It was late November 2012 when I was headed to Vancouver for late-stage diligence on a company I had been tracking for some time. I asked Pat Lor to join me on the trip as he had some valuable insight in to the industry this company operated in. In putting together some additional meetings on the trip I was asked by Rasool Rayani if I would meet with a company he was looking to make an angel investment in. Coming from Rasool it was an easy ‘yes.’
Pat and I met Kristine Steuart, co-founder and CEO of Allocadia, for coffee in Yaletown near Allocadia’s tiny offices (with no windows!) that housed their team of six. I always enjoy first meetings with entrepreneurs because I get to hear the personal journey that led them to starting a company. Kristine was an entrepreneur that went out to solve her own problem. Previously, she was a senior marketing exec in a software company and she constantly struggled with the archaic way marketing spend was budgeted, tracked and measured. So, she decided to leave her job and build a product to address it. Joining her on this journey was her twin sister, Katherine. I have to confess that while I meet a lot of female founders I had never met twin sister founders!
Katherine (left) and Kristine (right) made many of the mistakes first-time founders make – outsourcing development which resulted in an unmaintainable code base, hiring the wrong people and bringing in business consultants to help them grow the company. But, their tenacity was unmatched and they kept pushing forward and learning as fast as possible.
It is always interesting to hear of the personal struggles and challenges founders have to overcome. It is a good measurement of the sacrifice they are willing to make to see their vision become a reality. Beyond quitting their jobs, Kristine and Katherine spent the first few years of Allocadia working towards a product they could sell; attending trade shows to meet customers and putting personal capital on the line. Did I mention they also managed to have 3 kids between them during this time?!? I loved hearing the story of how they would bring their mom with them to tradeshows, leaving her behind the booth with the little ones so Kristine and Katherine could navigate meeting potential customers and tending to their babies.
By 2012, Allocadia had some very credible first customers, was negotiating a partnership with a public marketing company and had assembled a growing team. Many of the team members previously worked with Kristine or Katherine. Being able to recruit the top talent you previously worked with is a huge endorsement as an entrepreneur and something good investors highly value. After a few glowing customer calls I had seen enough and wanted to get involved. However, that was easier said than done.
Kristine and Katherine were not that enthused about having a VC fund involved in their company and they definitely weren’t going to let a guy they just met invest. This made me even more bullish on the company. I think that an entrepreneur should evaluate a VC the same way they evaluate hiring a senior member of their management team and that’s the approach Kristine and Katherine took. I knew that I had to invest in building a relationship with Kristine, Katherine and the team around them and was eager to do so. I wanted to work for this company!
I am grateful that they eventually let me participate in their seed round and that was the opportunity to begin a working relationship. I have immensely enjoyed my time with Allocadia and am incredibly proud of what they have accomplished on so little. In less than 18 months they have gone from 6 to over 30 people and now have 100 enterprise customers.
It is now time to take the next step in the journey and we are excited to announce that we are co-leading a $7M Series A with Altos Ventures and also welcoming Illuminate Ventures to the team. I am extremely excited to have Anthony and Cindy join us in supporting Kristine, Katherine and team as the next chapter of Allocadia is written.