The OK Company launches today with OK Play, its first product encouraging children’s social and emotional growth by inspiring kids and parents to play together

The year 2020 will be remembered as an unbelievably challenging time for parents with young children: quarantine at home, work from home, and teach children to learn from home. At Obvious, we believe technology can play a positive role in early childhood education, and this year we know that parents need it more than ever before. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce our Series A investment in The OK Company.

OK Play, a new app launching today from the OK Company, is designed to use screen time as a catalyst for real-world play where parents can foster connections with kids and build empathy, kindness, and creativity. Available today for smartphones and tablets in the Apple and Android app stores, OK Play features a wide range of daily activities that parents and kids can do together, both on-screen and off. OK Play is free for everyone to use, and also offers a premium subscription for parents seeking a deeper curriculum and the ability to save photo and video moments they co-create with their children. …

A recipe for effective and enjoyable startup board meetings

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The folklore of bad board meetings at venture-backed startups is too strong to ignore.

Desultory meetings run by sleep-deprived CEOs pulling all-nighters to get the board slides done. Frantic product teams racing to cobble together an innovation demo for the just-conjured roadmap. And let’s not forget cranky, unprepared investors asking minutia questions about slide #4 that will be fully answered on slide #7.

What if you could flip all that into a truly delightful collaboration between founders and investors that help the business stay true to its purpose and (hopefully) achieve great success?

Recent events pushing leadership teams to all-remote sessions makes it all the more important to pick the right strategy and structure for board effectiveness. …

Obvious invests in Taika

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I’m excited to share the story behind our investment in Taika: a new kind of functional beverage company based in San Francisco, CA.

We first met Taika co-founders Michael Sharon and Kal Freese in early 2019. We were on a quest to find and fund a next-generation beverage company that could deliver a health and wellness boost alongside the taste and quality of a world-class coffee or tea to start the day.

The Taika founders were on a similar journey they call Stealth Health — a vision to hijack everyday food and beverage habits with efficacious wellness benefits. …

Announcing Obvious Ventures’ Third Fund: $271,828,182

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Today we’re announcing our third fund, OV3. In the Obvious tradition, this fund size has an interesting number: $271,828,182. It’s a nod to one of the most important constants in mathematics: Euler’s Number, universally known as e.

The number e (2.71828182…) is the limit of (1 + 1/n)ⁿ as n approaches infinity. You may have learned about it studying compounding interest or calculus. It’s named e after Leonhard Euler (pronounced “Oiler”), who is downright legendary in mathematics. More details for math nerds below the fold.

e is essential to the mathematics of proportional growth, and OV3 marks an important growth milestone for Obvious. As we enter our seventh year as a firm, we’ve grown a diverse portfolio of companies that are disrupting huge industries in world positive ways. In 2019 we saw our first portfolio exits, including the IPO of Beyond Meat (NASDAQ: BYND) — a strong financial return for Obvious and other Beyond Meat investors. …

Helping healthcare professionals find and do their best work

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We first met Iman Abuzeid at the fourth NFX Guild Demo Day in March 2017. Her startup, Incredible Health, was a fledgling marketplace idea with a huge mission: help nurses find and do their best work.

Iman has a lot of distance traveled in the world of healthcare. She received her MD in London, subsequently focusing on systemic healthcare challenges with stints at Booz & Co., the Harvard School of Public Health, and McKinsey & Co. After moving to the U.S. and completing her MBA at Wharton, she went to work at a clinical-grade mobile health startup. …

How a Seasoned Entrepreneur Created a Category Disruptor

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On April 18, 2019 Unilever announced the acquisition of Olly into their family of global brands. Obvious Ventures is fortunate to be the largest investor in Olly and I’ve had a ringside seat since the beginning. Here’s my quick story of how a San Francisco startup reimagined the vitamins category and built a valuable new brand in record time.

The story begins (and repeats) with Eric Ryan. Eric is the co-founder and CEO of Olly, who set out in 2014 on a mission to make nutrition fun and easy so consumers could pursue good health without compromise.

Olly is Eric’s second act. He first co-founded Method, which disrupted the hand soap and cleaning products categories with beautifully designed products. I met Eric in the early Method days, when I was an investor and board member in Method competitor Seventh Generation (also acquired by Unilever). Even though we were “frenemies” in the marketplace, we became fast friends around our shared belief in purpose-driven business. …

Our new Venture Partner at Obvious Ventures

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Di-Ann is always on the move. In 2009 she started the U.S. office of Waze, the community-driven navigation service we all know and love. Di-Ann was Director of Growth for Waze including platform, business development, and marketing (acquired by Google 2013). While at Waze she founded the Waze Connected Citizens Program which worked with 650 cities and departments of transportation to use data to reduce congestion and improve emergency response times.

Currently Di-Ann is incubating new urban systems at Google’s Area 120 and, in parallel, joining us at Obvious to help find and fund world positive startups across the full stack of urban infrastructure. …

Artificial Intelligence Meets Human Intuition

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Today I’m pleased to announce that my teammate Nan Li has been promoted to Managing Director at Obvious Ventures.

I have a flash bulb memory of when my co-founder Vishal Vasishth showed me Nan’s resume almost four years ago. I saw a rare combination of technical, startup, and venture experience and immediately called him. It didn’t take long from that phone call to welcome Nan to a Principal role on the Obvious investment team.

Roll the clock forward… Nan is driving our work at the intersection of deep tech and world positive startups. Over the last three and a half years Nan has shown true thought leadership in the areas of computational biology, AI, machine learning, and robotics. …

Three upgrades for startup and venture capital governance

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In recent months, the news has been filled with examples of unethical and sometimes criminal behavior occurring across the technology industry, inside startups, and inside investment firms. This is a wake up call for VCs and entrepreneurs to put more time and effort into culture, values, and better governance systems at the earliest stages of startup formation.

If you want a more detailed examination of the issues, I recommend this Stanford GSB “Closer Look” paper entitled Governance Gone Wild: Epic Misbehavior at Uber Technologies.

Rather than pile onto the mountain of negative news about the technology industry, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and work on solutions. …


James Joaquin

#worldpositive investor @ Obvious Ventures (and the former CEO @ Xmarks, Xoom, & Ofoto)

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