A pair of 28-year-old former investment bankers are taking on venture capital's diversity problem with $40 million and a new kind of venture firm
Henri Pierre-Jacques and Jarrid Tingle started Harlem Capital Partners out of Tingle's living room in New York City in December 2015. The fund was initially operating more like a private equity firm, which both Pierre-Jacques and Tingle had experience in, but quickly tuned into the venture side of things and began fundraising during the summer of 2018 while at Harvard Business School. The firm focuses primarily on backing women and minority founded startups, the two 28-year-old men told Business Insider. Pierre-Jacques said that, although Harlem Capital has invested in companies from nine cities, none have come from San Francisco. Click here for more BI Prime stories.
Instead of heading to a traditional internship during business school, Henri Pierre-Jacques and Jarrid Tingle jumped head-first into the murky world of venture capital. The roommates had been toying with the idea of starting an angel syndicate back in 2015 when they gathered in Tingle's New York City living room after work one day. The men had been working in private equity, and were cubemates at a major investment bank at the time, but felt they could do more on their own. So as roommates at Harvard Business School in the summer of 2018, they officially began fundraising for a new kind of venture firm. "We were investing our own money into our communities," Pierre-Jacques told Business Insider. "It became clear that the conversation was about the lack of diversity in founders, but we knew there was also a lack of diverse investors." Pierre-Jacques said that, even though they were writing small angel checks at the time, he and Tingle were consistently asked to appear on panels and grant media interviews. The exposure proved that there was "a lot of white space" in the venture industry for a firm focused on racial diversity in addition to gender diversity, Pierre-Jacques said. In November, Harlem Capital closed its first fund. The $40 million fund was nearly $15 million more than the pair had initially targeted, but will allow them to increase the number of investments they can make and the size of investments they can participate in. That gives them an edge because, as an early-stage fund, Harlem Capital operates in one of the most competitive stages for venture firms hoping to land a deal. "There's a lot of subjectivity in venture, but we will always do a process when we can," Tingle said. "We went big. Some funds will start with a small startup fund, but we thought it was important to come out and be able to execute on day one. $40 million is a great signal to the market that we can do things structurally that other firms can't do on day one." The black renaissance of venture capital Those processes include things like the 50-page investment memos that are common in private equity but regularly disregarded in Silicon Valley venture firms, where they're perceived as barriers to the "move fast and break things" mentality. But the practice helps Harlem Capital remain open with its highly-vetted LP base and has yet to slow down any hot deals. "If it's a really hot deal, we can do a 50-page memo in five days," Pierre-Jacques said. "The sweet spot is really two weeks just to give us a breather, but it will never be a barrier to getting a deal done." Many of those deals aren't coming from the "move fast and break things" epicenter in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, though. Pierre-Jacques said that the firm, which is itself fully remote but centered in New York City, has invested in companies from nine cities. None are from San Francisco. "That's not on purpose, but we don't see a ton of people of color coming out of San Francisco," Jacques-Pierres said. "Long term, San Francisco is not going to be where diverse founders come to the top." It was "never a discussion" that the firm would be effectively headquartered in New York City, he said, given the men's network and robust network of minority founders. "Harlem represents black excellence and the black renaissance," Jacques-Pierre said. "It's about the symbolism of what Harlem represents to us and to the world. If we do it right, we will impact culture. Making money is great, but the long-term system change we can have in underserved communities is so much more important."SEE ALSO: A new VC firm doesn't give startups any funding because capital is 'commoditized.' Here's why Sweat Equity's founder says his work-for-equity model is a better deal for startups. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why hydrogen cars will be Tesla's biggest threat
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Venture capitalists reveal the startups that changed everything in the past decade (UBER, SFIX, AMZN, TEAM)
The past decade was an eventful one for the startup world. The rise of smartphones, online...The past decade was an eventful one for the startup world. The rise of smartphones, online marketplaces, the sharing economy, and cheap access to the cloud have enabled entirely new business models — some more successful than others. Business Insider spoke with five venture capitalists about the startups that had the biggest impact on the tech world throughout the 2010s. They noted that companies like Theranos and WeWork demonstrated the pitfalls of "founder worship" and the pursuit of growth at all costs. But startups like Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker stand out as companies that have successfully built direct relationships with consumers. Stitch Fix and Rent The Runway are showing investors the promise of women-led ventures in an industry that grossly lacks diversity, while Shopify and Atlassian have proven that markets outside of Silicon Valley are taking off. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The 2010s were a wild ride for startups and the investors who pumped money into them. As the decade kicked off, smartphones were becoming ubiquitous, connecting billions of people to the internet — many for the first time — and paving the way for a wave of innovative business models. Online marketplaces and sharing economy platforms — Amazon, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, and many more — demonstrated the power of network effects, and in doing so, completely changed how people and businesses interact with each other. Companies seized on the stream of constant, real-time, location-based, and personalized data that consumers volunteered via a growing list of smart devices to provide them with faster and more convenient services. Entrepreneurs had the wind at their backs, thanks to a flood of venture money and access to technical infrastructure — Amazon Web Services — meaning they could spin up and scale up their startups like never before. Unicorns seemed to appear everywhere, and tech IPOs had investors excited. But the tides began to turn in the second half of the decade as a flood of scandals chipped away at the idea that tech companies — and tech founders — are inherently good. Public investors became skeptical of the premium price attached to some tech companies, and the batch that went public in 2019 had a rough go of things. Four months into 2020, the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has rocked the global economy and startup world, leading to at least 30,000 layoffs at venture-backed companies and even impacting unicorn tech darlings like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and Peloton as funding and sales have dried up. After speaking with five venture capitalists about how things have evolved since 2010, some clear lessons emerged — as well as some clear examples of those lessons. While it would be impossible to include every important startup, below are the companies that investors said have had the most impact on their industry in the past 10 years.SEE ALSO: These were the people and events that made the internet curious in 2019, according to Wikipedia Uber, Theranos, and WeWork demonstrate the pitfalls of "founder worship" and the pursuit of growth at all costs. Uber's Travis Kalanick, Theranos' Elizabeth Holmes, and WeWork's Adam Neumann: All were considered charismatic and visionary founders who sought to change the world, but each was eventually forced out of their respective companies amid scandal. When Holmes resigned in 2018 in the face of criminal charges and reports of fraud at Theranos, "everyone in venture really questioned their own diligence," Kristin Gunther, a principal at Revolution, told Business Insider. Gunther added that it made her reflect on how she engages as a board member. "Against a background where, for a couple years here, hot deals moved really fast and people could get funded based on two PowerPoint slides, it became even more important to say, 'Hey, fine, this is a hot deal, but I'm going to miss it because it's not worth it to cut the corners,'" Gunther said. Kalanick was also forced out for cutting corners. In 2017, investors orchestrated his resignation at a time when Uber's public image had plummeted. Once a company that every investor wanted in on, critics had started alleging that Uber enabled workplace harassment, skirted local regulations, and that Kalanick's own behavior had put the company on a crash course. Neumann, WeWork's eccentric founder, stepped down earlier this year after the company's failed attempt to go public led to reports of his extensive conflicts of interest, mismanagement, and bizarre behavior. All three companies epitomized Silicon Valley's obsessive focus on growth and a celebration of ambitious founders, which often ignored problematic behavior and business practices. "I just think we abandoned values in terms of, not just how we invested, but managed companies," Elliott Robinson, a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, told Business Insider. Jet.com, Dollar Shave Club, Glossier, Warby Parker, and Casper stand out as just a few of the many companies that have successfully built direct relationships with consumers. The pervasiveness of social media and digital ads has given companies powerful new ways to connect with their target audience and helped enable the rise of direct-to-consumer brands. Anu Duggal, founding partner at Female Founders Fund, told Business Insider that social media has "enabled brands to have a direct conversation with those consumers and have that impact their actual product design." Duggal highlighted brands like Warby Parker and Glossier as companies that have effectively leveraged conversations with those consumers to inform product development. Jenny Lefcourt, general partner at Freestyle and founding member of All Raise, said another reason these brands have been so successful is that they've created "authentic community" among their consumers. "Maybe you go to Glossier because you love makeup and you start connecting with the community about that and before you know it, you start becoming friends and you're sharing travel tips," Lefcourt told Business Insider. These companies didn't initially seem like sure bets, however. Gunther pointed to online retailer Jet.com and its acquisition by Walmart as an important proof of concept, and said it "showed the exit path for some of these direct-to-consumer companies where that was really a question." Stitch Fix, Rent The Runway, and Away are showing investors the promise of women-led ventures in an industry that grossly lacks diversity. It's no secret that venture capital firms — and, as a result, the entrepreneurs they fund — suffer from a lack of diversity. A recent survey by RateMyInvestor found that the typical founding team was a "two person, 'all male,' 'all white,' U.S. university-educated team residing in Silicon Valley." Over the past decade, however, with several women-led ventures reaching multi-billion-dollar valuations and Stitch Fix founder Katrina Lake becoming the youngest female founder to take a company public, investors are finally taking notice. "Venture capitalists are pattern matchers," Lefcourt said. "Seeing these women take these companies from start to IPO and be incredibly successful enables other venture capitalists — whether they're men or women — to change their view on what successful looks like." Venture capital firms still have a long way to go both in terms of who they invest in and who is doing the investing, especially when it comes to racial and educational diversity. But, at least when it comes to women-led ventures, Duggal said investors are "recognizing the fact that there are real returns to be made." Shopify, Atlassian, and Waze proved that markets outside of Silicon Valley are taking off. RateMyInvestor's survey also found that venture funds have a strong geographical bias, with nearly half of all investments in the past five years going to startups based in Silicon Valley. But in recent years, several companies have revealed the untapped potential of other markets, particularly outside of the US. "There were always great companies and great innovation outside of the US," Victoria Treyger, general partner and managing director at Felicis Ventures, told Business Insider. But prior to Shopify, she said, "there was a belief that VC-backed companies outside of the US exited earlier." Shopify, which is based in Ottawa, Canada, is notable for its outsize role in empowering small and medium businesses. Robinson, who invested in Shopify, said that by building ecommerce tools and "multiple revenue streams off of a really large user base, that just really changed the way people thought about [software as a service]." Atlassian, an enterprise software company out of Sydney, similarly put Australia on the map. "I just see the number of [Atlassian] alums that are in that ecosystem," Treyger said, noting how employees of pioneering companies like Shopify and Atlassian often go on to start their own ventures. Israel has also become a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. It has produced household names like Waze (which was acquired by Google) and, in 2018, 61 companies exited at an average deal size of $81 million. Within the US, cities like Chicago, Seattle, Denver, Portland, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., have also seen massive increases in both investment and startups. Stripe, Square, Lending Club, SoFi, and Robinhood are just some of the key startups flipping the financial services industry on its head. Fintech was another sector this decade that saw major disruption and a flurry of new companies achieving massive valuations. Startups took advantage of the rise of smartphones, digital banking, and machine learning to bring more consumers into the financial system and upend how people spend, make, borrow, and exchange money. "When you look underneath, there is true technological innovation," Treyger said. "It's really exciting to see that the dollars went into companies that have truly transformed the financial service sector." As just a few examples, Stripe and Square helped change the way businesses get paid, Lending Club and SoFi took on incumbents in the personal loan space, and Robinhood reinvented how everyday consumers invest.
Tech startups have a new 'exit' strategy. Why private equity firms have started plowing billions into acquiring startups.
Among startups that don't fail, most are acquired instead of going public. Although most startups that...Among startups that don't fail, most are acquired instead of going public. Although most startups that are acquired are still purchased by other independent companies, a growing number and proportion are being snatched up by private equity firms. In the past, private equity firms were largely considered bottom feeders, buying up companies on the cheap for their cash flow, but increasingly, they're buying companies with the intent to help them grow or to combine them with other startups to reach a larger scale — and they're more willing to pay up for them, industry experts say. The trend is being driven by a surge of cash into private equity firms and the growing number of companies that are avoiding the public markets, they say. Click here for more BI Prime stories. It used to be that the goal of every startup founder was to take their company public. That may still be the goal for most, but in the last several decades, a much more realistic option for startups that managed to stay afloat was to be acquired by another company in the same sector. In recent years, though, a third option has emerged for startups — being purchased by a private equity fund or by a company owned by one. Those kinds of buyouts now far outnumber IPOs and account for one out of every five so-called exits for venture capital-backed companies in the US, according to data PitchBook compiled for Business Insider. The growing influence of private equity on the startup market has "really reshaped the industry," said Wylie Fernyhough, a senior private equity analyst at PitchBook. The kinds of startups being targeted by private-equity firms likely would have gone public 20 years ago, industry experts told Business Insider. But today, they're generally considered too small or don't have bright enough prospects to hit the public markets. For such companies, private equity has become "an attractive exit opportunity," said Pete Flint, a managing partner at venture capital firm NFX. The vast majority of startups that don't fail are acquired Venture capitalists back startups with the intent of cashing out those investments at some point in the future, either by being able to sell their shares to public investors when or after the companies go public or by selling the startups to other companies. While initial public offerings get lots of attention, they've become relatively rare. In part that's because many startups never make it to the exit stage at all, because they go out of business first. But also it's because the vast majority of startups that don't go out of business are acquired instead of going public. Last year, for example, of the 934 startups that had some kind of exit event, 853 — about 91% — were acquired either by another company or as part of a private equity-related deal, according to PitchBook. That rate has been relatively steady over the last 18 years. "The vast majority of exits that all of us are thinking about are things that are not the public markets," said Sean Foote, a member of the professional faculty at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Acquisitions, he continued, are "the major way in which companies find their home." While such deals have long been important, what's changed over the last 20 years is the growing influence of private equity. In that time period, private equity firms have gone from bit players in the startup ecosystem to major actors in it. In 2003, just 17 startups were acquired by private equity firms or companies owned by them, according to PitchBook's data. That amounted to just 5% of total exits that year. By 2012, 88 startups were snatched up in private equity-related deals, accounting for 10% of all exits. Last year, 186 were acquired in private-equity deals, amounting to 20% of all exits. Private equity firms are big players in the acquisition market In 2004, IPOs outnumbered private-equity buyouts by a ratio of 3-to-1, according to PitchBook. But private equity acquisitions have outnumbered IPOs every year since 2008, and for the last three years, there have been more than twice as many of those kinds of deals as public offerings. What's more, even as startup acquisitions of all kinds have skyrocketed — jumping from 279 in 2002 to 853 last year — private equity-related ones have accounted for a growing portion. They accounted for 22% of all startup acquisitions last year after making up less than 7% in 2002, according to PitchBook. "I think it's a trend that's going to keep growing," said Lanham Napier, the cofounder of startup investment firm BuildGroup. The amount of money startups are seeing from selling to private equity firms is still a small portion of the total value of all exits, varying from less than 1% to about 8% annually over the last 10 years. But it's grown significantly, going from just $690 million in 2012 to $6.3 billion last year. And some individual deals have become quite large. In 2017, for example, private equity-backed PetSmart bought online pet supply retailer Chewy for $3.35 billion. And last year, PE firm Thomas Bravo acquired ConnectWise, a maker of mobile device management software, for $1.5 billion. Generally, the private-equity firms are snatching up more mature startups. On average, the companies they're acquiring are around 10 years old, according to PitchBook's Fernyhough. By contrast, startups that went public were about 9 years old at the time of their IPO and those that were acquired by other companies were about 7 years old, he said. But increasingly, private equity firms are backing more mature companies and using them to buy younger startups, creating larger companies or "platforms" that potentially offer better growth or market prospects, the industry experts said. "You can sell early stage companies to PE-backed platforms," said Dan Malven, a managing director at 4490 Ventures. "I think we're going to see more and more of that." Fewer companies are going public Part of what's driven the surge of private-equity buyouts — and acquisitions overall — is that fewer and fewer venture-backed companies are going public. That's a trend that dates back to the 1990s and one that's linked to the growing dominance of small numbers of firms over large sectors of the tech industry, according to research by Jay Ritter, a professor of finance at the University of Florida who has been studying the public offering market since the 1980s. But that trend has arguably been accelerated over the last 20 years by regulations that added to the costs and burdens of being a public company and, conversely, made it much easier for companies to remain private for far longer periods. "The public market has evolved to a point where it's not that you couldn't have these companies go public, but there are significant regulatory costs that you can avoid if you stay private," said Robert Hendershott, an associate finance professor at Santa Clara University's Leavey School of Business. "Private equity is a natural way to give someone an exit." The kinds of startups generally favored by the public markets these days are those that are growing quickly, operate in a large market, and are either profitable or have a clear path to profits, NFX's Flint said. Unfortunately, there are lots of good companies that don't meet all three of those criteria. But they can be a good fit for private equity firms, because such firms can invest in their long-term growth or combine them with other startups to give them the scale they need to be more attractive to public investors, he said. "They are perfect opportunities for private equity rollup or acquisition," Flint said. Private equity firms are swimming in cash The surge in private equity buyouts has also been stoked by a huge gust of money into the industry, particularly in the last 10 years. In 2010, US-based private equity firms raised $59.2 billion, according to PitchBook. Last year, that amount had swelled to $301.3 billion. While only a portion of those amounts are going to tech-focused funds, that portion has been growing. Tech-focused private equity funds based in North America and Europe raised just $3.7 billion in 2010, according to PitchBook. By last year, that amount was up to $68.3 billion. By contrast, the US venture capital industry raised $46.3 billion in new funds last year, according to PitchBook. Private equity funds have access to "a staggering amount of capital," said Mike Smerklo, a managing director at Next Coast Ventures. But another reason why private-equity acquisitions have become increasingly popular for startups and their venture backers is because the deals can be more attractive than either going public or being acquired by another operating company, industry experts said. It used to be that private equity firms acted kind of like bottom feeders in the startup market, paying relatively small amounts for firms that had few other options and focusing on the cash flow those companies could generate for them. But that's no longer the case. Private equity firms — particularly the tech-focused ones — are increasingly looking at companies that can offer revenue growth and they're often willing to pay top dollar for them, the experts said. Startups used to see the biggest exits by going public or by being acquired by an operating company, said BuildGroup's Napier. Now, though, "some of these private equity firms have gotten so good at [buying startups], some of their valuations are just as big as those other things," he said. PE firms can move quickly and offer fewer restrictions Private equity firms also tend to be far less bureaucratic than corporate merger-and-acquisition departments, they said. Such firms also can often throw far more resources to bear on analyzing potential deals than corporations can. And the deals they strike typically don't have to go through the kinds of shareholder votes or board approvals that corporate deals often require. "They're able to move a lot more quickly," said PitchBook's Fernyhough. What's more, venture investors and founders often confront more obstacles to accessing their promised returns when they sell to corporations or take their companies public than when they sell to private equity firms. Typically in an IPO, there's a lock-up period of up to six months during which early investors are barred from selling the company's stock. Meanwhile, in corporate acquisitions, there often are conditions put in place that allow founders or early investors to see the full value of the buyout only if the startup hits certain financial or performance targets after the acquisition. "When I sell a company to a private equity firm, it's clean," said Foote, who in addition to his role at Berkeley is a managing director at venture capital firm Transform Capital. "There's often very few strings attached." It's not unusual for acquirers, whether they are large, independent enterprises, other startups or private equity-backed conglomerates, to pay for their purchases with shares of their own stock. But the private equity-backed roll-ups often are perceived to have greater prospects for growth than big, established corporations, potentially making their shares more desirable. "We try and analyze that growth potential," said 4490's Malven. They try to figure out if "we want to ride on their equity." The fast pace can also cut against startup founders and VCs To be sure, the growing influence of private equity does have some drawbacks for venture capitalists and startups. The fast pace of those firms and their large research teams can go against founders and their backers, Malven said. The private equity firms can have their teams analyzing multiple companies and potential deals at once, he said. If a startup doesn't act on an offer quickly, the firm can threaten to move on to doing a deal with a rival company, he said. "They can put you in a squeeze," said Malven. And the firms can have their shortcomings when it comes to evaluating startups, industry experts said. Because they're typically focused on analyzing the financial health of companies, they can be very good at evaluating companies that already have established a market for their products and have a revenue stream, they said. But they're not as good at sizing up companies based on the potential of their technology or their intellectual property or their unproven ideas, they said. "They're much at better looking in the rear-view mirror than they are in through the windshield," Malven said. Still, by and large the venture capitalists and other industry experts said the venture ecosystem has benefitted from private equity firms providing more exit options for startups. Venture capitalists are often looking for home runs with their investments — companies that have the potential to deliver huge returns on their investments. That remains the primary focus of firms like his, said NFX's Flint. But not every startup is going to be a home-run investment, and having the ability to get a modest return on those kinds of companies is a good thing, he said. "More options for more capital is great for the ecosystem," Flint said. "It's great for founders, it's great for early stage VCs, it's great for customers." Got a tip about the venture-capital industry or startups? Contact this reporter via email at email@example.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop. Read more about the venture-capital industry and startups: SoftBank's $100 billion Vision Fund had a no good, very bad year in 2019, but was still in the black overall. Here's why experts are still struggling to make sense of it. Here's why Casper's disappointing IPO could spell disaster for other unicorns This LA founder just raised $40 million for his startup. Here's his unconventional advice to founders on putting together a pitch deck. Stunned venture capital investors say the government's move to kill the $1.4 billion acquisition of shaving upstart Harry's is a 'wakeup call' that could leave some types of startups unviable SEE ALSO: Here are the top 10 best performing venture funds that launched at the turn of the decade, which posted returns as high as 50% Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Watch Google reveal the new Nest Mini, which is an updated Home Mini
Andreessen Horowitz's new growth fund just invested $30 million into Imply, an open source data analytics startup taking on Microsoft and Salesforce's Tableau
Imply, an open source data analytics startup, announced $30 million in Series B funding led by...Imply, an open source data analytics startup, announced $30 million in Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz's new growth fund. The funding values the 4-year-old startup at $350 million. Imply cofounder and CEO Fangjin Yang told Business Insider that its technology is based on Apache Druid, a popular open source database project that he founded. This is the first Series B investment for Andreessen's growth fund, which was announced earlier this year, Andreessen partner Martin Casado told Business Insider. The fund typically invests in later stages, Casado explained, but Imply had reached key growth milestones uncommon for a company at that stage, and required additional capital to continue growing. Yang said Imply had only spent about 10% of its Series A funding, also led by Andreessen, over the last 18 months — partly by keeping its offices outside of San Francisco's pricey real estate market. Click here for more BI Prime stories. As Silicon Valley VCs consider pulling back on big funding rounds, Andreessen Horowitz's growth fund is doubling down with its earliest-stage investment to date — a $30 million Series B round. The storied Silicon Valley firm is leading the Series B in Imply, a 4-year-old open source data analytics startup, now valued at $350 million. It is one of the earliest rounds Andreessen's growth fund has participated in, according to partner Martin Casado, who led the firm's Series A investment in Imply through its more traditional venture fund. "I don't think we have ever seen a company that hit these numbers so efficiently," Casado told Business Insider. "The reason for the growth investment was really because the top line was great, the size of the business is much more advanced than what you would expect, and they burned very little money to get there." The low burn rate was especially key, according to Casado and Imply cofounder and CEO Fangjin Yang. The company had only burned through 10% of its Series A funding over the last 18 months, Yang said. It did this in part by keeping headcount low, and partly by keeping its headquarters in Burlingame, a less-trendy suburb of San Francisco where office space isn't quite so hard to come by. After the implosion of spend-more-to-grow-more startups like WeWork, Yang's bet is apparently paying off. Investors are increasingly looking for young companies that have financial efficiency baked into their culture. When asked how Imply compared to some of those high-flying startups burning mounds of cash, Casado laughed. "Imply is the anti-one of those," Casado said. The engine powering the car Yang built the technology behind Imply while working at a different startup in San Francisco. He and his team had been tasked with developing a better way to think about databases, which almost always deal with historical data — making it easy to see what happened in the past, but much harder to get a sense of what will happen in the future. Companies like Microsoft and Tableau (now a subsidiary of Salesforce) have made analytics their stock in trade. But Yang's team saw that those kinds of solutions fell short when it came to taking data from multiple sources, all streaming in real-time, and using it all to come up with useful and actionable insights. The team built what would ultimately become Apache Druid, a popular open source database. This approach would find itself especially useful in fields like finance or e-commerce logistics, where tons of data is flowing around at all times. "The innovation is to think about data not as static or delayed but as a continuous flow," Yang said. "It can help users answer the 'why' behind the data, which makes data more accessible." As demand grew, though, Yang realized that the project warranted a dedicated team. So he started Imply. "At Imply, I like to say we are building a car around the engine. The project was the engine, and Imply is the car," Yang said. Designed for non-technical users Although Yang and his cofounders are themselves technical, the product itself is designed for users with little to no technical experience. Making that information more accessible is part of the reason Imply has been able to expand beyond Silicon Valley startups as customers — growth that will likely continue with the fresh influx of cash. "Enterprise sales and the [business-to-business] model is very well understood in Silicon Valley, so you're not reinventing the wheel," Yang said. "There's a lot less risk, and the business model is much better understood, which is a very different model than something like WeWork that is potentially unproven." Yang said the funding will help the company expand to new markets in Asia and the Middle East over the coming months, in addition to investing heavily in marketing and hiring. Still, don't expect its culture of responsible spending to change any time soon. Asked about the San Francisco Bay Area rite of passage of landing a billboard advertisement on one of the major highways, Yang laughed. "I think it's a little against our culture to buy a billboard on the 101," Yang joked.SEE ALSO: Carta's CEO explains why he's doing away with draconian employee separation agreements and eliminating militaristic terms like 'firing' and 'termination' Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Watch Elon Musk unveil his latest plan for conquering Mars