To Wall Street and Beyond

Emily Brady |
All photos by Pineapple SF

At Obvious, we celebrate the founder’s journey from idea to IPO. After signing a term sheet, we send our founders a levitating light bulb representing their brilliant idea and the team we have invested in. Along the way, we offer guidance on running board meetings, determining OKRs, and sourcing talent. 

And when it comes time to commemorate companies as they go public, instead of marking the moment with a boring lucite block, we give our founders something a little more obvious: a custom-made rocketship.

A model rocket with a background of space objects

Rockets are a metaphor for the startup journey and how much energy it takes to get past the Earth’s gravitational pull. And when it came time to find an artist to make them for us, our friends at the San Francisco design firm Pineapple knew just the person: Jeff Brewer.

Brewer is a Marin-based model maker with salt and pepper hair, a goatee, and the whimsical nature of a creative. He got his start as a 12-year-old kid making model planes and cars in his family garage in Atlanta. After working as a model maker for architectural firms and toy shops, Brewer broke into the movie business, working on Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “James and the Giant Peach.” 

He then spent close to a decade at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), where he was part of a team that created a massive USS Enterprise for “Star Trek: First Contact” and car models for the “Men in Black” tunnel chase. He also worked on the Star Wars prequels (detailed a broadcast booth for a pod race, among other things).

But there was one prop Brewer made back when he was working on “James and the Giant Peach” that soon became his trademark: an old tin rocket.

“People kept asking me if I could make them one, and over the next few months, I thought I could do some more styles and see what happens,” he recalls.

For a while, Brewer sold rockets online that he had mass-produced based on his designs. After he retired, he continued making the occasional handcrafted rocket on commission. This is what he was doing when we approached him with the request to create a unique rocket each time a company we have invested in goes public. Brewer jumped at the project.

He draws inspiration from old sci-fi and pulp novels, movie posters, and cartoons of the 1950s—think space explorers and alien invaders. His favorite designs are “short, fat, and stubby.”.

For the Obvious rockets, Brewer decided to branch out into 3-D digital models he had printed. After assembling the rockets and popping on the fins and other small parts, he picks up one of his tiny brushes and gets to work on his favorite part of the process: painting with exquisite, patient detail using a lot of little tricks and things he learned at ILM.

“I start with clean, bright, almost primary colors,” he says. “They look pretty boring, but then you start applying dirt, chipped paint effects, and rust, and they look really cool.”

A model rocket with a background of space objects

The result is a bespoke rocket for each company that has reached orbit and gone public. For the public companies to come, Jeff Brewer will be there, brush in hand, ready to imagine another rocket achieving escape velocity.

Emily Brady

Emily brings 20 years of experience in investigative journalism, writing, and content strategy to Obvious Ventures.

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