Perspectives

Welcome Sheila Vashee to the investing team

Welcome Sheila Vashee to the investing team

Welcome Sheila Vashee to the investing team

Today we're excited to announce that we're expanding our investing team with the addition of industry veteran Sheila Vashee, whose extensive experience leading growth and go-to-market teams at Opendoor and Dropbox will help us achieve our mission faster.

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Rasa raises $26M led by A16Z for its open source conversational AI platform

Rasa raises $26M led by A16Z for its open source conversational AI platform

Rasa raises $26M led by A16Z for its open source conversational AI platform

As chatbots and other AI-based services like interactive voice apps continue to become more ubiquitous, a startup that’s built software to help create and — critically — improve how they work over time is announcing a significant funding round to continue expanding its business. Rasa, which has developed an open source-based platform for developers to build chatbots, voice apps and other services that employ conversational AI for interactivity, is today announcing that it has raised $26 million, a Series B round that it will use to continue investing in its technology, hiring more talent, and expanding its business, which has been on a growth tear. Alex Weidauer, the CEO and co-founder, said in an interview that its SDK has seen downloads grow six-fold in the last 14 months, and even with the company — founded originally in Berlin, now headquartered in San Francisco — more focused on growth than revenues at the moment, annual recurring revenue has triple in the last 12 months. Customers include Adobe, Deutsche Telekom, BMW, Airbus, ENGIE, HCA Healthcare, and Orange.

The Idea: Build It, and They Can Find Coronavirus Tests

The Idea: Build It, and They Can Find Coronavirus Tests

The Idea: Build It, and They Can Find Coronavirus Tests

Carl Bass, former chief executive of the software company Autodesk, for example, is assembling 1,500 face shields a day for nurses and doctors from a robotics warehouse in Berkeley, Calif., and sending them across the country. Lan Xuezhao, founding partner of Basis Set Ventures, a venture capital firm in San Francisco, tapped her connections in China to procure tens of thousands of medical masks straight from the factories for hospitals.

Five robots that hope to save the US food supply chain

Five robots that hope to save the US food supply chain

Five robots that hope to save the US food supply chain

As Covid-19 threatens to buckle the US food supply chain, businesses are wrestling with the task of how to feed millions under lockdown via understaffed supply chains. As a result, demand for robotics companies whose machines can harvest, handle and deliver food is surging — rapidly accelerating a trend towards automation that was already under way. “Everybody's been talking about the automation wave, the AI wave, and this fourth industrial revolution, but these trends were just creeping along,” said Scott Snyder, a consultant and partner at Heidrick and Struggles. “Now suddenly the business case that might have been marginal before — deploying a pick and pack robot in your backroom — is much more attractive.” Here are five machines leading the food industry’s robot revolution.

A Remote Work Boom Could Change Tech’s Immigration Debate

A Remote Work Boom Could Change Tech’s Immigration Debate

A Remote Work Boom Could Change Tech’s Immigration Debate

The pandemic has already shown it's entirely possible to operate businesses remotely, prompting some tech companies to debate the necessity of splashy headquarters and high-cost rent. Next, the move toward remote work could also push companies to reconsider another aspect of centralized offices: immigration. For decades, American tech firms have poured time and money into bringing foreign talent to work in the U.S. But the pandemic may prove that engineers can work as successfully from their home countries as they could from Silicon Valley's coding bullpens—saving companies from the paperwork, costs and political maneuvering required to get them into the country. "No offices: No visa issues," says Lan Xuezhao, who led corporate strategy for Dropbox Inc

In the Pandemic Era, the New Hiring Manager Is Now a Chatbot

In the Pandemic Era, the New Hiring Manager Is Now a Chatbot

In the Pandemic Era, the New Hiring Manager Is Now a Chatbot

To hasten the task--while reducing physical contact during the pandemic-- Lindstrom has moved the hiring process almost entirely online. She’s tapped a San Francisco-based tech startup called Workstream, which helps automate the hiring of hourly and gig-economy workers for nearly 5,000 managers at companies including Uber Technologies Inc., Marriott International Inc., Chick-fil-A Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.’s third-party delivery operators. Workstream operates like a silent machine turning the gears of a company’s recruiting process from start to finish. The software integrates with online job boards. Applicants receive a string of automated, tailored screening questions via text messages that make it feel like they’re chatting with a company recruiter. Those the company deems a good fit pick an interview time slot by text. In the Covid-19 era, most conversations are conducted by phone or video chat. Jobseekers complete paperwork on their mobile devices. The whole process can be done within a few hours. “We use data and AI so businesses can save time and do more with less, and so hourly workers won’t get lost in the process,” said Workstream co-founder Desmond Lim.

Nestlé Halts All Business Travel Abroad as Other Firms Curb Asia, Italy Trips

Nestlé Halts All Business Travel Abroad as Other Firms Curb Asia, Italy Trips

Nestlé Halts All Business Travel Abroad as Other Firms Curb Asia, Italy Trips

Companies push phone calls, videoconferences as alternatives while crafting remote-work contingency plans. As fears rise over Covid-19’s spread, companies are canceling business travel and corporate off-site events around the globe and making contingency plans for more employees to work remotely. Nestlé SA told more than 290,000 employees to suspend all international business travel until March 15, and requested that all domestic trips be skipped whenever possible for now. “We take our responsibility for our employees and to the communities in which we operate seriously,” a spokeswoman for the Swiss maker of Nescafé coffee and Purina pet food said. Nestlé’s announcement is among the first by a major multinational to restrict all its employees from flying anywhere.

How Technology Will Help Businesses Mitigate Climate Risk

How Technology Will Help Businesses Mitigate Climate Risk

How Technology Will Help Businesses Mitigate Climate Risk

Climate change presents an existential crisis for business owners. In a matter of hours, an unexpected weather event can spell the end for companies unable to cough up the cash to deal with damage. Even large enterprises share in the risk, with trillions of dollars of assets laying in the path of storms, fires and floods. To mitigate this risk we must understand it. With more data at our disposal than ever before, the timing is right to build new products that help businesses manage climate risk.

Will Your Tech Scale at Launch? Learnings from launching products at Niantic and Google

Will Your Tech Scale at Launch? Learnings from launching products at Niantic and Google

Will Your Tech Scale at Launch? Learnings from launching products at Niantic and Google

Are you preparing your technology to scale for a product launch, Black Friday, or a major PR / marketing campaign? A few weeks ago, we hosted one of our advisors Niniane Wang for a tech talk at our office. She shared lessons learned from being the VP Engineering at Niantic overseeing Pokémon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, CTO of Minted during numerous TV and viral consumer moments, and an engineering leader for a number of product launches on Gmail and other Google products.

Real Estate’s Slow Change Leaves Opportunity for Startup Innovation

Real Estate’s Slow Change Leaves Opportunity for Startup Innovation

Real Estate’s Slow Change Leaves Opportunity for Startup Innovation

BSV frequently hosts invite-only dinner discussions with leaders and innovators in a given industry; recently, we held a dinner that gathered entrepreneurs and innovators from the real estate tech sector to discuss the shared challenges and potential opportunities across the space. This post is a select recap of some of that conversation.

Addressing the Labor Shortage: From Farm to Factory

Addressing the Labor Shortage: From Farm to Factory

Addressing the Labor Shortage: From Farm to Factory

It might be easy at first pass to succumb to the belief that the labor shortage is just another platitude of the technocrats — how can the robots take all the jobs from workers if workers don’t occupy the jobs to begin with? But the labor shortage isn’t just a talking point, it’s a meaningful problem in the American economy, strangling industries from farm to factory. Fruit is rotting on the vines in Salinas . Factory owners are turning to Facebook groups to find welders in South Bend. And project timelines in construction are getting stretched out by months in Austin.

Reducing Risk for Main Street

Reducing Risk for Main Street

Reducing Risk for Main Street

It’s easy to take for granted the benefits of being a large enterprise; the sheer size and weight of corporate balance sheets offer a reprieve from many of the day to day fears of cashflow and fulfillment uncertainty that plague small and medium businesses of main street.

Fostering Community Outside the Office

Fostering Community Outside the Office

Fostering Community Outside the Office

From our experience, the idea of hosting a large gathering that brings people together to share ideas is often exciting but can be challenging in terms of execution and actual impact. How do you get everyone talking? What should you be talking about? Here are some of our tips that played out well in a recent dinner of 27 women from across the industry. We hope you find them helpful for organizing your own high-value events!

Managing Remote Teams and Overcoming Hiring Challenges

Managing Remote Teams and Overcoming Hiring Challenges

Managing Remote Teams and Overcoming Hiring Challenges

Last month, Basis Set Ventures and Olga Narvskaya organized a private dinner for women executives in technology, in partnership with First Republic Bank. As we surveyed our group’s roles and shared experience we centered on a guiding topic for the dinner: building and optimizing a successful team. For our group, this meant a combination of hiring well and positioning remote teammates for success. Given how universal this challenge is, we wanted to share some of the biggest takeaways from our ongoing Women in Tech dinner series.

Supercharging Trade Finance with Data, AI, and Software

Supercharging Trade Finance with Data, AI, and Software

Supercharging Trade Finance with Data, AI, and Software

Overseas trade and shipping are costly endeavors that require a large amount of capital and a high tolerance for risk. Banks play a crucial role in facilitating trade by providing Letters of Credit and other trade finance services to reduce this risk and provide more financial flexibility to buyers and sellers. These traditional banking institutions have historically controlled the market for trade finance, but increasingly there are signs that the winds are shifting and 3PLs, Freight Forwarders, and even startups might be able to gain a foothold in the space.

Problems and Potential in Row Crop Farming

Problems and Potential in Row Crop Farming

Problems and Potential in Row Crop Farming

Row crop farming has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, due in large part to automation and to fluctuations in market trends. This creates unique challenges for farmers who want to take advantage of improving technology and manage expenses in their day-to-day operations. Row crops are specific crops that are planted and cultivated on a seasonal basis. By looking at specific row crops — such as corn, wheat, and soy — we can sort expenses by category and better understand the biggest issues farmers face, and what trends cause them. By understanding trends, we can effectively invest in high impact companies that are leading the way in solving these problems.

How Data Made Capturing the Black Hole Image Possible

How Data Made Capturing the Black Hole Image Possible

How Data Made Capturing the Black Hole Image Possible

Black holes have been studied (and the subject of legends) for years, but last week, astronomers revealed the first image of a black hole captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, a network of eight telescopes located across the globe. This scientific milestone was made possible thanks to the over 200 people working on the project and technological advancements made in computing and data analysis.

The most overlooked path to commercialize AI is for companies to do it themselves

The most overlooked path to commercialize AI is for companies to do it themselves

The most overlooked path to commercialize AI is for companies to do it themselves

The full-stack methodology gave birth to companies like Uber and Tesla prior to the apex of the deep-learning revolution. And in today’s AI-first world of data and human labelers, full-stack startups are poised to play an even more important role in the startup ecosystem.

A closer look at automation in manufacturing

A closer look at automation in manufacturing

A closer look at automation in manufacturing

For all the talk about how “behind” industries like manufacturing are and how destined we are to see radical changes in employment with the proliferation of AI, few in tech realize that manufacturing is one of the most automated parts of the economy. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need new tech, but it does mean white space is more elusive than we credit. 

New Jobs That Didn't Exist Before and Pay 50 Percent More

New Jobs That Didn't Exist Before and Pay 50 Percent More

New Jobs That Didn't Exist Before and Pay 50 Percent More

As we enter into a new year, many of us are likely thinking about resolutions, career ambitions, and goals for the year ahead. For 2019, I’m anticipating more new technology converting into job reality, and more organizations integrating AI.

7 Ai-enabled Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

7 Ai-enabled Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

7 Ai-enabled Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

The holiday season is upon us, which for most of us entails scrambling to find the perfect gifts for the special people in your life. Rather than browsing Amazon for gifts that they may have already seen advertised (or even purchased for themselves), why not get your family and friends something unique that will materially improve their lives?

Silicon Valley Goes To China

Silicon Valley Goes To China

Silicon Valley Goes To China

One Chinese technology executive said he worked 14 to 15 hours a day at least six days a week. Another said he worked every waking hour and forced himself to watch movies to relax.

Come Join the Basis Set Investment Team

Come Join the Basis Set Investment Team

Come Join the Basis Set Investment Team

Basis Set Ventures is a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage startups that are using artificial intelligence to help us work more productively. Our ~$140M fund is dedicated primarily to Seed and Series A startups. We’re looking to add a new member to our investment team: an independent thinker, passionate about AI/technology, and with a proven record of delivering in a fast-paced environment.

Can Social Help Drive Progress in Future Work?

Can Social Help Drive Progress in Future Work?

Can Social Help Drive Progress in Future Work?

As we look toward the future of work, some of the things we must continue to improve upon are making work more enjoyable and learning more desirable.

6 Things to Consider Before Making Your First Sales Hire

6 Things to Consider Before Making Your First Sales Hire

6 Things to Consider Before Making Your First Sales Hire

As CEO, you’re the initial salesperson. You orchestrate the product roadmap, and at the end of the day, you’re involved in closing every customer. Over time the team that helps you bring your solution to market will grow, but knowing where to start and how (and when) to get there can be overwhelming. Here are 6 things to consider as you get ready to introduce the start of your sales organization.

Basis Set Ventures Turns One

Basis Set Ventures Turns One

Basis Set Ventures Turns One

What a first year this has been. Over the past year we’ve partnered with entrepreneurs who impress us with their drive and ideation, and we now have over a dozen portfolio companies in the BSV community that match our mission of using artificial intelligence to fuel work productivity.

For Startup Founders Who Are Also Moms, It’s a Balancing Act

For Startup Founders Who Are Also Moms, It’s a Balancing Act

For Startup Founders Who Are Also Moms, It’s a Balancing Act

Diane Loviglio, co-founder and chief executive of Boon and Gable, a personal stylist startup in San Francisco, makes the same six-egg breakfast omelet for her family every day—a routine that eliminates one decision from her packed schedule and saves her a few precious minutes.

5 exciting and investable AI themes

5 exciting and investable AI themes

5 exciting and investable AI themes

A few weeks ago I spoke at SaaStr Annual, the largest B2B software conference, about investing in artificial intelligence. BSV looks for early-stage startups that are solving real problems facing new or traditional industries, but something we believe just as firmly is that these startups are found both in and outside of Silicon Valley. Here are some of the themes AI is transforming, US-wide, for the industries that we invest in.

How will technology reshape the trucking industry after COVID-19?

How will technology reshape the trucking industry after COVID-19?

How will technology reshape the trucking industry after COVID-19?

In the wake of 9/11, 11,000 U.S trucking companies folded. Outside of hurricanes and earthquakes, the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were the largest insured losses in history. In an effort to regain control, insurance companies raised premiums across industries with trucking taking a direct hit. The notoriously slim margins of the trucking industry meant that anyone who couldn’t get costs under control went under.