Author Archives: Aneel Lakhani

  1. Announcing Deta: Your New Home on the Web 🏡🌐👩‍💻

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    What do you think the future of software looks like?

    The easy, and boring, answer is AI-LLMs-Copilots-Agents-LanguageInterfaces-handwaving-something-or-other. The more interesting answer is in more questions—what will the next generation of builders create and how will the next generation of users consume? When they imagine the future, what do they see?

    We caught a glimpse of that future when Mies, the founder of Fiberplane, introduced us to Mustafa and Max. What they described they were building at Deta made me nostalgic. It took me back to my first shell account, my first experience of software on a command line and the early ethos of personal computing. A time when your data belonged to you, when applications were utilities that you could connect together instead of walled gardens that you have to ask permission (and pay a hefty tax) to really use but can never actually trust.

    Deta Launch Blog 1

    Beyond the thing that is Deta are the people using it. Thousands of them all over the world, who discover it through word of mouth, Reddit, HN, etc. On the whole, they are young people making new kinds of software for themselves and each other. They’re experimenting, iterating, and building at a rate I’ve never seen before. They’ve been unblocked by the sheer ease of creating and launching something on Deta, with or without writing code. 

    In every iteration of what they build, the Deta team creates delightful experiences for this next generation of developers. From the universal Teletype, a command line in a bar that can do everything from launching finding a file to creating a new fully functional application based on an AI prompt, to being able to see exactly what data someone else’s app uses and creates and stores when you use it—Deta is 100% oriented around you. Instead of being oriented around, frankly, themselves.

    In 2021, when we took the idea of investing in Deta to our investment committee, here’s what I wrote in the memo:

    “Deta is built on the ethos of the original web, essentially decentralized with everyone having their own space, controlling their own data, and only interacting with people and services of their own choosing.”

    “This new generation is international, anti-centralized-control-by-megacorps, and very data/privacy conscious. Their primary concern is not technology, but being able to create/consume on their own terms.”

    In the Detaverse, you are not considered a product. You are not a bank account that happens to be attached to a human being. You are at the center of your space, your apps, and your data. Deta Space is your new home on the web.

    We are very proud to have led Deta’s $3.6 Million Seed round alongside System.One, Tomahawk.VC, Tiny.VC, Angel Invest, Acequia Capital, NPHard, and founders and early employees from companies like NGINX and Notion.

    Read more about the launch of Deta Space on their blog. And have a look at what’s been written about the future the team is building at The Verge, Fast Company, TechCrunch, and VentureBeat.

    Aneel Lakhani

  2. Announcing Veratrak’s £5.3M Seed Round to Modernize Pharma Supply Chains 💊📦⛓️

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    Is there someone in your life who relies on a wonder of modern medicine and science in the form of a life saving therapeutic, aka “drug”, to live a good life? What about just to deal with something they were born with that could make their day to day impossible? Or just to manage their pain? We all do. At Crane, many of us are old enough to have parents that require it.

    So when we were introduced to Jason Lacombe, CEO and Founder of Veratrak, by our friends at TrueSight Ventures, it didn’t take long to get onboard. Veratrak is leading the charge in modernizing life sciences supply chains—beginning with the global pharmaceutical industry.

    Do you know what happens when there’s a supply chain snarl, which can happen due to something as simple as a misprinted label on a pallet of pills or the wrong paperwork at a particular border? People don’t get the medicines they need when they need them.

    Do you know how most supply chains, not just pharmaceutical supply chains, are operated around the world? Paper, fax, spreadsheets attached to emails, partially redacted documents converted to PDFs, file sharing services, voicemails, phone calls, and a lot of manual labor across manufacturers, packagers, logistics companies of every kind, and supply chain managers holding everything together by hand.

    Mistakes happen. They cost the industry 100s of millions of dollars in the aggregate. But what they really cost is someone having an exasperated condition that could have been prevented, or much much worse. Fixing this is Veratrak’s reason for being.

    Veratrak has built a life sciences supply chain management product (sounds boring, but works wonders!) that links the back end systems used by pharmaceutical, logistics and shipping, and contract manufacturing and packaging teams to prevent those mistakes. And then to drive both efficiency and resilience into the system by giving every party the visibility they specifically need to make better decisions at every stage. 

    Jason set out to build Veratrak after many many years seeing how these supply chains work inside and out. And exactly how they don’t work. Today, Veratrak works with over 90 companies across 6 continents. Including some of the Very Big Global Pharma companies that you have heard of but that won’t let us cite their names, along with their supply chain partners around the world.

    We are very proud to have led Veratrak’s £5.3M Seed round. The therapeutics created by Veratrak’s customers touch 100s of millions of lives every day around the globe. If we can drive efficiency and resilience into how those drugs get made and delivered into everyone’s hands, that’s real impact. 💊📦⛓️

    Aneel Lakhani

  3. Introducing Liz Zalman and What No One Tells Founders

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    We’re very excited to introduce Liz Zalman, who, after much polite begging and insistent badgering, has agreed to be a part-time Founder Advisor at Crane. Liz is the Co-Founder and former CEO of both strongDM and Media Armor. Our founders are already benefiting from her many years of experience building companies, finding PMF, and tussling with investors.

    Liz took some time to speak with me about the realities of being a founder, some secrets to early sales success, and her upcoming book with Jerry Neumann where they lay out the contrast between the founder and investor perspectives on important topics like fundraising.

    For those joining us for our annual Flight Summit the first week of October, you’ll see Liz and Jerry discuss some of these topics on stage! We’ll be recording it for everyone who can’t attend, so no one will miss out. 🙂

     Aneel Lakhani


    Aneel:  Liz, you’ve gone from zero to one, and then some!, in both the founder’s seat as well as from the vantage point of an early employee. And now, as an angel and advisor to a dozen some companies. What are some of the things that no one tells founders that they need to hear at the very start?

    Liz:  I’m a big fan of information and I believe it’s a founder’s job to traffic in it. A trend I’ve seen over the past year is that many founders seem to be lacking in it. It’s critical to know when your competition is fundraising and when adjacent companies are pivoting. You have to know when buyers of your product have changed jobs, when outrageously good talent is looking, and when there’s an opportunity to score a speaking slot at a conference that hasn’t been announced yet. You need to read other companies’ job specs to figure out what they’re building before they want you to know. And you get it by picking up the phone or emailing or reading obsessively. You are better with information than without it.  

    Aneel: In your first Crane “Teach In”, where we bring experienced operators in to dive into a specific topic for our founders, you focused totally on customer discovery. Why do you think it’s such an important topic?

    Liz: As a founder, your job is to build technology products that sell. What is the thing that someone will pay at least one dollar for? If you can’t describe why someone bought, you won’t be able to replicate the sale.  

    For example, at strongDM, a prospective customer might say “we aspire to a zero-trust security posture”. That’s fantastic, but it is distinctly not a reason to buy. It’s critical to get to something like, “today I have to manually deprovision SSH keys from the bastion server when someone is terminated and we’re about to go from 20 to 100 engineers”. If you can understand how the process works and how it breaks today, then you can demonstrate how life will be infinitely better tomorrow with your product.  

    Aneel: In your work with founders over the past few years, what are the one or two skill or practice gaps that you’re repeatedly running into?

    Liz: Oooh, two jump out at me immediately!  Don’t laugh 🙂 because the absurdity of it has shifted from funny to just plain sad. First, it’s called being on time. In the past year, I’ve had maybe two calls out of 60 or 70 in which the founder was on time. That’s INSANE! And of the rest, not a single person sent a note saying, “I’m so sorry, this other call is running late”. My favorite was a founder that I emailed to see if they were still joining, didn’t get a response and so hopped off after 5 minutes, and then I got an email 7 minutes later saying they were sick.  You’ve been sick all morning. It’s now 2pm. You couldn’t send me an update beforehand?  

    The second is research. Founders show up for calls having put in zero effort, not even a LinkedIn search, to know who I am and why they’ve been introduced. Nor do they come with an agenda of what they might want to get out of the call. I don’t care about you looking me up because I have an ego; I care about the respect you should have for the person on the other side of any call. I’ve done my research on you because I’m here to help you or I want to invest or I’m vetting you on behalf of someone else or whatever it is. Why don’t you do the same? It’s a waste of your time not to, not to mention mine. And it becomes immediately obvious within 90 seconds of our call when you haven’t. Do everyone a favor and spend the 15 minutes, which will pay off in spades.

    Aneel: Same question, but for VCs! 

    Liz: One thing that has always frustrated me with investors is that they have great advice to give, but it’s typically always from the perspective of a professional investor and not as a founder. Investors are fantastic at pattern matching (“companies like yours find $x to be helpful at your stage”), but less so at operating, simply because most of them haven’t been operators before! 

    For example, investors will often tell you to hire sales folks far earlier than you should. Salespeople are great at following a playbook and less superb (read: not at all) at creating one. If you hire sales too early, they’ll fail and you’ll be set back.

    Aneel: You’re writing a book with Jerry about the founder vs investor / board perspective in company building. Can you give us a little preview? Why should founders read it?

    Liz: In our space, we’ve bought into the idea that the best way to build a billion-dollar startup is to team up with VCs. Founders bring the vision, investors bring the money, and both benefit.

    This is a mirage, and I believe one that both sides unconsciously create to avoid some hard truths. Our desire for success is the same and yet the journey is long and motivations are wildly different… so different, in fact, that even our definitions of success wildly diverge.  Both sides then find themselves at odds while simultaneously believing the other just doesn’t get it. Misunderstanding, mistrust, boardroom drama, fired founders, and failed companies are the result. 

    In order for the partnership to work as smoothly as possible (which may not be so smoothly), it’s critical to understand what is going on in the other’s head. Why does the founder respond so badly when the investor pushes to grow faster? Why doesn’t the investor want to sell the company for a seemingly great return? What are the motivations behind their behavior? 

    Jerry and I decided to lay bare each side’s motivations based on our decades of experience.  We square off, providing a brazenly honest debate on how startups are built, broken, and fought over throughout a company’s lifecycle

  4. Announcing Mailchain: The Future of Web3 Communication 📢💌⛓️

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    When you email someone, you don’t worry about what network they’re on, whether they have other email addresses, the domain [the part after @] the address is in, or even whether you’re reaching the person you want to. 

    When you want to receive email from someone, you just give them your email address. You can have one inbox or many. You can have different newsletters and notifications go wherever you want. You can search for old emails. You can reply later, if you want, and trust that the message was actually delivered. 

    It’s the most reliable, simple communication mechanism we have for everything.

    But there’s been no such thing in Web3. Communication is a fractured experience. We use telegram, signal, discord, twitter, email, custom project-created web interfaces, and a dozen other channels. If you participate in Web3 in any meaningful way, it’s impossible to know that you’re getting the messages you want when you want. And for people who want you to get a message, they have no idea if their words ever make it to you.

    The team at Mailchain began solving this problem in the open in 2019, aiming to build a multi-chain and multi-wallet protocol for secure delivery of messages—roughly analogous to SMTP.  The experience for end users should be as simple as email, but with both more security and more individual control. While the experience for protocols, exchanges, DAOs, and other Web3 projects should be as simple as “send a note to every wallet holding more than 1% of token_x” or  “when this smart_contract_y triggers under conditions_z, send a message to all wallets on the receiving side of the transaction”.

    It’s been a sometimes rocky road to figure out how to get the right balance of good UX, robust security, and maximal data control for the user. Mailchain is pushing forward the state of the art every day. We believe that the protocol, platform, and products they are building will become indispensable to how all of us interact in Web3. 

    To that end, we’re super excited to announce that we have led Mailchain’s $4.6 million Seed round alongside Kenetic Capital, and other participants Kestrel0x1, Acequia Capital, Eterna Capital, Charles Songhurst, Sarah Drinkwater, Nick Ducoff, and Maex Ament.

    Claim your Mailchain handle today! 💌⛓️

    Scott Sage and Aneel Lakhani

  5. Seeding edge native infrastructure, why we invested $3.8M in Mycelial

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    WebAssem-what? That’s more or less how our journey with Mycelial started. 

    Chris Aniszczyk, CTO of the CNCF—who has since joined Crane as an Advisory Partner!!!—suggested that maybe we should be paying attention to WebAssembly and introduced us to Gerred and Michael, who had both been working in OSS at companies we collectively knew about or had had some contact with for more than a decade.

    That first call was a crash course in WebAssembly, edge computing, offline first, CRDTs, and the sheer difficulty of getting state from Point A to Point B when you have no guarantees about the state (ha!) of the network between those points. Like when your phone is switching between cell towers while you’re in the car. Or when the last hop to a remote piece of equipment is over a point to point microwave link that doesn’t like inclement weather. 

    What we learned opened our eyes to what it takes to build a really distributed application, the kind of thing used by smart lightbulbs, oil rigs, EV charging stations, and the tiny little ML models running on all sorts of “edge” devices and apps. Adding that to what was already clear—the number of things at the edge will only grow over time—we could not do anything but say yes to building critical software infrastructure for that future.

    Depending on who I’m talking to, I’ll describe it a few different ways:

    • Think about all the logic it takes to get state changes across big internetworks to endpoints without consistent connectivity, but where you need to make sure that every thing has the most correct most current view of the universe—what if that was just a library and service you could import?
    • The easiest way to make sure every edge device, endpoint, or instance of an app has the most current version of the data, computation, or model it needs to do its job
    • CRDTs as a Service

    The Mycelial team calls what they’re building “Edge Native”, because problems at the edge are specific to the edge.

    • Disconnects happen: applications must continue to work and keep track of what they’ve done while they’re disconnected, whether that means disconnected totally or connected to peers that are altogether disconnected from the cloud
    • Conflicts follow: when endpoints reconnect, there are conflicts between their view of what’s happened and every other endpoint’s and whatever other services they depend on
    • Bandwidth hurts: getting everything up to date and in sync after connectivity problems is often severely limited by the bandwidth available at the edge, leaving endpoints in a situation where they either never catch up or programmers in a situation where they have to take shortcuts to make it happen

    Anyone who’s watched an app like Spotify try to catch up when you switch devices on not-the-best-bandwidth has experienced this first hand. Mycelial makes the very complex problem solving and software engineering it takes to fix issues like that as simple as the code you see at the top of this post.

    Taking it back to where we started, what does any of this have to do with WebAssembly? Well, Mycelial is written in Rust and runs on WebAssembly, which gives them amazing performance along with the ability to deploy to the most compact, storage and computation constrained, operating environments while providing a secure service that does exactly what it’s supposed to do. 

    If you’re building any kind of distributed application, you can stop writing state sync and update logic and stop worrying about how to deal with connectivity issues. Get early access at mycelial.com and watch for the open source drops coming soon! 🤓💻😎

    We’re proud to have led the team’s $3.8M Seed round late last year and can’t wait to see what you build with it! 🏗️✨🚀

    Aneel Lakhani

  6. Free-dom to communicate with your users

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    “Free software is software that respects your freedom and the social solidarity of your community. So it’s free as in freedom.”…Richard M Stallman (aka “rms”)

    Apt when considering how to build an infrastructure software product that has as its core premise, empowering developers with the freedom and flexibility to create meaningful communication with the users of their own product freely and easily.

    The essence of Novu – the open source notification infrastructure, built for developers by developers, to simplify managing, orchestrating and deploying notifications, through a single API whilst retaining full control.

    Hard to resist para-quoting rms again – “If the developer doesn’t control the program, the program controls the developer…….”

    With Novu, developers have the freedom to embed mission critical notification capabilities into any product through a simple API, the flexibility to self host or opt for a cloud service, whilst retaining full control.

    When Tomer and Dima shared they had built the first open source solution for notification infrastructure, built for developers by developers – we were hooked.

    At Crane we are firm believers that critical infrastructure software should be open source by design – giving developers the tools to build high-performance systems that are easy to test, flexible to use and secure to deploy.

    We are thrilled to partner with Tomer Barnea and Dima Grossman, the co-founders, embody this philosophy.

    We are also thrilled that Novu is our first investment in Israel and excited to have alongside us incredible co-investors Ariel Maslos, EniacVC (Tim Young), m]x[v (Mark Ghermezian), Entree Capital (Adi Gozes), Tom Preston-Warner and a host of Israel’s leading enterprise entrepreneurs.

    —Krishna Visvanathan

  7. Nuclia makes the unsearchable searchable, raises $5.4M, and open sources NucliaDB

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    Almost a year ago, we were introduced to Eudald and Ramon, founders of what was then called Flaps (think ailerons), by our friends at Aldea. Morgane and I took the first call. They pitched an enterprise knowledge management product. For those who don’t know the space, it’s stupendously boring and not what you would think of as a growth market. On top of that, it’s hard to build anything that doesn’t just devolve into people pinging deep links to each other. 

    Then they did the demo.

    Hold. The. Damn. Phone.

    It was so much more than KMS. If you look closely, here are some things you’ll see:

    • Searching turns up structured and unstructured data, like video
    • In each file, you are taken to the block of text or time (?!) with the relevant content
    • Relevance is not just keyword-based, but conceptual, aka semantic
    • There’s a sidebar of related content

    So, what they had built was search against unstructured data across media types that’s both keyword and semantic and does relations. 🤯 

    The next natural questions were: 

    • Is this for real?
    • Are there tricks that make it look like something it’s? 
    • How does it work?
    • What are the limitations?
    • What’s the stack of technologies underneath? 
    • Can we strip the KMS UI off it and use it for other applications?

    Which led to a discussion about why KMS, what Eudald and Ramon were really setting out to build and for who, what they really cared about, and what dent they wanted to make in the future.

    Fast forward to Nuclia, which takes the core tech behind what they showed us in that demo and provides it as an API that can be plugged into any app or service to provide keyword and semantic search against unstructured, multi-media, and multi-lingual source material. It’s bloody magic. ✨

    Nuclia makes the unsearchable searchable.

    Yesterday, they released the API service in private beta. Sign up at nuclia.com to get access today!

    They also open sourced NucliaDB, the first vector database designed for unstructured data. You can bring your own vectorization and normalization—while NucliaDB provides storage, indexing, and querying. You get the same vector, keyword, and relational search that powers Nuclia. Find it on Github at github.com/nuclia/nucliadb.

    Last but not least, we’re very proud to lead their $5.4M Seed round alongside Elaia . 😃🥳🚀

    —Aneel Lakhani

  8. Stratio raises $12M Series A to power a zero downtime future for 335 million vehicles

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    In November, Stratio announced the closing of a successful $12M Series A led by Forestay with the participation of us here at Crane.

    Since leading their Seed round in 2019, we’ve seen Stratio change gears from finding product market fit to delivering consistent growth to an inflection point that is rapidly accelerating the company’s growth. We are excited to add more fuel to the fire of Stratio’s mission to enable a zero downtime future for fleets and public transport.

    Founders Ricardo Margalho and Rui Sales and the brilliant team at Stratio were able to figure out the solution for the trillion-dollar problem of downtime. Their AI platform processes thousands of data points collected from vehicle sensors to predict faults in key components, allowing customers to shift the maintenance paradigm from a reactive to a predictive one.

    The game-changing nature of Stratio’s technology is reflected in their client portfolio, which includes 5 of the top 10 transportation companies in the world, like Ford Trucks, Arriva, Keolis, and Go-Ahead. There are 335 million fleet vehicles out there that can get better utilization and provide better service to people out there. Stratio is going to impact all of them, which makes our investment such a clear decision.

    Stratio saves millions of people from public transportation delays, postponed deliveries, and late arrival of essential goods every day. We know this Series A will enable them to continue their growth trajectory and allow them to unleash the full potential of a technology that will change transportation as we know it.