Honey Homes raised $9 million Series A to continue their work building a membership service for busy homeowners

Honey Homes, closed their Series A recently, led by Khosla Ventures and supported by Pear and others. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d do a little lookback of our history working with the Honey Homes team over the last few years.

We were first introduced to Honey Homes’ Founder and CEO Vishwas Prabhakara through DoorDash alums, including Evan Moore. The Khosla team knew that the Honey Homes team had a promising early idea and felt Pear would be great seed partners in shaping it into a venture-scalable business. 

Once we met the team, we were excited about backing them for a few key reasons:

  • First of all, we knew this was a massive and unsolved market opportunity. US homeowners spend $250 billion annually on their homes via a highly-fragmented vendor network. The Honey Homes team saw a big opportunity to streamline that network and create a product experience that has never existed for home owners. Most home services companies are marketplaces or managed marketplaces, so it is challenging to make the economics work and keep the quality bar high while scaling. This results in churn from both the supply and demand side. Honey Homes saw an opportunity to do things differently and build out a new model – a homeowner subscription business where they employ handy people. This changes the economics and raises the quality bar substantially.
  • Secondly, they had a clear vision for a product to meet that market demand. The Honey Homes team wanted to build a membership service for busy homeowners to manage and complete to-do lists. I was a new homeowner myself at the time, could easily relate the never ending list of tasks to maintain my home and  the difficulty of finding and keeping handymen. I found the idea of a reliable membership service really enticing. 
  • Finally, we felt that the team was really strong and perfectly suited to tackle this problem. Vishwas was Yelp’s first General Manager and he was also COO of Digit, where he gained valuable experience as an operator. He understood first hand the piecemealing that homeowners have to do for maintenance and improvement work. Avantika Prabhakara, who leads Marketing at Honey Homes, has a rich marketing background from organizations like Opendoor, Trulia, and Zillow, so she’s also deeply familiar with the challenges people face on finding reliable contractors and handyman services.
The Honey Homes app is easy-to-use for homeowners.

Khosla and Pear co-led the seed round in July 2021. Over the last two years, they’ve focused on building out the infrastructure to make this service work, growth in their initial markets, and eliminating key risks in order to raise their Series A. They grew from just a co-founding team to 12 employees and 14 handymen during this time. They also expanded across the Bay Area and Dallas and onboarded 500+ subscription customers. In total, over 20,000 home tasks have been completed for members through more than 10,000 Honey Homes visits over the last two years. 

I’ve been lucky enough to not only be an investor into Honey Homes, but also an early customer. I started using Honey Homes in March 2022, and I’ve had hundreds of tasks completed in my home ranging from fixing a frustrating leaky pond to helping us move our furniture to fixing water-damaged cracks in our ceiling to cleaning out dryer ducts. We use the service so regularly that even my daughter knows our handyman, Miguel, by name. Honey Homes has had an incredibly strong customer response: everyone who hears about it wants to join and they’ve done an excellent job retaining customers. 

We’re so proud of the team for successfully raising their Series A and cannot wait for their continued growth and success!

Welcoming Aparna Sinha as Pear’s newest Partner!

We’re excited to share that Aparna Sinha is Pear’s newest Partner! Aparna has made an outsized impact in her time with us as a Visiting Partner, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that she’s joining our team full time.

Aparna brings a strong thesis and a depth of experience in enterprise, developer, and AI to Pear and is excited to work with ambitious founders during this breakout moment in AI. “We’re in the midst of unprecedented technological advancement. AI is re-shaping our present and enabling  the most significant breakthroughs of our lifetimes. The breadth and pace of this technological shift creates an opportunity for startups to disrupt the value chain and reshape how we interact with our world,” says Aparna. “Pear’s co-founder is a female former founder with a PhD in engineering, and our work to grow top female technical entrepreneurs resonates with me,” she continued. 

Over the last six months, Aparna helped launch PearX for AI, a new track of the PearX program tailored towards AI builders. We recently welcomed six teams to the inaugural PearX for AI cohort and are excited for these founders to debut their companies with the world soon. Through the PearX for AI program, Aparna is partnering with founders to define their product, win early customers, and grow. She’s able to leverage her deep experience from Google and in enterprise software to give Pear’s portfolio companies an advantage in the market.

Aparna is also building out our AI advisor community, connecting Pear founders with industry experts from organizations like Stanford, Google, OpenAI, Hugging Face, McKinsey and more. At this moment, AI is touching every single facet of technology and she’s been working to build a top notch council of advisors to assist Pear founders on their entrepreneurial journeys.

We’re so excited to welcome Aparna. If you’re a founder looking to connect, please email her at aparna@pear.vc

Welcoming Naomi Chetrit Band as Head of Dorm!

Last week, we welcomed Naomi Chetrit Band to the Pear team to lead our Dorm program as a Senior Associate on the investment team. At Pear, we have a long history partnering with students to build the next wave of category-defining companies. We met the founders of companies like Affinity, Viz.ai, Nova Credit, and WindBorne when they were still in school, and we love partnering with students to build businesses from the ground up. With Naomi joining our team, we’re excited to take our program to the next level. 

Pear Garage in 2014. We’ve been investing in students since our start.

Naomi is excited to concentrate on supporting student founders. “My lifelong excitement for learning and education finds its natural home on campuses and inside classrooms. Living in Israel, surrounded by a vibrant startup ecosystem, I developed a strong inclination towards working with founders and supporting early stage startups. Being at Pear now allows me to blend both of my passions, for which I am truly grateful,” says Naomi.

Naomi joins us from the Wharton School, where she just completed her MBA. She also worked as a Pear Fellow during her time at UPenn. Naomi is also an Israeli CPA and Attorney with a career spanning EY-Parthenon, EY, and S. Horowitz & Co.

Naomi pictured with the 2022 Fellowship cohort.

Welcome to the team, Naomi! If you’re a student builder or want to learn more about our Dorm program, you can connect with Naomi on Twitter, LinkedIn, or at naomi@pear.vc

Welcoming Louis Corso as Finance Director at Pear

Louis’ journey to finance and accounting began with his life-long card playing hobby. He loves working with numbers and rules, and describes himself as quietly a very competitive person. During high school and college, Louis was a professional-caliber Magic: the Gathering player, peaking as a top 300 player in the world while he was in graduate school, but his first love is cribbage, which he grew up playing with his family.

Professionally speaking, Louis is an expert at VC finance. Prior to Pear, Louis worked across finance, tax, and fund accounting at firms like Emergence, Ohana Real Estate Investors, and Foundation Capital. At Pear, Louis’ role involves managing the financial functions of the firm and working across our four funds. He closely monitors budgeting and operating finances, portfolio valuations, LP reporting, and manages the annual tax and audit process. He’s also focused on helping Pear build scalable finance processes that will meet Pear’s needs as we continue to grow.

“I am excited to be at Pear because we are working with founders at the very start of their journey. It’s so fun to be with them from day one, with a ton of excitement and opportunity in front of them. I am also excited to be working with such a humble, collaborative team. It’s fun to feel like we’re all pushing in the same direction, building something together,” Louis says.

Outside of work, Louis lives in the Bay Area with his wife, two young children, and two cats. Questions for Louis? You can reach him at louis@pear.vc or find him on LinkedIn.

PearX S20 alum Federato raised $25 million in Series B funding to accelerate their work running a RiskOps platform for property and casualty insurance

Last week, PearX S20 alum Federato announced their $25M Series B round led by Caffeinated Capital and joined by Pear and Emergence Capital

We first met Federato’s Co-founders Will Ross and William Steenbergen in March 2020, when they were first year grad students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. They were winners of the 2020 Pear Competition and we also invited them to join PearX, our early-stage bootcamp for founders. 

The early Federato team.

When we met Will and William, they only had a product concept and some initial customer validation. But even though they didn’t have solid proof yet, we decided to partner with them in building Federato for a few key reasons:

  • First, we saw a big market opportunity. New risks like climate change, cyber security, and social inflation were changing the landscape. In the insurance industry, risk is the opportunity, and it’s a really hard problem to solve. Insurers operating processes are unable to accommodate emerging risks, but Federato brought a solution to the table to help insurers take on risks of under utilized data assets. We knew at the time that climate change was already affecting the insurance industry in dramatic ways. The elevated frequency of damaging weather events drove more than $100B in uninsured losses between 2018-2019 alone, and this number has only continued to grow since then. 
Elevated frequency of weather events drove more than $100B in uninsured losses in 2018-2019. Read more: SwissRe “Closing the Protection Gap Together

  • Second, even though they were early in their journey, the founders had a clear vision. We believed in their vision to bring AI into how insurance companies manage the risks associated with an ever-changing world, including the elevated frequency of damaging weather events caused by climate change. They concluded that the best way to achieve this was through a federated learning mechanism (hence the name Federato) that would allow insurance companies to benefit from their own data, as well as other entities’ and insurance companies’ data, safely. We also appreciated that their solution delivered a simple, convenient, and beautiful UX experience, where every interaction was optimized for the user. 
  • Third, we believed in the team from the get go. In their early days, they described themselves as “two deeply passionate, data science/product people who came together to do something about climate change with machine learning.”  Will conceived of the concept behind Federato when he was an Associate at Venrock and William built ML models for the insurance industry at his prior startup, Building Blocks. Together, they researched and deeply understood the space. They didn’t just bring us an idea on a slide deck, but instead they brought a thoroughly thought out plan with multiple in-depth customer interviews, a light proof of concept built on publicly available data, and a clear understanding of the end user and end buyer. We could see that this was a team with a clear analytical mind and a bias for action, which is a rare occurrence.

During PearX, the team coined the term RiskOps, which is about realizing that risk cannot be priced without taking distribution into account. This is a tricky concept to explain clearly, but we worked closely with them to articulate this vision at Demo Day. We also partnered closely with Will and William in developing the first version of their operational underwriting software that continuously monitors risk at every underwriting decision, rather than only a few times per year. Arash and I remember working together to create hand drawn mockups of their initial software over long Zoom meetings during the height of Covid lockdowns. 

Federato’s Co-founder Will presented to thousands of investors during PearX’s first ever virtual Demo Day at the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020.

Shortly after presenting at Pear’s S20 virtual Demo Day, Federato closed a Seed round led by Caffeinated Capital. Between their Seed and Series A rounds, we worked with them on important company-building milestones, like refining the product, building a strong company culture, and navigating long sales cycles through acquiring their first few customers. 

We also helped the Federato team prepare for a successful Series A raise through our Series A Bootcamp. They successfully raised their Series A from Emergence in 2022. 

Federato sharing their vision and progress with Pear’s team and investors in 2022.

In less than a year following the Series A raise, Federato proved itself even more. They truly became an economically efficient marketplace that connects data to the value it can actually create in underwriting. In this year, Federato team tripled their customer base, doubled their spend with existing customers, and entered new segments. 

Riding off of this strong momentum, they just closed their Series B round from Caffeinated, Emergence, and Pear, and we’re excited to continue working with Will, William, and the entire (growing!) Federato team on their mission to modernize the insurance industry!

Generative AI Tech Stack

We recently launched a dedicated AI track to the PearX program and have received a great response. Founders often ask us for guidance on how to build a moat for their AI startup. There are many aspects to this question but to kick things off, we are sharing a presentation I gave at SF Tech Week that covers background on the emergence of Generative AI, the highest priority areas of application particularly in enterprises, and what we believe enables a ‘moat’ for AI startups.

Generative AI Tech Stack Presentation at SF Tech Week

Generative AI is a game changing technology for humanity. A quote from one of my heroes, Professor Fei Fei Li at Stanford, and also was head of AI at Google Cloud for a while captures the excitement well:

“Endowing machines with generative capabilities, has been a dream for many generations of AI scientists” 

Seminal technologies which have led to the recent Generative AI breakthroughs include Cloud computing and within that advancements in GPUs, Kubernetes and open source frameworks like PyTorch provide an efficient and widely accessible substrate for model training and inference.

Research breakthroughs on the transformer neural network, its use on internet scale datasets and recent advancements in AI alignment are at the heart of most of the Generative AI capabilities today.

By no means are we at a peak yet, as research continues to improve efficiency at the hardware, software and services layers. Most interestingly to increase context lengths and optimize AI application architectures for accuracy, latency, and reliability. We cover some of these topics in depth in our Perspectives on AI fireside series.

It is clear that Generative AI techniques apply to multiple modalities. There has been a steady stream of models, both open source and proprietary in the major areas of NLP, Image, Video, Voice and also physical synthesis of Proteins.

Applications to both consumer and enterprise software abound and are already starting to change the shape of what software can do. We highlight some of the opportunities to build vertical and horizontal applications as well as tooling and infrastructure.

Of course there is hype when it comes to Generative AI, and in some sense it is almost too easy to create new functionality by building a thin layer over a foundation model that somebody else has built. While there are some businesses to be built in that way, for a venture scale business, we posit that a deeper moat is required to build. A large business that benefits rather than crumbles from rapid evolution of technology at the lower layers of the AI stack requires several moats.

Our thesis is that Applications will be composed of ensembles of specialized models, not just foundation models, but specialized models that are customized via fine tuning or in-context learning or a range of other techniques to complete part of a use case or workflow. These specialized models should utilize proprietary data specific to a domain and help to personalize the output of the application as well as ensure accuracy. A by product may also be lower cost to serve. Overall such an architecture will be a way to build lasting value and be more immune to disruption.

Tooling and infrastructure supporting the development of new applications of this kind is second part of our investment thesis. In particular, data and tooling companies to evaluate and ensure safety, accuracy, and privacy of these applications will be in demand. Lastly a few new infrastructure companies and capabilities will advance the development of these applications. We see emerging companies at every layer of the AI stack (slide 9). With that thesis in mind,  building a moat is fundamentally not that different in AI than in any other emerging space (slide 10).

Enterprise readiness for adoption of AI is arguably higher than it has ever been with the widespread acceptance of cloud computing, API integrations, and existing investments in data analytics teams and software. The hurdles to enterprise adoption are also not new, these are the same requirements that any cloud service has to meet, with perhaps a stronger need for ease of use and simplicity given the lack of existing AI/ML talent.

We conclude by quoting what many others have already said, that this is a great time to start a company!