We are excited to announce that Cluster has raised a seed round of funding from five incredible investors. When deciding whether to raise capital, Taylor and I decided that if we did, we wanted to put together a round from a diverse, complementary group of experienced investment teams. It was important for us to find the right people to help us build an extraordinary company.
I’d like to introduce you to who we chose, and why we feel they’re the right fit for Cluster:
Steve Anderson, Baseline Ventures
Steve is known as the guy who first “got” Instagram. Where many other investors had written off Kevin Systrom’s vision, Steve saw something bigger: something that could turn into a billion-dollar company. And he was the first investor to put money behind the eventual rocketship that Instagram became.
Everyone I talked to about Cluster said we had to meet Steve. We heard amazing things from other investors and founders of his portfolio companies — and when we finally got to sit down with him, we understood why.
Almost immediately, Steve understood our vision and saw the potential in what we were building. Instead of spending our meetings talking about market size and competition, we talked about user dynamics, approaches to privacy, community management, and more. He understood the current product was still an early prototype, and we talked about what we wanted to build.
Steve sat closely behind the scenes while Instagram iterated its way through early versions to find the right formula. And as the lead investor in our round, we’re thrilled to have him behind the scenes of Cluster helping us do the same.
Josh Felser and Dave Samuel, Freestyle Capital
This is my first time as a venture-funded CEO, and I know as the company grows, I’m going to need a lot of help and advice. I don’t think there’s a better source than someone who has done it themselves before. So, one self-imposed requirement of our round was to find investors who had previously been founders themselves.
Josh and Dave epitomize investors who know what it means to run a company. Together, they previously built Spinner, the first multichannel Internet music service, and Grouper (now Crackle), one of the first Internet video networks. They’ve been through this process several times together, and we’re thrilled we get to work with them as we continue to evolve Cluster into a product people love to use and a company people love to work for.
Kent Goldman, First Round Capital
Baseline and Freestyle are amazing firms, but they’re operationally small, consisting of just the partners and administrative help. We wanted to include a larger, full-service firm in the round. This is important, especially in the early stage, because these firms can help with recruiting, networking, and a huge array of other things that you don’t even know you need.
In my opinion, the shining star of full-service seed-stage firms is First Round Capital. Josh Kopelman has built a passionate team and an incredible portfolio. And over the past few years, they’ve built out an incredible platform that their portfolio companies use daily.
Besides our confidence in First Round as a whole, one of their newest partners, Kent Goldman, is one of the most respected guys I know when it comes to rolling up his sleeves and working with startups. So we were thrilled when Kent got excited about Cluster. We spent hours and hours talking about the future of Cluster before officially bringing him on as our investor — and we are so excited to work with him and join the First Round family.
Kevin Rose, Google Ventures
It was important to us to raise money from people with strong product opinions. Our seed round will fund our product’s early evolution, and having people around the table who really understand product iteration is essential. Everyone I’ve already listed has incredible consumer product perspectives, but Kevin has one of the best in the business.
Kevin’s experience building Digg and Oink, among other projects, has given him firsthand experience as a creator. But almost more impressively, his impeccable track record as an angel investor and now a VC has proven that he fully understands what makes products successful. He’s someone every early-stage company would be honored to have advising them, and we’re thrilled to have him helping us.
In addition, Google Ventures has created an incredible set of resources for its portfolio companies. Similar to some of the services First Round offers, Google Ventures will actually embed its internal teams (design, marketing, etc..) to give portfolio companies hands-on assistance when it matters most. And we’re exceptionally lucky to be able to work with people like John Zeratsky and Daniel Burka while designing our product.
Shervin Pishevar and Scott Stanford, Sherpa Foundry
Shervin proved himself as an effective and visionary investor while leading Menlo Ventures’ Talent Fund. When he left to build Sherpa with Scott, we knew he’d be a great person to talk to. I showed him a very early prototype of Cluster, and he immediately got excited about it.
Investors like to bet on teams, and we had the same philosophy: We wanted amazing teams to invest in us, and Shervin and Scott are just that. They both bring entirely different and totally complementary skill sets to the table. And because they are treating Sherpa like a startup, they’re believers in iteration and experimentation, which is exactly what we’re looking for right now. We’re excited to work with them as both Cluster and Sherpa grow.
So, how much did we raise and what will it be used for?
Our goal was to raise enough to build a small, solid team and to not have to think about fundraising for at least a year. So, to be safe, we raised $1.6 million, which keeps us focused and funded for 18 months.
The money will primarily help us grow our team. (WE’RE HIRING.) Before raising capital, Taylor and I were lucky enough to welcome Riz Sattar to the team to lead iOS development. He’s incredible. Also since closing the round, we’ve brought on two additional team members, to be introduced soon, helping us build our company across platforms and get the word out about what’s to come.