CVCA Member Profiles

New Member Profile: Builders VC

Builders VC Featured Image 1024x634
Photo: (starting from front left): Angela Lee, Mark Blackwell, Jim Kim, Jocelyn Doe + (starting from front right): Rouhin Ghosh, Mark Goldstein, Isaac Dinner, Mike Rosengarten. Courtesy: Builders VC. 

We’re continuing our series on CVCA Central; profiling our new members and providing insight on these invaluable organizations in our community.

The latest new member we are excited to profile is Builders VC.

Builders VC is a team of operators, founded in 2016 by Jim Kim, alongside a team that have worked together (since Khosla Ventures Fund III and Formation8) for over a decade successfully scaling dozens of venture-backed companies. Builders is focused on supporting entrepreneurs modernizing traditional industries through the deployment of technology platforms. Builders VC has offices in San Francisco and Calgary. The Canadian operations are managed by Mark Blackwell, who leads Builders VC’s Alberta and Canadian efforts.

We caught up with Mark Blackwell, Partner at Builders to find out more about organization.

Tell us about Builders VC, its role and vision.

Our thesis at Builders has never been more relevant in this COVID-19 environment where we see massive opportunities to apply technology and new business models to sectors where the percentage of IT spending vs. revenue is minimal. In these sectors, there exists a significant gap between what is technically possible vs. what is presently implemented. Our sectors of focus are Healthcare, Agriculture, Industrial Technology and Proptech which make up a sizable portion of global GDP but require industry knowledge lacking in most traditional tech VC firms.

Tell us a bit about your team.

Jim Kim is our founding member and General Partner at Builders VC, where he enjoys partnering with entrepreneurs, working on transformative ideas, contrarian approaches in companies, and fixing antiquated industries, needed for modern society. Prior to Builders, Jim founded Formation8 and served as its Managing Partner. He currently serves on the boards of Checkerspot, Bolt Threads, Fieldwire, Bowery Valuation, and Notable Labs. Jim also formerly served as a General Partner at Khosla Ventures and a Senior Partner at CMEA Capital. He began his career by founding GE’s Venture Capital effort and leading investments in China High Speed Transmission, and ComScore. Jim received undergraduate degrees in Computer Science & Electrical Engineering and Political Science from MIT, where he also founded a venture-backed Internet infrastructure start-up with fellow Course 6 students.

I (Mark Blackwell) am Investing Partner and lead of the Canadian Office at Builders. Previously, I was a Product Manager at SolarWinds, which develops IT monitoring and network management tools. I joined SolarWinds when it acquired GNS3 Technologies ($30MM), an enterprise networking startup where I was the Chief Operating Officer. While there, I contributed to over 1MM monthly active users, 16MM downloads, and a customer-base that included the US Department of Defense, AT&T, Walmart, Google, and Facebook. Prior to GNS3, I was an Investment Manager at Cenovus Energy’s corporate venture fund, where I led the financing in HiFi Engineering and Skyonic Corporation and was a Board Observer for both. Earlier in my career, I worked in the technology investment banking division at CIBC World Markets and as a Business Development Analyst at Enbridge, an energy transportation company; both roles were based in Calgary.

What is Builders VC excited about (in the immediate horizon and in the long run)?

Post-Pandemic Agriculture and the Technology Imperative is a recent whitepaper we released and explains how excited we are about the future of agriculture, supply chain and food. The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted supply chains and led to unprecedented levels of post-harvest loss and food waste. Animals do not have off switches; they need to be fed, cared for, and milked regardless of an ability to get to market. Critical on-farm labour shortages experienced pre-COVID-19 have now intensified, and ongoing consumer pressure around sustainable growing practices have been heightened. Our recent investments in Soma Detect (dairy analytics) and Provision Analytics (food traceability). Some of the specific areas that we are spending time in are sensor/​vision systems, controlled growing, farming-as-a-service, and animal health.