Venture capitalist Shevin Pishevar has long acted as an investing oracle, and as a successful super angel, he’s put his capital into Uber, airbnb, and other major companies. But after his earlier days in Silicon Valley, the philanthropist and futurist has significantly broadened the scope of the types of companies that he’s backed.
What do some of his latest investments have in common? Many are essential parts of the sharing economy. But others are simply trend-setting, innovative business models designed for an economy that will soon lean heavily on smart cities and sustainable power.
Here are some of Pishevar’s recent investments:
Bolt: An Electrical Mobility Company
Venture capitalist Pishevar has shown significant interest in companies that rely on ordinary citizens sharing resources. Uber is the classic example: A car company completely populated by people who drive other people around.
These business models also tend to be more decentralized, where the parent company holds the framework but generally lets the employees act as if they’re running their own businesses.
Bolt, both backed by and named after Olympic champion Usain Bolt, is more than an electric scooter company; it’s a business designed to completely change how we view and use transportation. Bolt boasts a line of fully electric scooters of varying sizes, as well as a small car known as the Nano.
Unlike other electric scooter companies, angel investor Pishevar was mostly sold on the company for a number of reasons beyond how many units would be put out in the streets. Beyond having an investor and spokesperson that is a household name, Bolt also built its line of scooters to have an average lifetime of two years. For other scooter companies, that number is six months, at best.
Also, Bolt, as a startup, is determined to create safe, simple solutions that support underserved communities. This means that while you can find scooters in large-scale cities, not all of these scooter businesses serve the areas where people need them the most. Bolt wants to change that.
The Bolt Nano is also a big attraction to a venture capitalist like Pishevar. This small vehicle, which looks like a miniature van, was specifically designed for urban commutes. Small, easy to park, and able to go longer distances, the Bolt Nano also allows people to raise money and earn income via the Bolt platform.
“Through its portfolio of micro mobility products, Bolt Mobility fulfills the dream that many of us share to operate in a world where our vehicles will fit perfectly into the fabric of our urban environments while respecting the air we breathe,” Usain Bolt said in a statement.
As an early investor in Uber, super angel Pishevar has a deep understanding of what makes the sharing economy work. Bolt is one of those examples.
Wag!: Dog Walking, Sitting, and Boarding Services
Most pet owners know the difficulty and expense of finding a trusted, vetted, reliable dog walker or pet sitter. Wag! is a startup that Pishevar invested in because it specifically tackles this problem head-on.
With Wag!, users have access to a database of local dog walkers and sitters. Walks start at $20, with the first one free. But venture capitalist Pishevar saw another service for users: the option to board a pet at the host’s home for as little as $39 per night.
The team behind Wag! claims to have developed the on-demand dog walking paradigm back in 2015 and has now expanded into 110 cities and 43 states. Using a mobile app as the platform of choice, Wag! allows users to get quotes and other information instantly, whenever the pet owner sees fit.
But there was more to Wag!’s business model that drew investors like super angel Pishevar. Wag! is a project helmed by Hilary Schneider, who up until early 2018, served as CEO of LifeLock. Of all the identity protection services, LifeLock is the one with name recognition, thanks to TV commercials and other ads. Ultimately, LifeLock was sold to Symantec in March of 2017, which freed up Schneider to land at a company like Wag!
Hired: An Advanced Job-Matching Service
For job seekers, the most awkward part of the conversation with a potential employer is when salary comes up. But what about job seekers who go through an extensive interview process only to find that the salary offered is too low?
Hired is venture capitalist Pishevar’s answer to this problem. Taking a different approach that’s similar to a dating service, Hired is an online platform that matches up employers with job seekers – putting the salary conversation at the forefront.
Although Hired focuses mainly on software development roles, the site has already grown a significant following and allows others with different types of career needs to create profiles and promote themselves.
Hired has had a solid history with funding, raising $30 million last year. The secret sauce for Hired is an internal algorithm that matches candidates with the right companies, and Hired’s leadership team hopes to turn this into a subscription service for companies seeking talent. According to CEO Mehul Patel, Hired.com, as of last year, had seen almost $60 million in salary offers to talent who use the site.
“We’ve raised $30 million in Series D funding, which will take us to profitability in a round led by Investment Management Corporation of Ontario, a global investor with over $60 billion in assets under management, bringing our total funding raised to-date to more than $130 million,” Patel wrote in a statement.
That kind of news is music to the ears to an investor like Pishevar, who looks for solid investment prospects in a market full of future tech.
DiDi: A Ride-Sharing Service
In the United States, when you need a ride, you have Uber and Lyft. In China and other places, there’s DiDi Chuxing (DiDi), which aims to be the world’s largest and most-used mobile transport platform.
Entrepreneur and super angel Pishevar saw the potential in this service and invested in DiDi’s future after vetting all that the service had to offer. And what DiDi offers is far beyond what you see now with Uber.
At the moment, DiDi offers a full slate of ride-sharing options that include the usual: taxis, luxurious vehicles, and buses. But DiDi also offers bike sharing and e-bike sharing, food delivery, and even car rentals.
What makes DiDi even more different? The company prides itself on its working relationship with regulators and policymakers. Instead of pushing out taxi drivers, DiDi officials work directly with them with the ultimate goal of creating smart, sustainable, and globally responsible smart cities and transportation plans.
For Pishevar – the co-founder of HyperloopOne (now Virgin Hyperloop), as well as Uber and Cherry – a ridesharing company that looks beyond the immediate transportation situation is a good bet. DiDi is even working on harnessing the power of autonomous vehicles for the future.
Right now, DiDi’s reach is remarkable. Beyond leveraging the DiDi platform all over the world, the company partnered with Bolt, Grab, Lyft, and other companies to make headway in various regions. Venture capitalist Pishevar invested in a company that already has a reach in 80 percent of cities all over the planet, from Australia to Brazil to Mexico.
DiDi’s overall strategy includes multiple aspects. The company devotes itself to creating customer value, leveraging data, and treating its partners well. It also focuses on integrity, growth, and even diversity.
Earlier this year, super angel Pishevar and other investors learned that DiDi was expanding into Latin America via Colombia and Chile. The move is particularly significant because both areas are considered – according to Mi Yang, head of DiDi’s Latin American expansion – important centers of growth.
“We are very excited to start serving Chile and Colombia, two important centers of growth and innovation in the region,” Yang said of the expansion. “We will work hard to provide fully localized mobility services that offer safe, efficient, and affordable rides to local consumers, while providing attractive and flexible income opportunities for private-car and taxi drivers.”
Postmates: A Service that Delivers Almost Anything
The options to get food delivery in some parts of the world are nearly overwhelming. In the United States alone, users are spoiled for choice, with Uber, Grubhub, and Doordash competing for deliveries across the country. However, what happens when customers want things other than fast food or the usual takeout delivered? The answer is entrepreneur Pishevar’s recent investment: Postmates.
Postmates has a simple motto: “Anything, anytime, anywhere. Postmate it.” The company lives by that phrase, delivering everything from bags of groceries to bottles of alcohol. Beyond taco shops and cafes, Postmates boasts grocery stores, pharmacies, music shops, sushi bars, and even 7-11.
For futurist Pishevar, the Postmates model is a winner. Right now, Postmates operates in some of the United States’ most high-profile cities, from flashy Las Vegas to breezy Orange County. The current docket boasts 3,500 cities and 5 million deliveries per month.
Raising funding from visionary super angels and entrepreneurs like Pishevar has been easy for the company. After being founded in 2011 and starting out small in San Francisco, Postmates has raised $5 million in Series A funding, $16 million in Series B, and $80 million in Series C. With most investors – Pishevar included – seeking ongoing revenue from its investments, Postmates added a subscription service called Postmates Plus Unlimited.
But even Postmates is looking at autonomous delivery for future options. Recently tapping Apple veteran Ken Kocienda to join the team as a principal software engineer, Postmates seeks to build out the company’s street robot service, Serve.
“My goal throughout my career has not been technology for the sake of opportunity. I am interested in making product experiences that people out in the world will find useful and meaningful,” Kocienda said in a TechCrunch interview. “It’s not about the technology or just the design; it’s about the technology and design coming together.”
Serve is the kind of project that Pishevar can get behind. This delivery robot, which looks like a small, enclosed shopping cart, uses cameras and other tech to weave its way along sidewalks to deliver Postmates items. On a single charge, the Serve robot can go as long as 25 miles, carrying a load of 50 pounds.
Using these rovers, Postmates hopes to improve delivery routes for drivers – not eliminate drivers altogether. If a Postmates driver gets a multi-step delivery that requires items from different places, the Serve can split off, pick up one portion of the order, make its way back to the driver’s car, and even get in or hop on to make it to the next destination.
Serve’s advanced technology allows the rover-like robot to avoid hitting pedestrians and make its way around fire hydrants and other obstacles. The robot is designed to have human features, including eyes, so humans can connect with it as easily as possible.
Right now, venture capitalist Pishevar has a huge winner in Postmates. Not only has the company raised $10 million in pre-IPO financing, but it is widely expected to go public later in 2019. Valuation at the moment for Postmates is $1.85 billion.
Owlcam: Car Security that Starts with a Camera
The internet is awash with seemingly countless videos from the dashboards of cars. From car accidents to near-misses, it seems that the dashboard cam is the go-to for both security and humor everywhere.
Owl Cameras, which sells the Owlcam, is not the largest security company. But Pishevar’s investment is certainly getting noticed.
For Owl Cameras, the Owlcam is the star. Offering $1,000 daily for the best dashcam video sent in by a user, Owlcam boasts its own stable of user-generated content. With so many people competing for the daily $1,000 reward, Owlcam has a steady stream of customer testimonials posted every single day – a genius system for venture capitalists like Pishevar who know how hard it is to get customer feedback.
The Owlcam focuses on a number of things: car crashes, dents, traffic stops, robberies, break-ins, and anything else that the camera can capture. But the company got a big boost in publicity when an NFL player used the camera to catch the person who broke into his car.
Alex Armah, a fullback with the Florida Panthers, had an Owlcam in his Dodge Charger. When a stranger began breaking into his car, Armah got a notification on his phone, so he was able to watch the whole thing in real time. Armah chose to chase down and apprehend the suspect on his own – something Owlcam does not recommend – but in the end, the incident gave Owlcam a tremendous PR boost.
As a company, Owlcam has started making significant inroads with insurance companies and other businesses that can rely on the company’s technology. In one recent move bound to please investor and philanthropist Pishevar, Owlcam has signed a deal to use the tech to improve the insurance claims process.
Through a partnership with a local AAA insurer, Owlcam users can now submit and expedite claims directly through Owlcam’s mobile app. This new feature allows insurance agents to process claims much quicker, whether those claims are for damage from an accident or a break-in.
“Owlcam has revolutionized automotive security with real-time video over 4G LTE. We see our video helping people every day,” Andy Hodge, CEO of Owlcam, said about the deal. “You can see hundreds of examples on our website. Helping those drivers plug straight into CSAA Insurance Group is just one way to make these sadly unavoidable events something that drivers can do something about.”
Owlcam has had an easy investment path as well, with super angel Pishevar and other investors going in on the tech. For its Series A, Owlcam raised $18 million last year, all to support the manufacturing, development, and marketing of a product with a starting price of $349 that later dropped to $299.
“Cars need video security, badly,” Hodge said at the time. “No matter how you look at it – whether in terms of dollars, physical damage, or emotional harm caused – the car is a place where a lot happens.”
Pishevar has a reputation for being a philanthropist, founder, futurist, and thought-leader on Twitter. He was the person who convinced Elon Musk to explore the technology behind the Hyperloop, and Pishevar was ultimately the startup mogul who got the investment off the ground. He leads through his investments and makes careful choices regarding which ones he supports. Look for more super angel moves by Pishevar throughout the year. The businesses in which he invests may not be connected by any particular theme, but they all have one thing in common: potential.