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Power to the Forgotten Worker

Software can — and should — be an equalizer. Tech-enabled industries, companies and employees are leveraging software to leap forward into a smarter, more efficient, data-centric future; but multiple markets are still not being served and an entire population of workers has been left behind. It’s time for that to change.

I’m looking for startups that give power to the people that software has forgotten.

The most compelling opportunities? Markets that have shied away from technology in the past, where behemoths are mired in inefficient manual processes and employees are struggling to keep up.

Desmond and Anna
With Workstream founder, Desmond Lim, after a late night walk in downtown Palo Alto. CRV partnered with him in 2019.

Desmond Lim, an immigrant from Singapore, created Workstream to help blue collar workers get their next job.

His father was a time-pressed delivery driver, and his mother worked part-time as a cleaner.

He worked retail and sales jobs and owned a Thai food restaurant, so he knew firsthand that hourly workers often don’t have desktop computers, and don’t reliably answer email.

Desmond created Workstream, a text-based app that makes it easy for companies to reach potential recruits, and for part-time workers to field job offers.

I understand the hunger and desire to create your own opportunities in a new country.
My mom has always been a role model for me. It is rare for a woman to work in Pakistan, but when she was a young mother, she started a school from scratch in Lahore; she still runs it today.
With my little brother, Ibrahim, in front of Lahore Fort, one of Lahore's most iconic monuments. Also known as the "Shahi Qila," it was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1674.

I grew up in a house with 20 other people in Lahore, a city in Pakistan with a population of 13 million people.

That early life experience helped foster a strong belief in the power of community and the importance of diversity of thought.

I sourced the investment in Intercom back in 2013.

Intercom founders (pictured left) Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee, David Barrett were inspired by a coffee shop owner in Ireland who built an authentic, one-on-one connection with each of his customers and made them feel well-served and appreciated.

When I met the founders at Intercom, I was drawn to their vision of a multi-platform app that would make it easy for businesses to quickly understand their customers and talk to them in a way that is scalable, but feels personal. They executed so well on that vision that their business, which some initially dismissed as a feature, became its own market segment.

When software is clean and intuitive, and makes a difficult process simpler, it’s a sign that big change is coming.

An impromptu selfie with Zip’s Co-Founder and CEO, Rujul Zaparde.

When CRV partnered with Rujul Zaparde and Lu Cheng, the Zip team had just eight employees.

Today large enterprises trust Zip with their procurement, control and risk processes because Rujul and Lu know firsthand what their market needs and how critical spend visibility and budget management is.

Rujul and Lu met at Airbnb, where they came up with the idea for Zip, after realizing how complex the process to approve spend for a new piece of software was. Zip had a rare opportunity to turn a slew of manual sluggish processes into the de facto concierge platform for procurement.

In San Francisco surrounded by Zip’s talented ladies after a recent all hands.

As a leader, Rujul has the perfect balance of humility and optimism. He is laser focused on results and ensures the team can out-execute their goals and roadmap.

Lu is a technical powerhouse who enabled Zip to bring on incredible talent early on to tackle the broken world of procurement.

Today Zip is consistently ranked among Y Combinators top companies. Zip is rare, not only because they are one of the fastest growing software companies I’ve witnessed in my career, but because instead of seeking out glitz and glamour, their north star is happy customers.

Side by side with William Sankey (Northspyre’s CEO).

William Sankey created Northspyre’s software while working in commercial real estate for prestigious firms in the industry including Jones Lang LaSalle and Madison Realty Capital.

Despite being in an industry that was responsible for billions of dollars in transactions, William was shocked that his day to day work still relied on Excel spreadsheets. Northspyre helps real estate developers track their cost to budget across their portfolio and manage invoices and vendor relationships - aiming to build a system of record for one of the most important global industries.

Our collective appetite at CRV for vertical saas and investing in software that is built for particular industries as well as the media's keen interest in Northspyre and proptech, are just a few of the many reasons I'm excited about CRV's investment in Northspyre.

With Professor Robert McGinn on graduation day.

I always dreamed of going to the US for college, so I was thrilled to attend Stanford. My advisors Professor Robert McGinn (who served as the director of Stanford’s Science, Technology and Society program) and Adjunct Professor Steve Blank (the father of the Lean Startup movement) were two people who opened my eyes to the power of technology to create change.