Introducing PearX: a new era of the Pear Accelerator

At Pear, we have been leading pre-seed rounds in very early stage companies for the last 9 years. These pre-seed companies have typically participated in our Accelerator program, which was developed as a bootcamp for ambitious founders with high potential ideas. Through this program, we help founders pick the best idea, build the highest potential product, find the right market, and lay the foundations for a venture backable company.

Pear Accelerator has been the birthplace of category-defining companies like Affinity, Xilis, Capella Space, Nova Credit, Cardless, Viz.ai, and more. To date, we’ve invested in 120 companies at the pre-seed stage including Branch and Aurora Solar. In total, our pre-seed investments are now valued at nearly $10B. 

Today, we’re excited to announce that Pear Accelerator will now be known as PearX, an early-stage bootcamp. In addition to the name change, we’re expanding our pre-seed offering by investing up to $2M in companies that apply to the program. 

By expanding check sizes up to $2M, we’re now able to accept a wider range of founders into PearX. Some founders come to us while they’re still ideating on a company concept, yet others have products live and have demonstrated early traction, but still need help with critical company-building steps like recruiting or go-to-market. A larger initial check will enable to us to include a wider range of companies into PearX.

PearX had humble beginnings. 8 years ago, a few students in Pear Garage wanted to keep working on their projects through the summer. We wrote them a $25k uncapped note, and by the next year, we had an Accelerator program with a Demo Day that made headlines. Today, PearX is a core part of what defines Pear. 

Affinity Co-founders Ray Zhou and Shubham Goel started the company through Pear Garage and Pear Accelerator.

We invest in people, and the name “Accelerator” didn’t quite capture our high-touch, hands-on approach to what that means. As a team almost entirely composed of founders across a variety of sectors, we’ve been in your shoes before. You’ll meet with the team several times a week and have two partners dedicated to you. We’re in the trenches right next to you, helping you find your co-founder, hone in on product-market fit, craft the right pitch— whatever variable makes the biggest impact to your company.

Today’s markets are shifting faster than ever before, and Pear is dedicated to evolving alongside them. We invest across the board from AI/ML to consumer to healthcare and more, and we accept teams in various stages of progress. Our program employs an all-star cast of mentors and culminates in a Demo Day to thousands of investors where 85% of our companies end up raising from tier 1 institutional investors. 

PearX founders receive hands on support from the entire Pear team.

Eight years ago, we couldn’t have imagined what PearX would become, but no program exists that has a higher conversion rate from pre-seed to seed. We’ve developed an intimate, high-touch bootcamp to help the most ambitious founders build the next generation of groundbreaking companies – and the best is yet to come. 

Out of 120 companies that we have pre-seeded, 15 are worth $100m, and 3 are worth over $1b. You could be next— apply to be a part of the next PearX cohort here

Interested in learning more? Read more about PearX on our website and check out case studies from PearX companies Xilis, Bonfire, and Gathermade.

Welcoming Ilian Georgiev to Pear as our newest Visiting Partner

We’re excited to announce that Ilian Georgiev has joined Pear as a Visiting Partner! An experienced operator who recently sold his company Charlie to Chime, Ilian will be working with Pear companies to share his insights in fintech, consumer, and beyond.

Like everyone at Pear, Ilian is a builder first, investor second. 

After getting his MBA at Stanford, he spent several years in the gaming industry as a Product Manager at Pocket Gems, launching games like Paradise Cove and Episode to 100m+ users, and Head of Product at Chobolabs, focusing on mobile e-sport games.

Taking what he learned in gaming, Ilian spent the next 5 years building Charlie, an AI personal finance service. The goal was to “help ordinary Americans worry less about money and get out of debt faster, where the word ordinary Americans is actually key,” shares Ilian. Last fall, Charlie joined Chime

Come January, Ilian was ready for his next step. He was prepared to dive back into building a company when a friend gave an unexpectedly impactful recommendation: spend 2 weeks without a plan and see what happens.

 “At the end of those 2 weeks, I looked back and somehow I had talked to 20 different founders, helping them figure out how to find product market fit or how to fundraise or how to recruit… I wasn’t focused on going into venture, but I was focused on helping out founders.”

For the last 20 years, Ilian’s guiding questions have been: 

  1. How to Develop New Products: What frameworks, priorities, and leadership maximize your odds of building something new that people will love?
  2. How to Build Culture: How do you create an environment where good people belong and do their best work?

Moving from operating to investing is Ilian’s transition to exploring these questions with breadth rather than depth. He specifically wanted to join Pear for three reasons: 1) Pear is good people and that attracts good people, 2) Pear is collaborative, and 3) Pear is exclusively early-stage. Just like it takes a team to build a great company, it also takes a team effort to find and support early-stage founders.

Ilian’s advice for early-stage founders: 

“The most important thing, especially for people who have had a long history of success who then decide to become founders, is to recognize that strengths are infinitely more important than weaknesses.” 

Ilian shares that it’s important for founders to break the mindset that they need to first focus on what’s broken— even if you manage to fix everything that isn’t working, all you’ll get is perfect mediocrity. A great product does not do everything; it does one thing exceptionally. Focus on what’s working and double down on it. 

Ilian is working with our Accelerator, consumer, and fintech companies. Connect with him at ilian@pear.vc.

That’s a wrap: 2022 LA Tech Week

Last month, we were thrilled to be in Los Angeles for the inaugural LA Tech Week. There were over 15,000 people who joined events across LA throughout the week, and it was truly invigorating to meet so many LA-based founders.

We attended several events and hosted two events of our own:

Female Founders Brunch with Mar 

2022 LA Tech Week
Female Founders with Mar

At Pear, supporting and promoting diversity within the tech world is near and dear to our hearts. Our Founding Managing Partner Mar is a 3x founder herself, our Principal Vivien runs a Female Founders Circle program, and our entire firm is dedicated to building community, creating connections, sparking inspiration, and paving the way for the next generation of female founders. 

During LA Tech Week, we gathered a stellar group of 35 LA-based female founders at The Santa Monica Proper for an Ask Me Anything-style brunch. The event was anchored by a discussion from Mar, who shared her perspective and lessons learned on company building. We then opened the floor for questions and had a candid conversation about the ins and outs of building a startup from the ground up.

DoorDash founding story with Stanley Tang

Pejman Nozad (Pear) and Stanley Tang (DoorDash)

We specialize in backing early stage companies, because we love to work with outstanding people and help them realize their full potential. We met the DoorDash team when they were still students at Stanford, wrote the first check into their company, which was initially called PaloAltoDelivery.com, and we supported them every step of the way to their IPO in 2020. 

We hosted a brunch for 175 people at The Shangri-La Hotel for a lively discussion between Pear’s Founding Managing Partner, Pejman Nozad, and Co-Founder and CPO of DoorDash, Stanley Tang. They discussed DoorDash’s founding story, the trials and tribulations the founders faced to get the company off the ground, the DoorDash philosophy on team growth and management, and Stan’s lessons learned along the way.

We absolutely loved being on the ground in LA and can’t wait to come back!

Welcoming Nate Hirsch to the talent team

We’re excited to introduce the newest addition to the Pear Family— Nate Hirsch. 

At Pear, we know that providing founders hands-on, top-tier support requires more than just capital. To take a company from zero to one, the first few hires are critical. A few months ago, we brought on our Talent Partner Matt Birnbaum to help our early-stage portfolio companies, and we’re excited for Nate to join the ranks. 

Nate has been in tech recruiting since his first steps in Silicon Valley over 10 years ago, starting at a boutique agency specializing in engineering recruiting for early stage startups. He joined Uber in 2015 as one the first members of the technical recruiting team. Nate made hundreds of technical hires in engineering, TPM, product and data science across all levels from university to leadership, and by the time he left, Uber had scaled to over 30,000 employees. He departed Uber In 2018 to join Facebook (now Meta) to further explore technical recruiting at scale. During his tenure at Facebook, he built processes and best practices for a recruiting function that hired over a thousand engineering leaders. 

We believe that recruiting is the backbone of success for any company, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have Nate and his extensive experience on board. Pear is committed to supporting our founders every step of the way, including hiring, and our recruiting team is only just getting started. 

Learn more about Nate’s background on our website. You can find him on LinkedIn. If you’re interested in connecting with Nate, shoot him an email at nate@pear.vc.

Welcoming Jill Puente as our Marketing Partner

Jill Puente

We’re excited to share that Jill Puente recently joined the Pear ranks as our Marketing Partner. She’ll play an integral role at Pear, helping lead all of our marketing programs, communications, and content. Jill has an extensive background, with experience across all facets of marketing, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her on board. 

As Pear continues to grow, marketing has become a critical function to increase the profile of the firm, as well as supporting our founders to help them grow their own marketing efforts. In her short time with us, Jill has been diving into Pear’s content strategy, messaging and positioning, media and PR, and critical marketing events and programs. We’re excited for Jill to work closely with the entire Pear team to enhance the visibility of the amazing work happening in our firm and to add an essential perspective to our portfolio companies.

Jill has worked across all areas of marketing: brand marketing, product marketing, growth marketing, and communications. Most recently, Jill spent 10 years at Google, where she led marketing efforts for teams like Sustainability, Google Fiber, and Google One. Prior to that, she was an early employee at Wildfire Interactive, a social media startup acquired by Google in 2012. Learn more about Jill’s full bio on our website.  

Jill lives in San Francisco with her husband Lucas, sons Nico (4.5) and Felix (1.5), and dog Scout. You can find her on Twitter (@jillianpuente) and on LinkedIn. If you’re interested in connecting with Jill, please email her at jill@pear.vc

Building an effective sales strategy: Part 3 – Crafting the perfect customer pitch

Pear’s Partner, Pepe Agell, learned the importance of mastering sales during his entrepreneurial journey with Chartboost, a mobile advertising company. Pepe led Chartboost and built sales and go-to-market strategy for the company from its earliest days to its acquisition by Zynga in 2021. He is now a Partner at Pear VC, based in Barcelona and focused on Pear Europe.

This is the third part of our three-part series on building an effective sales strategy, focused on three essential stages of the sales process founders need to master. Before diving into part two, don’t miss part one and part two!

Now that you’ve learned how to run your client meetings effectively, let’s talk about how to construct the perfect sales pitch.

One of the most common mistakes I see is that sales people will often launch into the finer details of the product offering without sharing the bigger vision first and the impact that the solution can have in the customer’s life. Here is how I recommend structuring your pitch to most effectively close deals:

1. When pitching to a client, start with the why before focusing on the how or what.

After you gather as much information as possible from your client, you are ready to pitch your product. I like to follow the why, how, what method.

Simon Sinek has a well-known TED talk all about how great leaders talk about their products by leading with the why. I go back to this TED talk all the time, and I’ve found that the same framework can be applied in sales when talking to clients about your product or solution.

Why: You should lead with a strong explanation of why your solution is the best for the customer. This can include who you are, what is happening in the market, the challenges you’re solving for, and why the customer should listen to you.

Example of a strong why statement:After watching my dad go through diabetes and battle with insurance companies to get the treatment he needed, I was compelled to start a company that made it easier for elderly adults to navigate the health care system. I found that I had to be my dad’s advocate, calling and negotiating on his behalf, and I realized that not every older adult had that same support system.”

How: Next you can explain how you’re solving the problem the customer has, what your approach is, and some of the details about the product.

Example of a strong how statement: “We decided to build a marketplace where patients could easily onboard their medical information and get paired with the most suitable insurance provider in just few minutes.”

What: Finally you can dive into the what, really explaining what benefit your customers will receive with your help (revenue growth, etc.) and the specific features you offer.

Example of a strong what statement: “For every patient request we get on the platform, we process thousands of insurance quotes and select the most appropriate one for each case. We manage the contractual process, payments and medical claims. All in one mobile app.”

2. Get to a demo as quickly as possible.

Product demos help clients picture your solution in their daily workflows. It is also a clear way of visualizing how are you really solving their problems. From my experience, aha moments and even wow moments in a sales pitch happen during the course of the demo, not while going through slides. That’s why, I strongly recommend to get to the demo part as quickly as possible.

3. While explaining your product to the client, integrate your client into the story.

Slides need to connect to each other through an overarching narrative or story. It’s also important to bring your client along on the journey.

I’ve seen many salespeople feature the client’s logo on the opening slide. That’s great, but it’s much more impactful if you bring the client into your entire story. You can feature pictures of their products, their people, and statements they’ve made. Don’t forget to clearly explain what’s it in for that particular customer or for similar companies that are already working with you (see next point). Remember that your clients don’t care about your product features but the impact that you will have in their day to day.

4. Show proof of benefits from other clients.

I’ve found that it helps to share how other clients have found success with your product, but I recommend talking from a client’s perspective.

Instead of saying: “Our product is really strong at automation, and that’s why clients go with us.”

Try something like: “Clients in a similar growth phase experienced exactly the same pain points, but by implementing our automation tools, they were able to become 50% more efficient.”

5. Explain the next steps and how to get there.

Make sure you clearly explain the onboarding process, using screen shots where necessary, so the clients can really grasp what onboarding your product actually looks like. You should clearly explain how long it will take for the client to go live with your product. Also, if you haven’t already discussed pricing, make sure you do that before you wrap up.

6. Engage your audience meaningfully.

During the sales pitch you shouldn’t just ask “Any questions?” Instead, you’ll get more engagement if you ask meaningful questions like “Does this resonate with you?” or “Do you experience something similar?”

To sum it up, all founders have to implement a successful sales strategy in order to truly succeed. These are the best strategies I’ve developed while building and leading sales teams across regions. I hope they help you be more effective in getting new customers and growing revenue. And remember that “when the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion. You fall to the highest level of preparation.”

This is part three in our series on sales!

If you’re interested in hearing more Pear news and seeing more posts like this, please subscribe in the footer below. We won’t spam you, and it’s easy to unsubscribe at anytime.

Building an effective sales strategy: Part 2 – Preparing for a customer meeting and leading it effectively

Pear’s Partner, Pepe Agell, learned the importance of mastering sales during his entrepreneurial journey with Chartboost, a mobile advertising company. Pepe led Chartboost and built sales and go-to-market strategy for the company from its earliest days to its acquisition by Zynga in 2021. He is now a Partner at Pear VC, based in Barcelona and focused on Pear Europe.

This is the second part of our three-part series on building an effective sales strategy, focused on three essential stages of the sales process that founders need to master. Before diving into part two, don’t miss part one!

Once your outbound sales efforts have been successful, it’s time to prepare for the meeting and lead it effectively. That starts with thinking carefully about how to use the short amount of time that you have with a client. My suggestion is to allocate your time according to the Pear Guide for Sales Meetings.

The Pear Guide for Sales Meetings

Now let’s double click into some of these steps. Here are a few of the strategies I find effective:

1. Before you even meet with the client, try to diagnose their needs, priorities, and budget. This will set you up for success in the meeting.

Aim to walk into the meeting with a solid understanding of the client’s needs. This will allow you to better understand the opportunities that exist within the company you’re selling to. Specifically, you should:

Learn the basics of the company: make sure to look at the company’s website, Crunchbase profile, and social media pages like LinkedIn, Youtube, and Twitter to understand the stage of growth and number of employees.

Assess the client’s strengths, problems, and pain points: take their products for a spin so you can understand the benefits and challenges first hand. Try to assess how your product could add value to what they’re already doing. If it’s a larger public company that you’re selling to, you should listen to their earnings call or read their investor relations report to learn about the company first-hand from its leadership.

Determine whether it would be beneficial to add a C-level team member in the meeting: as you grow, you can leverage the meeting opportunity to include a VP or C-level executive from your side. This might push the client to include an executive or ultimate decision maker from their side as well, making it easier to close the deal.

2. Set yourself up for success before a virtual meeting begins.

Test the Zoom or Google Meet settings 5 minutes before the call begins. Make sure to setup your tabs for the meeting and turn off all notifications on your phone. You should send a courtesy email with a reminder of the dial-in information. And finally, make sure to send any relevant documents or materials to attendees ahead of time.

3. Kickoff the meeting with introductions and take some time to connect personally with attendees.

It’s a good idea to hop on a little early and make small talk with attendees as they’re logging on. Having a good rapport with your clients can go a long way in relationship building.

Once everyone logs on, introduce yourself properly and let others on the call introduce themselves. You should quickly verify the end time of the meeting so you can pace the meeting appropriately.

From there, I advise going through the agenda and sharing your top-line goals with the clients. You should also inquire about any goals they might have for the meeting. This is an important step, but I wouldn’t spend more than 2-3 minutes in total on this. Then dive in!

4. Discover and learn by using the SPIN method to uncover what the client’s true needs are.

Now that you’ve learned as much information as possible about the client and their needs ahead of time, you can put your best foot forward in the meeting. I like to follow the SPIN method to lead a client meeting.

The acronym SPIN refers to the four types of questions that guide sales conversations: Situation, Problem, Implication and Need. You want to breeze through the S and P questions, and really focus on the I and N questions to get the most out of your meeting.

S: Situation Questions – these questions help you understand the basic facts around the client. In my experience, the questions that fall into this category add very little value to a meeting, and most of these questions can be answered in your own background research ahead of time. My advice is to spend as little time as possible here. Example of a situation question: “How many people do you have on your team?”

P: Problem Questions – rather than focusing on situation questions for a long time, you want to jump into problem questions as soon as possible. Problem questions probe clients on the challenges they’re facing in their day to day and with their current product solution, if they have one. You should be careful not to offend the client, in case they were the one who previously decided on the tool or service being used. Example of a problem question: “What are you missing most in your current solution? Does your current tool ever fail?”

I: Implication Questions – after assessing the problems the team is having, you can really dig into the implications and consequences of those problems on their business. This helps to demonstrate why they need to make a change. Example of an implication question: “What’s the productivity cost when the solution fails? ”

N: Need Questions – these questions are designed to uncover the core needs of the prospective client, the benefits they are looking for out of their next solution, and to guide the client to see the benefit of your product or service as a better solution. Example of a need question: “Wouldn’t it be simpler if the process were automated?”

5. Summarize the learnings and then dive into a demo to share information about your company.

Quickly read back what you heard from the client. Example of a read back: “To make sure that I captured your needs correctly, you are currently missing an automated solution?”

From there, it’s time to dive into your presentation of your company. Share your screen and give a demo to your clients, if possible. Throughout the demo, you can link back to the client’s needs. Example of this: “To your point that productivity costs are high, we believed in keeping costs low by [XYZ solution].”

It also helps to share use cases and case studies of other companies and how they found success with your product.

6. Leave time for answering the client’s questions and to do a proper close.

Summarize your findings and some key points. I find a three-point summary works great, but I try to never make it longer than three points.

Thank everyone for their time, and follow up on next steps. Try to have concrete next steps, and again, no more than three.

You should verify that all goals were met and that the clients don’t have any outstanding questions about the product. Log off the meeting (and make sure everything is logged off, like screen sharing).

7. Send a quick follow up note.

After a sales pitch, schedule a few minutes on your calendar to send follow up notes. I recommend make it a bit fun and memorable (i.e. add a picture of the meeting, or your team using the customer’s product…). Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good – timeliness matters, and it’s better to send a good follow up email quickly vs. a perfect follow up email a week later.

Make sure you also save some time to debrief with team members on your side to plan next steps.

In conclusion, you want to be prepared walking into a client meeting, and you should be extremely thoughtful on how you spend your time in the meeting itself. In part three of this series, we’ll dive deeper into how to craft the perfect sales pitch.

This is part two of a three part series on sales. Stay tuned for more!

If you’re interested in hearing more Pear news and seeing more posts like this, please subscribe in the footer below. We won’t spam you, and it’s easy to unsubscribe at anytime.

Building an effective sales strategy for startups: Part 1 – Mastering a customer-centric sales approach and outreach strategy

Pear’s Partner, Pepe Agell, learned the importance of mastering sales during his entrepreneurial journey with Chartboost, a mobile advertising company. Pepe led Chartboost and built sales and go-to-market strategy for the company from its earliest days to its acquisition by Zynga in 2021. He is now a Partner at Pear VC, based in Barcelona and focused on Pear Europe.

One of the biggest obstacles founders face early in their journeys is building a successful sales strategy. To take your company from 0 to 1 requires putting the customer at the center of what you do and building momentum in sales and product adoption. Whether they like it or not, founders are forced to wear a salesperson hat. To make their job easier, I’m excited to share a few of the lessons I learned over my decade leading sales for Chartboost.

1. Think about the Law of 250 to remember that each and every interaction with a prospective client is critical.

Joe Girard is acknowledged as the world’s greatest salesman, and he famously coined the Law of 250, which he believed to be the radius of influence for an average person.

The basic principle is that if you do a crummy job of selling your product, you could potentially lose 250 more customers. If you do a great job, you could potentially gain 250 more customers.

You might only get one shot to make an impression, so you have to prepare yourself for each and every interaction you have with a prospective customer.

2. Remember that HOW you sell is as much of a differentiator as WHAT you sell.

Founders focus on perfecting their product and service offerings for good reason – it’s critical to success. But, in my experience, founders often don’t carve out enough time for getting to know their target customers and crafting a sales strategy that reaches the right people in the right way.

The more you know about a client, the more leverage you have. The key to learning more is to research your clients, identify what they need to achieve, understand the impact your product or service can have on their business, and then engage your clients in a meaningful way.

3. Adopt a customer-centric sales approach every step of the way: don’t simply sell your products and features, sell the impact your product will have on helping your customer’s business improve.

Try to understand what is going on inside your client’s organization: What are their objectives? What are their obstacles? What stage of the journey are your clients on?

This can be easier said than done, so I like to break down this customer-centric sales approach into 4 buckets, which I call the 4 D’s:

Discovery: research and prepare for client interactions

Diagnose: identify where the areas of opportunity exist within the client’s organization

Design: create a proposal with the pitch tailored to the solutions your client needs

Deliver: clearly share your vision and close the deal

4. We operate in a social world. Put your best foot forward online.

First impressions matter. Your clients are very likely to look up your online profiles, so make sure you are building your online presence in a professional and clear way. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile with an updated photo (professional and smiling), a tagline or title that captures what you are passionate about, and share a clear blurb about your company story and what you’re trying to achieve. Put simply, don’t make a prospective client dig for information about what you’re selling, but rather make it easy to access and understand.

Establish contact with prospective clients. Don’t connect on LinkedIn blindly, but instead, send a quick note with context to make a connection. If you have a mutual contact with a strong connection with a potential client, you can ask for an introduction. Alternatively, you could just reach out and mention the common connection without directly asking that person for an introduction. These tactics boost the chances that the client will respond or accept your invitation to connect.

5. Be really thoughtful about how to structure your outbound messages and emails: aim to be clear, concise, and personal.

The shorter the email, the better. My rule of thumb is for a email to take no more than 30 seconds to read. If you can get your message across in 15 seconds, that’s even better.

In terms of what to say in the email, I suggest following the 3 R’s method to construct your outreach message:

Research: share more about what you learned in your research. Example: I can imagine you’re very busy right now with the success of your current [XYZ product] hitting the market.

Reference: reference an existing client or situation that relates to them, or something else. Example: We have several tools that might be helpful to you as you continue to scale [XYZ product] offering.

Request: state a clear request at the end: a meeting, a call, or whatever your hope to do. Example: Let me know if you are free tomorrow to discuss more.

6. Don’t overlook the importance of the sales meeting calendar invite. The invite itself is a powerful sales tool.

Once your client agrees to chat more, you have to get to work on making the best first impression. Creating a quality meeting invitation sets the tone for the meeting and creates brand awareness for your company. To put your best foot forward in the invite: state a goal of the meeting, add any relevant context, share any useful resources (example: a one pager of the product you’ll be pitching), include dial in information (and test out the dial in 5 minutes before the meeting begins), and include a backup phone number in case the dial in fails.

Your client may accept the invitation and add other team members to the invite. This will give you an opportunity to do some background research prior to the meeting to better understand who is on the team and who the decision makers in the room might be.

Carefully and thoughtfully compiling the invite will allow you to build brand awareness and create understanding and camaraderie, before even have your first meeting.

7. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.

I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s worth underlining. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of preparation in the sales outreach process. You never want to wing an interaction with a client. The more you know about who you’re talking to, the clients vision and strategy, and the size of the opportunity, the more successful you’ll be.

In conclusion, these seven concrete steps can help you to become more customer-centric in your sales approach and outreach strategy. This is just the beginning of what you need to do to be successful on your sales journey.

In part two, you’ll build on the lessons you learned in part one, and we’ll move into the phase of the sales process where you’ll learn how to prepare for a customer meeting and effectively lead the meeting.

This is part one of a three part series on sales. Stay tuned for more!

If you’re interested in hearing more Pear news and seeing more posts like this, please subscribe in the footer below. We won’t spam you, and it’s easy to unsubscribe at anytime.

Welcoming Eddie Eltoukhy as our Biotech Partner

We are extremely excited to announce Eddie Eltoukhy as our latest Partner, heading up our investments across Biotech and life sciences.

As a firm, Pear has already made some big investments in Biotech, including Guardant Health (NASDAQ: GH), Senti Bio (Series B, led by Bayer LEAPS, and going public soon), BioAge (Series C, led by A16z), Xillis (Series A, led by GV, Mubadala), and many more.

By bringing Eddie onboard as a Partner, we’re doubling down on Pear’s effort to back the next generation of innovative life science companies. Why? Because it’s estimated that the Biotech industry will be worth $2.4T by 2028, growing on the macro tailwinds of an expanding healthcare sector, favorable government and regulatory initiatives, and rising R&D investment by public and private agencies. This potential is boosted by technology trends such as plummeting DNA synthesis and sequencing costs, the advancement of AI / ML, and the increasing adoption of synthetic biology at scale.

We believe that no firm has yet to build the ideal pre-seed and seed stage investment partnership for Biotech founders, and with Eddie at the helm, we are determined to be that firm. We’ve known Eddie since he joined our portfolio company, Senti Bio, as its first business hire. Eddie oversaw Senti Bio’s growth, from seed stage to public financing, and he helped drive the execution of major biopharma partnerships with Spark Therapeutics (Roche) and BlueRock Therapeutics (Bayer). He brings both business acumen and scientific depth, with a PhD in Biological Engineering from MIT under the guidance of Professors Robert Langer and Daniel Anderson and an MBA from Stanford. Eddie also has experience at Roche / Genentech and Kala Pharmaceuticals. Learn more about Eddie’s full bio on our website.

Eddie is passionate about cutting-edge life sciences technologies, and he loves working to support visionary founders on their missions to transform human health. We’ve seen first hand what Eddie can do through our work together, and we’re confident his experience will be incredibly beneficial to both the Pear team and our founders. If you’re working on a new project in the Biotech space, please reach out to Eddie to chat more!

Welcoming Arpan Shah back to Pear as our newest Visiting Partner

We’re excited to announce that Arpan Shah has joined Pear as a FinTech Visiting Partner! He’s working with Pear companies to share his learnings earned through founding and selling his financial APIs company to Plaid, as well as leading engineering at Robinhood for over 5 years. We’re incredibly glad to be working with him again many years after he graduated from our first Pear Stanford Garage cohort in 2014.

When we started Pear Stanford Garage in 2014, Arpan Shah was among the first 12 members in our inaugural cohort. “There were a few things that I found really fun and exciting in particular: getting a chance to meet with a lot of founders, figuring out approaches to early product, iterating on products, fundraising, timing, team building— the elements which go into starting an early early company. I learned a lot of that through the conversations, talks, and sessions that we had at Garage.” We’re so excited to partner with Arpan as a Visiting Partner and have his support for our Winter Accelerator!

After earning a Masters in Computer Science at Stanford, Arpan joined Robinhood as an early engineer in the founding team. “Pear played a role in that; I really felt like a lot of value could be created by being part of something super early. I ended up joining Robinhood at the time because I felt like finance was a big part of all of our lives,” Arpan says. “I was particularly excited because I’d always found investing to be hard in the US.” 

Arpan eventually became the Head of Data Platform and Data Products at Robinhood, leading a team of 40+ engineers and engineering managers. “I helped start the data team there, and I grew that into areas like risk and fraud, growth and marketing, data products like search, newsfeed, various aspects of the crypto product, data infrastructure, experimentation, and data platforms.”

“In October 2020, I started Flannel. I had seen a lot of the challenges of money moving in the US being super slow,” Arpan says. “My co-founder and I really felt like we could make that a lot better by leveraging some of the more modern payment methods that were starting to emerge.” Flannel raised a $6.3m seed from Accel and Index, launched an early product, and last March, Arpan sold the company to Plaid

Throughout the years, Arpan has been angel investing across companies in investing, insurance tech, lending, financial access. “The thing that I’m hoping to bring as a Visiting Partner to Pear is a lot of my FinTech experience— the network I have amongst FinTech practitioners and entrepreneurs as well as helping inform appropriate methods to grow businesses and partner with companies.”

Arpan’s tips for early-stage founders

Hire for relevant experience in the here and now of what you’re working on. 

  • In early startups, one of the really important things is to hire for the very near term— trying to solve the problems of the here and now. Early founders often think about bringing in someone who has a ton of experience at really large organizations. Oftentimes, those lessons aren’t super applicable or don’t translate well compared to someone who’s been through this early stage phase of development.
  • Engineering leadership is critical to hiring early on. Focus on hiring folks who are high growth; experience is not as important, it’s much more important that they can really, really execute at this stage of the company. If you’re looking for experience, I think the experience that makes a lot of sense is people who have worked through the stage of the company you’re in. 

Understand the regulatory landscape of the space you’re operating in.

  • If you’re in insurance tech, understanding how insurance regulation works is super important. If you’re in the brokerage or investing space, understanding how FINRA and SEC largely regulate those industries is really important. If you’re in the payment space, understand how the money transmitter licenses or money services business regulations work really well.
  • The biggest challenge fintech companies often face, which we did as well, is figuring out how to navigate regulation effectively. A key hire that people often don’t think about is bringing in someone with a background to ensure that their product from the very early stages is compliant. Oftentimes, FinTech founders get tripped up because they think they can move as quickly as a lot of their peers. The “move fast break things” model that people often think they can do in other industries doesn’t quite work as cleanly for FinTech. FinTech founders may need a little bit more patience and understanding that a big part of the landscape is not just the product and how you succeed in getting customers, but also how you succeed in navigating the regulatory landscape.

Find the right partners for the journey.

  • People think really carefully about founding teams, but I think it’s also really important to partner with investors who really understand early stage company building. And not every investor does. One of the big aspects about successful alignment between investor and founder is investors who can understand that the early part of the company building process is messy, and so they’re willing to get into that mess with you to help solve those problems with you. 

“I’m really, really looking forward to working with founders who are building really innovative products that help expand what is possible here in the US when it comes to financial access or financial products,” says Arpan. “When you look at a lot of the other parts of the world, it’s remarkable how much innovation has happened in the financial landscape over the last decade. I think a lot of people think that we’re in the last legs of it, but honestly, I think we’re just getting started. I’m really excited to see all the exciting innovative stuff people can come up with, especially as newer ecosystems like crypto get unlocked and better infrastructure comes online.”

Connect with Arpan at arpan@pear.vc and on Twitter @arpanshah29!