True Part Two

Greetings from NACA! For those of you that don’t know, NACA is the National Association of Campus Activities, a conference held every year that brings student programming boards from across the country together to attend educational sessions, scope out talent at showcases, book vendors for events, and network. This year it’s here in Boston at the Hynes Convention Center and I’m here representing BC CAB.


Live footage of me running around this weekend

But what does this have to do with TechTrek?


You might have seen on my Twitter that I ran into one of the opening locations for Blue Bottle Coffee while I was here! I admit I fangirled a little and had to then explain to my peers why I was so excited by another coffee shop opening. It was so cool to be able to explain a little bit about their story because of Clare’s great presentation on True Ventures and the research I did for this blog post! What a great indication of the real-world application of TechTrek!

More About True Ventures 

True Ventures is one of the companies I am most excited to visit when we travel to San Francisco in little over a week (can you believe that our trip is so soon?). As we learned from Clare’s presentation and blog post, in 2005 True Ventures was founded with the goal of creating a new kind of venture capital firm by investing in early Seed stage and Series A investments. I recommend you check out her awesome post for more information on what venture capital is, stats about True as a company, and some portfolio highlights.

It All Comes Full Circle 


One of those portfolio highlights is Madison Reed, the company I presented on and wrote my blog post about early this semester. True’s journey with Madison Reed lines up perfectly with their mission and is a typical case of how the firm picks a worthy startup and helps them on their way to success.

True is typically the first institutional investor into a startup as in the case of Madison Reed. Their criteria for investment include finding top founders, blue oceans, and a deal that makes sense for both founders and investors. This is how True felt about the opportunity Madison Reed had by bringing technology into the hair coloring market:

“From the inception of the company, True saw an opportunity for Madison Reed to disrupt this large market by creating a better product and superior channel, and to use technology to delight and please customers,” said Jon Callaghan, True Ventures Founder and Managing Partner, and Madison Reed board member. “We are thrilled with the rapid growth and innovation at Madison Reed, and we are excited about the next phase of growth. This is an enormous opportunity with a phenomenal team.”

True Ventures is primarily interested in technology startups and the firm recognized that Madison Reed’s ability to incorporate computer vision through their AI chatbot and other machine learning functions into the hair color selection process would help them scale quickly while offering ever-improving accuracy in their services. That is a winning combination.

Other venture capital firms followed suit wanting a piece of what True had discovered at Madison Reed. In their Series C Round to grow the business and push into television sales, Comcast Ventures and Shea Ventures joined earlier investors True and Norwest Venture Partners to raise $16.1 million. Even though the company has raised over $70 million in total capital now, True has remained a core part of the growth of Madison Reed. One of the benefits that comes along with an early investment by True is the forging of a long-term investor relationship. True brings a whole network to this relationship, not just the partners and team but the over 400 founders and 7,000 employees in the True portfolio that are there for support.

The relationship with Madison Reed was further strengthened when the CEO, Amy Errett, joined True Ventures as a Special Advisor, where she supports more than 250 entrepreneurs as they build their own innovative companies (update: she just became a partner!) Errett brings a wealth of previous experience to True, from running the San Fransico office of venture capital firm Maveron and to founding companies like Madison Reed. This appointment also integrates Errett more into the True family. She is not the first to both receive funding from True Ventures and return as a member of the firm’s team. Om Malik, a journalist and founder of technology blog Gigaom is a venture partner after seeding funding from true helped him grow his blog to a media company. Ann Crady Weiss, who specializes in early-stage investments has had two companies backed by True Ventures. Currently, in addition to sitting as a venture partner at True, she is the CEO and co-founder of Hatch Baby, a current company in their portfolio.

These are just a couple of examples of how True builds a community. In class, we have talked about Apple’s ability and strategy to create an ecosystem where customers don’t have to ever leave. That is also one of True Ventures greatest strengths in my opinion: their ability to build an ecosystem that feeds back into itself and helps foster its own growth.

Extending the Ecosystem  


If you are as interested as I am in True Ventures, you might want to check out their True Entrepreneur Corps. The TEC program was started in 2009 as a summer fellowship that connects college students interested in technology and the Bay Area/Silicon Valley scene.    Each student is placed with a with one of their portfolio companies in addition to working with the True Team. As in the case of Adam D’Augelli, some TEC alumni eventually end up working for the True Team. The TEC helps students gain exposure to startups and venture capital so if you are interested in either of those spheres or want to start your own company, it might be worth looking into! The deadline for applications for summer 2018 has passed but for my sophomores, it could be an opportunity for summer 2019 (BC students have been members of past classes).

Another program run by True Ventures that I want to highlight is the Priya Haji Fellowship. This program is for new college graduates who are seeking their first full-time jobs in the startup world. For nine months, these individuals, similar to the TEC participants are paired with True portfolio companies in San Francisco. The program is named after Priya who was a four-time entrepreneur, invested in by True Ventures, and expects at least half of the fellows to be female. Priscilla Tyler was the first Priya Haji Fellow and now sits as an associate at True.

Hopefully, this post got you excited for our first day of company visits which will include True Ventures (and Madison Reed)! 


10 thoughts on “True Part Two

  1. Hey Julia, great blog post! Your post definitely got me excited for our first day of company visits! The network that True brings to Madison Reed is really powerful, and hearing about the size of the support system they have is amazing. Community building is such an important factor within companies, especially ones working towards growth and raising capital. On another note, I’ve actually tried Blue Bottle Coffee on the High Line in NYC and am excited to hear about it expanding to Boston!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Julia! I love how you narrowed down their criteria to include “finding top founders, blue oceans, and a deal that makes sense for both founders and investors.” I also cannot wait to visit True Ventures, I think we’ll get a view into how they predict what the next big things will be and get a glimpse of the vast creativity across startups.
    Thanks for letting us know about some of their student opportunities – I’m sure many of us will be eager to look into them!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I’m also very excited to visit True Ventures (in less than two weeks!). The success they’ve had investing in the very early stages of companies is remarkable. I’m really looking forward to hearing how they’re able to see success in such young companies. Also, thanks for sharing the Priya Haji Fellowship. I’ve never heard of anything like it, but it sounds awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Awesome post! I really think that True has a special culture that seems to be the secret sauce that separates them from other VC firms. By really building relationships and having an “ecosystem”, they are able to retain clients who might otherwise jump to bigger firms.

    I liked the part you added about the college programs. Part of a VC’s job is recruiting great talent for its portfolio companies, and this program seems to be a win-win for everyone involved. Its surreal to think that the companies we are studying/visiting could be our employers in only a few years!! Can’t with for Madison Reed & True Ventures!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! I think Sequoia and KPCB fit into the image of what comes to mind when we say VC (which is a very cool image!) I think their portfolio is diverse, innovative and even a little bit quirky. I am very excited to visit them!


  5. I love how you covered new aspects of two companies we have already talked about extensively in class and online! I recently had a similar reaction to seeing Blue Bottle Coffee signs in the Prudential Center. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and couldn’t stop to “fanboy”.

    I also enjoyed reading about the culture that True Ventures strives to create. Giving a company millions of dollars in funding is a great sign of trust. Yet, supplementing that money with real support must give these young founders true confidence as they expand their amazing businesses.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Really cool idea for a post and very well written! I am actually doing the TEC Fellowship this summer, and I know Tammy Lee who is a BC junior did it last year. From a VC perspective, Madison Reed is now in Late Stage Venture and accepted $25 million in Series E funding on Oct 20, 2017. The lead investor in this round was Comcast Ventures, although True was a part of the 5 different investors involved. In total, Madison Reed has raised a whopping $70.1 million in funding since being founded!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post Julia! I also would have completely fangirled if I came upon a Blue Bottle Coffee shop. @jjliang91 actually mentioned seeing the one at the Pru and I got so excited just at that!

    I love your point about the ecosystem that True has cultivated––one that feeds back into itself to grow even more. I think that’s an important quality for VC firms especially, because they need to be sure that their investments and efforts will eventually nurture creative ideas into successful businesses.

    Liked by 1 person

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