3.5 Notes From Our Most Substantial Venture Exit So Far

BuildingConnected, a leading construction tech SaaS startup, was acquired for $275m as part of Autodesk’s push into the vertical. I strongly believe the detailed story of the company’s success is the founders’ one to tell if they choose to do so, but at the risk of excessive inside baseball, I’ll share my perspectives from the cap table.

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Solid Example of Why We Picked Concentrated Seed as Our Model For Homebrew: This acquisition is our largest return thus far (on a total cash basis — Cruise Automation’s acquisition by GM beats it on multiple of return). BC sits in Homebrew I, a 20 company fund of $35m with initial investments made 2013–2015. We concentrate our time with companies, entering at seed stage and working with them most proactively until ~Series B — in this case that’s when I stepped off of BC’s Board into an Observer role. We tend to spend less 1:1 time with the CEO after this point but continue to lean in and do whatever we can to support the company.

Because we focus our time, we also focus our dollars, typically taking a 10–15% ownership stake during seed and then investing into subsequent rounds, which we did here into BC’s Series A (Crosslink) and Series B (Lightspeed). The combination of a modest fund size and meaningful ownership means we stay very aligned with founders for the formative years of their company and can have great outcomes along a spectrum of outcomes (you can do the math).

The biggest risk to this model of course is that you are able to find great startups and that those founders want to work with you. Power laws drive venture fund outcomes, but your fund size and ownership targets influence how outsized the outliers need to be. While we don’t set a “lower bar” on what we hope a company can achieve (Homebrew I includes three companies with $1b+ valuations — Cruise [realized], Gusto [private], Plaid [private]), it does mirror reality, where “just” a $250–500m outcome can be a fund-mover for us.

A Good Cold Email Beats a Weak Warm One: Our relationship with BuildingConnected began with a cold, inbound email. And I’ve written before about how founders can mistake an intro for a vouch, which is why a Strong Cold Email Always Beats a Warm Weak One.

So founders, please don’t let lack of existing relationships deter you from reaching out to us. Contact info is on our website.

Aligned Cap Tables Are a Godsend: Especially when the founders are considering an early acquisition, aligned cap tables are a godsend. Could an even bigger business been built here? Absolutely. But when an aggressive offer is on the table and for a variety of very legitimate reasons, the founders want to take it, our job is to help them.

Even more that just this single decision, the BuildingConnected cap table was trusting of one another and worked hard across the rounds to support the founders. That’s the way it should be! Thank you to Dave Samuel of Freestyle VC, Omar El-Ayat of Crosslink Capital and Nakul Mandan of Lightspeed Venture Partners. Also Darren Bechtel of Brick & Mortar Ventures was essential on this one.

I Can See Why VC Congrats Twitter Is Horrible: The day the deal was announced there were a lot of inbound and outbound “congrats” tweets. I’m totally guilty. Sorry.

You’ll find me @homebrew , Seed Stage Venture Fund w @satyap . Previously made products at YouTube, Google & SecondLife. Married to @cbarlerin .

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