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Tag Archives: Co-founder

In 2017, Matthew Peltier walked barefoot into a pitch meeting with venture capitalists. Young, male, man bun intact, he certainly resembled the stereotypical successful entrepreneur, but it was his startup, an app designed to bring social media stars and their fans into conversation, that drew skepticism.

Shimmur, as it was called, ultimately succeeded in raising about $7 million from Greycroft, Arena Ventures, Luma Launch, Right Side Capital Management and Techstars, according to PitchBook, but the business never took off. That is until a pivot to direct messaging in 2018 attracted the support of Hollywood talent manager Guy Oseary and his Sound Ventures investment partner Ashton Kutcher, who jumped on board to relaunch Shimmur, now known as Community.

The Santa Monica-based company has raised nearly $35 million in the form of two convertible notes following a recapitalization that occurred alongside its rebranding earlier this year, TechCrunch has learned. Investors, including the Sony Innovation Fund, have valued the text marketing platform at upwards of $200 million, sources tell TechCrunch. A spokesperson for Community, however, said there is currently “no valuation attached to the company” because of the nature of the recap and convertible notes, and declined to comment further on fundraising activity.

Community has yet to complete a public launch and is in the process of onboarding both companies and celebrities. We’re told efforts to generate attention for the business will increase in the next couple of weeks.

Shimmur was initially conceived of in 2014 as a Reddit-style mobile application that encouraged users to join “Tribes,” or groups, where they could create and upload content about their favorite YouTube or Instagram stars. Social media accounts affiliated with Shimmur went dark in 2017, and in early 2018 the site began redirecting to Digits.Chat, a service currently in private beta assumedly linked to Community. Now in their second act, Peltier and Community co-founder Josh Rosenheck are committed to building a platform for influencers and fans to interact at scale.

Questions of Community’s business began to surface in January 2019, when Ashton Kutcher took to Twitter to subtly promote the service with a phone number and a simple request to text him. Naturally, many assumed the tweet included the actor and investor’s personal cell number. In reality, he’d been working with Community to develop a better method of communication with his followers. This week, the actor resurfaced on Twitter to promote the service again. This time stating that the phone number included in the tweet would be “the only place [he] responds to public queries” because the “open web has just become too toxic.”

This reporter, of course, followed up Kutcher on his offer and sent a text to his now preferred contact. Instantaneously, I received this reply: “Ashton here. This is an auto-text to let you know I got your message, the rest will be from me. Click the link so I can respond to you. I likely can’t respond to everything but I’ll try to be in touch. Dream bigger.” The message was accompanied by a link to a Community sign-up page for Kutcher-specific updates. The fine print read that the personal messages and automated text alerts from Kutcher “may be marketing in nature,” but little other information was provided.


While Kutcher has used his large Twitter following to spread awareness for Community, Guy Oseary has remained mum. Sources tell TechCrunch, however, that Oseary is a “co-founder” of Community, further evidence he’s put money in the business and perhaps adopted a co-founder title because of the nature of his investment. Oseary is not only a co-founder of Sound Ventures alongside Kutcher, but he’s also a longtime executive at Maverick, an entertainment and music management business behind the likes of Madonna and U2. His network would be much more valuable to Community than VC dollars.

Sound Ventures, Kutcher and Oseary’s venture capital fund, did not respond to a request for comment. Community declined to name its investors, but did say Oseary is “not a co-founder,” declining to provide additional details on his affiliation with the business.

On its website, Community describes itself as a tool that enables its clients, e.g. influencers, musicians, athletes, brands, actors, their agents and others, to have direct and meaningful communication with their “community members” using a 10-digit phone number provided by Community: “Imagine getting to know and interact with your audience as individuals—with names and faces, interests and opinions, hometowns and pronouns. Imagine reaching every single one of them,” the company writes.

Peltier, in the company’s first blog post published in June, emphasized the power of text messaging, citing an Adobe statistic that 90% of text messages are read within three seconds. Peltier also described Community’s business model, noting that they are not an ads business, rather, clients pay Community monthly or annual service fees “for 100% audience reach and limitless segmentation, in a climate free from bullying and toxicity.” Community’s terms of service agreement additionally states that once a subscription is initiated, clients can create and send text marketing campaigns to promote themselves or products with members of their community.

If Community sounds familiar — it should. Its efforts to leverage SMS to facilitate celebrity-fan relationships is akin to SuperPhone. Founded by musician Ryan Leslie in 2015, SuperPhone is a mobile messaging platform designed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, entertainers and anyone else that juggles clients or sales contacts.

“SuperPhone is the first foray into personal relationship management,” Leslie told TechCrunch last year. The startup has raised a total of roughly $5 million at a $10 million valuation, according to PitchBook. In a blog post addressing Kutcher’s January tweet, Leslie welcomed the competition to the text marketing space.

“The game is changing, messaging is here to stay, and platforms are stepping up to help you leverage the power of this currently undervalued direct communication channel,” Leslie wrote. “This is my game. SuperPhone was conceived, developed, deployed, and battle-tested years before this week’s A-list endorsement of text over social.”

We reached out to SuperPhone for comment and in a very on-brand reply, a spokesperson for the business told me to submit my phone number to Leslie here and “unlike Ashton, Ry will text you right back once you introduce yourself.”

Commence the battle for text marketing dominance.

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Jonathan Keidan, the founder of Torch Capital, had already built a portfolio that included Acorns, Compass, Digital Ocean and Sweetgreen, before he raised single dollar for his inaugural venture capital fund, which just closed with $60 million.

Keidan, a consummate networker who began his professional career as a manager working with acts like The Nappy Roots, The Getaway People and a young John Legend, just managed to be in the right place at the right time, he says (thanks, in part, to his gift for gab).

The final close for Torch Capital’s first fund is just the beginning for Torch, which is angling to be one of the premiere firms for early stage consumer internet and consumer facing enterprise software.

The firm began raising its first fund in October 2017 and held a $40 million first close just about one year ago. Keidan and his partners had targeted $50 million for his first investment vehicle, but wound up hitting the hard cap of $60 million, in part due to high demand from the New York-based entrepreneurs that Keidan considers his peers.

In addition to backers like the George Kaiser Family Foundation and billionaire Hong Kong fashion mogul Silas Chou, Keidan was able to tap startup founders like Jennifer Fleiss, the co-founder of Rent the Runway; Casper co-founders Philip Krim and Neil Parikh; and Bryan Goldberg, the founder of Bleacher Report and owner of Bustle Media Group (which includes Gawker, Bustle, Elite Daily, Mic, The Outline, and The Zoe Report, which collectively form Bustle Digital Group).

“Because I’ve taken a more startup approach i was recruiting raising money and doing deals at the same time,” says Keidan. 


A sampling of Torch Capital’s portfolio investments

Along with partners Sam Jones, a former London-based investment banker; Katie Reiner, an investor at the data-driven growth fund, Lead Edge Capital; Curtis Chang, a technology-focused investment banker from HSBC’ and Chantal Haldorsen, a serial startup executive; Keidan has certainly done deals.

He started investing as an angel while still working at his own media company InsideHook, and began forming special purpose vehicles for larger investments as soon as he departed, about three years ago.

For the first year-and-a-half, Jones and Keidan worked on the SPVS, which allowed them to put together a portfolio that included Acorns, Compass, Digital Ocean and Sweetgreen — as well as startups like ZocDoc and the ketchup brand, Sir Kensington’s.

Since launching the fund, Keidan and his partners did 15 investments in the first year — including investments into . the consumer-focused Ro Health, which sells erectile dysfunction medication, supplements for hair growth, and more recently menopausal products for women.

Torch Capital has also backed the fintech company, Harness Wealth, sustainable cashmere manufacturer and retailer, Naadam; and Splendid Spoon, a vegan breakfast and lunch prepared food provider akin to Daily Harvest.

Keidan’s interest in investment stems from his experience in the music industry. It was a time when Spotify was just beginning to emerge and Napster had already shaken up the market. The creation of digital platforms enabled artists to connect more directly with the consumer in a way that traditional companies couldn’t understand.

Instead of embracing the technology labels and artists fought it, and the writing on the wall (that the labels and artists would lose) became clear… at least for Keidan. 

Following some advice from mentors including the super-producer and music mogul, Quincy Jones, Keidan went to business school. He graduated from Columbia in 2007 with an MBA and then did what all former music managers do after their MBA training — he joined McKinsey as a consultant. The stint at McKinsey led Keidan to Jack Welch’s online education venture and from there, Keidan started InsideHook.

Keidan grew the company to over 2 million subscribers in the five years since he helped launch the business in 2012. From that perch he saw the rise of direct to consumer startups and began making angel investments. His first was ZocDoc, his second, Sir Kensingtons (which sold to Unilever) and his third was the real estate investment platform, Compass.

That track record was enough to convince Chou, the Hong Kong billionaire that turned around Tommy Hilfiger and built Michael Kors into a multi-billion dollar powerhouse in the world of ready to wear fashion.

Like the rest of the venture industry, Keidan sees the technology tools that have transformed much of business are now remaking the ease and reach of building direct to consumer brands. Unlike most, Keidan has spent time working on the ground up to develop brands (artists and songwriting talent in the music business).

Everything that Torch Capital invests in has at least one eye on an end consumer, whether that’s direct consumer investments like Ro, Sweetgreen or the business surveying startup, Perksy.

Torch invests between $500,000 and $1 million in seed deals and will invest anywhere between $1 million to $3 million in Series A deals, according to Keidan.

“What makes a consumer company successful at scale is very different than enterprise software or consumer internet deals,” said Keidan. “VCs were having trouble getting their heads around this… [their companies] were overvalued too early… and when they couldn’t meet those goals they were doing things that were detrimental to the brand.”

Keidan thinks he has a better approach.

“Between InsideHook and watching companies grow and my own investments i’d seen the nuances of what it takes to get to scale,” he said.

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