🔑 Newsletter # 29 - Draw your way to love xoxo
+ Jason Stoffer (Partner at Maveron)
Hey there! Welcome to my email newsletter. My name is Leo Luo - I write about founder stories, trends, fundraising, and unique behaviors in the consumer startup space.
↺ What you might’ve missed in the last three weeks
11/08 - Story of Endel (personalized sound system) + David Beisel (Partner at Nextview Ventures)
11/01 - Story of Wellory (personalized nutrition app) + Paul Murphy (Partner at Northzone)
10/25 - Story of DanceFight (mobile competition platform) + Caitlin Strandberg (Principal at Lerer Hippeau)
Check out all the startups and investors I have featured in the past on
this Notion board
🍽 Today’s menu
Startup story - Monet (Gen-Z dating app)
Investor POV - Jason Stoffer (Partner at Maveron)
What I’ve been reading - 5 articles about startups and investing
Who’s ballin’ this week - 6 new fundraising/developments in B2C space
Jobs - 12 full-time jobs and internship postings
Feedback - help me to deliver better content to you
🔥 Startup Story
Draw your way to love xoxo
(Image credit: Monet)
I love dating apps. In fact, I’ve shamelessly used them since high school. They’re great because they solve the intent and brokerage efficiency problem. You meet people who share similar romantic interests and are exposed to people outside of your traditional social circles. Dating apps are not perfect though, and many people still don’t feel comfortable using them, even aptly named digital natives like Gen-Z.
Monet is a dating app for Gen-Zers. It aims to make the process of meeting new people more fun by incorporating the exchange of user-generated drawings as an integral part of the user experience. I had a great time chatting with Joanna and Daniel (fellow student entrepreneurs) about their journey building Monet.
🌱 Genesis and unique insight
“People are making plenty of niche apps these days, but that is not what we are trying to do. We like the dating app format of meeting people one on one; however, meeting people online is still super superficial - you see someone's appearance and you swipe right or left.
We are trying to create this cool and casual digital environment to meet new people in a way that is more fun and less superficial. We are doing so through drawing. You have a chance to put some effort into making a match and show more of your personality, ” Joanna elaborated.
🚗 Product journey
July - Initial work began on a goal tracking app, but the team decided to pivot after coming up with the Monet idea. In the very early days, the team made focused on interviews and surveys trying to understand why Gen-Zers don’t try dating apps. They then dove into the design and prototyping process. Here are some early design examples:
(image credit: Monet)
September/October - The team decided to take a gap year from school and moved to Portland to work on Monet full-time. TestFlight Beta was launched at the end of October.
“Daniel busted out the whole working product in two weeks. He was staying up until six every night grinding and trying to make it work,” Joanna said.
Moving Forward - The goal is to continue implementing new features and improving the app based on user feedback. They aim to launch Monet officially on the App Store in December. Exciting!
😍 How to build early buzz
Monet has gained a ton of attention on social media, amassing over 1M views on TikTok in just a few days. Joanna and Daniel also shared with me how they were able to build this early buzz on social. The three keys are: have an intriguing idea, tell a good story, and create a sense of community.
“Conceptually, I think Monet is eye-catching -a dating app where you draw sounds like something out of the left-field when you are looking at a landscape of Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. People are naturally intrigued by it.
Second, I think building in public and telling a good story can be powerful. We posted a TikTok video explaining why we built Monet and how the product works. Luckily, our story resonated with people. It’s also fun to feel like you're in on something that's brand new and to be a part of the community shaping the product. We have a large Discord community (1.2k+) where people constantly suggest new features,” Joanna said.
🤔 Biggest challenge
Learning quickly to adapt to the rapid growth
“I'm the only developer on the team so I’ve had to learn a lot very quickly. Whenever we make changes to the product, there's a lot of stuff we have to think about such as how all 10,000 users will be onboarded, and unintended changes whenever we push an update. From a technical perspective, that's been pretty challenging, ” Daniel explained.
Monet has been growing like a wildfire after the closed Beta launch. It has reached the TestFlight limit of 10K users in just a few weeks. The engagement has also been impressive, with over 26K+ matches made and 330K+ messages sent in the app. Kudos to Joanna, Daniel, and their team!
Make sure to sign up on Monet if you are a Gen-Zer looking to meet new people ;)
🔥 Investor POV
Jason Stoffer (Partner at Maveron)
(Image credit: Jason Stoffer)
Jason Stoffer is a partner at Maveron, a leading consumer-only venture capital firm. Jason started his career in consulting and later became an operator in the online education space. His prior investments include General Assembly, Imperfect Foods, Dolls Kill, Course Hero, and many more. It was super fun catching up with Jason and learning more about his views on consumer investing and also Michigan sports (Go Blue!).
🚀 B2C trends that excite Jason the most
Subscription of everything
“I'll give an example. Panera offered a $9/month coffee subscription. They have 500,000 subscribers as of today and 35% of the coffee orders include food. You add this high margin subscription, you get all this attached, and you drive traffic that otherwise wouldn't have come to the store without the subscription. I think every consumer business should consider subscription as a potential opportunity.”
Digitalization of healthcare
“Another trend is the digitalization of healthcare and the venue switch of healthcare from a provider setting to home. I think COVID has caused both patients and providers to assess if certain elements that are taking place at home should continue to be at home after COVID.
We have a business called Thirty Madison that creates condition-specific brands for everything from migraines to hair loss. You're seeing people increasingly take control of their own healthcare and value convenience (e.g. get an appointment right away to speak to a neurologist about migraines). Why would I want to call the hospital, wait for a callback, and schedule an appointment six weeks out?”
Offline experiential business
“I think many existing consumer trends will accelerate when we come out of COVID, such as the trend of people not going to the mall. I think there’s going to be opportunities for experiential businesses such as Top Golf because people are going to go out to experience something instead of just going out to shop. You are going to see the wholesale conversion of some of these spaces into experiential types of brands - especially given that real estate is going to be a lot cheaper than pre-COVID.
One interesting company I have seen is Meow Wolf, which creates large-scale immersive art installations and produces music and art festivals.”
🤔 Most common mistakes that early stage founders make
Not thoughtful about capital allocation
“I think many early-stage founders aren't as thoughtful about capital allocation as they can be. Before you have product-market fit, your one and only mission is to achieve product-market fit. I think too many people get caught up in other stuff. Don’t give a TED talk, focus on building your company.”
Hire talkers instead of doers
“I think people need to be more deliberate around what they're looking for and why. I think if the founder wants to hire an early product person, they should talk to some really good early product people that are out of their reach and get a sense of what right looks like.”
Not take care of mental health
“I think first-time CEOs don't realize a terrible mood can be contagious in the office. It is important to have a support system around you, such as other CEOs who understand the stress and pain of running a startup. There's just a lot of grit required for entrepreneurship. Most great companies I've been involved with have at least one near-death experience.”
👥 Most interesting founder Jason has met recently
“Austin Allison is the founder of Pacaso. He sold his first company dotloop to Zillow for nine figures and then took a year off to learn Italian and to become a professional race car driver. At Maveron, we are looking for someone with a high level of ambition, who just never presses pause. We call them unapologetically non-normal. Austin encompasses what we are looking for in a founder."
📚 Jason’s favorite book
“One Hundred Years of Solitude was a great book. There is a magical beauty to the storytelling. I think some of the disconnects from reality kind of speak to what’s happening in society today to a certain extent. I thought it was a compelling novel where they create a fantasy world you get engrossed in.”
🔊 Jason’s favorite podcasts
Feel free to reach out to me if you are an early-stage founder that is currently fundraising right now. I would love to help out.
👨💻 What I’ve been reading
Ask HN: How to effectively get feedback from users?
I sold Baremetrics (a very transparent acquisition story)
Pitch Deck Teardown: Tinder 🔥 (Super early days)
How Did MasterClass Start?
How I Increased a Product’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) by 40 Points in 4 Months (with Templates)
🏀 Who’s ballin this week
Cookware startup Great Jones raises $1.75M as it expands into bakeware
OthersideAI raises $2.6M to let GPT-3 write your emails for you
Bumped Raises $10.4M For Program That Gives Equity As Shopping Rewards
This start-up gave big events a virtual home in the pandemic — it’s now worth $2 billion
Spearhead launches $100M fourth fund to transform founders into top-notch VC investors
Beyoncé and Peloton team up to gift fitness classes to HBCU students
😍 Jobs & Internships
Apply - Everlane - Product Manager (SF)
Apply - Shogun - Data Analyst (SF)
Apply - B Capital Group - Strategy & Ops Associate (NYC)
Apply - Poshmark - Product Manager (Bay Area)
Apply - World Innovation Lab - Marketing & Ops Associate (Palo Alto)
Apply - 27 Ventures - VC Analyst (Remote)
Apply - GGV - Next Gen Summer Venture Fellows (Remote)
Apply - Glow - Marketing Intern (Bay Area)
Apply - Picus Capital - VC Summer Investment Analyst (NYC)
Apply - Done - Growth intern (Remote)
Apply - Curology - Influencer Marketing Intern (Bay Area / Remote)
Apply - Snap - Design Engineer Intern (LA)
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