Funding Friday: Three Noteworthy Projects

It’s funding friday again. Here are three projects I thought you all should know about.

Black Medicine Iced Coffee – This is an equity raise on CircleUp for a new iced coffee brand. Not only does the product look great but you can get a $1.3mm pre-money valuation for a product that did over $300k in sales last year and is growing rapidly.

Black Medicine

To learn more about this equity crowdfunding opportunity, visit the Black Medicine CircleUp page.


Blue Sky Lab – This is a charitable crowdfunding project on Crowdrise. Xibei Li is running a marathon at the North Pole to raise money for a non-profit that works on reducing urban pollution in China.

Blue Sky Lab

To learn more about this fundraise, visit the Blue Sky Lab Crowdrise page.


In Search Of Truth – This is a Kickstarter project in which the creator, an artist named Hank Willis Thomas, proposes to take his “Truth Booth” to all 50 states in the US.

Truth Booth

To learn more about this project, visit the In Search Of Truth Kickstarter page.


Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    convenience food comes to the polar bear market

    1. JLM

      .Plus convenient delivery service?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  2. William Mougayar

    I like the Truth one. Truth, Trust and Transparency: the 3 important T’s of the blockchain as well.

    1. Twain Twain

      Why don’t Truth Booth team just get in touch with Jack Dorsey and ask him what’s the best way to Periscope people’s political truths?

      1. William Mougayar

        That would be a good idea, unless they are being snapchatted.

  3. Richard

    Black Coffee Medicine – seems like a risky name…hope their label is up to spec 🙂

  4. Tom Labus

    I’d pay a lot to see Trump in the Truth Booth!!

    1. pointsnfigures

      Hillary too

      1. Jess Bachman

        “The truth is… hmm.. hey Jennifer do we have the latest polling on what the truth is?… I need to let these people know.”

        1. JLM


  5. awaldstein

    Curious about the coffee one.Even though not operationally involved in the food biz any longer, i still wake up with anxiety over the numbers of this sector.You can win but the gap between the core driving value of a crossover brand and the margin structure of standard Whole Foods distribution is the stuff of the truly undaunted.

    1. Matt Kruza

      Would be fascinating to hear your insights / examples on this space! Have you ever written anything that is publicly available talking about this? I would assume basically if you bought this for say $5 at whole foods the company probably is getting in the $2.50-3 range … so about 75-100% mark up? That combined with probably pretty difficult tier based incentives and 60-90 day cash conversion cycle? These the type of terms which are daunting? Thanks for any insight as i know this is your area !

      1. awaldstein

        Unlikely I’ll go public on this Matt but happy to talk privately. [email protected] if you had 60-90 terms basically there wouldn’t be any startups in the game!

  6. Jess Bachman

    Curious to know if people in the “truth booth” have an opportunity not to have their confessions be showed to the public.

  7. awaldstein

    Find myself doing less KickStarters this year and doubling down on small passion projects and charities that matter to me.Not actually a healthy attitude but just trending my actions.

    1. fredwilson

      i find that it ebbs and flows for most people

  8. Jim Peterson

    Fun post. ThanksGot a kick out of the guy running on the North Pole to fight pollution in China. Worlds smallest needle in the worlds biggest haystack?

    1. xibeili

      Hi Jim. I am the one who is doing the “Worlds Smallest needle in the worlds biggest haystack” Project :)Just one thing to clarify, this is a small scale project that I have been working with a non-profit in China. The Money will be used for building air purifiers for low income families to protect them from the toxic haze. (with the money we raised right now, we can help about 180 households). I know that by no means we are going to make tangible impact considering how big the problem is, and neither are we working on a solution to solve the pollution issue. I just think by doing this, we will be able to help some of the people live a better/healthier life out there.And Thank you Fred for sharing it.

  9. JLM

    .The Black Medicine name, bottle, vise on the label all seem particularly odd.May just be me but I could not imagine my walking past that label and being even remotely interested.Medicine? For something that is supposed to taste good?Odd. Total turn off.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. LE

      Exactly what I thought. Seems like a nice gimmick to get attention. And attention is a large part of getting your foot in the door. I think that part of the appeal is this “hipster retro anti what is typically to be expected” concept whereby something particularly odd is actually appealing. (Like a 20 year old smoking a cigar).Just wrap some nice wording around it. From the website the expected marketing spin:We pressure brew our coffee hot, in a nitrogen environment, before cooling it down in small, concentrated batches. This keeps oxygen out of the process and allows for a fuller extraction from the coffee, giving it a more enjoyable and nuanced flavor profile. We work hard at our craft, from the sourcing of our beans, to the roasting, brewing and bottling. Good coffee feels good. Grab a bottle and take the goodness with you. This product got my attention at the local hardware store but I didn’t buy it:…

    2. Chris Cooper

      @JLM:disqus ,Thanks for your comments. I’m the founder and CEO of Black Medicine.”Black” because it’s coffee. “Medicine” because it makes you feel better. We love the name, but can’t expect that everybody will approve of it…that’s OK. We have a disclaimer on the bottle to make sure that nobody thinks it is really medicine. So far it hasn’t been a problem at all. And it tastes really, really good.

      1. Odeeo

        I love the name, branding and product- delicious!

  10. LE

    The… truth booth seems like an ambitious project and the best of what you have highlighted today. It seems amazing that they are only trying to raise 75k to do this so I am guessing they must have other funding or benefactors.

  11. Salt Shaker

    Kickstarter, Crowdrise and CircleUp are all USV portfolio companies, with the latter geared towards early investment opportunities for smaller, accredited investors. Based on the CircleUp web site, their success seems to be measured by how much capital they raise ($200M for 166 companies) vs. the exits and ROI from the companies they are vetting and endorsing. CircleUp seems to be far more positioned as a B2B (for companies) vs. B2C (for investors) play, although they’re obviously not mutually exclusive. As an investor I’m more interested in the performance of the companies they’re representing vs. the amount of capital they’ve raised. I realize these companies are all early stage, and perhaps it’s too early to measure performance, but nonetheless as an investor I’d like to see some correlation between capital and company performance, if nothing else to engender confidence in the CircleUp platform.

    1. Ross Davisson

      Stuart -I work at CircleUp — thank you for the comments. We completely agree on the importance of ROI for the investor. In fact, we believe there is no way that CircleUp will exist in ten years’ time if investors are not getting appropriate risk adjusted returns. This belief has guided our strategy and development from day one – the focus on consumer and retail rather than technology companies, for example, helps us avoid adverse selection and focus on opportunities that we believe can help put investors in a better position to succeed.I think you make a good point about the emphasis our website currently places on the capital being raised for companies rather than on the returns on that capital, and how the latter is what an investor should care about. We may over emphasize the entrepreneur point of view particularly on our homepage.But investor returns are critically important. Due to the long term nature of the investments on CircleUp, we don’t have a track record of exits yet (nor would we expect to at this point), but we do follow CircleUp alumni companies closely and believe the results support the attractiveness of investing on our platform. For example, we have seen to date an 80% compound annual growth rate in revenue for companies raising on CircleUp 2013-2015.Early stage investing is a high risk, illiquid asset class that is only appropriate for some investors. Even with great curation, there will absolutely be investments that do not work out on our platform. We do our best to provide sufficient information for all investors to make informed decisions on their own. But, we are absolutely proud our emerging track record, and the improved efficiency we provide to both sides of our marketplace.Ross

      1. Salt Shaker

        Hi Ross:Thanks so much for your reply. As an investor, ROI is the only metric that would inspire me to invest in the companies represented by your firm, though I can certainly appreciate that it’s a bit early in the curve for exits. I can also appreciate that early stage investing is both risky and illiquid and requires a different mindset (and timeline) relative to public market investing. Although perhaps antithetical to your company’s biz model, I am curious if you’ve explored road shows w/ local, accredited investors to see if face-to-face “selling” drives conversion? Assuming you’ve amassed a large enough database of accredited investors in major markets via your online initiatives, it would seem to be an easily testable approach and a complementary (although possibly inefficient) strat to your online initiatives. A hybrid model could present opportunities to close the loop between your online initiatives and final conversion for fence sitters like me, while simultaneously serving as a local marketing tool for the CircleUp platform.Anyway, just a thought (or two). Again, appreciate your reply.

  12. Odeeo

    Just received my sample of Black Medicine. I’m considering investing! Really good product, packaging etc!

  13. JLM

    .Nonsense. It is a seamless continuum. A coherent whole.PPPP — product, packaging, pricing, promotion — they used to teach that stuff in business school.The product is the brand and vice versa, you crazy, organic, liberal extremist.JKWho TF wants to drink something called “medicine”?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  14. JLM

    .Coffee at lunch?I think some 15-20 year olds will just have a beer, no?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  15. JLM

    .Uno? I think not. Mucho.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  16. JLM

    .No, I am not.I am the first to admit that what the Millenials might do is a mystery to me but I’m not seeing the Millenials taking this particular “medicine.”Particularly as a cold drink.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  17. Richard

    Damm, 200mg caffeine. It should be pulled from the shelves.

  18. JLM

    .OK, so now I’m going to have to apologize for calling you a “crazy, organic, liberal extremist”?That’s no fun, my friend.Have a great weekend.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  19. awaldstein

    I have no opinion but from a segment perspective, for the wellness market–some $2T a year–it is as you say.The qualities of healthy food are the opposite of medicine. Healthy is the new delicious.

  20. Chris Cooper

    Andrew, Black Medicine is really strong. It is about 50% stronger than a normal cup of coffee. We estimate the caffeine content at about 200mg per bottle. I can only drink half a bottle, so be careful!