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super{set} Partners Tom, Vivek, and Jeremy Chat Fund II

March 28, 2024
Written By
March 28, 2024
Season 5 Episode 2
42:45
Written By

super{set} General Partner Jeremy Klein joins Tom and Vivek for this special episode digging into Jeremy's background and early work at the inception of super{set}, the immense data+AI opportunity today, why super{set} has raised Fund II, and how super{set} will partner with co-founders in Fund II. Don't miss this big news!

Announcing super{set} Fund II!

The world has tilted in our favor. We’ve been building companies in the data+AI space for 25 years, mostly while it was niche and nerdy. With the AI revolution fully upon us, we’re thrilled to announce that super{set} has closed a $90 million second fund to invest in companies at inception.

Since launching our first fund, super{set} has founded, funded and scaled 16 data+AI startups. Fund II brings our committed capital in active funds to $176M and comes on the heels of super{set}’s first exit: the acquisition of leading data collaboration company Habu for $200 million in January 2024.

Learn more about the Fund II announcement at superset.com/feed/super-set-fund-ii-90-million-to-intensify-our-serial-focus-on-data-ai-company-building

Read Tech Crunch's Exclusive Coverage: "Boutique startup studio super{set} gets another $90 million to co-found data and AI companies"

Learn more about our VECTOR program - a 12-week fully-paid launchpad for technical product leaders to receive direction, build magnitude, and co-explore company creation alongside super{set} - at superset.com/vector

Transcript

​Vivek: Hello and welcome to season five of the Closed Session. I'm Vivek Vaidya.

Tom: and I'm Tom Chavez.

Vivek: Today, we're very excited to have our own Jeremy Klein, General Partner at super{set} with us. Jeremy was with us from the beginning, day one at super{set}. OG. He was previously a lawyer at Gunderson Dettmer, where he advised leading startups at all stages of the corporate life cycle and venture capital investors in their portfolio company investments.

Tom: Can we come clean after all these years and just note that Jeremy was also instrumental in the acquisition of Krux.

Vivek: He was.

Tom: Of course, he was

Vivek: That's how we met him.

Tom: That's how we met him. He was behind a curtain pulling all of the knobs and dials.

Vivek: Yeah. And he was also in the Peace Corps. Uh, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay. Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, Jeremy now lives in the Bay Area with his wife and two lovely kids.

Tom: And so speaking of Paraguay, Jeremy...

Vivek: You had to do that?

Tom: Well, that's the proper pronun... He gets angry. If you, if you'd say Paraguay, like, you did, it's Paraguay, you know, Jeremy, Jeremy, tell me.

Jeremy: You are right, Tom.

Tom: And he speaks Guarani. So can, can say something like what a pleasure it is to be on this podcast in Guarani for our listeners, because we have lot of Guarani...

Jeremy: [Speaks Guarani]

Tom: Okay.

Vivek: Do you even know what he said?

Tom: Yes, he said Tom is my favorite general partner the two general partners that I get to work with him.

Vivek: Right. Okay. Okay. We're here for a special announcement, right? That's why we brought Jeremy here.

Tom: Big news.

Vivek: Okay. Why don't you lay it down?

Tom: Okay. I'm going to drop it like it's hot. We are announcing that super{set} has closed, our second fund, $90 million. And that's going to give us all resources to intensify our focus on, on building companies, based on data and AI. It's pretty exciting.

Vivek: So why did we do this now? Why a second fund for super{set} and why now?

Tom: Well, look, we're barely getting started here, right? So fund one is doing extremely well. Uh, that was I guess, a $65 million fund and it's mostly allocated. So this is an opportunity really to just kind of scale up our, our overall focus on founding, funding, and scaling, uh, these data and AI companies. Particularly in an environment now where, as we've noted, I think before on this podcast, the entire planet, is kind of tilting favorably in our direction, right? We've been doing this data AI stuff arguably before it was cool.

Vivek: That's right.

Tom: And so suddenly, now the world is kind of moving in our direction and this is the time to double down.

Vivek: Aren't you doing any companies in Crypto?

Tom: No companies in crypto.

Vivek: Why not?

Tom: Well, because we don't do crypto. When we started fund one, see, you're baiting me. When we started fund one everybody would say, this is adorable. This data AI stuff you're talking about. But what do you got in the way of Web3 or crypto. And, it always, I, I don't know about you, but I always felt a little, well, I got nothing for nothing to say about crypto. You are known to be an extreme blockchain adherence, so maybe that was angle that we missed.

Vivek: Maybe.

Tom: Would you say?

Vivek: Maybe. Yeah, huge fan. Huge. No, but I, I, I, mentioned this because it's now become second, second place like, you know, nobody asks you, why are you doing the data and AI company now, right?

Tom: You don't get that anymore.

Vivek: Back then like, Oh, why aren't you doing crypto? You should do crypto, you should do Web3. The world really has tilted in our favor, right? And we've been, as Tom mentioned, we've been doing this for, uh, for quite some time. And so we're, we're glad to see that people are recognizing that, that building data and AI companies, doing as somebody said, said to us, boring, but bountiful stuff is actually cool. again. So, uh, so today we're going to get into why we launched the second fund and why now? What's the market opportunity for data and AI companies? And why is that so big? And why we're so excited to collaborate with this, uh, growing pool of exceptional and motivated talent that we're inviting to build alongside us.

Tom: Okay, so I'm, I'm psyched to get into all of this but before we drop in. Jeremy. Welcome, you're an OG, here on Day 1. Give us a little anecdote a little, a little story about ramen noodle days at the very beginning of super{set}.

Jeremy: Sure. Well, thanks for having me. So, in the early days of super{set}, before we had an office, we worked out of a co-working space called Bespoke in the Westfield Mall, or the mall formerly known as the Westfield Mall on Market Street. And it was a relatively nice co-working space, except there were no windows. So we were all super excited to move into our new office on Mission Street in the Union Square area. We were on the brink of signing a lease for that new office, when we were told that we didn't have the assets or balance sheet to make the landlord comfortable. And so our plans to leave Bespoke were spoiled. One of the three of us almost had a stroke, I won't say which one. uh...

Tom: Vivek is very sporty about this things go on.

Jeremy: But I guess out of lemons we made lemonade. Because we ended up finding an even better office and in early 2019 we moved out of our co-working space and started playing with the big boys in a, in a real office.

Tom: And, and I didn't have to like take the extra vitamin D drops every, every day because I was so deprived in a, in a windowless mall for hours on end.

Jeremy: On the plus side. You could stop eating fast food from from the...

Vivek: What was that restaurant called? Uh, right across the, isle from...

Tom: Yeah, I don't know those were some greasy ass fries though, delicious.

Vivek: Wish they were Delicious.

Tom: But not good for you.

Vivek: Yeah, that's true.

Tom: Okay. we graduated. We got our own very, uh, our own office. With actual desks and chairs and stuff, whiteboards.

Vivek: How many companies in fund one, Jeremy?

Jeremy: So we had a total of 16 companies in the first fund. Most of which are still active and growing and we're very hands on with them. And second fund which we'll get to will allow us to continue that company creation.

Tom: Hey, so Jeremy, you're, you're a huge part of our, our conversations with co-founders and you've shown up with a lot of really a lot great acumen, right? In terms of how we determine who to work with. So talk a little bit you would about, and we say people, product customers in that order. So talk to us a little bit about, the co-founders when you're talking to them. What are you hearing from them? Why are they interested in talking to us? What, you know, and maybe a little bit of color on, on how we think about the ideal co-founder profile.

Jeremy: Sure. So I think it goes without saying that all of the co-founders or potential co-founders we talk to are incredible technologists. All have a lot of pedigree, uh, have worked at places like Google and Amazon and have been well trained. Many of them have started their own companies or tried to start their own companies or worked at small companies. And they're really looking for the right opportunity to co-found a company. For them, in some cases, that means leaving big tech, uh, and giving up the steady paycheck, the equity, all the rewards that come at working in big tech. And so they're very particular in what they're looking for. And I think for most potential co-founders, the idea of actually starting a company in the, in a garage is sort of romantic for a movie. But in actuality is less than ideal. Many co-founders have families, mortgages where, you know, they can't live on ramen for, for three years. But more than that, more than just being able take a salary, I think many of these co-founders have actually started a company or worked at a startup, and they realize all of the things that they don't know, all of the areas where they need help. And so they're looking for the sweet spot between big tech and starting a company on their own or going to work for a Series A startup. And so what we tell them is at super{set}, you have co-founder Impact and co-founder economics. By that, we mean you come in, you show up as we say, as a co-founder for real, you have massive autonomy to sort of direct the, the company as far as product, as far as culture, as far as hiring.

Tom: Which, which is been a little disorienting, right? For a couple of our co-founders, potentially at the beginning, like they didn't understand how much rope, how many resources, how much leeway they were going to be given, right?

Vivek: Yeah. In fact, I think Andrew, when we were talking to him about this, he said one of the things he was pleasantly surprised by was how much autonomy he had in building his business.

Jeremy: Yeah, the way that I usually explain it is we have a co-founder named Pankaj who said that wanted to build an office and a team in India. And we sort of shrugged and said, great, let's do it. Uh, and we have another co-founder named Gal who said the same. Uh, he wanted to build team in Israel. And we said, great, let's do it. And so they have massive autonomy to, to, again, not only direct the product, but also to build the teams, have the culture, and really determine how they want to make their mark on the company, which you just can't do at a Series A company, coming in as the, you know, second or third, or even sometimes the first, product person. And then second point I was going to say is, you know, we also offer co-founder economics, and that I mean, you come in and you get co-founder equity, uh, and that's important for people, and, and, you know, if you're going to give up the benefits of big tech, then you want to have equity upside, when you're getting a company off the ground. And you know, again, you go to Series A company and you get a fraction of percent, uh, maybe a percent it's just not, it's just not super attractive for somebody spent some time Google or Facebook or Amazon, um, and is leaving something that's, you know, pretty steady and pretty lucrative. So we think we offer a pretty unique value prop.

Tom: I think that's important to, to really amplify quickly because all of these co-founders were lucky to work with, I know were given, or had options to go in and join a post-Series A, post-Series B company that, you know, the luminaries on SandHill or something had already funded. And as you say, Jeremy, Hey, I'll kick you down a fraction of a percent, you're going to be the head of product. Good for you. For them, you know, you're going to put all your blood and sweat and time into building something, and, and by the way, you're gonna be doing somebody else's bidding, it's not really gonna be totally your company as you point out Jeremy, like the risk reward just doesn't feel right.

Vivek: Yep, so impact and autonomy on both dimensions, co-founders at super{set} have, have a lot of, uh, flexibility. So Jeremy, what what do we look for in a candidate and what red flags have you come across in interviews?

Jeremy: Yeah, so I think. Like said, I think the, the experiences and the, the capabilities, technical skills and so forth are prerequisites necessary but not sufficient, you might say. So I think there are couple key traits that I look for. The first is, a very high level of, of collaboration and so one of the ways that I try to tease that out is is, for someone who's worked at an early stage company or started a company, I really dig into who were the people who were there when they joined, what were their roles and responsibilities, what was their relationship, who left when, what's their current relationship today. Really try to understand how they, how they built relationships with their team And how they leaned on each other. And second thing I look for, and maybe, maybe these could be perceived as conflicting is an intensity. So, by that, I don't necessarily mean somebody who's loud or extroverted, but somebody who's incredibly motivated, who wants it, who's, who's got it in their gut, where you can just feel it's sort of oozing out of them that they need to do this. And I think, if you, it's, it's funny if you look at some of the, most of the co-founders we work with they're probably more introverted. They're not loud but there is this burning intensity where when you're talking to them you know that they want to do this. And more than that it's not, it's not that, you know, they're going to try this and if it doesn't work they're going to move on to the next thing. They think this is my shot. I'm going to do everything to make this work. And so if I don't feel that level of intensity, it's, it's hard for me to sort get over the hill, even if they're super talented.

Vivek: Yeah, and one of the things I found very helpful, actually, to your point about collaboration and intensity, right, is all of our co-founders are genuinely curious about other companies in our portfolio as well, and so much so that they actually actively ask me about, Hey, what's going on in this company? What's going on in that company? And the co-founders have dialogue amongst themselves, too. And sometimes, oftentimes, actually, they end up providing useful input to each other as well. So, there's this curiosity as you, as you mentioned, not just about their own business and own company, but what other companies as well that are being built around the Hive.

Tom: Yeah and I think we really, we've just come to, to a deeper understanding in these last two or three years, especially that conventional pedigree. Maybe it's an, you know, actually we don't, it's not even a necessary condition, right? And I think the way a lot of venture capitalists frequently get caught up in their knickers on, you know, what institutions, or what degrees did you get, maybe, but mostly, as you're pointing out Jeremy, it's about finding people with that fierce commitment to the cause, right? And, and also, as you say, like they don't have to be big blowhard extroverts who run around, jump in the parade, making all kinds noise. But they're they're just committed to the craft and are going to die with their gun in their hand, right? They are just not going get, they're not going to punk out. They understand that it's going be hard. And, they've got the temperament and the constitution to really see it all the way through.

Vivek: So, as you are looking at all this now, Jeremy, what what would your message be to co-founders out there who are listening to this podcast? Why should they join us and build out companies that are gonna be funded out of uh, superset Fund two.

Jeremy: Well, I think this is a particularly perfect time for people to join us, sort of, if you look at the macro changes in the economy. One with, with, you know, all of the challenges that big tech is going through, questions about whether that is actually a stable path for people and then also the arrival of Gen AI and, and all of technological advances that we're on the cusp of seeing. I think it's amazing time to get started with something new, try to build something that can be really consequential in this changing environment. And then I think, you know, beyond just starting something now. I think the reason to at least come talk to us at super{set}, is because, you know, getting a company off the ground is, is hard. And I think the people who are honest with themselves and especially the people who tried to do it before, understand that there are just lots things that they don't know and, and haven't, haven't learned yet. And I think our team brings a lot experience and perspective and, you know, at a minimum, can share a whole bunch of the mistakes that we've made that hopefully our co-founders won't make. Just to give maybe one example, I was talking to one of our co-founders about three months in about the project that we're working on together. And I said, so how's it going so far? And he said, well, if it weren't for super{set}, I would have started a different company solving a different problem. I realize now that, that would have been a horrible mistake that would have ended up in a ditch and that the problem that we're working on together is a massive, awesome opportunity that maybe I didn't realize out of the gate. And so I think even just that slight course correction of, hey! Instead of starting Company A, let's start Company B is massive when you think about the commitment that you're making and the opportunity cost. So I think there's so many of those sorts of moments, even many of that are much more, um, mundane in the early stages. And and we can really help de-risk that journey and also, um, beyond that accelerate the, the chances of success.

Tom: Like old elephants, we kind of know where the watering holes are and we sense, you know, and we know the places you got to stay clear of. And then, and alongside that, again, is this we've talked about in prior podcasts is this joy, that all in just building together, right? SoSo we don'tant to just be critiquers and pointing, no the water's that way, not this way. We want to pick, we want be in it to win it. And uh, yeah, it's really gratifying that, that we're finding, co-founders who, who want that too. It's not everyone's cup of tea, right? But for the ones that we're lucky to work with, when it works, man, it really works.

Vivek: Yeah. So let's, let's, uh, let's actually go a little deeper on why do we launch fund two now? Why is the ideal, why is now the ideal moment to do it? And, and I want to come back to the, you know, the joke we were making about crypto and Web3. There was a lot of buzz about AI, Gen AI, you know, everybody's like, oh, we can just put an LLM for that. There's a lot of that going on right now. So there is, there is hype and buzz. Uh, what's different? Uh, what's different from the AI buzz today versus the Web3 buzz from whatever, four years ago, three or three and a half years ago.

Tom: Look, I mean, let's kick it around. I think, well, first the numbers speak for themselves. Post implosion of Binance and SPF and, and just the whole mess. It's not anecdotal, it just didn't work, right? It was, it was a fabulous state of mind, a lot of people got high, in our, in my point of view. And chase something, by the way, as a computer scientist, a lot of those concepts are very, very cool they glisten for us what was lacking was the ability to really kind of hit a tangible market opportunity, right? And so, if we think about AI now in, in exactly, in an opposite sense, right? It's not anecdotal, right? We're looking at at, these uh, at what LLMs and there's a little too much buzz, we'll get back that in a minute. But, but it's not make believe, right? There has been this kind of quantum leap that we've taken in terms of the, the power and possibility of, of these models. By the way, it's not the models that made it all happen, it's the compute, right? And the shipsets and everything that's happening further down the stack that made all of this possible. So, so you look at all of those things together it's super exciting, where I think we show up is, the, is an understanding of and by way, we're not going to create a new LLM substrate. We're not shipset guys, right? where we know we can distinguish ourselves is in is in the engineering of AI, using those kinds of techniques, with focus on data. Vivek, talk a little bit about this because we've been at this for 25 years.

Vivek: No, absolutely. So the thing for me, right, is that you mentioned blockchain and, and other computer, from a computer science perspective, the concept of the blockchain and the underlying data structure and, and the possibilities that emanate from that are immense. What, what's been missing all around, and this, this is my, this has been my point of view, along is that. The practical application, you know, actually create business applications using that. That narrative has been missing, right? It's like, I have this cool technology so I can solve these problems, right? And they don't pay attention to well, but we already do it this way. How are you going to get from here to there? Nobody has a narrative on that. What's different for me with this, with LLMs and all this Gen AI Talk is that we're starting backwards from the application. What's being re-engineered is, oh, because now you can do these things. What, what does it mean for the user experience? What new workflows can be built to make people more efficient in their jobs? How to drive revenue and how to, how to decrease costs and how to, how to make people more productive using these technologies. That's what we're talking about.

Tom: One of the jam sessions we had just this last week right? So, and, and maybe it's boring to some, maybe it feels a little pedestrian, but how do you take those kinds of techniques and help a knowledge worker in a recruiting firm or copy editor in a publishing firm do their jobs 10 times faster?

Vivek: Yep. And we came up with this thing. We want to turn knowledge workers now into AI workers and uh, and, and we want, we want them to be able, to your point about data, Tom, we want them to be able to leverage their data, and harness the value of their data to to build applications that are going to drive results for their businesses.

Tom: So let, let's, let's dwell on that for a little bit because in this world we're living in, where most of us are really subscribing via APIs to existing LLMs, right? Your ability to differentiate and add any kind of special sauce to the answers that ChatGPT4 has already given everybody else, it, it all hinges fundamentally on the data, the proprietary data, whatever you've got, that you can bring to fine tune the results you're getting from those kinds of models. So, so, you know, I know we've been like a broken record on this thing, but data, more data, better data, in this context beats everything else.

Vivek: Everything else. Yes. And, uh, Jeremy, what do you think about all that?

Jeremy: I mean, I think that makes sense, right? But for me, Web3 was always a, you say a solution in search of a problem. I think It's pretty clear that Gen AI will solve, I mean, there are problems out there that only Gen AI can solve, or there are efficiencies there that only Gen AI can deliver. So it seems pretty clear that Gen AI is here and it's going to be here and it's gonna be important. I think the harder question maybe is okay, so then what, what does that mean? What kind of companies are going to spring up? Who, who's going to reap the rewards of Gen AI? And I think being place like super{set} to try to answer those sorts of questions and figure out, okay, so, Gen AI is a thing, but where do I play in this space? That's where we spend a lot of time. Um, we have a whole team focused on that and I think we have some good perspective, and I think we'll end up building companies that are not necessarily Gen AI apps but, but are, for example, picks and shovels, as we call it. Some of the companies that need to exist to, um, enable all of the cool applications that Gen AI will enable. And then there'd be other places where we think of problems out there that we need to solve, and we'll solve with Software and workflow and old school AI and maybe we'll sprinkle some Gen AI on it But we don't have to just jump on Gen AI because it's the cool new thing we'll find ways to, to make it work and make it work in a way that's defensible and scalable and, and ultimately hopefully successful.

Tom: See, for me, Jeremy, when you talk like that, I mean, that's what engineers do, right? Scientists are interested in what's true? What's so? Engineers obsess over what works, right? So Albert Einstein struggling with the nature of time and space and matter and energy. I know George, uh, Robert Oppenheimer is, is lauded as a great scientist and he was, but in my mind, he was really just a superb engineer because he could take all of these techniques, bring all of these people together, in the New Mexico desert and, and find a way to engineer the possibility, the scientific possibility that Einstein had unleashed into the atom bomb, right? And so, engineers relish these, these more pedestrian, how do you make stuff that actually works in the real world. And that's, and that's we're unabashed about that we're going to keep on doing it. Hey, can we, uh, change gears and, and do our totally unpaid for promotion?

Vivek: Sure. What do you have in mind?

Tom: Well, so, we like to tease Jeremy. That he is, you know, he's a very wise counselor, but he's a little, he's so wise that sometimes, and has like the accumulated wisdom of an 85 year old guy. So I've teased Jeremy, like he's a he's an 85 year old curmudgeon, in a 35 year old body. It's amazing. Jeremy, what's the best old man medicine every co-founder needs to start taking tomorrow?

Jeremy: Pepcid.

Tom: Pepcid, Okay. Well, That's a defensive. What... is that a defensive measure? I mean, is it too late? After you, after you're taking Pepcid? What should you take to avoid the things that require you to, require Pepcid?

Jeremy: Is this a leading question, Tom?

Tom: I don't know, I'm just trying to like,

Vivek: I'm enjoying this dialogue.

Jeremy: ...fishing for psyllium husk?

Tom: Oh, say more, say more. What's that all about?

Jeremy: Well, there's this not quite delicious powder called psyllium husk, which is the sort of pure form of Metamucil. And if before you go to bed, you were to put this powder into a cup of water and shake it,

Vivek: Vigorously!

Jeremy: Vigorously. You must have seen that email, Vivek. If you were to shake it vigorously, and then drink quickly, not sipping, but quickly, as if you were at a college frat party,

Tom: Grasshopper. You make me so proud. Go on.

Jeremy: Then there might be, some might say, health benefits.

Tom: There are health benefits.

Jeremy: And some of us are foolish enough.

Vivek: Yeah, there you go.

Jeremy: To try it.

Vivek: For our listeners, I think we're going to do a whole podcast episode. On these, these suggestions, remedies, tips and tricks from Tom.

Jeremy: Can I, can I do a second unpaid add on to that?

Vivek: Sure.

Jeremy: So if I go into Amazon, and I enter psyllium husk, I get a little banner at the top that says, you might be running low. Do you need a new order? And I click yes, please.

Tom: That's helpful. That's helpful right there. See, but I gotta just one, so if you want the plant based psyllium fiber, you said Metamucil. Not Metamucil that's terrible for you. Plant based fiber, reduces your cholesterol, helps keep your heart healthy. And it works, Right?

Jeremy: I hope so.

Vivek: There, there you have it folks.

Tom: It's already working. Okay.

Vivek: Psyllium husk.

Tom: That was totally unpaid for promotion for, for psyllium husk, go give it a spin, start doing it early. And Pepcid, if it's too late. All right, let's, let's go. Let's come back to fund two. There's a skepticism out there about the studio model and, well founded, right? There are many, we think who are not executing the studio model well. And I think a lot it kind of comes down to the collaborative approach they're taking to ininvestors and talent. So Jeremy, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about, you know, why do studios get a bad rep? What's going on there exactly and, and how are we showing up in a different way?

Jeremy: So I think that the biggest critique that I've seen about studios is that they're a sort of tonnage model it's it's the 500 startups studio model where volume is the name of the game and there may be some for which that model works. I think many them tend to be B2C or direct to consumer or tech enabled I think that's actually really hard to do in B2B software, uh, where you'll focus on data and AI like, like we do. So I think our approach is just fundamentally different where we're focused on just, you know, a handful of companies at any given time. And our aspirations, frankly, are never to get to the place where we're starting. uh 10 companies a year just because we don't think we can lean in show enough attention to those companies. So, the, the measure that I use to think about, you know, how we do know if we should create another company is, can we show up as co-founders? Can we put in the time and attention that it deserves? Uh, can we do right by everybody? And if can't, then we won't start another company.

Vivek: And I think a direct implication of that is, that we only. get intrigued by and interested in companies where we think we know something where, where we can add value and we can be true co-founders to the people that we work with. And we've, we've said no to plenty of ideas where we're like, nah, we actually don't know anything about...

Tom: And in many cases, they were good ideas. We ourselves that we knew some, we had a secret, we had a flux capacitor, something unique and unassailably valuable that we could bring to that party.

Jeremy: Can I build on that and just tie it back to the uh co-founder topic from earlier.

Vivek: Sure.

Jeremy: So we, we talked about what we look for and I said intensity, and sometimes I'll tell people. We want people who have this intense urgency. They want to go fast, fast, fast. And then I think part of our jobs is to down a little bit. And I think one of the things that you get in our model is a little bit of time breathe and to think and to plan. And I think, you know, when you're starting a company on your own and every day is life or death, you gotta go fast, you don't have time for planning and I think, um in the context again of Gen AI where lots of things are changing in the moment. You can go fast and maybe it'll work out, but I think you're much better served to go a little bit more slowly. And to really think through the choices that you're making and to really come up with a plan. And so we do that and do that well it takes time that we put in and it's not conducive for us to create ten companies a year. Uh, we may spend six months building the perfect business plan for a company before we write single line of code. And I think that's one different than the way that other studios might approach it. And two, I think a great selling point for, for folks who want to come work with us, um, because you have the luxury going perhaps a bit more slowly than you would if you were doing it on your own.

Tom: Yeah. I remember one of these conversations I had with a venture capitalist who is getting involved in one of our projects at the very, very beginning when he was asking about our cap table, it was strange for me that he thanked me And I just didn't have context for it. I confused. Like, why are thanking I mean, like, that just seems obvious. That's how we do it. And he took me aside and said, no, no, no, no. You don't understand. You know, what we're seeing from other studios is this like crazy kind of ownership level that they insist upon post-Series B post-Series C owning exorbitant percentages of the company still. And I think that's also contributed to the perception among many that studios are, are. Not so collaborative, right? Trying to kind of command cap table and not creating enough space and capital and opportunity for others. to jump on board. So we're, we're proud of fact like, no, no, no, no. we're gonna get something going We think we know something. But wanna, we want to get other people to the table who can add not just capital, but acumen to build out.

Vivek: Yeah, absolutely. And Another way. in which I think, co-founders appreciate us And, and, venture capitalists who are working with us on our various companies appreciate as well is the trust that we've established with the, with the founding, with the co-founders that we bring on board and, and work with so that they will listen to us. And, and bring us in when, when there are questions or, or strategic things to be considered and whatnot, even after they've kind of gone to Series A, Series B, etc.

Tom: Let's get into that just for a quick second because if you're a venture capitalist and we've worked with many of them. Over time, I've compared notes with them. The agony of the venture capitalist is that you've a founder and company that's wobbling and whether you like it or not, you are still a board member who shows up at board meetings and and it's it's the wrong thing for, for entrepreneurs. We, we had, we always insist that they don't play hide the ball with your board But there is kind adversarial or arm's length relationship, right? Between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. So the agony of the venture capitalists is to not be able to reach the founder to be able to collaborate effectively to know what's really going on. To to your point, Vivek to have the trust. to punt you. Cause when your company is not working. you're freaked out. Right? You start to enclose and get insular. So, it's an important thing. we've, we've seen it firsthand. Like, Okay. Call us. It's okay. We can talk about whatever's going on. We can fix it. We can solve it. And, that requires trust.

Vivek: And we even have like, you know, phrases we use. Like, okay, we're putting our operator hats on now. So, we're not your board members. We're not your investors. We're, we're operators. Like you, we're going to help you solve whatever problems or, or seize whatever opportunities are like are lying ahead.

Jeremy: If you think about it, you know, companies raise money when, from VCs when things are going well, right? And they're telling a rosy story and presenting the best picture of the company. So, it's possible that things continue on a perfectly up and to the right path but more often than not, you know, there are bumps in the road and, and, you the first time in their relationship that they're going through those bumps is when there are super high stakes. I think part of the advantage that we have and the reason why we can lean in in the ways that we do is because we go through many of those same ups and downs but in very early days. Around the whiteboard when, you know, the stakes aren't as high when, when you're having debates about, well, should we approach the product in this way or that way? Should the go-to-market motion be this way or that way? There's not perfect agreement, right? You have to work through differences. Of opinion, but you kind of get some reps and disagreeing and realizing that everybody's actually on same page and has the same desires. More than once I've told the CEO of one of our companies, we want what you want. And I think they believe me because we have a longstanding relationship working together before there was anything at the company. I think VCs have a much harder time just because they're coming in when. the expectations are just so much higher, and the demands are so much higher.

Tom: Listen, Rob Bass said in 1990, it takes two to make a thing go right. So this applies in all directions, right? You need the entrepreneurs we've had people we've, we've tried to collaborate with, where it hasn't worked because they are taking arm's length, adversarial approach. Not understanding Jeremy, as you say, no, no, no, no, we're in it to win it. We want exactly what you want. So, so yeah, it applies in all directions. Hey, I'm wondering if we could talk a little bit about, okay, so we, we said we're launching fufund two. It's exciting. It's a $90 million fund so still, you know, not to, um, we don't want to get too over our skis. We, we know that we're scaling and building here. I'm really pleased with the sizing of this fund. But Jeremy, if you could talk a little bit, cause you werwere from the beginning, what are some of the lessons llearned from fund one that we're bringing to fund two, particularly, with like, how do we set the soil conditions? How do we get, how do we get things moving? What are some of the big lessons we've learned along those lines?

Jeremy: Yeah, so I think we always start with people first, and the people challenges are the biggest challenges. So, we spend lot of time Internally trying to figure out who are the people that we should be working with. And so we talked to many, many amazing candidates. Um, and then we're very particular about who we end up working with, uh, to try to make sure from the beginning that, that you know, it's a good match. So I think that's, that's, that's sort a a big learning, right? We, we have to say no to a lot of really, really great people. So that's, that's on people side. I think on, on the product and go-to-market side, our, our sort of shift over the last couple of years is just to get, to go much faster and to get much more market validation. We oftentimes will start companies or work in spaces that we think are cool, uh, that we like, oftentimes solving problems that our teams have faced before which gives us, we think, a special advantage, like Vivek said earlier at the same time we can't just build. What we want or what we think is cool, we got to get out there and we got to talk to people. We got to go to conferences. We got to hold events at our office and meet more people who have other points of view. Um, so even though we're a studio and we have a lot of awesome people on our team, sort of a much bigger focus on, on getting external validation, uh, than I think we had A few years ago when we were getting off the ground. And I think that's going to be an area of increased focus as we go. I I should add, I mean, part of that may also be that the early days of super{set} where the early days of the pandemic and people who are just much more, sort of sheltered at home. As you've talked about another podcast, we're, we're pretty much in the office most days. we're there, we're, we're meeting people. And proven to be really important.

Tom: Vivek, you want to talk a little bit more about that, for we feel we've learned?

Vivek: Yeah, I think look, the, biggest thing that, that we've learned is the power of, uh, collaboration, right. And showing up in authentic. Ways where we build trust with the co-founders, So to your point earlier that you made, Tom, that they, they feel like they can call us, when, uh, when they need I think that's been, that's been, the big, that's been one of the bigger things. For me and Instructively, when, things haven't worked is, is when that collaboration has not gone well at all. So, jeremy mentioned the discernment and, you know, we've said no to a lot of people. Of course, there are multiple dimensions that go into how we evaluate co-founders and whatnot, but the ability to collaborate With us and the ability to lose to hold opinions loosely, right? And, and. Revise your, your point of view based on new information or things that other people might be bringing to the table thing is, is something that, we're just, we're just going to double down on in the future.

Tom: and, and speaking of collaboration I'm gonna add to that. I think that, Yes, we made it work on on Zooms and, and video conferences And the like for. During the pandemic. It did go a little longer than it should have, right? I think if we're speaking plainly, Yeah, man, you can get a lot really powerful things done on a zoom. It's amazing, right? And I was skeptical. But we also hit kind of a an asymptote, right? Where we realize, yeah, you you we can't have clear idea. Unless we're jamming at that whiteboard together in-person right? You can't schedule the little creative collisions that happen, right? Unless people actually in an office struggling and wrestling with the same core issues. So, you know, hybrid, but hybrids, know, Pure, pure remote for us just has not worked.

Vivek: It doesn't, and especially at because of the speed with which we want things to move. Asynchronous, commun, asynchronous model is great, but it's not as fast when you have to if you're, if you're in London and I'm in San Francisco and sure, I'll record, things on a loom and, and share my point of view with you, But you'll hear it, or see it, eight hours, 10 hours later. and then, you will come back to me with something. If we're not having that dialogue face to face, it's, it. just slows the whole thing process down.

Tom: I remember when you were explaining this to one of our engineers who was telling you with great conviction, Listen, I'm 10 times more productive when I'm at home. And it was a moment of brilliance I thought, where you explained to him. Look, your your little gear is spinning 10 times faster but the problem is your gear, the teeth of your gear, aren't locking with the teeth of the other gears in this system. So you're spinning at, at, you know, thousand RPMs, but system isn't moving because we can't, you know, can't make those gears lock the way they need to unless we're, We're all together here. So, it was, uh, and I think some still struggle this, but think we're think we're mostly getting, our our teams companies and our teams to undererstand this possibility.

Vivek: So as we, kind of bring this to a close you know, we've been, we've been at this for four and a, half years now. What, uh, Jeremy, what, proof points do we have? at super{set} so far?

Jeremy: So, the sort of traditional proof point that, that one might look to is acquisition. So we just had our first acquisition company called Habu, which was the leader in data collaboration space, was just acquired by LiveRamp just closed this past month. So we're super excited about that. We think that's a great proof point of our model and is Proof point of the type of companies we start being that Habu was a data collaboration platform, perfect company for super{set}. The other proof point I'd add is we hold an event every year called the super{summit} where we get all of the techies from super{set} to a, a conference that we host. And I remember the first one one of our co-founders coming to me and saying Gosh, there are 80 plus people on this deck and I've talked to most of them and there isn't one asshole amongst us. Uh, and to me, that was a great proof point, right? That we're building the right type of community. And as I said earlier, I think a lot of people work with us because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves, bigger than their company. And a lot of our co-founders and other employees appreciate being part of a bigger super{set} community with people that they like and who they collaborate with informally now and may collaborate formally with one day.

Vivek: Yeah! Perfect. Yeah. And, and this, we're actually now extending that concept of super{summit} and we're bringing it to India this year as well. So, hopefully it's as much of a success there as it was in, in the US. So, to close this out. Thank you everyone for tuning in. To Any talent that's out there considering working with us? Visit our website, at www.superset.com. We're eager, eager to hear from you and, and figure out if there are companies we can, we can build together.

Tom: in Jeremy really great to have with you with us thanks for joining today.

Jeremy: Thanks for having me guys.

Vivek: All right to our listeners. Thanks for tuning in be sure to subscribe for future episodes at again www.theclosedsession.com. Thanks, everyone.

Tom: See you soon.

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Building Tech on a Moving Regulatory Target

In an interview with Ketch co-founder Max Anderson, the focus is on data privacy laws and AI's role. Anderson discusses the global privacy landscape, highlighting Ketch's approach to helping businesses navigate regulations. The conversation also emphasizes data dignity and Ketch's unique role in the AI revolution.

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AI Hot Takes: Deepfakes, The Big Stakes, and What to Make

Is AI our salvation or is it going to kill us all? Tom and Vivek roam widely on others’ takes about artificial intelligence, adding their insight and experience to the mix. Along the way they consider Descartes, Ray Kurzweil, Salt Bae, Marc Andreessen among others. If you are looking for a down to earth conversation that tempers the extremes at either end of the debate, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.

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Lessons from the Startup Circus

super{set} Technical Lead and resident front-end engineering expert Sagar Jhobalia recaps lessons from participating in multiple product and team build-outs in our startup studio. Based on a decade of experience, Sagar emphasizes the importance of assembling the right engineering team, setting expectations, and strategically planning MVPs for early wins in the fast-paced startup environment.

read more

Navigating the Startup Journey from Launch to Finish Line

Are you a launcher, or a finisher? The balance of conviction, a guiding vision, and the right team to execute it all make the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure. Tom Chavez delves into his journey as a first-time CEO and the invaluable guidance he received from a key mentor.

read more

Understanding The AI “Alignment Problem”

Vivek Vaidya recaps his conversation with AI researcher and author of "The Alignment Problem" Brian Christian at the 2023 super{summit}.

read more

High-Velocity Personal Growth

What's the price you put on personal growth? In his most recent note to founders, super{set} Founding General Partner Vivek Vaidya outlines 7 points of advice for startup interviews and negotiations. Vivek explains his compensation philosophy and the balance between cash and the investment in personal and career growth a startup can bring. Here’s the mindset you need to reach your zenith at a startup.

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Harvard Computer Scientist James Mickens on The Ethical Tech Project

Are we walking a tightrope with AI, jeopardizing humanity's ethical core? Is AI more than just algorithms, acting as a mirror to our moral values? And when machine learning grapples with ethical dilemmas, who ultimately bears the responsibility? Harvard's Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, James Mickens, joins Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya on "The {Closed} Session."

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How Boombox Nurtures Customer Collaboration for Success

In a conversation with boombox's co-founder India Lossman, the discussion pivots to the art of fostering customer collaboration in music creation. Lossman unveils how artist-driven feedback shapes boombox's innovative platform, with a glimpse into AI's empowering potential. Understand the synergy between technology and user insights as they redefine the independent music landscape.

read more

ActiveFence Acquires super{set} Company Spectrum Labs

ActiveFence, the leading technology solution for Trust and Safety intelligence, management and content moderation, today announced its successful acquisition of Spectrum Labs, a pioneer in text-based Contextual AI Content Moderation.

read more

How Engineers Should Talk to Customers with Empathy

Do you get an uneasy feeling anytime you get added to a customer call? Do you ever struggle to respond to a frustrated customer? Peter Wang, Product lead at Ketch, discusses how customer feedback can help drive product development, and how engineers can use customer insights to create better products. Learn best practices for collecting and interpreting customer feedback.

read more

Tech Crunch: Answering AI’s biggest questions requires an interdisciplinary approach

Tom Chavez, writing in TechCrunch, calls for new approaches to the problems of Ethical AI: "We have to build a more responsible future where companies are trusted stewards of people’s data and where AI-driven innovation is synonymous with good. In the past, legal teams carried the water on issues like privacy, but the brightest among them recognize they can’t solve problems of ethical data use in the age of AI by themselves."

read more

Spectrum Co-founders Launch Nurdle AI

Justin Davis and Josh Newman, Co-founders of Spectrum Labs (acquired) launch Nurdle to get AI into production faster, cheaper & easier.

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Spotlight Series: Gal Vered, Co-founder of Checksum.ai

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio every episode. Up first: Gal Vered is co-founder and Head of Product at Checksum (checksum.ai), end to end test automation leveraging AI to test every corner of your app.

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The Product Mindset for Engineers

Ever find yourself scratching your head about product management decisions? Join India Lossman, co-founder of boombox.io, as she unpacks the product mindset for engineers. Unravel the art of synergy between PMs and engineers and delve into strategies to enhance collaboration and craft products that users will adore.

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Why Headlamp Health is Bringing Precision to Mental Health

Co-founder of Headlamp Health, Andrew Marshak, describes the frustratingly ambiguous state of mental health diagnoses - and the path forward for making mental health a precision science.

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Marketing in the Age of AI with Rex Briggs

How is AI steering the future of marketing strategy? With the convergence of AI and marketing tactics, Rex Briggs paints a compelling picture of what's possible: AI agents that revolutionize user interactions, and generative techniques that craft persuasive content. Drawing from his deep expertise in marketing measurement, Rex joins Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya to explore the cutting-edge of AI-driven marketing strategies. Listen for insights on harnessing AI's potential in modern marketing.

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Tom Chavez in Huffpost Personal for Hispanic Heritage Month

Writing in the Huffington Post: "My Mom Sent Me And My 4 Siblings To Harvard. Here's The 1 Thing I Tell People About Success."

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Developer tools that are worth their while: KEDA and Boundary in action

Running cloud platforms efficiently while keeping them secure can be challenging. In this blog post, learn how two of super{set}’s portfolio companies, MarkovML and Kapstan, are leveraging tools like KEDA for event-driven scale and Boundary for access management to remove friction for developers. Get insights into real-world use cases about optimizing resource usage and security without compromising productivity.

read more

Watch: Sandeep Bhandari Fireside Chat

Sandeep Bhandari, Former Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Risk Officer at buy now, pay later (BNPL) company Affirm, joins Vivek Vaidya, Founding General Partner of super{set}, in conversation.

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Spotlight Series: Andrew Marshak, Co-founder of Headlamp Health

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio every episode. Up now: Andrew Marshak is Co-founder and Head of Product at Headlamp Health (Headlamp.com), a healthtech company bringing greater precision to mental health care.

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Philosophy, Data, and AI Ethics with NYT Best-selling Author + Data Scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

From unpacking Google search patterns to understanding the philosophical underpinnings of big data, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz offers a unique lens. As the NYT Best-selling author of “Everybody Lies” and a renowned data scientist, he delves into the ways data mirrors societal nuances and the vast implications for tech and its intertwining with everyday life.

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Forbes: 5 Startup Studio Misconceptions

It's still early for the startup studio asset class - and we hear misconceptions about the studio model every day, ranging from the basic confusion of accelerators versus studios to downright incorrect assumptions on our deep commitment to the build-out of every company. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

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Ringside Tales from Serial Startup Champion Omar Tawakol

Like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, the fiercest competitors can sometimes become friends. Omar Tawakol is a prime example. As the founder and CEO of BlueKai, he went head-to-head with Tom, Vivek, and the 'Krux mafia' for dominance in the Data Management Platform arena. A serial entrepreneur with roots in New York and Egypt, Omar eventually steered BlueKai to a successful acquisition by Oracle before creating Voicea, which Cisco acquired. Today, he's pioneering a new venture called Rembrand (rembrand.com), which innovates in product placement through generative fusion AI.

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Spotlight Series: Lindsey Meyl, Co-founder of RevAmp

The {Closed} Session Spotlight Series showcases a different co-founder from the super{set} portfolio in every episode. Today's guest is Lindsey Meyl, Co-founder at RevAmp (rev-amp.ai), a "Datadog for RevOps" platform that offers observability across the revenue engine, monitoring performance, flagging when something is amiss, and determining the root cause of how to fix it.

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Why Proprietary Data Is the Linchpin of AI Disruption

Read Vivek Vaidya's latest in CDO Magazine and learn why in this new AI landscape, those who harness the potential of proprietary data and foster a culture of collaboration will lead the way—those who don't risk obsolescence.

read more

MedCity News: It’s Time for the Tech Revolution to Come to Mental Health Diagnoses

Headlamp Health co-founder Andrew Marshak writes in the MedCity News that "We need to take inspiration from the progress in oncology over the last few decades and challenge ourselves to adapt its successful playbook to mental illness. It’s time for precision psychiatry."

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What Consumers Think of AI and Their Privacy

Everyone’s talking about AI - so The Ethical Tech Project decided to listen. Joining forces with programmatic privacy and data+AI governance platform Ketch, The Ethical Tech Project surveyed a representative sample of 2,500 U.S. consumers and asked them about AI, the companies leveraging AI, and their sentiment and expectations around AI and privacy. On the latest episode of The {Closed} Session, get an inside look at the survey results in a deep-dive conversation with the team at The Ethical Tech Project.

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Why the AI Revolution Will Be Data-Centric

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder of MarkovML, joins super{set} Chief Commercial Officer Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the role of data in gaining a competitive advantage in the AI revolution. Learn the difference between optimizing models and optimizing data in machine learning applications, and why effective collaboration will make or break the next-gen AI applications being created in businesses.

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How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

o11y - What is it? Why is it important? What are the tools you need? More importantly - how can you adopt an observability mindset? Habu Software Architect Siddharth Sharma reports from his session at super{summit} 2022.

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From Chords, to Code, to Chords Again: The Story Behind Boombox.io

super{set} founding general partner Tom Chavez wasn’t always set on a life of engineering and entrepreneurship – music was his first love. For a time, he was determined to make a career out of it. With boombox.io, Tom has combined the best of both worlds into a product that inspires and delights both the engineer and the musician.

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When Inference Meets Engineering

Othmane Rifki, Principal Applied Scientist at super{set} company Spectrum Labs, reports from the session he led at super{summit} 2022: "When Inference Meets Engineering." Using super{set} companies as examples, Othmane reveals the 3 ways that data science can benefit from engineering workflows to deliver business value.

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Forbes: Why The Biden-Xi Talks Should Put A Microscope On San Francisco

The prettifying and securing of downtown San Francisco, where super{set} is headquartered, should be the norm - not just for special state visits from the world's dictators. Here are 3 things the city of San Francisco should be doing all year round to make the city better to live, work, and invest in. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

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Hold Fast: Game-Changing Wisdom from Seamus Blackley

Creator of the XBox and serial entrepreneur Seamus Blackley joined Tom Chavez on stage at the 2023 super{summit} in New Orleans, Louisiana, for a free-ranging conversation covering the intersection of creativity and technology, recovering back from setbacks to reach new heights, and a pragmatic reflection on the role of fear and regret in entrepreneurship.

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Why the AI Revolution Will Be Data-Centric

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder of MarkovML, joins super{set} Chief Commercial Officer Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the role of data in gaining a competitive advantage in the AI revolution. Learn the difference between optimizing models and optimizing data in machine learning applications, and why effective collaboration will make or break the next-gen AI applications being created in businesses.

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Four Tips for a Distributed Workforce

This month we pass the mic to Sagar Gaur, Software Engineer at super{set} MLOps company MarkovML, who shares with us his tips for working within a global startup with teams in San Francisco and Bengaluru, India

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Jamming with Habu’s Matt Kilmartin on Partnership Strategy

Discover how Habu, a trailblazer in data clean room technology, utilizes strategic partnerships with giants like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS to expand its market reach and foster the potential of an emerging category. Learn from CEO Matt Kilmartin's insights on how collaboration is the secret sauce that brings innovation to life.

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VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

When a VC decides to invest in a company, they write up a document called the “Investment Memo” to convince their partners that the decision is sound. This document is a thorough analysis of the startup...

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Spectrum Co-founders Launch Nurdle AI

Justin Davis and Josh Newman, Co-founders of Spectrum Labs (acquired) launch Nurdle to get AI into production faster, cheaper & easier.

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The Information: "TikTok Is Not the Enemy"

Tom writes a nuanced take on the TikTok controversy and outlines ethical data principles that will restore people’s sense of trust and offer them true control over how and when they grant permission for use of their data.

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How Engineers Should Talk to Customers with Empathy

Do you get an uneasy feeling anytime you get added to a customer call? Do you ever struggle to respond to a frustrated customer? Peter Wang, Product lead at Ketch, discusses how customer feedback can help drive product development, and how engineers can use customer insights to create better products. Learn best practices for collecting and interpreting customer feedback.

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Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

At super{set}, we stand side-by-side and pick up the shovel with our co-founders. Our first outside co-founder at a super{set} company is usually a Head of Product. Let’s unpack each portion of that title....

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The RevOps Bowtie Data Problem

Go-to-market has entered a new operating environment. Enter: RevOps. We dig into the next solution space for super{set}, analyzing the paradigm shift in GTM and the data challenges a new class of company must solve.

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Why Proprietary Data Is the Linchpin of AI Disruption

Read Vivek Vaidya's latest in CDO Magazine and learn why in this new AI landscape, those who harness the potential of proprietary data and foster a culture of collaboration will lead the way—those who don't risk obsolescence.

read more

super{set} Celebrates First Exit: LiveRamp to Acquire Data Collaboration Software Startup Habu for $200M

LiveRamp Enters Into Definitive Agreement to Acquire Habu, Reinforcing super{set}'s Unique Company Building Model of Founding, Funding, and Scaling Data+AI Businesses

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Data Eats the World

The wheel. Electricity. The automobile. These are technologies that had a disproportionate impact on the merits of their first practical use-case; but beyond that, because they enabled so much in terms of subsequent innovation, economic historians call them “general-purpose technologies” or GPTs...

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From Watsonville To The Moon

This post was written by Habu software engineer, Martín Vargas-Vega, as part of our new #PassTheMic series.

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The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

This post was written by Ketch Sales Director, Sheridan Rice, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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7 Ways to Turn an Internship Into a Job at a Startup

Chris Fellowes, super{set} interned turned full time employee at super{set} portfolio company Kapstan, gives his 7 recommendations for how to turn an internship into a job at a startup.

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super{set} Fund II: $90 million to intensify our serial focus on data+ai company building

Announcing super{set} Fund II

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Navigating the Startup Journey from Launch to Finish Line

Are you a launcher, or a finisher? The balance of conviction, a guiding vision, and the right team to execute it all make the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure. Tom Chavez delves into his journey as a first-time CEO and the invaluable guidance he received from a key mentor.

read more

ActiveFence Acquires super{set} Company Spectrum Labs

ActiveFence, the leading technology solution for Trust and Safety intelligence, management and content moderation, today announced its successful acquisition of Spectrum Labs, a pioneer in text-based Contextual AI Content Moderation.

read more

Forbes: 5 Startup Studio Misconceptions

It's still early for the startup studio asset class - and we hear misconceptions about the studio model every day, ranging from the basic confusion of accelerators versus studios to downright incorrect assumptions on our deep commitment to the build-out of every company. Read Tom Chavez' latest in Forbes.

read more

boombox.io Raises $7M to Build Out Creator Platform for Music Makers

super{set} startup studio portfolio company’s seed funding round was led by Forerunner Ventures with participation from Ulu Ventures Raise will enable boombox.io to accelerate product development on the way to becoming the winning creator platform for musicians globally

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An Intro to Product-Led Growth from MarkovML

Want to grow your product organically? This blog post breaks down understanding costs, setting up starter plans, and pricing premium features using MarkovML as an example. Learn how to engage new users and encourage upgrades, enhancing user experience and fueling growth through actionable insights.

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The Product Mindset for Engineers

Ever find yourself scratching your head about product management decisions? Join India Lossman, co-founder of boombox.io, as she unpacks the product mindset for engineers. Unravel the art of synergy between PMs and engineers and delve into strategies to enhance collaboration and craft products that users will adore.

read more

Detecting Software Bugs with AI

Gal Vered is co-founder and Head of Product at Checksum (checksum.ai), an innovative company that provides end-to-end test automation that leverages AI to test every corner of an app. He sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to discuss the exciting problem that Checksum is solving with AI and what Gal likes best about working in super{set}'s startup studio model.

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Diamonds in the Rough

Obsessive intensity. Pack animal nature. Homegrown hero vibes. Unyielding grit. A chip on the shoulder. That's who we look for to join exceptional teams.

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How Boombox Nurtures Customer Collaboration for Success

In a conversation with boombox's co-founder India Lossman, the discussion pivots to the art of fostering customer collaboration in music creation. Lossman unveils how artist-driven feedback shapes boombox's innovative platform, with a glimpse into AI's empowering potential. Understand the synergy between technology and user insights as they redefine the independent music landscape.

read more

Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

This post was written by MarkovML Co-Founder, Lindsey Meyl, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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The Era of Easy $ Is Over

The era of easy money - or at least, easy returns for VCs - is over. Tom Chavez is calling for VCs to show up in-person at August board meetings, get off the sidelines, and start adding real value and hands-on support for founders.

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Why I'm Joining super{set} as Chief Commercial Officer

Announcing Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) as super{set}’s Chief Commercial Officer: jsd tells us in his own words why he's joining super{set}

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Lessons from the Startup Circus

super{set} Technical Lead and resident front-end engineering expert Sagar Jhobalia recaps lessons from participating in multiple product and team build-outs in our startup studio. Based on a decade of experience, Sagar emphasizes the importance of assembling the right engineering team, setting expectations, and strategically planning MVPs for early wins in the fast-paced startup environment.

read more

High-Velocity Personal Growth

What's the price you put on personal growth? In his most recent note to founders, super{set} Founding General Partner Vivek Vaidya outlines 7 points of advice for startup interviews and negotiations. Vivek explains his compensation philosophy and the balance between cash and the investment in personal and career growth a startup can bring. Here’s the mindset you need to reach your zenith at a startup.

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Former Salesforce SVP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation Jon Suarez-Davis “JSD” Appointed Chief Commercial Officer at super{set}

The Move Accelerates the Rapidly Growing Startup Studio’s Mission to Lead the Next Generation of AI and Data-Driven Market Innovation and Success

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Podcast: Tom Chavez on How AI Startups Can Show Us What’s Next in Marketing

Tom Chavez joins the "Decoding AI for Marketing" podcast published by MMA Global and hosted by well-respected international marketing & AI experts Greg Stuart (CEO, Author, Investor, Speaker) and Rex Briggs (Founder/CEO, Inventor, Author, Speaker).

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Too Dumb to Quit

The decision to start a company – or to join an early stage one – is an act of the gut. On good days, I see it as a quasi-spiritual commitment. On bad days, I see it as sheer irrationality. Whichever it is, you’ll be happier if you acknowledge and calmly accept the lunacy of it all...

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Watch: Sandeep Bhandari Fireside Chat

Sandeep Bhandari, Former Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Risk Officer at buy now, pay later (BNPL) company Affirm, joins Vivek Vaidya, Founding General Partner of super{set}, in conversation.

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We don’t critique, we found and build.

The super{set} studio model for early-stage venture It is still early days for the startup studio model. We know this because at super{set} we still get questions from experienced operators and investors. One investor that we’ve known for years recently asked us: “you have a fund — aren’t you just a venture capital firm with a different label?”

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MedCity News: It’s Time for the Tech Revolution to Come to Mental Health Diagnoses

Headlamp Health co-founder Andrew Marshak writes in the MedCity News that "We need to take inspiration from the progress in oncology over the last few decades and challenge ourselves to adapt its successful playbook to mental illness. It’s time for precision psychiatry."

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Jeremy Klein on Leading super{set}'s Data-Driven $90 Million Fund II

Jeremy Klein is a general partner at super{set}. Jeremy helped build super{set} from day one alongside Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya, designing super{set}’s structure, recruiting co-founders, and laying the plans for a scalable buildout. super{set} recently announced the closing of its $90 million Fund II. He sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to provide insights into the strategic timing and vision behind launching Fund II, his professional journey from a legal expert to an integral part of super{set}'s fabric, and how his unique background and approach have been instrumental in building super{set} and recruiting top-tier co-founders.

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Not Just On Veterans Day

This post was written by Ketch Developer Advocate, Ryan Overton, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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Understanding The AI “Alignment Problem”

Vivek Vaidya recaps his conversation with AI researcher and author of "The Alignment Problem" Brian Christian at the 2023 super{summit}.

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Building Fast, Scaling Globally

Harshil Vyas joined the super{set} Hive (i.e., portfolio companies community) in March 2023 as Co-Founder of Kapstan and employee number one in India. We jumped on a Zoom recently to talk about accelerated timelines, globally distributed workforces, and what is unique about the super{set} model.

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Why I'm Co-founding @ super{set}

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder at MarkovML, describes his Big Tech and startup experience and his journey to starting a company at super{set}.

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Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

Head of Infrastructure at Ketch, and Kapstan Advisor, Anton Winter explains a few of the infrastructure and DevOps headaches he encounters every day.

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Good Ideas, Good Luck

Coming up with new company ideas is easy: we take the day off, go to the park, and let the thoughts arrive like butterflies. Maybe we grab a coconut from that guy for a little buzz. While this describes a pleasant day in San Francisco, it couldn’t be further from the truth of what we do at super{set}. If only we could pull great ideas out of thin air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

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Forbes: Why A Collaborative Approach Trumps "Lone Genius" In Company-Building

Off the heels of super{set}'s first exit - the acquisition of data collaboration company Habu by LiveRamp for $200 Million - Tom Chavez writes how the super{set} approach to collaboration in company building leads to successful outcomes.

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Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

Arthur Patterson, founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call. Arthur and Tom cover venture investing, company-building, and even some personal stories from their history together.

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CalMatters: Why visa reforms benefit not just California’s tech sector but the economy overall

Vivek Vaidya writes that America needs more H-1B workers. Common sense reforms to the program will even the playing field for startups, not Big Tech, to bring innovative talent to American's shores.

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super{set}’s Spectrum Detoxifies The Online Space

We are living in a time of extraordinary concern about the negative consequences of online platforms and social media. We worry about the damage interactive technologies cause to society; about the impact to our mental health; and about the way that these platforms and their practices play to our most destructive impulses. Too often, the experiences we have online serve only to polarize, divide, and amplify the worst of human nature.

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Overheard @ super{summit}

Vivek Vaidya's takeaways from the inaugural super{summit}

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Why Headlamp Health is Bringing Precision to Mental Health

Co-founder of Headlamp Health, Andrew Marshak, describes the frustratingly ambiguous state of mental health diagnoses - and the path forward for making mental health a precision science.

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Tech Crunch: Boutique startup studio super{set} gets another $90 million to co-found data and AI companies

Startup studio super{set} has a fresh exit under its belt with the sale of marketing company Habu to LiveRamp for $200 million in January. Now, super{set} is adding another $90 million to its coffers as it doubles down on its strategy of building enterprise startups.

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Building Tech on a Moving Regulatory Target

In an interview with Ketch co-founder Max Anderson, the focus is on data privacy laws and AI's role. Anderson discusses the global privacy landscape, highlighting Ketch's approach to helping businesses navigate regulations. The conversation also emphasizes data dignity and Ketch's unique role in the AI revolution.

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Pivots and Possibilities

Discover how lessons from law enforcement shape a thriving tech career. Ketch Sr. Business Development Representative Brenda Flores shares a bold career pivot in our latest "Pass the Mic" story.

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Horizontal Scaling at super{summit}

Vivek gives us the rundown on what the hive is buzzing about after super{summit} 2023: how to 'horizontally scale' yourself.

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Why CTOs Should Care About Gross Margins, Cost-to-Serve, and Product Management

Why should a tech exec care about profit and loss? Aren’t our jobs to make the product great, and someone else can figure out how to make the numbers add up? That was my attitude for a long time until I finally appreciated the significance of gross margins for SaaS businesses during the early part of my tenure as the CTO of Krux.

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Developer tools that are worth their while: KEDA and Boundary in action

Running cloud platforms efficiently while keeping them secure can be challenging. In this blog post, learn how two of super{set}’s portfolio companies, MarkovML and Kapstan, are leveraging tools like KEDA for event-driven scale and Boundary for access management to remove friction for developers. Get insights into real-world use cases about optimizing resource usage and security without compromising productivity.

read more

The Information: The People OpenAI Should Consider for Its New Board

Tom Chavez writes in The Information that "OpenAI’s board needs a data ethicist, a philosopher of mind, a neuroscientist, a computer scientist with interdisciplinary expertise and a political strategist."

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The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

In our last post, we discussed how data is the new general-purpose technology and that is why at super{set} we form data-driven companies from scratch. But new technologies are a promise, not a sudden phase change.

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The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

Has someone looking to make a key hire ever told you that they are after “coachability”? Take a look at the Google ngram for “coachability” — off like a rocket ship since the Dot Com bubble, and it’s not even a real word! Coaching is everywhere in Silicon Valley...

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Why I Left Google To Co-found with super{set}

Gal Vered of Checksum explains his rationale for leaving Google to co-found a super{set} company.

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Tech Crunch: Answering AI’s biggest questions requires an interdisciplinary approach

Tom Chavez, writing in TechCrunch, calls for new approaches to the problems of Ethical AI: "We have to build a more responsible future where companies are trusted stewards of people’s data and where AI-driven innovation is synonymous with good. In the past, legal teams carried the water on issues like privacy, but the brightest among them recognize they can’t solve problems of ethical data use in the age of AI by themselves."

read more

How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

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Tom Chavez in Huffpost Personal for Hispanic Heritage Month

Writing in the Huffington Post: "My Mom Sent Me And My 4 Siblings To Harvard. Here's The 1 Thing I Tell People About Success."

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Redefining Customer Experience in Data-Driven Tech Startups

Ted Flanagan, Chief Customer Officer at super{set}-founded Habu, sat down with Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) to provide insights into how Habu's strategies in customer experience set it apart in the data collaboration market. Learn how customer experience strategies helped Habu land a $200 million after being acquired by LiveRamp in January 2024.

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From Suitcases to Startups: Why Immigrants Innovate

How are immigrants like entrepreneurs? Peter Wang of Ketch arrived in the U.S. at age 7 with two suitcases and a box. Read his story in the latest "Pass The Mic."

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Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

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