Portfolio of Investments
Here is a closer look at some of our ventures. Click the links to jump to a description of each company:
Tom Cates, the founder and CEO of Sales Equity, has been a professional colleague of Bob’s for over 25 years. Tom’s company is a software and training firm that helps its customers improve the quality of their business development efforts. Using the concept of “relationship climate,” Sales Equity’s client engagement platform is a breakthrough technology for B2B companies. Sales Equity measures, analyzes and recommends creative practices and solutions that have dramatically increased its customers’ client retention and reduced their selling costs.
Bob sits on the company’s board of directors, and has great confidence that Sales Equity will do great work and prove to be a great investment.
Adjoint, Inc. is a blockchain company that develops smart contracts and distributed ledger technology for the financial industry. This is a new and rapidly expanding industry segment that has improved security and privacy at its core. Adjoint is one of a number of startups vying for customers in this space.
Bob invested because of Adjoint’s CEO, Havell Rodrigues. Havell was one of the co-founders of Greenbean Recycling and the former CFO of Elsen – two companies that are also part of CSC’s portfolio. He’s hoping that three times will be a charm, and Adjoint will be a homerun angel investment.
CozyKin is an innovative Boston based daycare concept. The company focuses on families with two working parents of infants, and provides experienced, Montessori trained nannies who care for infants in their own home. Founded by Jeremy Au, Tatyana Gubin and Hari Iyer, this is a startup that Bob believes could revolutionize child care; and challenge the dominance of large, fixed facility daycare centers like Bright Horizons.
Bob is too old to personally relate to this business, but he believes that the educational value of CozyKin’s nanny model is worth supporting. Others agree: CozyKin won a $100,000 grant from MassChallenge in 2017.
Adeo Health Science
Adeo Health Science is a research-based company that focuses on transferring the latest advancements in food allergy research into trusted products for families. The company is committed to sourcing organic and creating its foods with simple, delicious combinations of wholesome ingredients. Bob checked with his kids and other moms and discovered that food allergies are a big deal. The Adeo approach – exposing infants to small doses of allergens at an early age – has been found to significantly reduce the incidence of allergic responses later in life.
CSC’s modest investment in Adeo’s seed round will prevent Bob from having an influence on the company’s growth plans; but he is excited about Adeo’s potential.
KonnecTo is an Saas-based platform that helps brands engage with their customers in multiple social media environments. Its technology allows for the collection and analysis of a wide range of on-line data about customer interactions and behavior. Based in Tel Aviv, Bob was initially exposed to KonnecTo through his work with MassChallenge. He was impressed with the experience and character of Erez Nahom, KonnecTo’s founder and CEO, and invested in the company’s first funding vehicle, a SAFE.
Bob is a member of KonnecTo’s board and plans to continue supporting the company as it establishes itself in the US market.
Comentis, Inc. (formerly Athenagen Inc.) is a drug discovery and development company with the mission of developing therapeutics for disorders characterized by inadequate or pathological angiogenesis. The company’s lead products are being developed as oral compounds to treat diseases caused by cancer and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as well as topical formulations to treat diseases caused by impaired angiogenesis, such as non-healing diabetic foot ulcers.
Founded in 2004 by Dr. John P. Cooke, a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Comentis is the only Crimson Seed Capital investment that involves pure science and biopharmaceuticals.
Whole Health Management, LLC.
BioVittoria is the world's largest producer and processor of monk fruit (Chinese luo han guo - 羅漢果), and the world's leading supplier of natural fruit-sourced zero-calorie sweetness. BioVittoria was formed in New Zealand in 2004 and now operates in China through its joint venture entity Guilin GFS Bio-Technology Co Limited and in the US through its US subsidiary BioVittoria Corporation.
BioVittoria has revolutionized the growing and processing of monk fruit. The company has built a vertically integrated business covering the entire monk fruit value chain of plant science, agronomy, primary production, processing, marketing and branding. The supply chain includes a grower network in northern Guangxi province where proprietary monk fruit seedlings are grown to strict quality standards. In 2008 BioVitttoria opened a state-of-the-art processing facility in Guilin where the company makes a zero calorie monk fruit powdered extract which is 150 times sweeter than sugar (sold under a world-wide distribution partnership with Tate & Lyle), monk fruit juice products, and fruit bio-actives sourced from monk fruit.
BioVittoria has grown sales by a cumulative 60% per year for the last 5 years and its monk fruit is the distinguishing ingredient in Johnson & Johnson's new tabletop sweetener, NECTRESSE.
Feel Good Foods, LLC
Vanessa Phillips, a celiac, and Tryg Siverson, a gourmet chef, founded Feel Good Foods (FGF) in 2009. The company manufactures and sells an expanding line of gluten-free frozen foods. Due to her personal struggle with food, Vanessa understands firsthand what the gluten-free consumer wants. FGF is currently sold in over 100 Whole Foods Markets, 105 Shoprite Supermarkets and several hundred specialty markets.
The size of the gluten-free market Gluten-free market is large and rapidly growing. It reached $2.6 billion in sales in 2010 and is expected to exceed $6 billion by 2015.
FGF has launched the only gluten-free dumpling and egg roll to hit the marketplace, and plans to introduce other first-of-their kind products such as Asian entrees and chef-inspired flat breads in the next 12 months. FGF’s products are all natural and non-GMO.
FGF aims to be a leading gluten-free brand with a product line that takes advantage of the ever-expanding market opportunities. Most gluten-free products on the market are limited to breads, cookies and crackers, thus providing an attractive opportunity for a company that offers broader food choices.The gluten-free market for Asian food is currently underserved and is a great space for an expanded product line. (For example, few companies offer gluten-free meat options.)
Greenbean Recycling, LLC
NewLife Solution, Inc.
NewLife Solution was formed in 2010 by Jan Bruce, a successful entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, to develop and market an online stress management system called MeQuilibrium. Built around the intellectual property of Andrew Shatte, Ph.D. a former professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, MeQuilibrium is a subscription-based software application. Users complete a proprietary stress assessment and are given a personalized stress profile (meQ) and a customized stress management program that includes advice, tools, digital coaching and progress reporting/feedback.
MeQuilibrium is targeting both the B2C and B2B markets. In addition to the individual stress management service made available to participating employees, corporate customers are offered a proprietary report that summarizes the on-the-job factors that contribute to high levels of employee stress.
Pro Hoop Strength, LLC
Pro Hoop Strength (PHS) was formed in 2011 to develop, own and operate a primarily membership‑based, content‑driven website, Prohoopstrength.com. PHS is a start-up company and has limited commercial operations.
The PHS product is a state‑of‑the‑art interactive website that brings the expertise of NBA strength coaches to aspiring basketball players and their coaches. The website gives its members access to the training techniques that have made NBA players some of the best athletes in the world. The company also sells DVDs, apparel, nutritional supplements, videos, books and other fitness related items through the website.
The website is membership driven and memberships are priced so that they are affordable – both for youth basketball coaches and their players. PHS’s members will have full access to all content, downloads, streams, and webcasts. The company also sells a line of nutritional supplements. PHS also has commercial and marketing partnerships with leading providers of food, beverages, fitness equipment, apparel, and shoes. For example, its first partnership arrangement is with Slam Magazine and Slam.com, which will provide PHS access to its 600,000+ per month unique online visitors.
18 Rabbits, Inc.
Founded by Alison Bailey Vercruysse in 2008, 18 Rabbits, Inc. is a funky California based company that makes and sells organic granola bars made with whole grains, nuts, seeds and plump dried fruit. Although small and mainly focused on the West Coast, 18R has plans to expand its presence in Whole Foods and other natural food retail outlets to take advantage of the rapidly growing good-for-you snack bar market (estimated to be over $2 billion by 2014). 18R recently launched a new Bunny Bar line aimed at the kid’s category.
This investment was the first CSC deal sourced through CircleUp Network, Inc., an online San Francisco based seed capital and angel investment vehicle.
Little Duck Organics, Inc.
Founded in 2010 by Zac Normandin, Little Duck Organics is focused on one of the fastest growing segments of the organic food industry: kids snacks and convenience foods. For better or worse, kids snack constantly. Moms are now insisting on offering their kids better, healthier snacks, and Little Duck Organics meets this growing need.
Little Duck's line of "Tiny Fruit" snacks has been a huge success in Whole Foods, and their soon to be released line of "Mighty Oats" cereals is projected to be equally popular. Mighty Oats are made from organic oats, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and chia, blended with DHA (for eye and brain development). There is no added sugar; the cereal is USDA certified organic, non-GMO verified and gluten free.
Crimson Seed Capital's investment in Little Duck Organics is in the form of a convertible subordinated note that carries a 20% discount on a qualified financing.
Freed Foods Inc.
In January 2013, CSC invested in Freed Foods Inc. to help them expand their NurturMe brand of organic baby and toddler foods. NurturMe provides an innovative new way to feed babies and toddlers. The NurturMe product line features dried pouches of pure ingredients that target the top drivers of foods sales growth: organic, convenience, and sustainability. For infants, mothers can mix it up with breast milk, formula or water to make a healthy puree. For toddlers, it can be mixed into kid's meals (grains, yogurts, etc.) to add important nutrients. NurturMe recipes include crisp apple pudding, plum peas froggy pasta, sweet bananas summer smoothies and crunchy carrots spaghetti Bolognese.
Founded by Caroline Freedman (CEO) and Lauren McCullough (COO), the company seeks to be the global leader in health-conscious infant and toddler foods. NurturMe is now available at top retailers including Whole Foods, Stop N Shop, Ralphs, HEB, Wegman's, Meijer and Babies R Us stores nationwide as well as in select international markets. It is also offered online at Diapers.com, Target.com, Walmart.com and Amazon.com.
CSC's investment in Freed Foods is in the form of a convertible note. This investment was the third made through CircleUp.
GaGa’s Inc. is a family owned business founded by Jim King. It manufactures and sells a premium gourmet sorbet and is the only sorbet distributed by United Natural Foods Inc., the largest natural foods distributor in the US. GaGa’s original lemon flavor was handed down to Jim by the family matriarch, Jessie MaCrea King, who was better known to family and friends as GaGa.
Bob fell in love with the product and has worked closely with Jim to focus the company’s growth strategy on retail outlets strongly supported by UNFI.
Scientific Nutrition Products, Inc.
Scientific Nutrition Products, Inc. manufactures and sells a 2.5 oz. beverage, Food for Sleep, that promotes sleep. The product is comprised only food ingredients (it’s not classified as a supplement) that are supported by clinical trials published in peer-reviewed journals. In 2006, consumers spent $3.6 billion on prescription sleep medications, up 29% from 2005.
Bob is a terrible sleeper and has been looking for a “sleep company” to back for several years. He has known and respects Bob Jones, SNPI’s founder and CEO. The company is in its infancy, but the market is huge and the product works!
Smart Lunches, Inc.
Smart Lunches is a unique online ordering and delivery service for nutritious school lunches. In the United States, school lunches are a $30 billion market; Smart Lunches is initially focused on the $6 billion non-public school market.
Bob invested in this venture for three reasons: (1) the company was offering a compelling solution to the ever-growing problem of delivering healthy meals to kids in school, (2) Bob thought that Emily Green, the CEO, was an exceptional leader, and (3) Scott Savitz, one of Boston’s finest VCs, was an investor and directly involved in overseeing Smart Lunch’s growth plans.
CSC initially invested in 2013, and added to its position in Smart Lunches in 2014 and 2015.
Sourcetop is a technology driven business process outsourcing (BPO) firm competing within the $182 billion creative services sector. The company is a leading developer of the Drupal open source platform that powers the functionality of increasingly complex corporate websites. Its direct customers are advertising, brand and design agencies that do not have the technical expertise to handle the growing complexities of today’s digital environment and large development firms such as Sapient who have difficulty staffing due to sporadic workflow.
Although Bob is NOT very tech-savvy, he thinks that he knows a winner when he sees one. Michael Tardif, the company’s founder, is a winner....so Bob invested in his business (along with one of his oldest friends who grew up in the advertising business and also believes in Mike Tardif and Sourcetop).
Sonoma Beverage Works, Inc.
Sonoma Beverage Works, based in Healdsburg, CA, manufactures and distributes Sonoma Cider, a premium hard cider initially offered in three flavors: Apple, Pear and Bourbon. After years of only moderate growth, hard cider has “taken off” in the U.S. market. (As an example of this company’s growth potential: in the UK, cider is 20% of the beer market. In the US, cider is .2% of the beer market.)
Sonoma Beverage Works was founded in 2013. David Cordtz, the founder, CEO and Cider Master has a successful track record in four different beverage categories, including an award winning winery. Sonoma Cider is all natural, organic, gluten free and attractively packaged. After sampling the cider, Bob invested, and has twice added to his position.
Privy is another CSC investment that is not in the health and wellness space. But, Ben Jabbawy,
its founder and CEO, is impressive and Bob is sitting beside a number of top notch investors (including Atlas Ventures) who like what they see Privy doing: transforming the way brick and mortar
marketers build, nurture and track customer relationships.
Privy is a software company. Its customers are mostly restaurants and retailers and Privy’s software allows them to use online/digital marketing channels (such as Twitter or Facebook) and actually track the impact of such marketing (in-store visits, purchases, etc.) By bridging the gap between online channels and in-store visits, Privy goes beyond impressions and clicks and brings valuable transparency to restaurant and retail marketing campaigns.
Boston Logic Technology Partners, Inc.
Cambio Coffee Limited
Cambio Coffee was founded by Sebastian Martin, another of Bob’s Babson students. Based in Shanghai, Cambio operates boutique cafes and is a wholesale supplier of premium specialty coffee sourced primarily from Guatemala, Bolivia and Peru. Sebastian is passionate about discovering, roasting and brewing new and premium flavors from local coffee farm communities in Latin America, and introducing these flavors to the growing Chinese coffee consuming market.
Although the Chinese have traditionally consumed tea, coffee – particularly premium blends of coffee – are now very popular among young, urban consumers. Cambio is attempting to capitalize on this emerging demand. While it is a highly risky venture, Bob and Sebastian are hopeful. Stay tuned.
LearnLaunchX is a Boston based education technology accelerator. For the past three years, LearnLaunchX has been ground zero for edtech investment in Boston and New England, helping early-stage education technology companies bring their promising technology solutions successfully to market and spurring innovation in the K-12 and higher education markets.
Each of the startups receives seed funding, participates in LearnLaunchX’s intensive three-month mentoring and business development accelerator program, and receives access to services and office space at the LearnLaunch Campus. Mentors include successful technology and education entrepreneurs, investors and educators.
Even though edtech is not his area of expertise, Bob’s interest in educating and mentoring entrepreneurs motivated him to invest in this accelerator.
Caaapital S.p.A. is a Chilean company founded by Franco Capurro, one of Bob’s former students at Babson. Caaapital is an investment platform for alternative investments. The Caaapital marketplace is an online platform where institutional investors (private equity fund managers, investment banks and family offices) can invest in alternative investment opportunities in the real estate, energy, natural resources and infrastructure industries. Initially, Franco and his team will focus on the solar industry in Mexico.
Bob recently supplemented his investment in Caaapital, with an additional investment in DG Energy Fund I, a fund set up to finance distributed solar energy projects in Mexico. The fund is managed by Caaapital and its partner Intelegis.
Although not strictly in the health and wellness space, the idea that Caaapital can facilitate the creation of thousands of new jobs in developing economies appeals to Bob. And Franco will make it happen.
The Welcoming Committee
The Welcoming Committee is a unique channel for LGBT people to access the world and for businesses to access the LGBT community. Using a membership model, TWC connects members of the LBGT community to concert and sporting events, bars, hotels, etc. and offers attractive discounted prices. Many local businesses have latched on to this marketing opportunity and TWC now operates in over a dozen cities in the US.
When Bob was introduced to Daniel Heller, the founder of TWC, he was impressed. So he invested.
YFM, LLC is the new name of Broga, a health and wellness company specializing in yoga-based fitness workouts that appeal to men (although anyone may participate). YFM stands for Yoga, Fitness, Mindfulness. The initials also refer to the name of the company that Broga just merged with: Yoga For Men. The beginner and intermediate-level classes blend simple, accessible yoga sequences with heart-rate-spiking high-intensity interval exercises not found in other branded yoga programs. Similar to Crossfit and Zumba, the company trains and licenses instructors and provides them with support.
Once again, Bob was impressed with the founder, Adam O’Neill, and invested seed capital in the form of a convertible note.
This is a Pakistani company that has first mover advantage in the ecommerce consumer health/pharmacy market in Pakistan. In 2014, Bob spent a week in Karachi teaching at the Institute of Business Administration. During his visit, he met Furquan Kidwai, founder of Enabling Healthologies, and they discussed the potentially explosive (no pun intended here) opportunities to bring authentic health products to this country of over 180 million people. Furquan established two online properties: Dawaai.pk and Well.pk. and both have grown dramatically.
Although Americans read and see unrest, danger and risk in Pakistan, Bob sees a country that needs entrepreneurs like Furquan. He invested in the company’s seed round, and plans to continue to support this venture.
Elsen is a mobile app, backed by patent-pending technology that notifies investors of real-time trading opportunities based on a person’s investment and trading strategy. In 2014, the growth rate of active investors and traders reached its highest level in 10 years. The market now demands and expects better trading platforms, and Elsen is the solution (at least Bob thinks it might be).
Bob knew Havell Rodrigues from his days at Greenbean, and Havell introduced Bob to Zac Sheffer, Ryan Johnson and Justin White, the founders of Elsen. Havell is now the company’s CFO. Although a far cry from health and wellness, Bob feels that this venture is a no-brainer, as long as the founders stay focused on leveraging their technology.
Genius Juice is a product line of organic coconut smoothies. Founded in 2014 by Alex Bayer, the company manufactures and sells seven different varieties in both 8 oz and 16 oz bottles…mostly in California. All varieties are certified as non-GMO and USDA organic.
When Alex approached Bob, he was skeptical, but, after taste testing the product, he found it both healthful and enjoyable, and became an early investor. Genius Juice may or may not find a large market outside of California, but Bob figures that the coconut category is worth investing in and this company seems to have found a profitable and defensible niche. Only time – and a bit more money – will see.
Flying Spark Ltd
One of Bob’s newest investments is also one of the most potentially impactful. Flying Spark harvests, processes and sells an extremely rich and environmentally friendly protein isolated from the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) larvae. (Yes, fruit fly larvae!) The global trend of utilizing insect protein as a food source is well established in developing countries and is even penetrating some market segments the United States. Unlike other animal or plant proteins, Flying Spark’s protein is safer (no pesticides, hormones or antibiotics), better for the environment (no greenhouse gas pollution, little water usage, no waste) and healthier (high essential amino acid profile, cholesterol and gluten free, protein rich).
Flying Spark, an Israeli company, is also supported by The Kitchen Hub: a foodtech incubator in Israel (a collaboration between the Chief Scientist of Israel and the Strauss Group – the largest food manufacturer in Israel). Crimson Seed Capital is proud to be part of this forward thinking investment team.
Wise Owl Holdings
In 2016, Bob invested in Wise Owl Holdings, LLC, maker of a line of tea based cocktail mixers and ready to drink tea beer. Founded in 2011 by Maria Littlefield and Jennie Ripps, the company’s non-alcoholic tea and mixer business has grown dramatically. The mixers are sold under the Owl’s Brew brand and have been widely acclaimed by both consumers and distributors.
Launched in 2016, the company’s “hard tea” is an all-natural, low-proof, tea and beer based single-serve beverage. Maria and Jennie have set ambitious goals for this newest addition to the Owl’s Brew portfolio, and Bob is keeping his fingers crossed that their high expectations will be met. Stay tuned.