your team alongside you, really makes an enormous difference. I bootstrapped Wedding Party for 2 years. I understand the feeling of really needing someone to get something done. When you are building the team, an A+ person who accelerates the pace is extremely worthwhile.
- Speed. If you look at truly successful companies, you will notice their speed, how quickly they get stuff done. At Wedding Party, we thought we were working quickly, but we were not. I sat the team down, we made some structural changes, and all of a sudden, we were moving twice as fast.
- Understand your market. As a founder, if you’re going after a big market, understand the ins and outs. Talk to the old players in the space. In my experience, this is sometimes something that founders don’t do enough of.
What investment and/or startup trends are you excited about right now?
I think it would be cliche for me to say AI, but we’ve invested in some companies coming out of Universities working on some very strong AI technology. It will be some time before we see the benefits of that, but I am excited about what is to come. Now, almost every pitch I hear mentioned AI in some capacity.
But more than anything, we’re just looking for really passionate founders who know their space and are excited to build category defining companies.
What portfolio companies are you thrilled about right now, and what made you decide to invest in them?
Aaptiv: An audio based fitness product for $9.99/month; strength training, yoga, treadmill running.
We invested in Aaptiv because we loved the founder’s key insight: When you’re at the gym, you don’t want to have to think too hard about what you have to do. That is why personal trainers exist, but they are expensive. With Aaptiv, you get an audio personal trainer. It’s a simple, key insight, and we had never thought of fitness in that way. But the customers love it.
What is one book, podcast, article, or media that you think is vital for founder to read/listen to?
Founders don’t have time to read, so I recommend Instaread: It takes NY Times best selling books and articles, and summarizes them into 10-15 minute clips. Its an excellent way to get caught up on a bunch of stuff when you don’t have time to read a full book. Founders want to be educated and stay current, but do not necessarily have the time.