When we believe in your vision and your team, we get conviction quickly. We often write the first large check a company receives. We aren’t afraid to assume the responsibilities of lead investor, and we are also happy to co-lead or follow alongside other great seed investors. When we commit, we leverage our relationships with other early-stage investors to help you fill your round with the best, most useful investors.
*While cash is important, entrepreneurs choose to work with us for the help, support and useful advice we provide. (Please see “How We Work” section below for more details.)
We invest at fair valuations on fair terms with total transparency (when your term sheets are clean, there’s nothing to hide). All companies and valuations are different. We are flexible on check size based on your needs, but as a general rule: Our average initial investment is $1 million; it can be as low as $500,000 or as high as $2 million. We aim for an initial ownership position between 7% and 10%.
We stay deeply involved with the founding team throughout the most intense period of a company’s life: the early years. As new investors join the board, we transition out to make room. Even then, we remain supportive and available to the team for the whole journey — no matter what the outcome. Over the years, we have seen successful entrepreneurs come back to us for funding two or three times.
Whether we are the lead of your round, or a member of the syndicate, we often recommend to add an investor seat to the board at seed stage. It’s not about taking control — it will remain in your hands. But it will help you get in the habit of managing a board in advance of your Series A. It is not an absolute must, but if we are your largest investor, we’ll be happy to take a board seat.
Your product or service should be differentiated and special. You should be obsessed with the idea and uniquely qualified to build and scale it. The sector you are targeting should be large enough to support a few public companies.
Software applications and services that enable every business to build and operate like the best companies in the world:
SendGrid, an email delivery platform which processes more than thirty billion emails each month for more than fifty five thousand customers
LaunchDarkly, which helps companies small and large test, release and control new features and software updates
Front, which takes out the pain of team inboxes and enables companies to scale customer support, hiring, sales and more.
Products and services helping people live, play, and learn:
Fintech pioneer Mint revolutionized how people manage their personal finances online.
Class Dojo fosters stronger connections and better communication in and out of the classroom between teachers, parents, and students.
Lantern’s app and coach service empowers people to take simple steps to improve their mental health.
Consumer and business marketplaces (and their offspring market networks) with strong network effects that make them hard to displace and highly scalable:
Postmates helps customers find local merchants that have the stuff they want and then delivers that stuff via its network of Postmates.
Poshmark’s fashion buyers-sellers create a virtuous cycle where users sell, feel the love, and buy again and again.
Pared helps restaurants match with qualified and reliable industry pros, who in turn return return to the Pared network to match with new restaurants, hone new skills, and earn extra money.
The introduction of infrastructure services made it faster and easier to build software startups. With cheaper sensors, compute technology, and ubiquitous network access, hardware is also eating the world:
Fitbit brought health and fitness trackers to the world, selling tens of millions of devices and helping their users to become more conscious about their health.
Molekule invented and productized a radically different way to purify indoor air by removing all particles
Pi Charging introduced the first consumer wireless and contactless charger for mobile or wearable devices using magnetic induction.
Cutting-edge technology that challenge your assumptions and change the way you look at the world:
In 2008, hardware was a new area and FitBit was our first foray
In 2011, edtech got interesting, and we placed our first bet with ClassDojo
Today, our new frontiers include VR/AR (Looking Glass: 3D interactive holograms), AI/ML, space, robotics. Are you building something futuristic that doesn’t neatly fit in a bucket? We should talk
Being a founder of a startup is hard. At times, it can be terrifying and lonely. You spend most of your waking hours grinding through impossible problems, and there are not a lot of people you can confide in. You need strong supporters who will help you work through challenges, eliminate roadblocks, offer a different perspective, and cheer when some great news is delivered. We strive to provide that support to our founders.
No two startups look alike, so we don’t deliver prescriptive formulas on how to build or scale. We work with you one-on-one to develop a custom plan to help you achieve your specific goals — and we adjust together as often as necessary. We also bring resources from our network so you can talk to experts about challenges you are facing.
We are transparent and straightforward. Sometimes that means encouraging and supporting you to keep going; sometimes that means telling you a truth that might be hard to hear, but has your best interests in mind. We’ll also cheer for you and challenge you to do more when we think you have the potential.
We will help you raise smart money. We have spent decades cultivating trusted relationships with other investors. We pay close attention to changing trends, teams, and interests at other VC firms in order to help you pitch the right story to the right investors at the right time for your A, B and C rounds.
Your first few hires are among the most important ones you ever make. As a first-time founder hiring for positions you’ve never held, knowing what to look for can be daunting. Attracting the best people to work for your unproven startup is a tough sell. We help you scope, evaluate, and close candidates so you can scale your team with confidence.
The first 18 months of your company’s life are critical. It’s not just about surviving; it’s about learning a lot, fast, in a hyper-competitive environment to build the infrastructure of your future business — people, product, technology, processes. How do we know we’re making a difference? Our follow-on investors consistently tell us our companies have stronger foundations and fundamentals than many of their peers — giving them an unfair competitive advantage.
All startups — even the ones that become billion-dollar behemoths — have tough times. Lots of things can go wrong: a problem with your product eviscerates your release date; you and your cofounder disagree on the fundamental vision of your company; a rogue butterfly from China forces customs to hold up your shipping container; the US Postmaster General shows up to arrest you (in error) for shipping fraud... and on and on. When things go wrong, you need a trusted partner — someone you are comfortable telling all the gory details. We won’t walk away; we’re here to help you work out the kinks.
At Uncork Capital, we are committed to offering a safe, welcoming, and respectful environment for everyone in our entrepreneurial community. We believe people, companies, and communities thrive when teams are diverse and inclusive. We have zero tolerance for any form of harassment or discrimination by or towards our employees, consultants, vendors or other services providers, as well as by or towards our startup founders or their employees.
Any inappropriate behavior by or towards a member of our Uncork community should be reported to our internal compliance officer, Ashley Cravens at [email protected] for proper investigation. We also welcome questions about our policies and comments on fostering a more diverse ecosystem at [email protected].
We built a thriving community around the idea of “sharing the bread” — everyone has something of value to contribute. We bring our founders and experts from our network together more than 25 times a year — at intimate dinners, educational roundtables and large summits. Our goal? To spark conversations, move ideas and create a close community. Our Slack channel connects founders so they can share day-to-day questions and concerns, and share resources. Our network of trusted service providers includes everything from graphic designers and communications professionals to lawyers and growth hackers.
Uncork Capital is a pioneer in the micro-VC market. Founded in 2004 as SoftTech VC, we raised one of the very first institutional Seed funds in 2007: $15M Fund II. Now deploying our $100M fifth fund, we have invested in over 200 companies. Sixty have had successful outcomes so far. We have also totally wiped out 50 times (because building and scaling a company to success is never easy). Our companies have raised nearly $4B in follow-on financing over the years.
In 2004, Jeff started making angel investments in emerging Web 2.0 companies. At that time, only a handful of individuals backed entrepreneurs building the next generation of Internet services: they became known as “Super Angels”. Companies they funded were remarkably capital efficient thanks to nascent cloud services. The early success of these angel collaborative investments created the underpinnings of the seed market as we know it today.
After three years of investing on his own, Jeff raised one of the very first micro-VC funds in the summer of 2007: $15M Fund II. When he launched the fund at TechCrunch 40 in September 2007, many were skeptical that a fund making small investments would be useful to entrepreneurs. Seeding great companies like Eventbrite, Sendgrid and Fitbit proved the strategy was working, and Jeff decided to expand his team. Ashley Cravens joined the firm to run operations in late 2010. Around the same time, Jeff brought on Charles Hudson as Partner. Together they raised $55M Fund III, a larger pool of capital to increase check sizes and participate in follow-on rounds. In 2011, Stephanie Palmeri joined the firm after making seed stage investments on the East Coast. In 2013, Stephanie, Charles and Jeff raised an $85M Fund IV, adopting a more concentrated strategy: larger ownership, smaller portfolio, leading rounds, and taking board seats. In 2015, Andy McLoughlin, co-founder of Huddle and angel investor in 40+ startups, joined the team to deepen the firm’s business software expertise. In 2016, Stephanie and Andy became partners and raised, together with Jeff, a $100M Fund V and a $50M “Opportunities” Fund. Around this time, Charles stepped back from the firm to launch a pre-seed firm, Precursor Ventures; he remains a close friend and is currently Venture Partner at Uncork. That same year, Caden Jennings joined Uncork as Office Manager. After investing in 200+ companies since 2004, we’ve been through a lot as a team. That experience allows us to be better advisors to you.