ZenPayroll meets the zen master: Randy Komisar signs on

Randy Komisar is hardly your typical venture capitalist. He rides a motorcycle to work, greets visitors to his home with green tea and once wrote a book called “The Monk and the Riddle,” which counsels would-be entrepreneurs to focus on things besides — gasp — getting rich. The longtime Bill Campbell confidant also has been said to meditate daily. Randy Komisar of Kleiner Perkins

It seems fitting, then, that Komisar’s latest investment as a general parter at Kleiner Perkins is in ZenPayroll, a San Francisco startup I wrote about a while back. The company, a Y Combinator fledgling, aims to replace boring back-end HR systems with what young founder Joshua Reeves calls “modern, delightful payroll.”

In a chat last week, Reeves likened the idea of bringing next-gen technology to a long-overlooked — dare I say, dull — sector like payroll to Komisar’s earlier investment in Nest. The sexy thermostat company, you’ll recall, was recently snapped up by Google for more than $3 billion.

It also surely didn’t hurt that Reeves has known Komisar since he was a Stanford student and Komisar his entrepreneurship professor. “He’s just a very outside-the-box thinker,” Reeves said.

Komisar, for his part, said he’s impressed by the traction ZenPayroll’s gotten since launching its product 14 months ago. The startup claims to process $400 million worth of payroll every year and has branched out to offer help with things like 401(K) contributions and employee giving programs. The vast majority of those customers employ fewer than 20 people, Reeves said — “all the way from ice cream shops to dentist’s offices, churches to hotels.”

“Frankly, the idea of investing in just another payroll company wasn’t interesting,” said Komisar. “They have a vision of payroll as an important facet of the relationship between the employer and the employee. When you talk to people using it — and we’ve talked to many — they love the product.” Leading the $20 million financing was General Catalyst Partners, whose Hemant Taneja will join ZenPayroll’s board.

Elsewhere Wednesday:

• San Francisco-based Strevus, which makes risk-management and compliance software for big financial institutions, announced a $5.6M Series A round from Blumberg Capital and U.S. Venture Partners.

• And, a Sunnyvale startup called Zample said it had raised $2 million from unnamed angels and unveiled what it calls a “cloud-based media recognition service.” The service aims to help TV networks synch advertising between live broadcasts and social media feeds like Twitter.


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