While web3, the metaverse, and virtual HQs appear to be the most prominent aspects of the “future of work” startup category, WorkLife Ventures CEO Brianne Kimmel has a more practical definition. The solo GP has spent the last few years investing in businesses that will benefit modern employees, from virtual workspaces to networking tools to a video chat platform that aims to be more human than Zoom.
‘We want to be very deliberate and mindful that we want to design software for the average person or software that gives more access to meaningful methods to make money,’ she said. “I find that the metaverse, and even web3 to a significant extent, are not yet accessible in their current state.” WorkLife invests in web3 startups, but only when they have a strong commitment to education or assisting individuals who aren’t in the IT industry, according to her.
It’s a viewpoint that her backers believe in enough to put more money behind her efforts. According to SEC papers that have since been withdrawn, Kimmel raised $35 million for her second future work-focused fund, about half of what she had hoped for. When queried about the gap, the investor indicated she intends eventually establish a framework that will allow WorkLife to continuously fundraise and increase total assets through smaller funds, SPVs, and an evergreen company, taking cues from Sequoia’s new structure. Nonetheless, today’s installment signals the start of a new chapter for WorkLife, one that takes place in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.
About WorkLife Ventures:
WorkLife Ventures was founded by Kimmel in 2019 with a $5 million seed fund founded by Marc Andreessen, Garry Tan, Alexis Ohanian, NFX, Slow Ventures, and Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, among others. Kimmel, along with Volt Capital’s Soona Amhaz, Array Ventures’ Shruti Gandhi, and more recently Haun Ventures’ Katie Haun and Ganas Ventures’ Lolita Taub, was one of the first female solo-GPs to make an impression on the scene.
WorkLife announced at the opening that SaaS School, a biannual training for entrepreneurs that Kimmel developed while at Zendesk, will account for 40% of the new fund’s deals. Kimmel now appears to be taking a more broad approach. WorkLife has already written five checks with an average check size of $2 million and a post-money valuation of $20 million, according to her.
The original goal check amount for WorkLife’s first fund was roughly $150,000 per startup. WorkLife would have been able to close roughly 33 agreements if they had met that goal. Fast forward to today, and Fund I has financed 97 businesses, probably through SPVs and smaller cheques. All of the portfolio companies have received additional funding from other investors.
The firm does not keep track of how many first-time entrepreneurs it supports, but it has stated that it pays first cheques for operators who are leaving tech corporations to establish their own businesses. In the second fund, Kimmel wants to take a “stronger stance on guaranteeing” that all but one of her investments have a female founder, something she wants to take a “stronger posture on ensuring” in the first. There’s also a big emphasis on helping immigrants, something Kimmel, a Ukrainian-American, says hasn’t changed since the firm’s inception. Deel, Webflow, Hopin, Tonal, Clubhouse, Pipe, and Public are just a few of the unicorns in WorkLife’s portfolio that have boosted the company’s performance.
Kimmel’s take on layoffs
Despite the pandemic’s disruption of how we work, some businesses that grew rapidly during the first two years of distributed labor have had to make adjustments. Hopin, for example, was one of WorkLife’s most successful bets, but it just laid off 12% of its workforce.
‘Those are pretty typical growing pains that happen over the course of a company’s history,’ Kimmel said about the layoffs. ‘Many outside observers overlook the reality that the company’s rise from zero to $100 million in ARR occurred in just two years.’ She said that Hopin’s chief business officer, Armando Mann, has played a key role in the employment of other executives to manage the company’s expansion.
Clubhouse, another WorkLife portfolio company, has had a more gradual expansion. Clubhouse soared to a $4 billion value and mass-market virality in less than a year after obtaining funding. The corporation then had to deal with moderation difficulties, particularly in light of the spread of an antisemitic room. As the world became more open, the rate of downloads slowed.
‘Scaling any social network, especially Clubhouse,’ Kimmel added, ‘is really difficult.’ “I’ve found that networks like Twitter, where you already have distribution, are more likely to see a lot greater donation rate from users.” WorkLife has now invested in Flow Club, a productivity-focused social networking app, and Moment House, a live media platform for musicians, according to Kimmel. With additional funds behind Kimmel, the remote job category will receive much-needed attention and actuality.