Investing in Reforge

The rate of technological change over the last decade has been astounding. We’ve not only seen new companies and industries established, but also entirely new jobs and skills. Yet there are parts of the economy—particularly in technology and adjacent fields—where new forms of work constantly emerge, spread quickly, and just as quickly fade away. It is a flurry of change. This dynamism reflects the rise and fall of new computing platforms, communication tools, and technologies—whether that’s “Head of Influencer Marketing” or “Growth Data Scientist” or “VR/AR Developer.”  Even jobs with the same title as a few decades ago, like “product manager,” are radically different today. Mastery of new programming languages, cloud computing infrastructure, and mobile platforms make them the same job in name only.

This is life at the frontier: It requires self-reliance, lifelong learning, and community-building.

The old institutions are not enough. Traditional education—in the form of business schools, executive programs, and graduate programs—has been slow to meet the practical, hands-on learning needs of professionals at the forefront of change. If the pandemic has taught us anything about modern education, it’s that it is in serious need of a reboot. In the future, students will engage and learn in new, more productive ways.

In light of all this change, I’m excited to announce that Andreessen Horowitz is leading the Series A for Reforge, and that I’ll be joining the board. We’re excited to formally work with Brian Balfour, Reforge’s CEO, on this ambitious new startup.

Reforge is reinventing education for professionals—particularly mid-career and senior level—working in frontier jobs. The company is beginning with the technology industry, focusing on content, community, and credentials. From the content side, the team has put together a dozen current and upcoming multi-week programs on the cutting edge of product management, marketing, and management. This in-depth, proprietary content was built from months of research and synthesis with leading CEOs and executives from magnetic companies like Pinterest, Yelp, Slack, Airtable, Uber, Spotify, Airbnb, Netflix, Zillow, and hundreds more. The programs are hands-on and actionable, so professionals in demanding and full-time roles can apply the lessons in real-time.

Reforge’s software platform is designed to enable cohort-based learning and a purely digital experience suitable for people around the world—future-proofed for the post-pandemic work environment. The business model is built on an annual membership that brings together a community of experienced operators. The quality of this community is further reinforced through strict vetting and ongoing criteria for membership, so the Reforge brand will represent cutting-edge expertise on someone’s resume or portfolio.

Brian Balfour is particularly suited for this ambitious mission. He grew up in Michigan, the child of two teachers. After a career as a repeat entrepreneur in venture capital funded startups, he took an executive role at HubSpot, where he was VP Growth. I first met him nearly a decade ago, when we both wrote about similar topics—growing users, metrics, network effects—on our personal blogs. I deeply respected his writing, which eschewed convenient “tips and tricks” and instead went deep on frameworks and systematic ways of thinking. It was a precursor to the content he’d later build. As Reforge took off, I became personally involved, working with Brian to launch the first program focused on my specialization—growing products by acquiring more users, engaging them more deeply, and retaining them over time. My colleague Anish also got involved early, enrolling in a program himself in the early years. Later, as an executive at Credit Karma, Anish referred many of the product managers on his team to Reforge.

Since the company launched in 2015, Brian and his team have been bootstrapping the program with impressive success. Reforge has carved out a wedge, becoming the leading training program for product and growth marketing at technology companies. It’s beloved by alumni, whose ranks have grown to encompass many thousands, largely driven by word of mouth.

Today, Reforge is focused on a wedge into the heart of the Silicon Valley technology industry, particularly growth, marketing, and product. But its ambitions are much bigger: the company intends to comprehensively cover functions across technology disciplines. Eventually, Reforge may expand into a broader set of industries to serve cutting-edge companies throughout the world. This new round of Series A funding is meant to accelerate the team’s journey, and we are excited to partner with them along the way.

 

***

The views expressed here are those of the individual AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“a16z”) personnel quoted and are not the views of a16z or its affiliates. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources, including from portfolio companies of funds managed by a16z. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, a16z has not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. 

This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only, and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investors or prospective investors, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by a16z. (An offering to invest in an a16z fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund and should be read in their entirety.) Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by Andreessen Horowitz (excluding investments for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly as well as unannounced investments in publicly traded digital assets) is available at https://a16z.com/investments/.

Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.

Want more a16z?

Sign up to get our best articles, latest podcasts, and news on our investments emailed to you.