Why We're Investing in Carsten, Felix, and Karim of WorkMotionRead more
Over the past five years, we’ve raised over half a billion dollars from institutional investors such as universities, foundations, and endowments, allowing us to partner with founders and companies that are re-architecting the back-end systems that power our economy during a period of unprecedented change. This growth is a testament to our team & culture, the caliber of the founders we’ve partnered with, and to our long-term strategy.
At Activant, we invest in commerce infrastructure technology platforms that help make, move, and sell more efficiently across industries. We bet early on this segment, backing companies like Hybris before it sold to SAP for $1.4bn, as the digital transformation of commerce got underway. Fast-forward and this shift is now happening at an unrelenting pace.
Over the course of the past 5–7 years, Amazon has continued to raise the bar and redefined consumer expectations. The driving factor behind their success has been an acute focus on the customer experience, investing in the infrastructure layer that has enabled one-click checkout and two-day delivery. In this new commerce environment, whether you’re selling mugs, movie tickets, or mortgages, the customer expects a unified digital experience no matter which channel they’re buying through, and the rapid fulfillment to match. Meeting these expectations at scale requires leveling up the underlying infrastructure at the heart of every transaction — this is where we spend our time.
Current infrastructure has been stretched to breaking point with coronavirus, and while we’re witnessing the constraints of our current supply chain, we’re also seeing the capabilities of technology to step up and support our incredible front line workers in meeting the needs of consumers and businesses, from agriculture, to logistics, to fintech.
We see the current crisis as a compression in the timeline for digital adoption; what we previously thought would take 30–40 years now looks to be closer to 10–15. Salient examples of this exist across the economy, be it educational technology platforms enabling students to study from home, or telemedicine as a new medium for healthcare. The same is true across those commerce systems that have accommodated the surge in demand for essential items over the last four weeks. Although volumes may be temporal, the structural changes are likely here to stay.
This acceleration is being supported by infrastructure platforms like Deliverr and Bolt. With an entirely asset-light network of fulfillment centers across the country, Deliverr has been able to step up and meet their merchants’ 1 & 2-day fulfillment promises when even Amazon has struggled to do so or chosen not to. Using sophisticated machine learning models to place and route inventory across the country, Deliverr is supporting small businesses and enabling them to fulfill their customers across all marketplace channels. Similarly, Bolt has allowed merchants to increase conversion through a delightful checkout experience with zero-fraud risk.
We’re also seeing unprecedented shifts towards digital purchase experiences for financial products. Traditional siloed (often paper-based) workflows have been rendered obsolete, and have resulted in dramatic constraints in certain financial markets, highlighting the need for end-to-end digital infrastructure.
The mortgage market is one such case study. With the recent drop in interest rates, and the resulting surge in demand for refis, traditional mortgage providers are struggling to service demand as they still rely on legacy infrastructure and manual processes. As a result, consumer quoted rates have actually increased to dampen demand, despite the fact that the ~20mm Americans who are “in the money” could be saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month on their mortgage payments during a time of need.
As the only full-stack mortgage technology company in the market, Better has been able to service this surge in demand, while continuing to be the lowest-cost provider for their customers as their investments in backend infrastructure pay dividends. This core infrastructure also allows their B2B partners Ally, Amex, and Compass to delight their customers despite not previously offering mortgages, and while the market will temper over time, we believe the structural advantages are impossible to ignore.
As we look to the future, we continue to believe that enormous value will accrue in the infrastructure layer. Naturally, different markets and industries require different solutions, and one-size-fits-all infrastructure will no longer cut it, as we’ve seen in payments with Finix. We are focused on identifying the key pain points and on being the best operating partner we can for the founders we work with.
We founded Activant on the premise that the best investments are the result of developing deep long-term theses. Our concentrated investment approach requires us to fully explore the combinations of subsectors, technologies, and business models that will redefine how markets function. We engage key infrastructure software buyers as part of this process and benefit from a unique lens into the structural constraints and opportunities identified while working alongside our portfolio companies. This process of sequential market identification enables us to focus on the timing and adoption of new technologies to make informed decisions on where the puck is going.
Our model has been designed from the ground up to meet the needs of our portfolio companies. Led by our dedicated operating team, we work closely with each team to unlock barriers to scale across the key functional areas that face strain as businesses enter the growth stage; most notably on organizational structure & hiring, go-to-market strategy, commercial introductions, and finance. We are not scared of “works in progress” — building category defining-companies takes time, and we’re partners for the long run.
To that end, in order to execute on this vision, we have instituted fund lives that match the ambitions of our founders. Activant’s 15-year fund lives allow us to be true long-term partners for our portfolio companies and to remain supportive partners on our shared mission. This is something we learned early on with Hybris which weathered two market downturns in 00’ and 08’ before becoming one of SAP’s largest ever acquisitions.
Fund III is a huge milestone for Activant — but in a way, it’s more of the same: executing on our original vision for a thesis-driven operationally-focused growth equity firm. We appreciate the strong support of all of our investors in achieving this vision and allowing us to partner with the next generation of transformative infrastructure companies.