How VC Solo Brianne Kimmel Wins Business at Hot Startups

  • Brianne Kimmel’s venture capital firm Worklife Ventures generated 7x returns with its first fund.
  • Kimmel got into hot startups opening their network to founders before they even signed a check.
  • Worklife supported unicorns like Pipe, Hopin, Deel and Public.

In just three years, venture capitalist Brianne Kimmel has landed deals at hot startups like Pipe, Deel and Public, which Kimmel says has helped generate sevenfold returns for her company, Worklife Ventures.

Like many fledgling investors, Kimmel trumpets her ability to provide resources beyond cash to founders — only she’s willing to roll up her sleeves before even writing a check. That was the case when Kimmel started hearing rumors about a new startup called Pipe shortly after launching his company in 2019.

The startup was ready to “stop venture capital,” she heard, providing an alternative method of funding for software-as-a-service companies. Kimmel was intrigued.

She asked in her circle of friends and colleagues until she got the phone number of Pipe co-founder and CEO Harry Hurst.

But Hurst wasn’t interested in talking. He had already secured more funding than he initially sought and didn’t need more. Kimmel wasn’t intimidated, calling and emailing Hurst several times, offering connections with potential hires and clients.

Finally, Hurst agreed to meet her for drinks at Soho House in Los Angeles, where Kimmel had flown to celebrate her birthday. A few hours later, she became an investor in the Pipe seed round.

“I ended up transferring the parking money,” she said.

It’s this buzz that allowed Kimmel to earn the trust of founders like Hurst and Johnny Boufarhat, CEO and founder of virtual event platform startup Hopin, another of Worklife’s portfolio companies.

These investments, along with stakes in other unicorns such as Webflow, Public and Deel, created huge returns for Worklife’s first $10 million fund as these companies raised additional funds with higher valuations, Kimmel told Insider. It recently raised a new $35 million fund from its original sponsors and plans to raise an additional fund later this year.

‘Finding ways to be helpful’

Kimmel became interested in investing in startups while working in growth marketing at Zendesk. There, she saw several of her peers invest angels and build nest eggs for themselves. She thought about trying her luck too and dipped into her personal savings to make her first investments.

One company that caught Kimmel’s eye was a startup called Webflow, which runs a platform for building advanced design websites without coding. She wasn’t sure if the company was raising money, but she wanted to meet the founders.

So she sent them an email and invited them to a workshop she was running on growing SaaS businesses. She later invited them to a dinner she hosted for founders working on no-code startups.

Webflow turned out to be Kimmel’s first angel investment.

“As someone who was new, who didn’t have a track record and didn’t have a lot of money, my solution to making these investments in really competitive companies was to find ways to be helpful,” she said.

In September 2019, Kimmel launched Worklife Ventures, which invests in companies that address the future of work. But his approach to connecting with founders hasn’t changed much from his angel investing days.

When Kimmel sought to invest in Hopin, for example, she reached out to everyone she knew who had hosted an event at Hopin and asked if they could connect her with Boufarhat, the company’s CEO. The two ended up having a seven-minute phone call, followed by a series of WhatsApp conversations. She connected him to several of the company’s eventual hires, including Sarah Manning, Hopin’s vice president of people.

“Your network is phenomenal,” Boufarhat wrote in an email. He told Insider he also appreciated her willingness to offer support in other ways, such as flying across the country to one of the company’s happy hours: “She goes above and beyond,” he said.

The future of professional life

By building proactive relationships with founders, Kimmel gained access to early funding rounds from companies that now command steep valuations. Pipe, for example, was valued at just $13 million when Worklife participated in its seed round, she told Insider. After the company raised $250 million last year, its valuation rose to $2 billion.

It also earned him a huge following in the tech community. When Kimmel raised her first fund, she decided to seek money primarily from CEOs, founders and technology executives she’d met over the years, along with funds focused on venture capital rather than larger institutional investors. Worklife supporters include tech founders such as Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and Zoom CEO Eric Yuan.

With the new $35 million fund, Kimmel is looking to lead seed rounds, writing checks up to $2 million.

Kimmel told Insider she’s especially interested in tools for small businesses, which she hopes will benefit from trends like the Great Layoff and remote work. The search for meaningful work will likely drive more people to start their own businesses, she said, and with more people working from home, they will have more opportunities to visit neighborhood stores.

“I believe we are going to reconnect locally,” she said. “So I’m looking at restaurant technology, small business technology, things that are more human in nature.”

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