News & Views

 

IOpipe – A Cloud Native Company

As the cloud increases its footprint in the enterprise, and ‘cloud native’ (aka serverless) development scales up, Madrona is continuing to uncover opportunities that make it easier to innovate and work in this new environment. Today we are proud to announce our seed investment in IOpipe. We co- led this round and teamed up with our colleagues at NEA and Underscore VC to fund the growth of this innovative company. IOpipe has moved its headquarters to Seattle to be near the center of gravity of the public cloud and the company will add team members in the area to support the company’s growth.

We first met Adam Johnson, the founder and CEO of IOpipe, at AWS re:Invent last fall– at TWO different events. After a quick follow-up pitch at the airport, we were hooked. IOpipe is providing important insight into how serverless applications run – and uses that info to diagnose what isn’t going right. AWS Lambda is a strategically important cloud service focused on this market and it has grown substantially into a major piece of how these applications area created. Developers embed IOpipe into their application and can see how functions are performing in realtime via the IOpipe dashboard.

For both developers and operations engineers, this is crucial information that will enable more organizations to develop cloud native serverless applications. IOpipe has already helped analyze and monitor over a billion events from users to date.

IOpipe is also an example of how accelerators are helping drive technology innovation and business. The company was a graduate of NYC Techstars – the founders moved to NYC for the program – which helped them flesh out their ideas, build a product and secure customers. We are supporter of Techstars through the Seattle chapter and love the chance to work with companies early on as they build and find their product market fit.

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Bizible Raises $8.1M To Fuel Growth Of Platform That Analyzes Investment On Marketing Spend

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Pro.com Raises $10M Funding Round To Expand Its Home Improvement Service To More Cities

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GE Spin-out SmartAssist.io Raises $5M Series A For Its AI-based Customer Service Platform

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Welcome SmartAssist To The Madrona Family

It is exciting for me to announce our investment in SmartAssist and to welcome the team to our Madrona family. SmartAssist is applying AI to the business of customer support and is already assisting customers of brands you know including MailChimp and Twilio.

Application development and applications the last 10 years were primarily defined by movement to the cloud, SaaS delivery and touch as an interface. Looking ahead, we strongly believe that applications are going to be defined as intelligent applications with a broader set of natural user interfaces including voice/speech and vision. In our opinion, any application of consequence that is getting built now is an intelligent application. What differentiates the intelligent applications is the use of ML/AI and other techniques to apply on the ever-increasing data sets that enable applications to continuously learn and deliver more relevant and appropriate experience for the customers.

Applying ML/AI to intelligently automate use cases and workflows in enterprises is an area where we see a tremendous amount of opportunity and some of our recent investments reflect that investment thesis. As we think about beachhead use cases of ML/AI within enterprises, customer support stands out as one of the most tangible areas that could be fundamentally disrupted through technology.

By using intelligent routing, automated responses, and predictive modeling, SmartAssist helps enterprises significantly increase the efficiency and quality of services while decreasing customer service costs. The company is based on the platform developed by Wise.io which was acquired by GE in 2016. The team of Pradeep Rathinam and Prashant Luthra had a passion for this business and are taking that core business and building it into SmartAssist. Already they have secured some name brand customers. GE has an interest in the company and we expect to work with them as the company grows.

Another big reason for why we are excited about this investment is the entrepreneurial strength of the founding team. Both Pradeep and Prashant have led and been a part of successful start-ups in the past. Their focus and passion to make a difference in this space makes it a delight to partner with them.

We are thrilled to back the compelling vision of this leadership team and be part of a Seattle area start-up that is focused on driving customer success using ML/AI. All of us at Madrona are jazzed at the potential of what is possible here.

Looking forward to helping realize the potential with the SmartAssist team!

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Booster’s Focus on Customer and Unit Economics Pays Off

Madrona has been celebrating successful IPOs and M&A transactions recently, with several companies we partnered with from the earliest days. In fact, Redfin (RDFN) went public last week and the Placed acquisition by Snapchat closed two weeks ago. These companies combine digitally-driven and physically-driven capabilities to deliver real value to customers. Some of our youngest portfolio companies have applied this combined digital and physical world approach to other categories including Booster’s in the world of mobile fueling.

Booster was founded by Frank Mycroft a couple years ago, and Madrona was there at Day One to lead the company’s seed round. Frank and the early team were some of the first entrepreneurs to use our innovation space at Madrona’s current offices. Booster enables consumers to have their car filled with fuel while at work. This mobile fueling service is offered at a market fuel price along with the convenience and environmental friendliness of professional delivery. Many major corporate campuses in Silicon Valley use the service today, including titans such as Cisco and Oracle who benefit from Booster as a strategic employee benefit. The amazing Booster team have thoughtfully balanced four key areas: understanding the customer (both the consumer and the employer); developing intuitive mobile apps for consumers and drivers; designing efficient and effective physical delivery systems; and navigating federal, state and local regulations and relationships. Blending these elements in to a compelling and economically sustainable offering is hard. But, Booster has done exactly that.

Booster announced their $20 million Series B round today led by Conversion Capital and Madrona is pleased to once again be a major participant in the round. In an era where “on demand” service businesses have mostly been out of favor, we believe entrepreneurs like Frank who are obsessed with customers AND unit economics can build lasting and significant companies. And, Booster’s rapid growth, customer satisfaction, campus economics and substantial up round all indicate that they are well on their way.

We are excited to continue partnering with the Booster team, their customers and our terrific co-investors to build a truly special company.

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Madrona Was An Early Investor In The Last Three Seattle-area Startup IPOs

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The Human Army Using Phones To Teach AI To Drive

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Investors Pour More Cash Into Startup That Operates An ‘Escrow System’ For eSports Tournaments

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Highspot Raises $15 Million To Perfect Your Sales Pitch

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Snapchat Parent Snap Acquires Placed, a Seattle Startup That Tracks Consumer Location Data

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Work Management Powerhouse Smartsheet Lands $52M, Valuation Tops $850M Amid Global Expansion

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Echodyne Homes in on $29 million to Give Drones and Self-driving Cars ‘Radar Vision’

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Redfin CEO: To Survive, Keep Thinking Like a Startup

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Context Relevant Changes Name to Versive, Launches AI-powered Enterprise Security Technology

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Harnessing Innovation – with S. Somasegar

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This Founder Turned Doggy Daycare Into a $300 Million Business

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Fast-moving Rover Launches National Ad Campaign Starring Man’s Best Friend

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Working Geek: Madrona’s Growth Guru Ryan Metzger Uses Data to Stay Organized at Work and at Home

Working Geek is a regular feature on GeekWire that profiles technology and business leaders, offering tips, tricks and insights into how busy professionals get work done.


Madrona Venture Group’s Ryan Metzger is a diehard Seattle sports fan. (Madrona Photo)

As Madrona Venture Group’s in-house growth advisor, Ryan Metzger supports more than 60 companies at any given time.

He’s also a father of two, a runner, hiker, and avid sports fan. So how does he keep it all in balance? By relying on data.

A combination of health-tracking apps and productivity tools help Metzger stay focused on his goals in and out of the office.

At Madrona, he helps startups scale by offering marketing advice and customer data.

“How I help companies depends on their stage and their target customer. It could mean helping a company understand the value of different customer cohorts, getting a new marketing program up and running, or connecting a marketing lead with people and partners relevant to their business,” he said.

Before he joined Madrona, Metzger worked in customer acquisition and product roles at Zulily, Microsoft, Google, and Blue Nile.

“Some of the advice I give comes from my past, but I also stay current by learning from others who are executing well in a particular area,” he said.

We caught up with Metzger for this installment of Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Current Location: “Downtown Seattle, Wells Fargo building, 34th floor. Views are nice, but it also has Seattle’s best sandwich shop in our lobby. My wife, Erin, oversees product there so please pass along any feedback on what you’d like to see in their summer seasonal.”

Computer types: “Windows 10 PC. Sometimes I have Mac envy since most people here and at startups use them, but I’m sticking with Windows. I sometimes get deep into Excel and the Mac version has let me down before. I also grew up not far from Redmond so have a little extra hometown pride that should keep me using Windows for the foreseeable future.”

Mobile devices: “iPhone 6S and Kindle.”

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “Microsoft Office, Smartsheet, Airtable, Waze, Twitter, Slack, Spotify and Feedly. That last one doesn’t get much mention in these columns, but I still use RSS to keep up-to-date on the latest developments.”

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “When I’m at Madrona I work from an office, but more often I’m out meeting with companies either at their office or at a coffee shop nearby. My current favorite is Slate on 2nd Ave near the Smith Tower. If you see me there and want to chat about the latest NBA/NHL arena development or growth strategies of your startup, please say hello!”

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “In both work and life, I try to use data to make sure I’m staying on track as it relates to my goals.

At home, it’s important to me to stay healthy so food and exercise logs have been good ways to make sure I’m eating right and staying active. A few years ago, I ran some experiments in those areas and wrote about what I learned here.

At work, I support over 60 companies, so I sometimes look at data on who I’m meeting with and who I’m emailing to make sure I’m balancing my time across the people and activities where I can have the biggest impact. I also seek out projects that can apply to multiple companies so that I’m getting leverage out of my role.”

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “Social networks are critical to marketing these days so I keep tabs on all of them, but if forced to choose I’d say Facebook. It’s a place where nearly every consumer brand is active so I take a lot of screenshots when I see a marketer doing something unique. Lately, I’ve been in the crosshairs of Stitch Fix Men and they’ve been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at me. I’ve been served video ads, canvas ads, images of people wearing clothes, and images of clothes laid out flat. I’ve not yet signed up, but have been impressed with how they’ve been executing!”

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “9. I’m writing this in the morning and going through emails is one of the first things I try to do. The number was quite a bit larger a few hours ago.”

How do you run meetings? “I don’t run as many meetings as I once did now that I’m in an advisory role instead of managing a team. Most of the meetings I’m involved in today are ones where I am trying to be as helpful as possible to marketing or growth leads at startups. I come prepared to these meetings with a few ideas, but the form they take depends on who I am meeting with and what they are focused on.”

Everyday work uniform? “Button down shirt, khakis or jeans. Unless it’s the day of an important Seattle sports event. Then I’ll tap into my extensive jersey collection and support the home team.”

How do you make time for family? “Weeknights between 6 and 8 p.m. is my main time to spend with my wife and two kids and I try to be off phone and email then. Weekends are also important for family time and you’ll often find us out on a walk together or at a local park.”

Some of Metzger’s sports memorabilia.

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Being in the stands at Century Link or Safeco Field cheering on the home teams. I’m a native Seattlite so have lived through the ups and (more often) downs of the Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders and Sonics over the years. A few times a year I really unplug and tailgate for Seahawks games where I’m the guy who goes out of his way to make food related to the opposing team’s city. Next year’s schedule doesn’t have too many great opportunities, but there may be some Philly Cheesesteaks being served along Utah Ave that you won’t want to miss.”

What are you listening to? “Ben Harper, Pearl Jam, Guster, Pat McGee Band. I once read that people stop discovering new music in their 30s and those are all from my college days so it seems to be true with me!”

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “Mattermark Daily and their growth-focused newsletter Raise the Bar, Growth Hackers (though I don’t like that terminology), GeekWire, Recode, Stratechery by Ben Thompson, Venture Pulse.”

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)?Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice by Clayton Christensen. I was a big fan of The Innovator’s Dilemma by the same author and was excited to hear what he had to say about generating new ideas. I’m halfway through and have already jotted down a few applications of his ideas that I’m excited to share with a few startups.”

Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “Some of each. Pre-kids I was more of a night owl, but they are doing their best to turn me into an early riser.”

Where do you get your best ideas? “My best ideas come when I am outside going for a run or on a hike. Being outside removes distractions and helps me focus. It’s common that I’ll come back with a few new marketing ideas to share or even a new business that I may want to start or seek out.”

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “This might be a surprise coming from a lifelong Seahawks fan, but former 49ers coach Bill Walsh. His teams were dominating when I first started following the NFL, but I didn’t truly appreciate how they got there until I read his book The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership. Though I’ll never be a football coach, I still took away many lessons on preparation, teaching, and leadership that apply as much to the business world as they do to the football field.”

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Snowflake Cloud Data Warehouse Startup Raises $100M; Madrona’s Role Reunites Ex-Microsoft Execs

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