PearX S20 alumni company Sequel receives FDA approval

On August 3rd, PearX S20 alum Sequel, received FDA approval. Sequel’s co-founders, Greta Meyer and Amanda Calabrese, worked hard to develop their product and work through the FDA clearance process. This can be a grueling process, so it’s truly a huge milestone for Sequel to be able to launch their FDA-approved tampons. We wanted to mark the occasion by looking back on our journey working with the Sequel team.

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Founders, Greta Meyer and Amanda Calabrese

We met Sequel co-founders, Greta Meyer and Amanda Calabrese, when they were still students at Stanford. They were both undergraduate engineering students, where they participated in the LaunchPad d-school course in 2018 to design and launch a product. They were both professional athletes that had lived first hand, menstruation leaks during practice or worse an athletic tournament. Mar was tasked with helping them refine their fundraising pitch and this is how our partnership with Sequel got started. 

Sequel  joined our PearX S20 cohort, right at the start of the pandemic, when they were still called Tempo. And even though it was unexpectedly a virtual cohort, it was an outstanding PearX class, with many other breakout companies like: Seven Starling, Interface Bio, Federato, Expedock, Gryps, and rePurpose Global. 

PearX check-in during Covid.

After meeting Amanda and Greta, we chose to invest in Sequel for a few key reasons:

Big market opportunity:

Greta and Amanda were both superstar athletes and had a pain point: menstruation products are still not reliable for women. While participating in the Launchpad course, they dug into this more to see if others felt the same way. They learned that most women still prefer a tampon to all of the options out there, but they unveiled a common frustration for women: they had to combine their tampons with pads or pantyliners to avoid leaks. Amanda and Greta realized that, while the tampon had been around for ages, it hadn’t seen any innovation in nearly a century. They saw a big opportunity to build a women’s health company that was focused on innovating this big, unmet need for women. 

Their product vision:

We were excited about their mission and vision: to re-engineer the tampon. For their product, the two engineers envisioned a redesign of a tampon in a spiral-shape to fit more comfortably and better absorb periods to prevent leaks. They designed and patented their design, so it’s truly proprietary. We really liked the product innovation and their vision to shake up an old industry that’s dominated by a few huge players like Tampax. 

The founders:

Greta and Amanda were stellar founders and superstar athletes too: Amanda competes for the US Lifesaving Association and Greta played Varsity Lacrosse while at Stanford. They had first hand experience with tampons failing them while being active, and we loved that they were both extremely purpose-driven. 

Amanda and Greta presenting during Demo Day

During PearX, they built out a pretty robust go-to-market strategy, assembled influencers, and started a beta program. They got a quality system up and running to prepare for FDA testing. They were able to beta test with 75+ users before PearX Demo Day. They presented to thousands of investors at Pear Demo Day and raised a seed round from MaC VC, Long Journey Ventures, and others.

Since participating in PearX, they’ve had a number of exciting wins. Greta and Amanda were included on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for manufacturing and industry. Amanda moderated a SXSW panel on content creators and stigmatized spaces. And they received positive press from Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and others. 

With FDA approval behind them, we are excited for the Sequel team to be able to focus on commercialization and getting their product out in the world. We know the best is yet to come for this company!

PearX alumni company Via acquired by Justworks!

PearX alumni company, Via, just announced that they’ve been acquired by Justworks. To mark this occasion, we wanted to share a look back on how we met and worked with the Via team over the years. 

Mar first met sisters and Via co-founders Maite and Itziar when they were students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. They were enrolled in the Launchpad course where Mar was a guest lecturer. Through the class, they developed an idea to build a marketplace to connect top professionals to short-term project work at different companies around the world. They built strong conviction through the course and we thought they were the perfect fit for as founders of these companies. We invited them to join PearX, our early-stage bootcamp for founders, and partnered with them from then on to build Via. 

We decided to partner with Maite and Itziar for a few major reasons:

We saw a big market opportunity:

The Via co-founders discovered that there was a massive multi-billion dollar need for hyper local employer of record (EOR) and native payroll services for companies in international tech hubs. Through research, they learned that, when companies hire internationally, they typically do so via contractor agreements, but this happens without any truly scalable benefits, compliance, or payroll services. This works for companies that are hiring a small handful of employees in international markets, but it breaks down for companies that are hiring at scale with dozens or even hundreds of employees. Via saw a big opportunity to make that easier for these larger companies.  

Strong ability to execute:

After seeing the big market opportunity, the Via team focused on building a product that met that need. They built deep infrastructure in over a dozen large, international markets, allowing Via to provide the right level of service to multinational Fortune 500 customers. Companies no longer had to spend years laying down the foundation to open a new hub, they could partner directly with Via and launch their new offices in a fraction of the time. They were quickly able to attract a number of top professionals to join companies internationally. We realized the cyclicality of this business model, and at the same time, they were hearing from their corporate customers that there was a big challenge in hiring employees internationally. Starting a new hub in a different country was desirable for many reasons, but payroll, insurance, benefits, and compliance all become very complicated, which prevented many companies from starting international hubs. 

The founders were the right ones to tackle this:

The sisters and co-founders, Maite and Itziar, were the perfect duo to start and run Via. We loved the team because of their deep understanding of their customer’s pain point and their international focus. They are both GSB alums and brought deep business experience to the table: Maite has a background in investment banking at JP Morgan and Itziar was Head of Strategy for Citi Fintech. They also worked in markets like Argentina and Mexico, so they understood the pain points of hiring internationally. 

Via’s work became even more relevant in a post-pandemic world, where there has been a big rise in companies hiring internationally. Put simply, they’ve become the best choice for Fortune 500 customers. This acquisition by Justworks makes sense: together they can offer the Via service at scale. 

We are proud of their journey. After raising an initial pre-seed round after PearX, they realized that it would be hard to build a venture scale business focusing only on short term job opportunities. We huddled with them and they decided it would be best to pivot to the employer side and solve their problem which was more around building a permanent workforce internationally. Maite and Itziar navigated this pivot with rigor and optimism.

The team then scaled out their hyper-local EOR platform, scaled to millions of dollars in annual revenue, and raised a Series A in December 2022. To date, they’ve  raised from an incredible group of investors, including Industry Ventures, Switch VC, Entree Capital, Burst Capital, Pear and more. 

Given the infrastructure that they’ve built, it’s no surprise that they had inbound interest for M&A. We think they’ve found the perfect home in the Justworks team. The acquisition by Justworks provides an ideal platform to scale their joint business internationally allowing any company to become a global organization. Congrats to Maite, Itziar, and the entire Via team!

PearX alum Transcera announces seed round to further advance innovative delivery platform for biologic drugs

Last month, PearX S21 alum Transcera announced its seed round led by Xora Innovation, joined by Tau Ventures and existing pre-seed investors Pear, Digitalis Ventures, and KdT Ventures. To mark this milestone, we wanted to share more about Pear’s partnership with Transcera and its founders, Hunter Goble (CEO), Justin Wolfe (CSO), and Wayne Lencer (scientific co-founder).

We first met Hunter and Wayne when they applied to Pear Competition. Hunter was still an MBA student at HBS and Wayne was a professor at Harvard Medical School and researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital. At the time, they were part of the Nucleate program and looking to commercialize a new drug delivery platform they were working on. 

S21 PearX Demo Day

When we met the team, we were excited about Transcera for several reasons:

  • Enormous unmet need and market opportunity. Today, many of the most impactful and best-selling medicines are so-called biologic drugs, comprising complex molecules that are typically synthesized via living systems rather than chemical means. These are large, bulky molecules including peptides or proteins that often exhibit little-to-no uptake upon oral dosing, and instead have to be injected into the blood or under the skin. For obvious reasons, when given a choice, patients strongly prefer the convenience of a self-administered pill. For example, pharma companies are now racing to develop orally administered versions of GLP-1 receptor agonists for obesity, as the first such drugs approved for this blockbuster indication have required administration via subcutaneous injection. 
  • Broad, differentiated, and defensible technology platform – inspired by nature, informed by high-quality science, and validated preclinically. For almost three decades, Wayne and his group have been studying how large, orally ingested bacterial toxins, such as cholera toxin, are able to cross the intestinal epithelial barrier to cause disease. The lab discovered that structural features of key membrane constituents called glycosphingolipids directly influence the cellular sorting of these lipids and any associated payloads. Building on this foundational work, Transcera has demonstrated preclinically that synthetic lipids can be harnessed to achieve transport of biologics across intestinal barrier cells, enabling oral delivery and enhanced biodistribution. This active transport mechanism is differentiated from most existing approaches to enhancing oral bioavailability, which have primarily focused on passive diffusion enabled by permeation enhancers and other formulation excipients, and have suffered from relatively low absorption and narrow applicability. 
  • Ambitious operating team with complementary skill sets. Prior to HBS, Hunter spent 5 years at Eli Lilly working on the commercial launch of a key drug product, and he also served as an internal consultant around new product planning for the pharma company’s immunology division. Justin completed his PhD in the Pentelute lab at MIT where he focused on delivery strategies for biologic drugs, including novel conjugation approaches for peptides, and he later worked as a scientist advancing the discovery and medicinal chemistry of macrocyclic peptides at Ra Pharmaceuticals through its acquisition by UCB.  Whereas Hunter brings a savvy commercial mindset and disciplined financial rigor to Transcera, Justin in turn brings apt academic and industry domain expertise and strong scientific leadership skills. Hunter, Justin, and Wayne all share a passion for translating basic science research into technologies and programs that can make a tremendous impact for patients.

We have been impressed with the Transcera team’s execution and scientific progress so far. During PearX S21, we worked closely with Hunter on shaping the story and crafting the pitch ahead of Demo Day. Before joining the Pear team full-time as Pear’s biotech partner, I served as an industry mentor to Transcera, advising the team on questions related to IP in-licensing. After joining Pear, I continued to work closely with Transcera and fellow syndicate co-investors on scientific strategy, fundraising, and partnering.

The full PearX S21 cohort after Demo Day

Over the past two years, the Transcera team has proven to be resilient and resourceful. The production and scale-up of the synthetic lipid conjugates were challenging to master, but the team’s diligent efforts yielded multiple promising lead compounds. Critically, the team has expanded to bring in hands-on expertise in chemistry, cellular biology, and preclinical development, among other areas. 

With this recent financing, we are excited to continue to back the Transcera team, and we are eager to see further development of the platform, with the ultimate goal of unlocking the full potential of biologic drugs for patients.

The Transcera team is hiring! Please check out the job posting here: If you’re interested please reach out to Eddie and we can connect you!

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!

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!

WindBorne closed a $6 million round to improve forecasts and mitigate the climate crisis with smart weather balloons

Last week, PearX S19 alum WindBorne Systems announced their $6M seed round led by Footwork Ventures and joined by Pear, Khosla Ventures, and others. We love WindBorne’s founding story as it embodies everything we believe at Pear about mission-driven, high perseverance founders. 

I was lucky to meet the founders of WindBorne back in the spring of 2019, when they were undergraduate students at Stanford University. They showed up to my office hours with a balloon in tow, similar to the one pictured below. 

Early prototype of a WindBorne balloon

I had no idea that the homemade-looking device was a low cost, highly durable weather balloon that could fly at a wide range of altitudes. They called this balloon ValBal for (Vent to sink, Ballast to rise).

We decided to partner with WindBorne for two reasons:

  • First, we believed in the founding team. They had demonstrated a clear mission, a strong passion, and an incredible ability to execute. They’d been addicted to this idea since they were freshman at Stanford as members of the Stanford Student Space Initiative. Constrained by a student budget, they used ingenuity and engineering to build weather balloons that would fly for a few hours and then pop. Over the years, they kept adding sensors and extending flight time, steadily improving their product. By the time I met them, they had already completed 26 test flights and broken four world records. 
Map of flight tests the WindBorne team conducted while in college
  • Second, they were capturing data that no one else was capturing. At the time, we were not 100% sure of the value of such data, but after making a few calls, we discovered potential customers were interested in learning more about what the balloons could do. 
WindBorne team testing balloons during their time at Stanford

With that, we invited WindBorne to join PearX’s Summer 2019 cohort, where we partnered closely with the founders to understand the most attractive market opportunity to go after. Through customer interviews, they discovered a massive data gap: only about 15% of the Earth’s surface has regular in-atmosphere observations, but weather is a global system. To better predict the weather, you need better weather data. Existing technologies couldn’t plug that gap, because the laws of physics prevent satellites from collecting the most critical weather observations. That’s where balloons come in: they’re able to collect data where satellites can’t.

Kai during PearX Summer 2019

Investors were convinced of the potential, and following S19 Demo Day, Windborne closed a successful seed round led by Khosla and Ubiquity Ventures. They spent the last four years growing the company: from iterating on their go-to-market strategy to team building to customer interviews to strategy sessions and more. We had the privilege to work side-by-side with John, Kai, Joan, Andre, and the entire WindBorne team every step of the way.

WindBorne team at PearX 2019 Demo Day

Last fall, the WindBorne team went out to begin raising their next round, in the midst of a tough economic climate. As PearX alums, we invited them to participate in our PearX S22 Demo Day, where Kai shared the latest happenings with thousands of investors in the Pear network. We’re so proud of the entire team for this next step in their journey.

PearX S22 Demo Day Presentation

I recently visited the new WindBorne HQ in Palo Alto, just a few weeks after the team moved in, and I left with a smile on my face. The offices were scrappy, the team was as determined as ever, and they were telling me all about the new advances with their product. I couldn’t help but look back and remember the first time they ever walked into my office as Stanford students and feel proud of how far they’ve come. I know this is just the beginning for WindBorne. We are so excited to continue to partner with them and to welcome Footwork and others to the team. 

Investing in Infinimmune

This past December, Pear VC was proud to invest in Infinimmune’s $12M seed round. Infinimmune is reinventing antibody drug discovery by focusing solely on human-derived antibody drugs and mining the insights uniquely gathered from deep characterization of the functional antibody repertoire. Here, we reflect on the broader field of antibody-based therapeutics and why we are excited about Infinimmune’s team, technical approach, and vision.

Antibody drugs have made an undeniable impact on modern medicine. 

Since the FDA’s first approval of a therapeutic monoclonal antibody in 1986, more than 160 marketed antibody drugs have been developed to treat various ailments including cancer,  autoimmune disease, infectious disease, and more.

Seven of the top 20 best-selling drugs of 2022 were antibodies, including Humira, Keytruda, and Dupixent. Collectively, antibody sales that year likely topped $200B, roughly on par with the sales of Apple’s iPhone.

Antibodies play a central defensive role in the adaptive immune system. Recent decades have witnessed tremendous, hard-won advances in the science of these amazing molecular machines and in their application as research tools, diagnostic reagents, and therapeutics. 

Scientists have deciphered their molecular structures; decoded many of the intricate genetic and cellular processes that create and select functional antibodies; devised a variety of sophisticated approaches to identify novel antibodies that effectively bind a given antigen; and developed the tools and processes to reliably characterize, manufacture, and distribute them at scale. 

Newer therapeutic modalities that rely on antibodies or components of them for their function, such as antibody-drug conjugates, targeted radioligand therapies, bispecific T cell engagers, and CAR-T cells, have become established drug classes in their own right. And in recent years, in silico design techniques, aided by ML/AI, have been used to engineer antibodies with better binding, stability, and expression.

Despite all of this progress, our state of understanding regarding the vast diversity of the antibody repertoire actually produced in humans remains shockingly low.

Limitations in the characterization techniques previously applied to this diversity, estimated at 10^11 to 10^18 unique protein sequences in humans, have stymied efforts to fully understand and gain insights from it. Even the advent of next-generation sequencing has not deeply impacted this space—most studies of the antibody repertoire still rely on bulk sequencing technologies, which only capture half of most of the variable region of one antibody transcript at a time.

Why does this matter in antibody drug discovery? 

Because every day, inside every human, the body conducts the equivalent of 100 billion antibody clinical trials, testing each antibody for safety and efficacy in parallel. And these techniques have been developed and optimized over 500 million years of evolution of the adaptive immune system. 

For instance, by studying the immune reactivity of blood samples donated from adults living in a malaria-endemic region, researchers were able to identify broadly reactive antibodies that exhibited non-canonical features (Tan et al., Nature 529:105-109, 2016). These antibodies were found to contain a large insert of an extracellular LAIR1 domain located between key antibody segments. This domain, which is non-canonical and which was not observed in narrowly reactive antibodies, increased binding to malaria-infected red blood cells. These results demonstrated a novel mechanism of antibody diversification that the human immune system can use to create therapeutically effective antibodies.

Clearly, human B cells produce antibodies that mouse B cells and humanized mouse B cells do not. However, the most common methods for discovering therapeutic antibodies today rely on screening antibodies produced in transgenic mice that have been immunized with the desired target antigen, or panning for binding to the antigen in relatively shallow pools of engineered human antibody-like binders expressed via phage or yeast display. 

These approaches are not capable of leveraging the unique insights that can be captured by studying functional antibodies produced by the human immune system.

Enter Infinimmune.

Infinimmune is a startup that is reinventing antibody drug discovery by focusing solely on human-derived antibody drugs. 

Infinimmune was founded by Wyatt McDonnell, David Jaffe, Katie Pfeiffer, Lance Hepler, and Mike Gibbons, a multidisciplinary team of scientists and technologists. These founders have deep expertise in immunology, genomics, computational biology, single cell sequencing, and data analysis, and they take a first principles approach to therapeutics platform development as drawn from previous experiences at 10x Genomics, Pacific Biosciences, and the Broad Institute.

As an example of this expertise, Wyatt, David, and Lance co-authored a paper in Nature last year that discovered a new property of functional antibodies coined light chain coherence (Jaffe et al., Nature 611:352-357, 2022). In this work, the authors used single-cell RNA sequencing to determine the paired heavy and light chain antibody sequences from 1.6 million B cells from four unrelated humans and incorporated a total of 2.2 million B cells from 30 humans.

They compared antibody sequences from pairs of B cells that were isolated from different donors and which shared similar heavy chain segments, specifically, the same heavy chain V gene, and the same amino acid sequence for a key antigen-binding region called CDRH3. [Note: an antibody is composed of a pair of one heavy chain and one light chain that are generated through a process of sequential gene recombination involving V, D (for heavy chains), J, and C segments.]

The authors found evidence of previously unrecognized determinism in the light chain segment (i.e. light chain V gene) used in functional antibodies, which were derived from memory B cells, as opposed to naive antibodies. The discovery of light chain coherence suggests that the sequence space for the light chain of a functional antibody, which has undergone selection by the human immune system to be useful, safe, and effective, is more restricted than what was previously believed. It also carries important implications for the design of therapeutic antibodies, transgenic platforms, and diversification strategies of antibody drugs.

With these types of capabilities and insights at hand, Infinimmune is developing an end-to-end platform to deliver antibody drugs derived directly from the human immune system. 

These truly human antibodies are designed to drug new targets with improved safety and efficacy. Infinimmune is building its own pipeline of drug candidates while also aiming to partner with pharma companies to expand treatment options and reach more patients.

This past December, we were proud to co-invest alongside our friends at Playground Global, Civilization Ventures, and Axial in Infinimmune’s $12M seed round. We are delighted to work closely with the Infinimmune team, and we look forward to sharing many exciting updates to come. Infinimmune’s new HQ is in Alameda, and their team is always interested in hearing from smart, curious, and passionate scientists with a track record of innovation and building things from scratch. If you want to build better drugs for humans, from humans, you can reach the founders directly at or—there’s no better way to get in the hiring queue before more job postings go live in 2023!

Pear Competition: Harvard Winners

At Pear, we have a long history partnering with students to build the next wave of category-defining companies. In fact, we started working with the founders of companies like Branch, Aurora Solar, Bioage, and Affinity when they were still students.  Each year, we host Pear Competition where students can receive up to $100,000 to launch their startups.  

This year, there were five winners of Pear Competition at Harvard, and they received prizes between $25,000 and $100,000 each. These winners were selected based on their ideas across various fields from AI infrastructure to virtual reality and more. We’re excited to shine a spotlight on this year’s winners:

Civic Roundtable 

Civic Roundtable is a collaboration platform for public servants: a “Reddit meets LinkedIn”– designed with and for public servants. Founders Madeleine Smith and Austin Boral are joint Harvard Business School / Harvard Kennedy School of Government student with experience working in and with the public sector, where they saw firsthand the inefficiencies that state, local, and federal workers face in their attempts to collaborate. Civic Roundtable brings these workers together in one place to share knowledge and coordinate their joint efforts. was founded by Harvard Business School student Inez Wihardjo, is a plug-and-play infrastructure to enable enterprises to own and train specialized AI models. Unlike existing players, Gigit offers an integrated self-hosted system of AI + subject-matter experts to ensure no hallucination, utmost accuracy, while preserving the data privacy of the enterprises.


Delilah is a personalized AI assistant founded by Harvard College undergraduates Khoi Nguyen and Raunak Daga, two members of Pear Garage at Harvard. Khoi and Raunak are hackers at heart, and have built and battle-tested a suite of productivity tools with their target market of GenZ students. We couldn’t be more excited to support their mission to bring the game-changing tools of an all-purpose AI assistant to this demographic. 


BuyXR, founded by Harvard College undergraduates Sam Suchin and Will Schrepferman, is a virtual reality e-commerce platform that allows any seller – from the world’s biggest brands to limited edition creators – to offer their merchandise in an immersive, gamified world. 


More to come about our fifth winner when they launch! 

We’ve long believed that, with the right tools and resources, student builders can build extraordinary companies. These five Harvard Competition winners embody the spirit of student entrepreneurship and innovation, and we’re excited to see where they go!

Pear Competition: Stanford GSB Winners

At Pear, we have a long history partnering with students to build the next wave of category-defining companies. In fact, we started working with the founders of companies like Branch, Affinity, Aurora Solar,, and Bioage when they were still students.  Each year, we run Pear Competition where students can receive up to $100,000 to launch their startups.  

This year, there were four winners of Pear Competition at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB), and they received checks between $25,000 and $100,000 each. These GSB winners were selected based on their ideas across various fields from BioTech to Climate Tech and more. We’re excited to shine a spotlight on this year’s Pear Competition winners:


RadarTx is a biotech company that aims to revolutionize the treatment of a broad array of diseases by bringing precision targeting to gene- and mRNA-based therapies. Most current nucleic acid therapies suffer from a lack of specificity due to expressing their payload protein drugs in every cell – a problem that can severely limit their efficacy and safety. RadarTx has developed a proprietary RNA sensing platform that can precisely control the expression and activity of such drugs at the cell type or even cell state level, thereby improving the therapeutic potential of this important class of medicines.


Komo is redesigning how search and discovery works for both users and businesses. Komo’s platform is designed to help users find the right information faster and more efficiently especially when it comes to exploration. The company’s AI-powered algorithms deliver a personalized and interactive search experience, making discovery both easier and more delightful. This innovative approach has the potential to revolutionize the way users interact with digital content, making information more accessible to millions of people worldwide.


Stellarr is a talent acquisition platform that connects the right talent to the best opportunities in tech. Stellarr’s platform uses advanced AI-powered algorithms to identify the most suitable candidate for a particular job, reducing the time and costs associated with hiring. The platform also includes features like job matching and automated scheduling to make the hiring process more efficient for employers. 


Optimus is a manufacturing technology company that is building the brains for advanced manufacturing. The company is starting with batteries and extending to other manufacturing verticals critical to the clean energy transition. Optimus’ technology is designed to make manufacturing more efficient and cost-effective, reducing the environmental impact of production while promoting renewable energy. 

We’ve long believed that, with the right tools and resources, student builders can build extraordinary companies. These four Pear Competition winners embody the spirit of student entrepreneurship and innovation, and we’re excited to see where they go!

Earth Day spotlight: interview with David Bromberg, the trailblazing Climate Tech founder behind Pearl Street Technologies

In celebration of Earth Day, we’re excited to spotlight a company changing the game when it comes to clean energy and moving the needle on scalable sustainability: Pearl Street Technologies. Pearl Street is a Pear VC-backed company that is making big waves in the clean energy space. Their mission is to accelerate the decarbonization of the grid, addressing the problem from two angles: by delivering software automation solutions to grid operators for timeline optimization, and in providing a risk assessment platform to help project developers successfully deploy and manage more projects. To date, grid operators have processed more than 60 GW of renewable energy and storage projects (equivalent to almost 200 million solar panels!) across more than a dozen states using Pearl Street’s software, reducing months of engineering effort to a matter of hours.

In this Q&A with David, Co-founder of Pearl Street Technologies, we explore their unique approach to solving some of the biggest challenges facing the clean energy industry today.

Can you tell us more about interconnection bottlenecks that are getting in the way of clean energy being deployed in a scalable way?

Before I do, it’s helpful to first define the term: “interconnection” is shorthand for the engineering study process to evaluate the potential impacts of one or more energy generation projects on the electric grid. Grid operators or utilities run these studies to make sure the power grid is capable of handling the proposed amount of generated power, and if not, to identify what upgrades to the grid are needed to handle that power without compromising reliability. The costs to pay for these upgrades are then returned to the developers of these potential projects, who decide if they want to move forward in the process (i.e., agree to pay those costs to upgrade the grid) or withdraw their project (i.e., decline to pay those costs, and therefore lose their ability to interconnect to the grid). Generally speaking, the interconnection process ends with a signed “generator interconnection agreement,” or GIA, between the project developer and the companies that own and operate the grid where the project is located.

The amount of time it takes to complete all the phases of an interconnection study is measured in years in most parts of the United States. The number of renewable energy projects submitted for interconnection has exploded over the last few years, and these two factors together have led to “interconnection bottlenecks.” There are a lot of projects to study, the studies take a long time, and as a result, we have gridlock. No pun intended.

How is Pearl Street working to accelerate this process?

Our software automates some of the more time consuming aspects of running interconnection studies, particularly around creating the simulation models on which the studies are run. These models are just snapshots of what the grid would “look like” with the new projects added, built from similar models of what the grid would look like without those projects (i.e., the default plan). But they’re not trivial to create – interconnection studies often involve modeling dozens or even hundreds of proposed projects, which represents a very big change over that default plan. Without getting into the weeds of the math, what our software does is automate the creation of these study models by adjusting existing grid facilities (like older fossil fuel plants) and at times the placement of new facilities required to support the new projects without causing a blackout. Through our software, weeks or months of engineering effort is reduced to minutes. So the bedrock of these studies gets built much faster in a repeatable, automated way.

Through our software, weeks or months of engineering effort is reduced to minutes.

Your new product focuses on helping developers better deal with risk and uncertainty in deploying renewable energy on the grid. Can you share some examples of how this product will help your customers overcome these obstacles?

Interconnection being a years-long process and the explosion in proposed renewable energy projects has become a huge driver of uncertainty for developers. They’re constantly trying to answer: What will my interconnection cost be when the study is finally done? What happens if a nearby project reduces its size? What happens if a project I was counting on to pay for a grid upgrade withdraws? What if it doesn’t? There are a ton of variables, and today, no scalable way to assess their impacts to inform decisions on projects. But with the same technology we’ve developed for grid operators to quickly build simulation models, we’ve created a platform to provide developers the ability to model and analyze all of the scenarios they care about and finally get a comprehensive sense of their “interconnection risk.” With our interconnection intelligence platform, they can answer the questions above and not just choose better locations for projects, but make better decisions along the way to improve the odds of signing a GIA. Interconnection will still be a tough hurdle, but we’ll be offering the first real solution to help grapple with the massive uncertainties.

We hear a lot about the problems getting in the way, but rarely the solution, so that is very cool. What sets Pearl Street Technologies apart from other companies working in the clean energy space, and what do you see as your unique value proposition?

We have an incredible team behind what we do. We bring together experts in simulation, optimization, software engineering, renewable energy project development, grid planning, and just all around good, motivated people to build technology with impact. We have folks who have developed massive solar and wind projects, and we have folks who have built industry-leading simulation software for nanoscale computer chips. We’re very collaborative and communicative as a company, and as a result we don’t shoehorn ourselves into one way of thinking – there is always an outsider perspective on a problem, and it’s the fusion of ideas from different backgrounds that enable everything we do. I could go on and on about our specific value propositions to different interconnection stakeholders, but at the root of it all is that our customers recognize us as an agile team with a deep understanding of today’s processes without being constrained by yesterday’s ways of thinking.

How do you envision your products contributing to the broader goal of decarbonizing the US energy sector, and what impact do you hope to have in this regard?

The Energy Information Administration estimates that electricity generation in the United States is responsible for 1.5 gigatons of annual carbon dioxide emissions – that’s about a quarter of the country’s total annual emissions. More electrification is coming – electric vehicles for cars and trucks, heat pumps, data centers – and we want it all to be powered reliably by renewable energy sources. When we talk about accelerating interconnection studies or helping developers navigate the interconnection process successfully, at the end of the day we mean one thing: more renewable energy coming online faster and reliably. To fully decarbonize, we need everything from policy changes to adoption of new technologies to help manage a nation-sprawling machine. But we hope to play a key role in unlocking the flow of clean energy onto the grid.

We hope to play a key role in unlocking the flow of clean energy onto the grid.

As a founder, can you speak to any personal challenges or lessons learned along the way in building Pearl Street Technologies?

Nobody who has met me would ever describe me as an optimist, but it’s not possible to start a company in a notoriously difficult market without at least being somewhat of a dreamer. My biggest challenge since starting Pearl Street has been balancing idealism with pragmatism – I want to see radical change to rapidly decarbonize the grid, but I understand the difficulties involved. Developing a deep understanding of all of the stakeholders in our corner of the electricity industry has been critical to growing Pearl Street, and I’ve found that the more we’ve learned, the better we’ve been able to find those opportunities to sneak some of our idealism into the mainstream.

Pearl Street Technologies is a company taking big strides when it comes to accelerating the deployment of renewable energy on the grid. By providing innovative solutions that reduce interconnection bottlenecks and help developers better manage risk and uncertainty, they’re making it easier than ever before for clean energy projects to get online quickly and efficiently. Pearl Street is poised to become synonymous with interconnections of renewables – a crucial gating issue in scaling up clean energy across markets nationwide. We’re excited to see what’s next for this innovative company, and encourage readers to check out their website and Knowledge Center for more information.