When we founded UpWest Labs in 2012 and launched our fund to invest in seed-stage startups, we knew that this would be a long-term journey. We believed that despite the high risk — and the guarantee that we would make mistakes — we could play a significant role in helping our startups grow and scale within their market.
As we evolved, the real litmus test to measure our effectiveness became whether we could continue to support our companies after the initial hands-on phase. Could we help them scale into their market, acquire new customers, hire the right talent, and achieve full momentum in the US?
As I reflect on the past four years, it is clear that 2015 was a defining year for UpWest Labs and our companies. Our portfolio community grew to over 50 companies, including 11 new investments. We are conscientious of our role as the most active US-based fund investing in Israeli startups.
Many of our companies have relocated their HQ to the US, and in 2015 we saw KeyWee and Apester open offices in New York, and Buildup, Mobilize and uMake setting up their business operations in San Francisco.
Additionally, this year saw phenomenal growth in the amount of capital invested in our portfolio companies, with close to $100M in follow-on funding in 2015 alone. This includes six of our companies that raised Series A financing rounds, and two more — SentinelOne and HoneyBook — that closed Series B rounds.
However, even more significant than these large institutional funding rounds is the extent and pace at which these companies are disrupting their respective industries. The HoneyBook team was only four founders when we first backed them in 2012. That team is now approaching 100 people as they continue their relentless pursuit to build the largest market network for the events industry, making the event planning business paperless, efficient and full of creativity and delight.
SentinelOne co-founders Almog Cohen and Tomer Weingarten had the vision in 2013 to replace anti-virus with the next generation of endpoint protection. This year, companies including Netflix comprise the many large enterprises whom are deploying SentinelOne to displace their aging anti-virus solutions.
UpWest Labs was there as the first investor in these companies, and we continue to support their growth long after the initial investment. My Partners and I are privileged to collaborate with courageous and visionary entrepreneurs who see no frontier as a challenge they cannot tackle.
Though we have grown, our mission has not changed. Our conviction and focus was (and still is) to back phenomenal entrepreneurs and work with them on the number one challenge they face: building a product in the market and sustaining fast momentum to create meaningful and industry-shaping companies.
Here is to 2016!