A company that makes a plant-based substitute for meat protein and a company that helps business owners work on the go may not seem like they have much in common. But their goal is the same: to improve human lives. As such, both companies are part of the first batch of companies a new VC firm has invested in.
A group of Silicon Valley all-stars, lead by a Twitter co-founder, has come together to form San Francisco-based investment firm Obvious Ventures, which focuses on what it is calling “world positive” companies.
The idea is that not only does it feel good to invest in companies doing good by the planet and the people living here, but also, long term, these companies are profitable, too.
“Our idea is the opposite of corporate philanthropy,” the founders write on their website. “These types of businesses have sustainable positive impact. Their profits further their purpose, and their margins drive their mission.”
The biggest Silicon Valley name on the founding committee is Ev Williams. The first company he co-founded, Pyra Labs, sold its blog-publishing service to Google in 2003. His next company, Obvious Corporation, was the parent of micro-blogging social juggernaut Twitter in 2006. In addition to being Twitter’s lead investor, Williams was also the CEO at one point. He went on to be a co-founder and CEO of the Medium, a publishing platform.
James Joaquin, also a co-founder of Obvious Ventures, worked at Apple for six years after his first software company was acquired by the tech giant. He went on to found When.com, an online calendar service, that was eventually purchased by AOL. Joaquin took executive leadership roles an of online photography service and then saw a money transfer company, Xoom.com, through its IPO in 2013.
Other members of the executive team at Obvious Ventures include a third co-founder Vishal Vasishth, who has experience investing in Asian and Indian markets, and a venture partner Sami Inkinen, who co-founded the online real-estate search engine Trulia, and worked there until the company went public.
Companies that are seeking to find ways to do more with less natural resource would fall under the “sustainable systems” category. For example, Obvious Ventures has invested in the web-based design tool Flux, which aims to improve access to design tools for architects, engineers and contractors so that they can build greener, more efficient structures.
The “people powered” category includes startups that are, thanks to the Internet, bringing business services that were once the domain of big business to small, entrepreneurial companies. For example, Obvious Ventures invested in Workpop, a job search engine for hourly work.
And finally, the Healthy Living sector serves as an umbrella for companies seeking to innovate in nutrition, exercise and medicine. In this category, Obvious Venture has invested in Olly.com, a nutrition company that makes blended gummy and gel-based supplements.
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