2020 has been a year like no other. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the reenergized social justice movement, and presidential politics almost every industry was impacted in some way. In the world of venture capital, we saw the landscape for early-stage investing become ever more competitive, we joined the world in transitioning to work-from-home, and we witnessed a renewed focus on how we, as an industry, can better support diverse founders. At NVP, we’ve doubled down on a few tech trends that we believe are indicators of long-term, permanent changes, such as the acceleration of digital tools in healthcare, an explosion of the audio market and some rapid and critical changes in the global supply chain.
Along the way we also had an opportunity to observe how innovative founders deal with crisis, how great companies can adapt in real-time, and how timing – even during a pandemic – can be a key factor in a startup’s success.
Here are a few of our Top 2020 highlights:
New Investments and Follow Ons:
In 2020 we deployed $9M in capital and added 14 new companies to the portfolio. When the pandemic first hit, we predicted that VCs would deploy some of the dry powder in the market – a prediction that rang true in Newark. Our investments included follow-ons in ClassTag, 1Huddle, Veritonic, Clockwork Logistics, and Agilis. We also made new seed/Series A investments in Meet Cute, mira, FleetOps, Optimal Dynamics, and pre-seed investments in ABF Creative, Clearstep, FreightFlows, Kiira, SoftLedger, Sounder, Surround Insurance, VendX and Vikar. (Read more on those investments here and here.)
Giving Back to Newark:
Giving back to our local community in Newark – and helping to grow its tech ecosystem – have been central tenets of our fund since day one. This year, when the City needed help, we worked with Audible and Invest Newark to virtually assist Newark-based businesses struggling due to the pandemic. Audible, our founding corporate partner, also launched Newark Working Kitchens (NWK) and delivered more than 650,000 meals to more than 10,000 residents across 60 locations. All meals are prepared by NWK’s 24 participating restaurants, more than half of which are minority and/or female-owned. NWK has sustained hundreds of jobs during the pandemic and helped restaurants relaunch services and rehire staff over the last six months.
Our portfolio companies have also been busy giving back to Newark – with 1Huddle leading the way. 1Huddle’s been growing and back in February they flew the NVP nest and opened a new 7k sq/ft office at 550 Broad Street in Newark. When Coronavirus forced them to work-from-home, CEO Sam Caucci invested more in the space to ensure that his team’s eventual return to work would be safe and easy. (Read more in the WSJ.) 1Huddle also gave out free licenses to their COVID impacted brands, helping them make workforce training accessible to many vulnerable and furloughed workers. 1Huddle also worked to gamify Gov. Murphy’s COVID Job Portal and made it free for any NJ resident preparing or looking for work.
Founders making waves in the media:
We love when NVP companies are recognized in the press, but the feature on MoCaFi in the New York Times this June really raised the bar. MoCaFi’s mission is to address the needs of unbanked and underbanked communities, the majority of which are communities of color. The New York Times piece explored how the coronavirus and its disproportionate impact on people of color, combined with the renewed outcry for social justice, highlighted economic injustices within our greater financial system.
We also had two Founders, Khang Vuong (mira) and Crystal Evuleocha (Kiira) highlighted on Forbes’s Healthcare 30 Under 30 list, while Ashley Edwards, a 30 Under 30 lister, made news for becoming New Jersey’s first female founder of color to raise over $1 million in venture capital funding. Portfolio companies saw features and expert essays published in TechCrunch, Worth, Yahoo Finance, American Banker, Forbes, Business Insider and many more.
RWJ Barnabas and hospitals nationwide look to NVP portfolio companies to manage COVID-19 demands
A lot of the companies in our healthtech portfolio experienced growth this year, but some of the best partnerships were with NVP’s LP, RWJ Barnabas as they came under pressure from the original and second surges in New Jersey. They are now working with WellSheet to offer physicians a clearer view of key clinical content directly within the electronic health record system, reducing the burden on healthcare providers and saving them up to 2 hours a day. RWJ also expanded their work with CircleLink’s tele-nursing team (100% Registered Nurses) to help care for the worried well and sick at home. This drove reimbursements and health outcomes like reduced A1C (down 10%) and readmissions (down 25%). CircleLink’s Tele-nurses answer questions, coordinate care and refer patients to appropriate care settings before patients physically visit practices, along with other care management activities.
As for thinking outside the box, they are working on rolling out a partnership with MindRight Health to offer the school-age children of their front-line workers mental health coaching to help them cope with challenges from virtual schooling, to isolation, to anxiety about their parents’ safety.
PadInMotion and Clearstep have also expanded their hospital partnerships to increase connection and communication with patients and potential patients. PadInMotion collaborated with key customers including leading health systems in New York City to deploy its bedside tablets for rapid roll-out to isolation rooms. These provide education specific to COVID, entertainment offerings, and supportive tools for relaxation, spirituality and mental health. The company also launched two new communication tools to help with isolation and infection control. Clearstep developed a COVID-19 digital screener that helped patients navigate the questions brought up by COVID-19 — such as whether they should get tested, isolate themselves or go to the hospital – and helped lessen the burden on hospital systems and emergency rooms.
Growth and Mentorship:
NVP’s sourcing methodology has played an important role in how we find and support diverse founders. This year we are proud to have been named in CBInights “United State of Venture Capital” report as the most active fund in New Jersey in Q3, and in Crunchbase’s Diversity Report as one of the Top 10 micro VCs investing in Black & Latinx founders. We are additionally proud to have brought on some new team members, including Brian Aeoah and Michelle Morris as Venture Partners – not only helping to evaluate potential investments but to guide and mentor founders within our portfolio.
All in all, while 2020 was full of challenges, we have never been more proud of our founders, our startups, or our corporate partners. In many ways, 2020 has shown the real value of entrepreneurial thinking and how startups can change the world. We believe that 2021 is full of promise – and we look forward to investing in new groundbreaking entrepreneurs, expanding our NVP community, and getting back to our favorite Newark hangouts.