Big Fires Everywhere

Leadout Capital Partners
4 min readSep 30, 2020

Leadout Capital Journal I(2)

September, 2020

This tweet might just sum up the year so far:

“January, February, quarantine, December”@the_Octoberman, 9/20/20

Or maybe that tweet is just too benign. The global pandemic, our climate crisis, and the social and political upheaval are as formidable challenges to our well being as one can imagine. The fires that are ravaging the entire Western Coast of the continental US, the accompanying heat waved, and the toxic AQI that persists (pictures that I took from my NorCal home earlier this month) feel apocalyptic.

Clockwise from top: CZU Lightening Complex Fire raging 7 miles from where these pictures were shot (day and night view) and local trail the day the atmosphere seemed truly Martian … this is not a sepia filter), AQI App Purple Air showing air quality as extremely dangerous for the entire West Coast

And on the first evening of the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah, we lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a titan of justice and the law and a champion of equal rights for women. This loss hit me particularly hard. Ginsburg defined the fact that women are people in the eye of the law. It sounds ridiculous to both write and read this but, at the time she started, this idea was radical. And Justice Ginsburg’s life, impact and willingness to be a heroine of the movement was a gift to all of us. She was truly willing to fight the fight.

It is tempting to vent, relent and blame others especially given all that 2020 has thrown at us. But for me, these days are an urgent reminder of why I started Leadout Capital and why so many of you came on board to support us and help us change the system. What has become clear over the past year especially, is that many of the systems and the leadership that created and control them need to change in order to ensure a better future for ALL of us.

At Leadout, we’ve always believed in finding and amplifying the broader range of voices. The challenges we face today are vital validation that we need a next generation of founders to build the companies that serve overlooked communities and markets. We are precise and clear in our vision and we will not stop fighting for the things that are right in the world.

In keeping with our passion for systems change, we have joined and helped organize several new initiatives to augment under-represented groups’ access to venture capital including VCOpendoor, Rise of the Rest and OHub’s Virtual Pitch Competition, as well as a peer group of investors organized to review opportunities from Black & LatinX Founders. We’re working with the Gaingel Group leadership, which focuses on LGBTQ entrepreneurs. And we continue to play leadership roles and benefit from all that the team at AllRaise is doing to advance the number of women in venture capital.

We’re spending time and resources with the leadership at Transparent Collective to support women and underrepresented people in technology and venture capital. Transparent Collective had their Batch 6 Demo Day this past Friday and the group was impressive!

Virtual pitching and conducting business for entrepreneurs and investors alike is now very much the norm. We are finding no shortage of compelling opportunities to pursue in our mission to do well by doing good. Examples include urging many of our companies to adjust pricing, product and market approach for communities and industries most impacted by COVID and Climate Change.

Without a doubt, the challenges presented by 2020 so far are driving a paradigm shift for both consumers and enterprises. I am proud to highlight some of the insightful and purpose driven ways the Leadout Portfolio is seeing to address the pain points experienced by the markets they are serving:

Select Portfolio Companies Highlights:

  • CoProcure CoProcure recently soft-launched an updated version of their product to the KCM region. The new product expands search across 20K+ business listings in addition to contract search. They were featured in the annual NIGP Forum and welcomed a new software engineer.
  • Arc is a revenue generating p2p CDN is growing with 5M nodes monthly and > 1TB of bandwidth served per day. And has recently grown, hiring a FT software engineer who used to make Doom models and an intern, a Yale chess champion
  • Near Space Labs — NSL closed a new round adding Ridge and Blackhorn to the investor group. Prominent new customers include Orbital Insight. The ops team has doubled to ramp the volume of the imagery and insights served to customer
  • theCut — The team partnered with the Cut Hypertension program to help provide accurate insights to policymakers and community leaders about how the COVID pandemic has impacted barbers and the barbershop industry. Check out CEO Obi Omile, Jr.’s article about vertical SaaS in VentureBeat
  • Walrus — The application test automation platform is hiring! Full Stack Developer JD here
  • Pawscout — …launched the Guardians feature, allowing pet parents to designate pet responsibilities to other caregivers. Despite Covid headwinds, the engagement in part thanks to the Guardians launch suggests that pet owners are doing more walks with their pets.