By: Ben Freeberg

Jake Yormak spent the better half of his career as a lawyer, most recently at Gunderson Dettmer where he assisted early stage startups on legal and structural issues such as corporate formation, fundraising, IP protection, M&A, and much more. In June of last year, Jake transitioned from representing startups as a lawyer to investing in them as an early stage investor. His firm, Story Ventures, is a pre-seed and seed VC fund based in NYC that invests in technology companies leveraging data and information technologies to change the way people interact with the world.

Story Venture’s Investment Thesis:

Story is betting on a future where machine intelligence complements human intelligence to create a more efficient and intelligent world. Embedded in this conviction is the belief that the most valuable asset that drives this evolution is data; for Story, companies that generate, store, own, and analyze proprietary data will be best positioned to capitalize on the movement towards automation. With this in mind, Story invests across the full lifecycle of the data ecosystem, from creation (e.g. sensors) to infrastructure (e.g. pipes of data transmittance) to application (e.g. artificial intelligence).

The first level, creation, includes full stack hardware and software companies that employ sensors to generate data. Infrastructure, which sits between creation and application, enables this data driven ecosystem by providing the pipes to store and transmit information. Finally, at the application layer, Story focuses on companies using artificial intelligence (“AI”), specifically machine learning (“ML”) and deep learning, to analyze and organize datasets into narrow vertical focuses.

Story’s portfolio company Nanit, for example, uses computer vision machine learning to provide parents with information about their baby’s sleeping patterns. Nanit marries two of Story’s core beliefs, proprietary data and machine learning, to provide actionable insights for anxious parents.

One key bottleneck in the field of AI that Jake believes, once solved, will unlock value for an entirely new wave of startups, is the limitation around Natural Language Processing (“NLP”). Despite the mass adoption of Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, for example, the uses for voice-first technology are constrained by deficits in their ability to understand context. Although Alexa and Siri can answer basic structured questions, when confronted with more complex, interpretive questions, the NLP fails to deliver. As the ability to understand natural language improves, Jake believes there will be a paradigm shift in the way business is conducted and how people interact with the world.

How does their portfolio fit in:

Pinn is a cyber security company that uses behavioral biometric data from hardware devices to attribute identity to and continuouslyauthenticate users. Story’s investment in Pinn reflects their belief in the essential role trust will play in a world that increasingly relies on digital transactions; it is more important than ever for a platform like Pinn’s to exist in order to close the security gap between humans and machines. For example, a hacker’s ability to steal information is severely curtailed by the Pinn platform that would require a machine to imitate multiple modes of behavior, from voice to cadence to keystroke and even to the specific way a person holds a device. This application of machine learning to secure critical infrastructure and provide consumers with privacy and security is a great example of the types of applications Story looks to invest in. In addition to participating in the Pinn’s pre-seed and seed rounds, Story also advises the company on commercial partnerships.

Stae  is a real-time data platform for municipalities that creates a single, streamlined database for cities to host and visualize data across departments and agencies. By creating a single integration point for all city data streams, and making that data programmatically accessible through a suite of standardized APIs, developers and entrepreneurs can build tool and applications that leverage all of the city’s inputs in real-time. Furthermore, the platform enables cities to share data with the private sector so that private companies can make traditional services more efficient and accessible.

Stae fits perfectly within Story’s investment thesis as an infrastructure platform that provides the pipes to derive insights from data that was previously unavailable. Story’s conviction around the opportunity and the founding team led them to invest the first institutional money into the company, and then help bring on tremendous value-add partners such as Fontinalis Partners and Samsung Next.


Thank you to the Jacob Yormak and the Story Ventures team for assisting us with this post.