These brothers just raised $15 million for their startup, Dutchie, a kind of Shopify for cannabis dispensaries – gpgmail


Ross Lipson comes from an entrepreneurial family, so perhaps it’s no wonder that as a college student, he dropped out of school to jump into the online food space, including cofounding, then selling, one of Canada’s first online food ordering service startups.

It’s even less surprising that having gone through that experience, Lipson would use what he learned in the service of another startup: Dutchie, a two-year-old, 36-person, Bend, Ore.-based startup whose software is used by a growing number of cannabis dispensaries that pay the startup a monthly subscription fee to create and maintain their websites, as well as to accept orders and track what needs to be ready for pickup.

The decision is looking like a smart one right now. Dutchie says it’s now being used by 450 dispensaries across 18 states and that it’s seeing $140 million in gross merchandise volume. The company also just locked down $15 million in Series A funding led by Gron Ventures, a new cannabis-focused venture fund with at least $117 million to invest. Other participants in the round include earlier backers Casa Verde Capital, Thirty Five Ventures (founded by NBA star Kevin Durant and sports agent Rich Kleiman), Sinai Ventures and individual investors, including Shutterstock founder and CEO Jon Oringer.

Altogether, Dutchie (named after the song), has now raised $18 million. We talked earlier today with Lipson about the company, its challenges, and working with his big brother Zach, himself a serial entrepreneur who cofounded Dutchie and today serves as its chief product officer while Ross serves as CEO.

TC: It’s always interesting when siblings team up. Did you always get along with your brother?

RL: We complement each other strongly. I’m energy, I’m sales and business development. I’m fast-moving by nature and the guy who wants to drive the car as fast as possible. Zach is the one who wants to make sure that we’re doing everything right. He’s the methodical one. We really do understand each other quite well and appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which enables us to meet in the middle on a lot of things.

TC: It’s also interesting that you’ve both been founders beginning around the time you were in college. Were your parents entrepreneurs?

RL: Our father is a founder and has run his own business for the last 35 years. Our parents also always pitched us that anything is possible and encouraged us to go for it. He was the dreamer and our mom was the cheerleader, which is a pretty nice combination.

TC: You started Dutchie a couple of years ago. Is running this startup more or less challenging than your experience in the food delivery business?

RL:  It’s our second year in business, and we’ve seen some explosive, unprecedented growth. As for whether it’s harder or easier than food, we’re very product and user centric, and by that we mean consumers but also dispensaries. We’re focused on the customer all day, every day, with a team that ensures that they have support, that they receive their orders, that the orders are out the door quickly or at least, ready for pickup. We make sure the photos work, that different potencies are marked. Our system is kind of like a Shopify of the cannabis space maybe meets DoorDash.

TC: You don’t deliver, though.

RL: No. We don’t do delivery for legal reasons; the dispensaries [handle this piece].

TC: You’re charging like other software-as-service businesses. Do you also take a cut of each sale?

RL: We don’t charge on transaction volume.

TC: You’re working with 450 dispensaries. Is there any way to know what percentage of the overall market that is, and how much is left for you to chase after?

RL: First, there are more than 30 states where cannabis is either medically legal or that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and we operate in both types of markets. It’s hard to know the actual count [of dispensaries], because they are always being formed, getting acquired, or going out of business, but counting registered dispensaries, we work with more than 15 percent of them right now.

TC: Who are you biggest competitors? Eaze? Leafly? They also help consumers find cannabis and, in Eaze’s case, deliver it, too.

RL: Eaze is more focused on delivery where we’re more focused on pickup. It’s also only avaiable in California and Oregon, whereas we’re in 18 states. They educate the consumer about online ordering, which is great, but they also own the consumer experience, where we’re really powering the dispensary.

Leafly and Weedmaps are really different types of platforms; they’re mostly known for their dispensary and strain reviews, where we’re strictly an online ordering service.

TC: You’ve raised a big Series A for a company in the cannabis space. Do you have concerns about there being later-stage funding available when you need it?

RL: It’s true the most investors still haven’t touched cannabis, though you are seeing bigger deals. Thrive Capital led that [$35 million] round in [the online cannabis inventory and ordering platform] LeafLink [last month]. You saw Tiger Global [lead a $17 million round ] in [the software platform for cannabis dispensaries] Green Bits last summer. It’s a big advantage to the funds that can right now invest because there are these barriers to entry; they’re finding deals that are promising and they can get in early and without competition.

Pictured, left to right, above: Ross and Zach Lipson


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APIs are the next big SaaS wave – gpgmail


While the software revolution started out slowly, over the past few years it’s exploded and the fastest-growing segment to-date has been the shift towards software as a service or SaaS.

SaaS has dramatically lowered the intrinsic total cost of ownership for adopting software, solved scaling challenges and taken away the burden of issues with local hardware. In short, it has allowed a business to focus primarily on just that — its business — while simultaneously reducing the burden of IT operations.

Today, SaaS adoption is increasingly ubiquitous. According to IDG’s 2018 Cloud Computing Survey, 73% of organizations have at least one application or a portion of their computing infrastructure already in the cloud. While this software explosion has created a whole range of downstream impacts, it has also caused software developers to become more and more valuable.

The increasing value of developers has meant that, like traditional SaaS buyers before them, they also better intuit the value of their time and increasingly prefer businesses that can help alleviate the hassles of procurement, integration, management, and operations. Developer needs to address those hassles are specialized.

They are looking to deeply integrate products into their own applications and to do so, they need access to an Application Programming Interface, or API. Best practices for API onboarding include technical documentation, examples, and sandbox environments to test.

APIs tend to also offer metered billing upfront. For these and other reasons, APIs are a distinct subset of SaaS.

For fast-moving developers building on a global-scale, APIs are no longer a stop-gap to the future—they’re a critical part of their strategy. Why would you dedicate precious resources to recreating something in-house that’s done better elsewhere when you can instead focus your efforts on creating a differentiated product?

Thanks to this mindset shift, APIs are on track to create another SaaS-sized impact across all industries and at a much faster pace. By exposing often complex services as simplified code, API-first products are far more extensible, easier for customers to integrate into, and have the ability to foster a greater community around potential use cases.

Graphics courtesy of Accel

Billion-dollar businesses building APIs

Whether you realize it or not, chances are that your favorite consumer and enterprise apps—Uber, Airbnb, PayPal, and countless more—have a number of third-party APIs and developer services running in the background. Just like most modern enterprises have invested in SaaS technologies for all the above reasons, many of today’s multi-billion dollar companies have built their businesses on the backs of these scalable developer services that let them abstract everything from SMS and email to payments, location-based data, search and more.

Simultaneously, the entrepreneurs behind these API-first companies like Twilio, Segment, Scale and many others are building sustainable, independent—and big—businesses.

Valued today at over $22 billion, Stripe is the biggest independent API-first company. Stripe took off because of its initial laser-focus on the developer experience setting up and taking payments. It was even initially known as /dev/payments!

Stripe spent extra time building the right, idiomatic SDKs for each language platform and beautiful documentation. But it wasn’t just those things, they rebuilt an entire business process around being API-first.

Companies using Stripe didn’t need to fill out a PDF and set up a separate merchant account before getting started. Once sign-up was complete, users could immediately test the API with a sandbox and integrate it directly into their application. Even pricing was different.

Stripe chose to simplify pricing dramatically by starting with a single, simple price for all cards and not breaking out cards by type even though the costs for AmEx cards versus Visa can differ. Stripe also did away with a monthly minimum fee that competitors had.

Many competitors used the monthly minimum to offset the high cost of support for new customers who weren’t necessarily processing payments yet. Stripe flipped that on its head. Developers integrate Stripe earlier than they integrated payments before, and while it costs Stripe a lot in setup and support costs, it pays off in brand and loyalty.

Checkr is another excellent example of an API-first company vastly simplifying a massive yet slow-moving industry. Very little had changed over the last few decades in how businesses ran background checks on their employees and contractors, involving manual paperwork and the help of 3rd party services that spent days verifying an individual.

Checkr’s API gives companies immediate access to a variety of disparate verification sources and allows these companies to plug Checkr into their existing on-boarding and HR workflows. It’s used today by more than 10,000 businesses including Uber, Instacart, Zenefits and more.

Like Checkr and Stripe, Plaid provides a similar value prop to applications in need of banking data and connections, abstracting away banking relationships and complexities brought upon by a lack of tech in a category dominated by hundred-year-old banks. Plaid has shown an incredible ramp these past three years, from closing a $12 million Series A in 2015 to reaching a valuation over $2.5 billion this year.

Today the company is fueling an entire generation of financial applications, all on the back of their well-built API.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 10.41.02 AM

Graphics courtesy of Accel

Then and now

Accel’s first API investment was in Braintree, a mobile and web payment systems for e-commerce companies, in 2011. Braintree eventually sold to, and became an integral part of, PayPal as it spun out from eBay and grew to be worth more than $100 billion. Unsurprisingly, it was shortly thereafter that our team decided to it was time to go big on the category. By the end of 2014 we had led the Series As in Segment and Checkr and followed those investments with our first APX conference in 2015.

Plaid, Segment, Auth0, and Checkr had only raised Seed or Series A financings! And we are even more excited and bullish on the space. To convey just how much API-first businesses have grown in such a short period of time, we thought it would be useful perspective to share some metrics over the past five years, which we’ve broken out in the two visuals included above in this article.

While SaaS may have pioneered the idea that the best way to do business isn’t to actually build everything in-house, today we’re seeing APIs amplify this theme. At Accel, we firmly believe that APIs are the next big SaaS wave — having as much if not more impact as its predecessor thanks to developers at today’s fastest-growing startups and their preference for API-first products. We’ve actively continued to invest in the space (in companies like, Scale, mentioned above).

And much like how a robust ecosystem developed around SaaS, we believe that one will continue to develop around APIs. Given the amount of progress that has happened in just a few short years, Accel is hosting our second APX conference to once again bring together this remarkable community and continue to facilitate discussion and innovation.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 10.41.10 AM

Graphics courtesy of Accel


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Top VCs on the changing landscape for enterprise startups – gpgmail


Yesterday at gpgmail’s Enterprise event in San Francisco, we sat down with three venture capitalists who spend a lot of their time thinking about enterprise startups. We wanted to ask what trends they are seeing, what concerns they might have about the state of the market, and of course, how startups might persuade them to write out a check.

We covered a lot of ground with the investors — Jason Green of Emergence Capital, Rebecca Lynn of Canvas Ventures, and Maha Ibrahim of Canaan Partners — who told us, among other things, that startups shouldn’t expect a big M&A event right now, that there’s no first-mover advantage in the enterprise realm, and why grit may be the quality that ends up keeping a startup afloat.

On the growth of enterprise startups:

Jason Green: When we started Emergence 15 years ago, we saw maybe a few hundred startups a year, and we funded about five or six. Today, we see over 1,000 a year; we probably do deep diligence on 25.


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Shared inbox startup Front adds WhatsApp support – gpgmail


Front, the company that lets you manage your inboxes as a team, is adding one more channel, WhatsApp. Starting today, you can read and reply to people contacting you through WhatsApp.

This feature is specifically targeted at users of WhatsApp Business. You can get a business phone number through Twilio and then hand out that number to your customers.

After that, you can see the messages coming in Front and treat them like any Front message. In particular, you can assign conversations to a specific team members so that your customers get a relevant answer as quickly as possible. If you need more information, Front integrates with popular CRMs, such as Salesforce, Pipedrive and HubSpot.

You can also discuss with other teammates before sending a reply to your customer. It works like any chat interface — you can at-mention your coworkers and start an in-line chat in the middle of a WhatsApp thread. When you’re ready to answer, you can hit reply and send a WhatsApp message.

Front started with generic email addresses, such as sales@yourcompany or jobs@yourcompany. But the company has added more channels over time, such as Facebook, Twitter, website chat and text messages.

If you’ve already been using Front with text messages, you can now easily add WhatsApp and use the same service for that new channel.


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OpenGov acquires ViewPoint Cloud, adding building codes and permitting to its platform – gpgmail


In the same week that it announced a $51 million round of funding, OpenGov — the startup that provides SaaS software designed to help governments and other civic organizations run their operations — is announcing an acquisition to expand the kinds of tools it provides to customers.

The company has acquired ViewPoint, a platform used by city governments — customers currently number 200 towns, cities, counties, and state agencies — to manage building codes and other similar databases, as well as interface with the public to apply for permits and licenses related to those rules and regulations.

The terms of the deal have not been disclosed. To be clear, ViewPoint’s full name is ViewPoint Cloud and it’s not to be confused with another company called simply Viewpoint, which — slightly confusingly — also operates in the area of building and construction, but was acquired last year for about $1.2 billion.

OpenGov was started under the premise of building enterprise-grade solutions for the public sector that took into consideration some of the particularly bureaucratic aspects of public sector business, but at the same time provided solutions that worked as well (if not better for being more tailored) as those built for the private sector.

Most of OpenGov’s business has been built organically — that is, from within the company — but it has also made a few acquisitions over the years to augment that — others include “civic intelligence” platform Ontodia and Peak Democracy to add engagement tools — and this is also where ViewPoint fits in.

It will be adding a new area of services into the mix that customers can use to manage and provision applications and licenses for things like building codes, an often thorny area rife with paperwork and arcane technicalities that has long been a challenge both for governments and those building housing and other structures to navigate.

“I co-founded this company with the idea that governments deserve cutting-edge technology,” said ViewPoint CEO Nasser Hajo in a statement. “ViewPoint has since grown to become the cloud-based permitting and licensing market leader, stretching the boundaries of what’s possible to bring efficiency, transparency, and civic engagement to public agencies. OpenGov is the leading enterprise cloud software company in the GovTech sector, and we could not be more thrilled at the opportunity to join forces and continue building the technology that will power governments for decades to come.”

ViewPoint has been around since 1995 and established a fairly narrow remit. but it has also built a solid business from that place, claiming customer retention of 98%. For OpenGov — which has 2,000 customers to ViewPoint’s 200 — that means not just a more diversified product offering, but also another line of predictable and recurring revenue.

“Not only are OpenGov and ViewPoint among the fastest-growing GovTech companies, we are each the only multi-tenant cloud platforms of scale in our respective categories,” said OpenGov’s CEO and co-founder Zac Bookman in a statement. “I could not be more excited for our joint future and to bring this incredible software to every government that wants to take advantage of it.”

We’ve seen the rise of a number of smaller startups that have been leveraging the cloud to build software to make a wide variety of work-related tasks more efficient. Govtech — with its focus on cutting down paperwork, improving security and reducing spend — has been fertile ground for these startups to tackle, but longer term that will also mean more consolidation as bigger companies look to diversify and expand their platforms, and smaller startups find it harder to scale. That could spell more acquisitions for OpenGov, which is backed by some $140 million with investors including Weatherford Capital, 8VC (whose founder, Joe Lonsdale, is also a co-founder of OpenGov), Andreessen Horowitz, JC2 Ventures and Emerson Collective (the investment firm connected to Laurene Powell Jobs).


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Starboard Value takes 7.5% stake in Box – gpgmail


Starboard Value, LP revealed in an SEC Form 13D filing last week that it owns a 7.5% stake in Box, the cloud content management company.

It is probably not a coincidence that Starboard Value looks for undervalued stocks. Box stock has been on a price roller coaster ride since it went public in 2015 at a price of $14 per share before surging to $23.23 per share. It had a high share price of $28.12 in May 2018, but the price dipped into the teens in March and was at $14.85 as we went to press. It has a 52-week low price of $12.46 per share.

Screenshot 2019 09 03 17.22.05

 

The company, which began life as a consumer storage company, made the transition to enterprise software several years after it launched in 2005. It raised more than $500 million along the way, and was a Silicon Valley SaaS darling until it filed its S-1 in 2014.

The S-1 revealed massive sales and marketing spending, and critics came down hard on the company. That led to one of the longest IPO delays in memory, taking nine months from the time the company filed until it finally had its IPO in January 2015.

In its most recent earnings report last week, Box announced  $172.5 million in revenue for the quarter, putting it on a run rate close to $700 million.

Aaron Levie href=”https://Gpgmail.com/2019/07/08/box-ceo-aaron-levie-is-coming-to-tc-sessions-enterprise/”> will be appearing at gpgmail Sessions: Enterprise on Thursday.

We emailed both Starboard Value and Box for comments, but neither has responded as we went to publish. If this changes, we will update the article.


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Marc Benioff will discuss building a socially responsible and successful startup at gpgmail Disrupt – gpgmail


Salesforce chairman, co-founder and CEO, Marc Benioff, took a lot of big chances when he launched the company 20 years ago. For starters, his was one of the earliest enterprise SaaS companies, but he wasn’t just developing a company on top of new platform, he was building one from scratch with social responsibility built-in.

Fast forward 20 years and that company is wildly successful. In its most recent earnings report, it announced a $4 billion quarter, putting it on a $16 billion run rate, and making it by far the most successful SaaS company ever.

But at the heart of the company’s DNA is a charitable streak, and it’s not something they bolted on after getting successful. Even before the company had a working product, in the earliest planning documents, Salesforce wanted to be a different kind of company. Early on, it designed the 1-1-1 philanthropic model that set aside one percent of Salesforce’s equity, and one percent of its product and one percent of its employees’ time to the community. As the company has grown, that model has serious financial teeth now, and other startups over the years have also adopted the same approach using Salesforce as a model.

In our coverage of Dreamforce, the company’s enormous annual customer conference, in 2016, Benioff outlined his personal philosophy around giving back:

“You are at work, and you have great leadership skills. You can isolate yourselves and say I’m going to put those skills to use in a box at work, or you can say I’m going to have an integrated life. The way I look at the world, I’m going to put those skills to work to make the world a better place,” Benioff said at the time.

This year Benioff is coming to gpgmail Disrupt in San Francisco to discuss with gpgmail Editors how to build a highly successful business, while giving back to the community and the society your business is part of. In fact, he has a book coming out in mid-October called Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change, in which he writes about how businesses can be a positive social force.

Benioff has received numerous awards over the years for his entrepreneurial and charitable spirit including Innovator of the Decade from Forbes, one of the World’s 25 Greatest Leaders from Fortune, one of the 10 Best-Performing CEOs from Harvard Business Review, GLAAD, the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative for his work on equality and the Variety Magazine EmPOWerment Award.

Disrupt SF runs October 2 to October 4 at the Moscone Center in the heart of San Francisco. Tickets are available here.

Did you know Extra Crunch annual members get 20% off all gpgmail event tickets? Head over here to get your annual pass, and then email extracrunch@Gpgmail.com to get your 20% off discount. Please note that it can take up to 24 hours to issue the discount code.


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Customer success isn’t an add-on – Start early to win later – gpgmail


What comes first: Sales or Customer Success? Many growing startups pressure themselves to start selling as soon as there’s a viable product to sell. “Set up Customer Success functions” goes on the to-do list. After all, we don’t have to worry for another year, right?

Using the proprietary Scale Studio dataset of hundreds of SaaS startups, we’ll look at the metrics that venture investors use to link your company’s valuation to success in Customer Success — then dive into the tactics for adapting your CS program to your company’s high-touch or low-touch sales model

A year passes, and the company’s first renewals come due. Everyone from the CEO on down scrambles to do whatever it takes to make those charter customers happy and win contract extensions. After all, those customers aren’t just any customers — they’re the company’s first references, critical to landing new business and raising funds from investors. Every effort goes into making them happy.

The problem is, of course, that bringing in the CEO and CTO and VP of Sales on every renewal isn’t exactly a scalable process. Nor the basis for a long-term Customer Success strategy. 

Customer Success — a formal, process-driven, value-creating operational activity — needs to be structured to scale. And it needs to be top-of-mind from day one. Here is a look at the data and strategic rationale for launching CS early in a startup’s growth to avoid inefficiency and mistakes down the line. 

The case for customer success: Valuation

To venture investors, a well-run CS operation at an early-in-revenue startup communicates that your company has a sophisticated go-to-market strategy with a customer-centric foundation. This can translate into a valuation boost along two paths: accelerated revenue growth and increased predictability. And growth is a key driver for valuation with venture investors


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How Pivotal got bailed out by fellow Dell family member, VMware – gpgmail


When Dell acquired EMC in 2016 for $67 billion, it created a complicated consortium of interconnected organizations. Some, like VMware and Pivotal, operate as completely separate companies. They have their own boards of directors, can acquire companies and are publicly traded on the stock market. Yet they work closely within the Dell, partnering where it makes sense. When Pivotal’s stock price plunged recently, VMware saved the day when it bought the faltering company for $2.7 billion yesterday.

Pivotal went public last year, and sometimes struggled, but in June the wheels started to come off after a poor quarterly earnings report. The company had what MarketWatch aptly called “a train wreck of a quarter.”

How bad was it? So bad that its stock price was down 42% the day after it reported its earnings. While the quarter itself wasn’t so bad, with revenue up year over year, the guidance was another story. The company cut its 2020 revenue guidance by $40-$50 million and the guidance it gave for the upcoming 2Q19 was also considerably lower than consensus Wall Street estimates.

The stock price plunged from a high of $21.44 on May 30th to a low of $8.30 on Aug 14th. The company’s market cap plunged in that same time period falling from $5.828 billion on May 30th to $2.257 billion on Aug 14th. That’s when VMware admitted it was thinking about buying the struggling company.


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A newly funded startup, Internal, says it wants to help companies better manage their internal consoles – gpgmail


Uber and Facebook and countless other companies that know an awful lot about their customers have found themselves in hot water for providing broad internal access to sensitive customer information.

Now, a startup says its “out-of-the-box tools” can help protect customers’ privacy while also saving companies from themselves. How? With a software-as-a-service product that promises to help employees access the app data they need — and only the app data they need. Among the features the company, Internal, is offering, are search and filtering, auto-generated tasks and team queues, granular permissioning on every field, audit logs on every record and redacted fields for sensitive information.

Whether the startup can win the trust of enterprises is the biggest question for the company, which was created by Arisa Amano and Bob Remeika, founders who last year launched the blockchain technology company Harbor. The two also worked together previously at two other companies: Zenefits and Yammer.

All of these endeavors have another person in common, and that’s David Sacks, whose venture firm, Craft Ventures, has just led a $5 million round in Internal. Sacks also invested last year in Harbor; he was an early investor in Zenefits and took over during troubled times as its CEO for less than a year; he also founded Yammer, which sold to Microsoft for $1.2 billion in cash in 2012.

All of the aforementioned have been focused, too, on making it easier for companies to get their work done, and Amano and Remeika have built the internal console at all three companies. It’s how they arrived at their “aha” moment last year, says Amano. “So many companies build their consoles [which allow users advanced use of the computer system they’re attached to] in a half-hearted way; we realized there was an opportunity to build this as a service.”

“Companies never dedicate enough engineers to [their internal consoles], so they’re often half broken and hard to use and they do a terrible job of limiting access to sensitive customer data,” adds Remeika. “We eliminate the need to build these tools altogether, and it takes just minutes to get set up.”

Starting today, companies can decide for themselves whether they think Internal can help their employees interact with their customer app data in a more secure and compliant way. The eight-person company has just made the product available for a free trial.

Naturally, Amano and Remeika are full of assurances why companies can trust them. “We don’t store data,” says Amano. “That resides on the [customer’s] servers. It stays in their database.” Internal’s technology instead “understands the structure of the data and will read that structure,” offers Remeika, who says not to mistake Internal for an analytics tool. “Analytics tools commonly provide a high-level overview; Internal is giving users granular access to customer data and letting you debug problems.”

As for competitors, the two say their most formidable opponent right now is developers who throw up a data model viewer that has complete access to everything in a database, which may be sloppy but happens routinely.

Internal isn’t disclosing its pricing publicly just yet, but it says its initial target is non-technical users, on operations and customer support teams, for example.

As for Harbor (we couldn’t help but wonder why they’re already starting a new company), they say it’s in good hands with CEO Josh Stein, who was previously general counsel and chief compliance officer at Zenefits (he was its first lawyer) and who joined Harbor in February of last year as its president. Stein was later named CEO.

In addition to Craft Ventures, Internal’s new seed round comes from Pathfinder, which is Founders Fund’s early-stage investment vehicle, and other, unnamed angel investors.


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