Team

If a dog is man's best friend, you can think of K9 Ventures as the startup's best friend.


Manu Kumar

Dr. Manu Kumar

Chief Firestarter

My introduction to computing began with a summer camp for kids to do self-paced computer-based training. I’d completed the two week program in a couple of days, and proceeded to spend the rest of the time mastering the remaining courses they had available. Logo was my first computer language, but Wordstar, dBase, and Lotus 1-2-3 were not far behind.

When I was 13 or 14, I convinced my grandmother to buy me a computer—a Commodore 128. By 16, I was hacking code in Pascal. I was hooked.

I left India at the age of 17 to study at Carnegie Mellon. I finished my Bachelors in Electrical and Computer Engineering and then completed a Masters in Software Engineering. While a student, I started my first company, SneakerLabs, Inc., with $5,000 from a summer internship. I bootstrapped the company for 2 years, supporting myself and the company by teaching courses at Carnegie Mellon. In 1998, I raised $1M in funding from local angels in Pittsburgh, PA, and SneakerLabs was off to the races. We went from lows of having $1,000 in the bank (and a $30K payroll!) to ultimately being acquired at the peak of the dot-com bubble in March 2000 in a deal valued at over $100M.

The success of my first company was very much a function of being in the right place at the right time. We did a few things right—building an awesome team being the one I’m most proud of—but I wanted to be sure that this was repeatable. So I helped start a second company at the bottom of the bottom.

iMeet, Inc started in 2000. We raised just $800K and were competing with companies in the Valley that had raised $60M-$100M. We grew the company to cash flow positive and in 2002 merged with Boston-based Netspoke. I stayed on the Board of Directors for Netspoke, but took a break to move out to Palo Alto and pursue a PhD in Computer Science at Stanford. I researched automobile interfaces, and wrote my dissertation on using eye tracking as an augmented input to traditional devices.

In 2005 we sold Netspoke to Premiere Conferencing (NYSE:PGI). Shortly thereafter, I began helping the founder of Lytro start what was at that time called Refocus Imaging. I became an accidental investor when I wrote the first check for Refocus Imaging in March 2006, to encourage the founder to get the company going.

In 2006-2007, I had the opportunity to go up and down Sand Hill Road to help Refocus Imaging raise funding. I observed that:

  • Most VCs were doing $3M-$4M Series A investments, but there were few funds that would participate in a sub-$1M round.

  • Most firms were not taking on technology risk—the very basis of what Silicon Valley was built upon.

  • Very few of the younger generation of investors had actual startup and operating experience.

I saw a need for a new type of seed-stage venture fund, and K9 Ventures was officially formed in April 2009.

I’m an entrepreneur at heart and my passion is starting and building companies. The part I enjoy most is getting from idea to first product. That’s why I chose to focus my investing on the earliest stages of a company’s life, where I get to work directly with founders.

Tweets by @ManuKumar


Current Investments

CrowdFlower, Twilio, Lyft, Everlaw*, Baydin, LucidChart, Occipital*, eShares*, Enûma*, Coin*, Osmo*, KidAdmit*, Auth0, Gradescope*

(* indicates current board seat)

Past Investments

  • CardMunch (acquired by LinkedIn)
  • BackType (acquired by Twitter)
  • IndexTank (acquired by LinkedIn)
  • card.io (acquired by PayPal)
  • Torbit (acquired by Walmart Labs)
  • NimbleVR (acquired by Oculus/Facebook)
  • MobileSpan (acquired by Dropbox)

Experience

  • Doctoral Researcher, Stanford University
  • Board of Directors, Netspoke
  • CEO, iMeet
  • Vice President, E.piphany
  • Founder and CEO, SneakerLabs
  • Lecturer, Carnegie Mellon

Education

  • PhD, Computer Science, Stanford
  • MS, Computer Science, Stanford
  • MS, Software Engineering, Carnegie Mellon
  • BS, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon

Braughm Ricke

CFO

Each stop on my career path has built on what came before. Whether related to a company’s financial operations or their fundraising plans, I enjoy creating organization. If I weren’t a CFO I could imagine being an architect, pairing shape and form to construct a building that’s beautiful and functional.

I began my career as an Accounting Analyst at Fidelity Investments. With a solid foundational experience supporting me, I progressed to be a Controller under a well-respected CFO at Sofinnova Ventures. 5AM Ventures followed and was my entrée into being the boss.

None of these experiences would have been possible, however, without the foresight to see great potential and accordingly, take risks. Joining True Ventures at its inception required a leap of faith—one that certainly paid off. Today, at K9 Ventures, I am able to work in a position that utilizes my skills and experience; is in line with my values; and offers the opportunity to work alongside great people.

In my role today I combine the foundational experience gained in previous positions with my ability to spot potential in my work with early-stage Venture firms and entrepreneurs. Building their structure for optimal performance is what I do, it’s what I enjoy.

Tweets by @Braughm