Amazon — Operating System For The Home?

I saw a video clip yesterday where Jeff Bezos was being interviewed about analysts’ reaction to Amazon’s quarterly reports. He said something profound: that he doesn’t really think much about the next quarter or two or the next eight, as pretty much those earnings are already built into the business via strategy his team adopted a few years ago. He focuses on strategy that would impact his quarterly earnings 2 to 2.5 years down the road. Its an incredible view into the mind of an amazing CEO who is aiming for nothing less than total domination.

I was thinking about above in the context of various ways in which Amazon is engaging with consumers in their homes. AmazonPrime, WholeFoods, Alexa, Home and Professional Services, partnership with door lock companies, acquisition of Blink home security camera, and other. What is the long term play here?

I would not be least bit

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Protecting Critical Infrastructure From Cyber Attacks

Critical infrastructure refers to the kinds of physical (and virtual) assets such that “the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.” These include electric utilities, oil & gas facilities, water supply systems, industrial production, etc. Critical infrastructure assets usually have strict physical perimeter security and access control, but are increasingly vulnerable to debilitating cyber attacks.

On Dec 2015, a Ukraine-based energy provider was attacked leading to first case of an industrial cyber attack that caused a blackout for residents of a country. Since then more large scale ICS attacks have been recorded, such as the Industroyer in 2016, and Triton in 2017. In May 2017, a Presidential Executive order was also issued in the US for “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure”.

In Oct 2016

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GoPro — Good and Bad Karma.

GoPro has been a truly amazing one-hit wonder. Unfortunately it remained a one-hit wonder with its wearable box-style action cameras under the Hero brand, and never produced a viable second product. A few years ago it tried to diversify by announcing an ambitious drone project called Karma, but that effort was plagued with problems all along, ultimately leading to the company entirely exiting that business this past week.

GoPro rode high on the back of the rise of social media since 2010, and the excitement around incredible action-images on Facebook/Instagram etc. I remember 2014–2015 when you couldn’t pass through an airport without noticing GoPro cameras and accessories on sale, and Virgin Airlines even featured a GoPro action-cam channel on its in-flight entertainment system.

Since then the company has faced tremendous competition, pricing wars, and commoditization of its hardware business, and has struggled to develop a software platform that would garner engagement.

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Needed: Social networks 3.0?

Over the last few days friends across the globe have been sharing their memories of 2017 — what they liked, what they hated — and their resolutions for the new year.

Besides a global frustration at being stuck with a system that enabled Donald Trump to become President, what is clearly being shared is also a strong dislike for social media/networking platforms we have come to rely on for news and entertainment. A lot of new year’s resolutions seem to be about taking a break from social media.

2018 looks like the year people will start in earnest a search for social media for the modern times. The first wave of social media/networking (1.0) was ICQ/chat forums/Skype etc that in hindsight seem relatively benign even if very limited in features. The second wave (2.0) brought us the tsunami of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat etc which were awesome for a while, but backlash against them is

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Remembering 2017. And Wishing Startups a Successful 2018.

This is not a “Predictions for 2018” list. In fact, given how crazy, and idiosyncratic, 2017 has been I am starting to believe more and more in Yogi Berra’s timeless observation: “‘It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future”. Besides, VCs are generally better known for re-writing history to fit narratives than truly being able to predict the future.

As I spent the last few days thinking back about 2017, these few things emerged as most defining for me:

  • TRUMP — We are living in the fake-news era. 2017 feels like a blur when I stop to think about politics in our country. It feels like we kept fighting one crisis after another. It was difficult to figure out what news was real and what was fake, especially so because real people with real power decided to spread fake news as much as the Russian bots. At a higher level, I am
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A startup’s secret weapon in challenging times

It is entirely possible that product sales in early days may not reflect your expectations. But what to do if you still 100% believe in the product and it’s value?

Hustle. Experiment. Have a ‘get shit done’ attitude.

A startup’s biggest weapon is its ability to get a lot done with very little, and moving fast. Use that weapon. Experiment on product features, marketing, messaging, channels, pricing…a startup can experiment, and be bold, in ways an incumbent simply cannot.

Chances are also that not just the founders and the top management, but entire company might be feeling a bit anxious (possibly nervous). If you and your investors are still believers, take that anxious energy and channel it into creativity. Discover their ideas and add to the mix.

At the end of the day customers decide your success, but customers also often operate with little data and biases built by incumbents’ marketing. It’s an

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Learning as a VC

This should be obvious that it is totally cool to accept there are things we don’t know — if for no other reason than to be honest with ourselves so we can actively seek knowledge and learn from those who know more than we do. There is no reason to ‘fake it’, especially for VCs who have so many resources readily available to help them learn.

There may not be many textbooks on how to be a good VC, but professors, academics, students, entrepreneurs, startup execs, journalists, pundits, lawyers, accountants, other VCs, all are often eager to lend their expertise to VCs to help them learn about new technologies, new business models, new learnings in management sciences, complex corporate or IP legal matters, etc.

Which is why I am quite surprised why I still feel so many VCs still keep ‘faking’ it. Maybe its because VCs unfortunately get put on high pedestals of startup

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Award those who would truly benefit from receiving the recognition.

1/ A humble suggestion for awards/prizes given to faculty members.

2/ Might not be a bad idea to have very few and select awards be given to faculty members who have already obtained tenure.

3/ And reserve a majority of the rest of such named awards (that often come with small $$ attached) to non-tenured faculty, those still trying to make it.

4/ I have noticed, since my PhD days, that senior faculty keep adding prizes to their already long CVs. Reality is that…

5/ …they don’t really care about such awards and just add trophies to their shelves. It’s like a celebrity getting likes on their tweets. At some point you stop caring. And giving orgs don’t get to do the hard work required in selecting among those not already proven.

6/ In contrast, young and upcoming scientists would value such awards much more. It would mean so much more to their careers.

7/ And they

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The Future of Spaces

No, not SPACE…spaces. As in, industrial facilities, commercial real estate, oil & gas plants!

Over the last handful of years, some of the biggest advances in technology have been in the fields of computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics. When you combine all of these and apply them to some of the largest sectors in the economy, you get openspace.ai.

I am proud to announce that Lux Capital just led a seed round in OpenSpace. As part of the investment, I am joining the company’s board of directors.

While OpenSpace’s technology and offering are compelling enough on their own, what I’m most excited about is the people. The founding team, which originally met at MIT, has a proven track record in tech startups:

Jeevan Kalanithi was the co-founder and CEO of Sifteo. The company was bought by 3D Robotics, and Jeevan later became President. Lux invested in other

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Yes, Checks…But Also Balances. Provide Honest Feedback to Entrepreneurs.

I recently met an entrepreneur who was working on what he seemed over-excited to label a ‘crazy idea’. My team at Lux routinely invests in ‘tech rebels’, the misfits and technology contrarians who challenge the status quo, and create the future. We are not scared off by ‘crazy ideas'.

But unfortunately this idea was more bad and half-baked than crazy. It was in a technically complex space, but there were lots of badly thought through assumptions in the business case, and not enough details were flushed out. The optimism was not only apparent, but also over the top.

While it was clear we would not invest in the company, unfortunately I also felt this was one of those ideas that would get funded by someone in the current investing climate. I provided feedback to the entrepreneur on some specific things in the plan, but as a parting thought I also asked the

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Yes, Checks…But Also Balances. Provide Honest Feedback to Entrepreneurs.

I recently met an entrepreneur who was working on what he seemed over-excited to label a ‘crazy idea’. My team at Lux routinely invests in ‘tech rebels’, the misfits and technology contrarians who challenge the status quo, and create the future. We are not scared off by ‘crazy ideas'.

But unfortunately this idea was more bad and half-baked than crazy. It was in a technically complex space, but there were lots of badly thought through assumptions in the business case, and not enough details were flushed out. The optimism was not only apparent, but also over the top.

While it was clear we would not invest in the company, unfortunately I also felt this was one of those ideas that would get funded by someone in the current investing climate. I provided feedback to the entrepreneur on some specific things in the plan, but as a parting thought I also asked the

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Forging the Future with Metal

With its office-ready metal 3D printing system, Desktop Metal has reinvented the way engineering and manufacturing teams produce metal products and parts — from conception and prototyping all the way to mass production. Manufacturing will never be the same.
At the intersection of business, economics and politics in the United States, there is no subject more controversial than manufacturing. The media can’t decide whether to put the blame on international outsourcing or robots, and you don’t need to look much further than the White House’s PR-driven “Made in America Week” campaign to see that this is a white-hot issue. At stake is nothing less than global leadership. The critical many-trillion-dollar question: What is the future of manufacturing? At Lux Capital, we are partnering with a number of different companies that are stepping up to answer this question, using cutting-edge technology to architect a new future. Desktop Metal is leading the charge with metal
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Keeping a Lookout

A stellar security team: David Selinger and the crew from Deep Sentinel
When you’re headed out of town, you probably ask a neighbor or two to pick up your mail and keep an eye on your place while you’re gone. You might even have a neighborhood watch on your block, where folks look out for one another. Now imagine a souped-up version of that. Everyone in your community would have the most technologically-advanced security system, including night-vision cameras and smart alarms, all of which are powered by a super-intelligent computer that could learn about human behavior and help prevent crimes from happening in the first place. That’s Deep Sentinel. I’m excited to announce our investment in Deep Sentinel, which officially came out of “stealth” mode today and announced a $7.4M Series A raise. My firm, Lux Capital, was the first institutional investor in the company’s seed stage last year, and
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Changing How Metal Is Manufactured — Future of engineering, design and manufacturing

Big day today for our portfolio company DesktopMetal. They are revealing two metal 3D printing systems covering the full product lifecycle of metal parts production — from prototyping to mass production. These two systems are called DM Studio, and DM Production, and together they are expected to change how metal parts are designed and manufactured across industries. (Check out detailed reviews of the technology in Technology Review and Develop3D).
Metal 3D printing has traditionally been expensive, slow, and hard to work with in the absence of large upfront capital commitments in technology and infrastructure. DesktopMetal was founded in late 2015 to change that forever. Lux Capital is proud to have been associated with it since the beginning (here, and here), and now so excited the company can finally talk publicly about how they are revolutionizing the manufacturing sector. Ric, Jonah, Matt and the rest are really
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DeepTech/FrontierTech is finding home among VCs

For decades traditional venture capital firms’ partnerships were built around three broad specialties:
  1. Enterprise (infrastructure and software)
  2. Consumer (internet and mobile)
  3. Healthcare (biotech and medical devices)
Look around a majority of venture firms and you will still see roughly the same broad structure. Firms built practices in these spaces by hiring multiple partners over the years, and have entire platforms built to support the ecosystem in those industries. Some firms have spun-out their biotech practices over the years, but otherwise the formula remains. So until a few years ago when entrepreneurs outside of those sectors approached VCs it was often a challenge to find appropriate attention. If you were a hardware company, an energy company, or an automotive company which partner(s) would take up your case and be engaged? Who would feel comfortable in their knowledge of the industry, regulatory risks, key players, and channel/margin situation? Who would push their own boundaries and
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Projection AR to make every surface come alive! Our investment in Lightform.

A few years back I saw an insanely magical art performance on youtube. It was a video done by the geniuses at Bot and Dolly, and their robot-meets-projection-mapping spectacle was breath-taking (see below). I encourage you to also watch their ‘making of’ video.

< iframe src="https://cdn.embedly.com/widgets/media.html?src=https://medium.com/bz-notes/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fembed%2FlX6JcybgDFo%3Ffeature%3Doembed&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DlX6JcybgDFo&image=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FlX6JcybgDFo%2Fhqdefault.jpg&key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&type=text%2Fhtml&schema=youtube%22 width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">https://medium.com/media/f4c73927bc8a9885bb8de82c1eb2f176/href A quick search online will lead you to many amazing videos using projection mapping. I have spent hours watching incredible videos utilizing this technology that blends the real and the imaginary worlds. Here’s the problem though: projection mapping installations are complicated and expensive to produce, often project only on non-moving/static surfaces, and require manual precise alignment at regular intervals. For those reasons, projection mapping has remained out of the hands of ordinary people. But that is to be no more. I am proud to share news about Lux funding a new startup, Lightform, founded by Brett, Raj and Kevin — brilliant computation imaging and AR/VR experts that now aim to democratize projection mapping. Lightform has been financed so far by Lux Capital, Seven Seas Capital, some senior executives in the AR/VR world, and NSF.
Lightform’s team combines years of projection mapping experience ranging from large scale entertainment experiences to PhD research experiments. They have developed theme park rides at Disney Imagineering, designed software behind Bot & Dolly’s Box, mapped building facades at Obscura, and created immersive AR prototypes IllumiRoom and RoomAlive at Microsoft Research. This team also runs the most popular blog on projection mapping, featuring community submissions from around the world. Lightform is the first computer made for projected augmented reality, and the company offers the first end-to-end workflow for projection mapping, making it possible for a single user to 3D scan, create content, and deploy an installation in one sitting. This includes initial scanning of the surface you want projection on, 3D animation, and auto-alignment if object moves. Literally out of the box, when you turn the Lightform app on you are not projected by a blank screen, but 3D content related to the object/wall/surface in view, and that 3D information obtained from their proprietary camera + software is used to drive AI-generated effects and real-time filters for your projection project. You can imagine it to work as simply as pointing your light projector (with Lightform camera attached) on any surface you may want to project on, turn on the app, create or import content you want projected, add any 3D visual effects you like, and…voila — you have brought that surface to life! (see image below). Lightform wants to democratize this medium so it can be used anywhere across film, art, education, cultural exhibits, events, signage, home entertainment, weddings, seasonal decor, theater, dance, and more.
I am very excited to see how Lightform can bring projection mapping to our every day commercial and consumer uses. This is an insanely creative team that wants to change the fact that only big budget productions have had access to this magical technology in the past. They want to start the movement towards making projected AR a part of every day life. They see projected AR becoming an integral part of architecture and interiors, projectors eventually becoming as ubiquitous as light fixtures, and ubiquitous projection-as-lighting can enhance or create art, signage, decor, and interactive displays. Possibilities are endless!

Projection AR to make every surface come alive! Our investment in Lightform. was originally published in BZ Notes on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Evolv: Company on a mission to keep people safe from terrorists

Unfortunately, mass casualty threats are the new reality in our world. Today, millions of people are vulnerable to attacks as private facilities, public venues, and the transportation infrastructure have become potential targets. Terrorists in recent past have attacked nightclubs, train stations, shopping centers, and sports stadiums. Our enemies are evolving their techniques, and the job of protecting ordinary civilians has become difficult. However, living in fear and accepting terrorism as the ‘new normal’ is not OK, and it is not Ok anywhere in the world. Security should be a human right. We must protect human life with all our capabilities, and use of modern sense-and-alert technology is a part of that. It is my belief that the right use of technology can not only prevent, but also deter terrorists. Technology alone may not be enough, but it is a critical part of the solution. With a simple mission of protecting
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Evolv raises $18 million for body scanners that don’t cause long lines at security

 For a previous generation in the US, the only places where one might worry about the possibility of a mass casualty were “high-value targets,” like airports and government offices, places that have body scanners and bag inspections, security guards and long lines to get in today. But attackers increasingly strike at public places like nightclubs, stadiums, clinics, malls, places… Read More

AirMap grows — brings on Microsoft, Airbus, Qualcomm, Sony, Yuneec and Rakuten as partners

In 2015 Lux Capital led the initial financing round at AirMap and I joined their Board of Directors. It has been an incredible experience working with Ben and Greg since then, and today the company they co-founded grew a little taller and a little stronger with partners like Microsoft, Airbus, Qualcomm, Sony, Yuneec and Rakuten, all of whom just invested in its $26M Series B. They join existing investors General Catalyst, Social Capital, TenOneTen, BullPen, Wonder Capital, and Haystack. AirMap is the leading air space management platform for the world — it is expected that drones will power $127B+ of commerce via consumer, commercial and industrial use cases. AirMap is already powering millions of drones around the country (and abroad), and hundreds of drone manufacturers and developers rely on the platform to access the data they need to fly safely as well as provide features consumers may want. AirMap’s partners include leading drone
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Hardware is hard: some lessons

There is a lot of chatter once again in blogosphere and twitter that hardware is hard. Every time a prominent hardware startup fails, this discussion comes up. Whether it’s Quirky or Pebble, or the latest casualty: Lily Camera. Yes, hardware is hard. Frankly I find it a disservice when some people try to philosophize how hardware is just software wrapped in plastic, or that the commoditization of the value chain has made hardware easier to develop. None of it is true. Hardware is hard, and one wins by building products at scale around truly differentiated (and protected) technology, strong teams that know how to develop, manufacture, and distribute hardware products, and building brands and business models that can build affiliation beyond one-off sale. Some additional thoughts below for hardware entrepreneurs: