From my experience as an entrepreneur, I know the tremendous impact of partnering with the right investor. So, when I started out as a venture capitalist, I knew what types of skills and experiences would be most valuable to founders. I also knew that the people I was most excited to partner with wouldn’t take a back seat, so we built Eclipse to provide high-involvement operational support to our portfolio companies.
Additionally, we believed that the real economy was at a tipping point: Industrial sectors were about to be transformed through digital technology, and the traditional venture capital playbook wasn’t well suited to the complexity of physical-world startups. We defined our mission: rebuild the industries that matter. Eclipse accelerates the digital transformation of our industrial sectors by partnering with entrepreneurs who build deeply technological solutions.
I believe in the concept of deploying “special forces” to accomplish challenging missions. Small teams consisting of people whose rare strengths and skills complement each other. It’s a concept I learned in the military that is equally relevant to venture capital. Both require a sense of daring and the belief that you will succeed when the odds are challenging, because you’ve trained and committed yourself to a mission.
Today, we introduce two new partners who are uniquely suited to make the firm even stronger and better able to serve founders at critical moments in their journey to build extraordinary companies within the physical-world industries that define and drive economies. We welcome Aidan Madigan-Curtis, who brings world-class executive leadership experience as a hands-on operations leader for global brands like Apple and Samsara. We also welcome Jay Knafel, who comes to us from Fidelity, where he studied the same massive and mature industries we focus on — in order to invest in growth-stage companies with the most potential to accelerate digital transformation.
It takes a special breed of entrepreneur to venture into these deeply entrenched industries. Likewise, it takes a specific type of investor to help founders build the digital products and solutions that will win over senior leaders with analog roots.
Aidan is our kindred spirit. A few years ago, Eclipse partner Angela Hayward shared Aidan’s LinkedIn profile with the team, saying “she’s amazing!” And she is, but Aidan wasn’t ready to jump ship at that time. She was still building, and as employee №27 at Samsara, she helped grow the company into a global leader of cloud data and insights for industries that depend on physical operations, currently serving over 20,000 customers across nearly all sectors. … We watched, impressed.
Previously, as a member of Apple’s Global Operations team, Aidan helped launch the first Apple Watch and the iPhone 6S and lead the company’s most scaled manufacturing division. And, while her operating experience was appealing enough, Aidan also has first-class investing credentials from her time as an investment analyst at the global macro hedge fund Bridgewater Associates.
Angela was, as always, determined. Now, almost a decade after first meeting Aidan, she was still convinced Aidan would be a perfect fit for the team. On this occasion, the timing was right: After five years at Samsara, most recently as VP and GM of Connected Sites, Aidan had begun to turn her attention to the next generation of founders tackling thorny problems in the real economy. She was mentoring young female entrepreneurs and becoming extremely knowledgeable of the startup landscape in our focus areas.
When we reconnected, it was clear that she was one of us. Aidan was bursting with enthusiasm for the current wave of innovation in physical industries — she has the skills and experience to help founders build their businesses. She’s a force of nature, and we’re blown away by her work ethic, domain expertise and vision. If you’re an early-stage founder in our space, you should speak with Aidan.
As for Jay, our recognition of the value he would bring to the firm happened quite differently. His path and mine crossed when our portfolio company Owlet Baby Care was going through the process of becoming a public company. Fidelity was invited to participate in the PIPE — private investment in public equity — and the job of evaluating the opportunity fell to Jay.
Earlier at Fidelity, Jay led its investment in animal health. In researching the category, he realized two things: People will spend as much money as they can on those they love. Two, products in this category serve a profound purpose that he describes as “giving voice to the voiceless.”
Jay saw the similarities when analyzing Owlet, maker of the popular Smart Sock that measures a baby’s heartbeat and breathing, as well as other vital biometrics. Here, Jay realized, was another product that gives voice to the voiceless. There’s also the fact that the one thing people care about more than their pets is their own children. Those insights fueled the conviction behind Fidelity’s PIPE investment, which Jay led.
I reached out to Jay a few days later, and after several conversations, it was obvious that we had a shared set of personal values and vision for reinventing our industrial sectors by building new and enduring companies. He knows what’s required of a company at that stage of growth, in terms of their business model, revenue stream, cost structure, and how they need to position themselves — both in the market and to a new set of later-stage investors.
However, for both Aidan and Jay, the overriding reason we wanted them on our team is that each is passionate to the core about driving positive impact in the world. From her time on the factory floors at Apple, to her most recent leadership roles at industrial IoT giant Samsara, Aidan understands the criticality of our bedrock sectors — that they form the very infrastructure that supports modern society.
Jay’s desire to build businesses that have real impact stems from the cold, zero-sum dynamic he witnessed in the public stock market, where there can only be one winner in a trade. Jay, like us, understands that venture is about creating value, and, if successful, driving economic growth — which benefits everyone.
Our goal is to usher in the industrial evolution through the digital transformation of our essential industries. We’ve never been a traditional investment firm. Eclipse is expanding our team, in our own way, to seize the moment. And it’s just the beginning …
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