Upstream investment strategy remains the greatest lever for impact downstream.

It’s complicated.

“How does a venture firm ‘do’ ESG with early-stage startups?”

This is a common question that comes our way — from venture firms, limited partners, academics, and the media — and the answer is, well, not so obvious despite a craving for simplicity.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) standards are having a moment with climate change (and climate risk), broad socioeconomic disparities, and questionable corporate behavior in the zeitgeist. Talented employees (in a tight labor market) and consumers (in a crowded landscape) care more deeply about matters related to ESG unlike any time in our lifetimes. …

Introducing Obvious’ first ever World Positive Report

A sampling of spreads from the 2020 World Positive Report.

The field of impact measurement has evolved meaningfully over the past 20–30 years, most recently with PRI as an investor framework, UNSDGs as a general benchmark, and the B Labs BIA as an operator assessment. For the private sector, the tools have been developed largely with public markets and growth stage organizations in mind.

Understandably, these mechanisms don’t fully account for the challenges, opportunities, and successes of earlier stage, venture-backed companies — because early-stage startups are uniquely and singularly focused on one thing: survival.

Obvious invests in companies with impact baked into their business models, whose products and services propel…

An optimistic take on California’s future.

LNU Lightning Complex Fires, just getting started, as viewed from my afternoon run in Helen Putnam Regional Park in Petaluma, CA. Looks like a mushroom cloud, no?

Now that the rain has finally closed the chapter on California’s vicious 2020 fire and smoke season, a little reflection is in order from a longtime resident. Especially as friends and family ask me why I continue to live here.

First, some context. In 2001, I road tripped from Connecticut to California to live the dream. The attitudes were perpetually optimistic, epic nature was accessible year-round, and anyone could build houses anywhere. The magical possibilities were infinite.

Nearly 20 years later, it’s clear the California vision sold to me — and millions of others — was an unsustainable, false bill…

Dexterity CEO Samir Menon draws on neuroscience, mathematics, and computer science to build robots of the future, today. He’s also a poet.

Photo Credit: Kevin Gilbert for World Positive

A marketing playbook for technical founders and teams, rooted in truthful storytelling.

“I don’t think of myself as a ‘marketing person’. I’m a scientist! But marketing matters. Learning to tell the story of Recursion, to share a truthful narrative that highlights the potential of our company, was one of the most important things I could do as CEO.”

Christopher Gibson, co-founder and CEO of Recursion Pharmaceuticals, could teach a master class in storytelling for technical founders. When Recursion first started in 2013, their idea of rapidly accelerating drug discovery through a computational biology-led approach was either ignored or met with fierce skepticism by Pharma, potential investors, and prospective employees of all stripes.

Only by returning to its roots can the VC industry thrive in the years ahead

Illustrations: Michele Marconi

Though I’ve worked in venture capital for the past four years, I still identify as an outsider. The majority of grand VC musings today from the industry’s most visible figures don’t align with my values. Investors have become known for funding products and services that create more systemic problems than the conveniences they provide.

But today, I’ve never been more optimistic for the future of venture capital. With high-flying valuations vanishing, we must engage earnestly with companies around resiliency, durability, and purpose. With gig workers providing for our basic life necessities, we can’t help but imagine how technology could remove…

This is the post I wish he’d written.


My non-venture colleagues have been passing around an essay from Marc Andreessen, one of the most visible figures in Venture Capital, titled IT’S TIME TO BUILD. The commentary has been a combination of ambivalence and abhorrence.

While provocation was the point (“I expect this essay to be the target of criticism…”), I still believe his well-intentioned essay missed the Marc due to a few too many platitudes (“…it all failed — no Western country…was prepared”), outdated philosophies (“Why not educate every 18 year old [at university?]”), and a lack of reflective, human values.

Here’s a redraft — more the version…

This Oakland taqueria deserves your takeout business (according to a six and four-year-old)

The sequel to our Ayala/Hermann mural at Martin & Ayala just might have surpassed the original.

The transformation of Rockridge’s southwest gateway continued this September with another brilliant mural project.

Our political monoculture exposes the Bay Area’s moral shortcomings. It’s time to be more inclusive.

Police officer stationed at UC Berkeley for Ben Shapiro’s appearance. Photo credit: Kate Munsch for Reuters.

“Daddy, the construction workers need to work faster.”

“What do you mean, kiddo?”

“We need more houses. There are too many homeless people living in tents.”

“Yeah. It’s complicated.” [Fighting back tears.]

The root causes of the humanitarian, health, and moral crisis deepening on our streets are decades-long in the making and overwhelming in number, complexity, and interconnectedness. It has morphed into a beast of a systems-level challenge that includes unintended policy consequences, selective law enforcement, poorly planned civic infrastructure, spiraling labor costs, ill-supported social services, and the decline of religious institutions — to name a few.

What’s troubling is…

Gabe Kleinman

father of daughters. portfolio services + marketing @obviousvc.

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