Arc Founders on the Problems that Drive Them
Four founders in the Spring ‘23 cohort of Arc, Sequoia’s pre-seed and seed-stage catalyst, share the ideas that brought us together.
This week, we welcome a new cohort of 10 companies to Arc—including one second-time applicant. These companies, the majority of which are in stealth, span a variety of industries including health tech, fintech, crypto, AI and more. We asked a few of the founders to share their thoughts on the problems they’re solving, and what drives them and their teams.
What problem are you trying to solve, and why is it important?
Devin Bhushan, Squint: In industries like manufacturing, a lot of training is done one-on-one or with outdated manuals—people have to navigate multiple sources of information just to get the job done. It’s a slow and frustrating process, and it can undermine productivity and safety. Squint is a mobile app that uses computer vision techniques and augmented reality to help workers quickly map machines and complex processes, to create seamless guides that show the right thing at the right time.
Colin Dunn, Visual Electric: We created Visual Electric because we wanted to make design more accessible by giving people better-designed tools. Artists and designers still get a familiar, moodboard-like environment—but it’s powered by AI, so they can combine inspiration images with text prompts for tasks like “landing page” or “brand.” From there, they can remix and refine to create new concepts.
Jesse Chor, Tanda: People who are early in their financial security journey may not have access to—or trust in—traditional banking. They need tools to help them save money, build credit and grow their community. Tanda is a social savings app based on the concept of ROSCA, or Rotating Savings and Credit Association, which is popular around the world. Group members deposit money every few weeks, then each person takes a turn to withdraw—and the ones who go last are rewarded with interest.
Mayank Kishore, Mirage: Right now, creating in 3D is time-consuming and takes years of experience and specialized training. It’s a very steep learning curve. Mirage uses generative AI to democratize 3D. It allows you to enter prompts to search assets, generate models, add VFX—so you can build an environment in minutes, with no complex software. It’s a resource for game designers, but also concept artists, product marketers, interior designers, VFX artists. We want to make 3D accessible to everyone.
Why now? What has changed—or is changing—about the world that makes this the right time to take this on?
Mayank, Mirage: We’ve seen with diffusion models how AI can aid in the creative process. But it’s still a challenge for designers and other creators to retain sufficient control when they’re using these tools. By redesigning the 3D canvas from the ground up, Mirage gives individuals the control they need over their AI-assisted creations.
Jesse, Tanda: Access to savings and credit is an ongoing problem, but the recent financial slowdown put a spotlight on it and exponentially increased the need and opportunity for a product like Tanda. In the U.S. alone, close to 20% of adults are either unbanked or underbanked.
Colin, Visual Electric: Generative AI is a paradigm shift in the way we create, and we believe that presents an opportunity to build a new class of design tool—where you are the art director instead of the designer. Visual Electric has the potential to accelerate the work of existing designers, but also to expand the market and empower others to create work of their own.
Devin, Squint: Over the last several years, mobile devices and AI have improved to a point that allows for a product like Squint. In manufacturing, experienced operators are retiring and complex new machines are constantly being introduced, so the need for more intuitive digital tools has never been greater. But we also believe Squint can have applications beyond the factory floor. AR is going to fundamentally change how we interact with information, and it can help all of us spend less time hunting down the knowledge we need.
Why you? What compels you to work on this problem?
Jesse, Tanda: I’ve built Tanda before, at Yahoo, and it worked amazingly well. It was killed as part of an acquisition, but in the five years since I’ve been thinking about it non-stop. I always said that if I ever did another startup I would bring it back, better than before.
Colin, Visual Electric: We are our own customers. Visual Electric is built for designers, by designers—along with engineers and ML experts who are passionate about creative tools. We’ve all been thinking about this problem for a long time—working in design at Dropbox, Facebook, and Apple, among other companies, and for my co-founders Adam and Zach, in their previous experience as founders.
Devin, Squint: I’ve been working in AR since the early days of ARKit on the iPhone, and I believe it is the future of how we’ll consume content. I have also seen firsthand how clunky user experiences and high barriers to entry can hold back products from breaking through in this space. That’s why it’s so important to me to make Squint simple and seamless.
Mayank, Mirage: My co-founders, Aman and Sree, and I have worked together on 3D software for years—including at NVIDIA, where we developed infrastructure and AI algorithms for autonomous vehicles. We saw how progress could bottleneck because it was so difficult to create environments quickly enough. So we started Mirage to enable anyone to unleash their creativity by replacing complex design software with AI-augmented tools.