Alumni, Entrepreneurship

Alumni Startup Corner: Investors’ Favorite HBS Companies

 

Keith Bender, Contributor

HBS alumni venture capital investors share their favorite startups founded by fellow HBS graduates. Keith Bender (MBA ’20) reports. 

 

HBS alumni startup founders have created $364B in market value since 2010. Accordingly, graduates in the venture capital industry closely follow the companies our fellow alumni are building. This month, I asked a panel of alumni VCs to share: “What are your current favorite HBS alumni-founded startups—at any stage, whether you have invested in them or not?”

 

Nnamdi Okike (MBA ’09, 645 Ventures) 

My favorite HBS-founded startup is HeadsUp, which is a no-code platform that generates actionable Product Qualified Leads (PQLs), allowing companies to zero in on customers that are most likely to buy. We were first introduced to Earl Lee (Harvard MS/MBA candidate) and his co-founder Momo Ong from fellow 645 portfolio company and current unicorn, FiscalNote. We were impressed with the team’s in-depth market expertise, technical ability, and passion for the industry, ultimately convincing us to lead their Seed round.

 

Merritt Hummer (MBA ’16, Bain Capital Ventures) 

I’m a big fan of Torch Dental, founded by Khaled Boukadoum (MBA ’17), which is transforming the world of dental procurement through its operating system for dental offices. Torch’s long term vision is to combine the best of vertical SaaS, embedded fintech, and embedded procurement.

 

Dave Anderson (MBA ’19, Beat Ventures) 

There are two early-stage startups founded by classmates that I’m super excited about. The first is Foodology which was co-founded by my section-mate, Daniela Izquierdo. They’re scaling virtual restaurant brands across Latin America and just raised a $15M Series A led by a16z. The second is Bundle, founded by Kayla Lebovitz, which provides personalized, interactive experiences for employees.

 

Eric Paley (MBA ’03, Founder Collective)

thredUP comes first to mind. We were very lucky to meet James Reinhart (MBA ’09) very early and be investors from the first round through the IPO. And although we weren’t investors, I also greatly admire Ovia Health, founded by Paris Wallace (MBA ’08). It gets less attention than it deserves and sold this year in a terrific outcome. 

And on another crazy level of scale, we were very lucky to be seed investors behind Bom Kim (who left the MBA program after 6 months) and Coupang. It’s worth around $50B now as a public company and makes a convincing case for being the leading mobile commerce company in the world.

 

Corey Mulloy (MBA ’01, Highland Capital) 

I’m biased as an investor, but Julia Cheek (MBA ’11)—Everlywell—is the best.

Alex Taussig (MBA ’09, Lightspeed)

I’d pick two, both founded by my classmates from 2009. One is thredUP (TDUP), which just went public this year and was my first investment when I moved to the West Coast in 2012. The other is Cloudflare (NET), which continues to soar to new heights and power a nontrivial portion of the internet.

 

Tim Brady (MBA ’95, Y Combinator)

Two HBS-founded companies that I’ve enjoyed working with at YC are Ribbon Health and UpEquity. Ribbon Health, founded by Nate Fox (MBA ’17) and Nate Maslak (MBA ’17), is providing healthcare information to companies in order to lower the cost of care. UpEquity, led by Tim Herman (MBA ’20) and Louis Wilson (MBA ’20), is helping home buyers increase their buying power by competing with all-cash offers. Both teams are great, well-matched founders with superb technical talent.

 

Rob Toews (MBA ’17, Radical Ventures)

My favorite HBS alumni-founded startup is the Southeast Asian juggernaut Grab, for the simple reason that it is in my opinion the most consequential technology company to ever come out of HBS. The company started out as a ride-hailing startup and rapidly expanded into delivery, ecommerce, payments and financial services. It is slated to go public later this year at a valuation of ~$40 billion via Altimeter’s SPAC.


Keith Bender (MBA ’20) is an investor at Pear VC in Palo Alto, where he invests at pre-seed, seed, and Series A rounds across industries. He leads Baker Founders, a community dedicated to HBS alumni entrepreneurs. Previously, Keith worked at Bessemer Venture Partners and BCG. He is a graduate of Harvard College and is originally from Arizona. For comments and questions, please reach out to keith@pear.vc.

November 22, 2021
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