At High Alpha, we’re laser-focused on launching companies that solve pressing challenges for businesses. And over the last 18+ months, we’ve seen no shortage of obstacles due to the global pandemic and the myriad of challenges that came along with it.
In response to these challenges, we started more companies in 2020 than any other year throughout our firm’s history. So, how did we land on the ideas that we turned into businesses? What will we continue to look for in opportunities related to the future of work? Below, I outline the origin stories behind a handful of the recent companies developed out of High Alpha Studio.
The idea behind Filo, a collaborative workspace for virtual events, meetings, and teams, was developed out of a High Alpha Sprint Week in San Francisco back in 2019. At the time, we were exploring a compelling idea for a Discord-like, always-on work experience for teams. But it was pre-pandemic, and we questioned the commonality of fully remote teams and whether or not people would want to work virtually or hybrid in this way. These questions were enough to press pause on the idea, but only briefly.
When the shelter-in-place orders came into effect and widespread work from home began, most teams were woefully unprepared. During High Alpha’s first-ever fully remote Sprint Week in May 2020, we revisited our Discord-inspired idea and built Filo. The goal was to create and test a platform to facilitate a better way to work remotely, and we intended to commercialize the product if it proved viable.
After that successful Sprint Week and a few months of stealth work, Filo officially launched in December 2020. Since then, companies like Anaplan, Seismic, Techstars, 500 Global, and Berkeley SkyDeck have used Filo to power kickoffs, onboardings, workshops, accelerators, demo days, events, and more.
If you’re interested in learning more about what our internal product prototyping experience looked like, check out this article by Chad Hostetter, High Alpha Senior Product Designer.
It’s not just the loss of live concerts that shook the multibillion-dollar music industry during the pandemic. It was everything that came with it — industry employees’ livelihoods disappearing and venues forced to close their doors permanently.
Back in May, as the pandemic spread like wildfire across the US, the live music industry was left in shambles. For many, the future of concerts was devastatingly unclear.
That’s when Eric Tobias, High Alpha Partner and co-owner of The Vogue (a historic music venue in Indianapolis), came up with an idea for a new software business to revolutionize the way we experience live music. If a live streaming platform could bring musicians back to the stage and deliver live music experiences to fans virtually, the music industry might weather the storm.
Mandolin launched in June of 2020, in the middle of pandemic-induced lockdowns. They started as a streaming platform, but they later found a larger opportunity to completely transform the industry through hybrid experiences for fans. Since their launch, they have been named a best-in-class Livestream platform and launched Live+, a new initiative aimed at hybrid fan experience at clubs, auditoriums, and festivals.
The Mandolin story also highlights how High Alpha responds to new, burgeoning opportunities with speed. You can read more at Eric Tobias’ blog post announcing the company’s Series A here.
Bolster, a marketplace to connect high-growth companies with trusted and flexible executive talent, launched out of High Alpha Studio in September 2020. But the idea that became Bolster originally went through High Alpha Sprint Week months prior and can be attributed to our collaboration with Silicon Valley Bank. The premise was based on a key trend: according to Mavenlink, 63% of executives would switch from full-time roles to contracting if given the opportunity.
Our team recognized that businesses often need strategic guidance but can’t always afford expensive executive hires. This reality, compounded with the fact that executives have skills that businesses are looking for but can’t find the right opportunities for them, made for an especially compelling opportunity to create a fractional executive talent marketplace.
The huge spike in desire to work remotely and under more flexible conditions is a massive structural tailwind for the fractional talent space and we’re excited that Bolster is filling this gap with a new solution.
From the first day of the pandemic, it was clear that — along with industries like hospitality, music, and tourism — restaurants and local food artisans would struggle.
Consumers would press for delivery experiences to meet their demands, but independent culinary artisans couldn’t keep up. This was largely due to the group being overlooked and underserved by existing e-commerce and website-builder tools.
Simultaneously, we had observed an explosion in interest and activity around the creator economy. Our research revealed the independent food artisan potential was massive. These entrepreneurs are driven by both passion and necessity to build real, durable businesses, and we set out to build a platform to address these needs specifically.
That’s why we launched Castiron, the first e-commerce platform for independent culinary artisans, in October of 2020. Restaurant closings and job losses related to the pandemic, paired with changes in cottage food laws nationwide and changing consumer behavior, have accelerated the company’s early growth.
As a venture studio, our team explores new opportunities spawned from the changes to the pandemic. Do you have an idea for a B2B SaaS business that broadly fits into the “future of work” category? Are you interested in building a business with a venture studio?
I’d love to speak with you. Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.