Startup Positivity — Week 19

Over the last few months we’ve highlighted the fantastic work that the City Light portfolio teams are doing to make the world smarter and safer. This week, we continue with three stories from companies on the frontlines of climate change, employment, and healthcare, including some from fellow travelers’ portfolios.

The entrepreneurs with whom we are fortunate enough to partner are working on solutions that the world needs now more than ever. They are still on the front lines providing care, reducing stress and anxiety, and increasing access to education and energy.

We are not the kind of people or firm that gets quiet or sits on our hands when things get tough. We do not let the news or the red on the stock screens discourage us. We will be smart, empathetic, patient and thoughtful, while also being present, helpful, active and open for business (while upholding all social distancing recommendations). We will be helping our existing companies navigate their new realities, both positive and negative. We will continue to make new investments and to provide follow-on funding as warranted.

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Zero Grocery is on mission to remove single-use plastics from the food system, starting with a convenient zero-waste grocery delivery service.

Back in 2019, data analytics company Inmar estimated that 39% of Americans did any grocery shopping online. The majority of us were still heading to the store to pick up our wares. COVID-19 flipped that right on its head: all of a sudden, 78.7% reported shopping online for groceries after the outbreak. But with grocery delivery came grocery waste: more plastic bags, more plastic containers, and in some cases more transportation pollution from shipping heavy loads to individual households. Not to mention the hefty pricetag of shipping and handling.

Zero Grocery helps combat the waste by offering a grocery delivery service that brings you your favorite brands in jars, tiffins, boxes, and any other sustainable packaging at wholesale sizes and prices. Members pay $25 a month to access the lowest prices on healthy, sustainable groceries, and can return reusable packaging at their next delivery. Zero is currently available in the Bay Area, but is expanding rapidly!

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Handshake is the college career network of the future, built to transform the recruiting experience for college students, career centers and employers.

The class of 2020 faced one of the most challenging job markets in the last decade. Thousands of companies announced layoffs or hiring freezes in the months just before and after graduation, with some even being forced to rescind offers made months earlier due to the uncertainty left by the coronavirus. Even barring the pandemic, though, the outlook for college graduates in 2020 was not rosy: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the unemployment rate for young college graduates exceeds that of the general population, and about 41 percent of recent college graduates — and 33.8 percent of all college graduates — are underemployed in that they are working in jobs that don’t require a college degree.

Handshake is looking to change that for the millions of college and university students looking for jobs and internships in the US every year. The company works with hundreds of schools, rather than just the few that Fortune 500 companies typically target, ensuring there is a level playing field for students from different backgrounds and disciplines. Employers can post positions, interview candidates, and make offers all on the same platform. Handshake also provides advice to employers on diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity access to help them directly engage underrepresented talent based on factors like school affiliation and organizational membership.

Congratulations to the Handshake team for raising $80 million from a fantastic group of investors, including our friends at Emerson Collective!

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Pillar lets people organize and store all their family’s most important information online so their family has access to everything they need if the unexpected happens.

For the 50M+ Americans who act as informal caregivers to an older loved one, the caregiver is often overwhelmed with keeping track of a loved one’s healthcare, finances, and more. Daughters, sons, wives, husbands, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and more — take on a wide range of responsibilities like scheduling doctors appointments and making medical decisions to managing household finances and organizing legal affairs. They all want to support their older loved ones, but they often feel overwhelmed balancing these responsibilities against the needs of their own children, partners, and jobs.

Pillar is a digital platform that makes it easier for families to protect and care for their loved ones by organizing and store important information such as medical records, legal documents, and financial accounts — all online. In addition to organizing a family’s most critical details, Pillar also provides personalized guidance during the caregiving process. The company recently raised $7 million to continue building out the platform to reach more people in need.

Thanks to Kleiner Perkins for this story!

These are just a few examples of why we are convinced that tomorrow will be better than today. It can help to take a moment to recognize the amazing work being done by entrepreneurs and their startup companies.

To that end, if you have inspiring stories about entrepreneurs making a difference that you would like to share, please send them to us at We are sure that our community of investors, entrepreneurs and change makers could use a smile and a reminder that we are not alone.

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