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We recently invested in littleBits. It’s another of our investments that traces its roots to the MIT Media Lab. It’s also another investment we are making with our friends from True Ventures. It’s another one that mixes hardware and software in a delightful way that is part of our human computer interaction theme. And yet another investment in New York.
Ayah Bdeir, the CEO of littleBits, has blown my mind with her vision of where she is going to take this company. Phase 1 of littleBits was, in the company’s words, creating a “library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping, learning, and fun.” Today there are over 50 different bits that you can buy right now, individually or bundled in different kits.
This, by itself, is awesome. But the next phase of where Ayah is taking the company is just awesome. And, as a result, I predict you will have some littleBits somewhere in your world before you realize it. And, since Thanksgiving is just around the corner, we’ve got a kit to make a programmable lazy susan for your table if you need one.
Remember, the machines have already taken over. Get on board if you want to be able to play with them.
I’m a seed investor in MobileDay, a Boulder-based company that has helped its users make over two million mobile-based conference calls in the past few months. Its popularity comes from One-Touch Dialing where users press a big green button that shows up on their phone just before a conference call and they’re in. I use it every day – for every call – and am no longer in conference call hell on my iPhone as I go from my calendar to my dialer back to my calendar back to my dialer as I try to remember what the next number in the conference call sequence is. But – this is a show vs. tell type app – just go try it on MobileDay iPhone or MobileDay Android.
When MobileDay wanted to figure out how to make money, they went on the road to talk to big companies. They already knew who has lots of users of MobileDay, so they visited them and said, “You already have hundreds of employees using our product – how can we work together?”
MobileDay quickly found out that mobile had disrupted the control that companies used to have over the cost of conference calls. People moved away from land lines and toward mobile, but conference calling hadn’t caught up.
MobileDay knew that they could save time. One-Touch Dialing proved that. But here was a chance to save money also. If MobileDay could make their big green button also dial the cheapest number automatically, companies could save an enormous amount of money.
Enter Least Cost Dialing (LCD). With LCD enabled, the MobileDay app automatically inserts the company’s lowest-cost conference phone numbers. Every dialing sequence is based on the employee’s location, and LCD can reroute calls through the company’s internal voice or data network. MobileDay will provide the same capability for international calls which will create awesome savings opportunities.
While LCD is in the background saving money, One-Touch is up front making conference calls simple. It’s a great victory for both users (ease of use) and the CFO (massive cost savings for a small monthly fee.)
As MobileDay tackles this huge opportunity, they are hunting for senior mobile developers (iOS and Android), enterprise sales experts, and a great product/support person. If you want to be part a pioneer in the mobile enterprise game, email me and I’ll pass on your resume.
One of the companies I’m an investor in, Modular Robotics, just launched a Kickstarter campaign around its new product MOSS. It’s amazing.
Definitely a “show not tell” so I encourage you to watch the five minute video and then back the MOSS Kickstarter campaign if you, your kids, or your loved ones dig building things.
Two of the themes we love to invest in are Protocol and Glue. We’ve especially been interested in companies that make software developers and DevOps lives better. Some examples include SendGrid, Urban Airship, VictorOps, Pantheon, MongoLab, and Cloudability.
To that end, Raj Bhargava and I created a company called JumpCloud late last year (our eighth venture together). After being involved in hundreds of technology companies, we know that young and fast growing technology companies have little time to devote to the details of managing their server infrastructure. Often, there is a perception that things are fine, until they aren’t. And then much pain ensues.
My partners and I often worry about companies we’ve invested in having enough bandwidth and resources to adequately cover issues of reliability, availability, and security. We know firsthand what that entails, especially as companies hit high-growth inflection points.
Enter JumpCloud. JumpCloud helps DevOps and IT attain high levels of reliability, prevent unplanned downtime, and manage their environments like the big guys, without slowing them down. Watch David Campbell, one of JumpCloud’s other co-founders, explain JumpCloud at TechCrunch Disrupt.
JumpCloud is an agent-based SaaS tool designed for both cloud and physical Linux servers which provides full user management across all your users, all your servers, and all your clouds. JumpCloud also monitors your servers, identifies missing security patches, watches for attacks in progress, and identifies anomalous resource usage. JumpCloud is completely complementary to your Chef / Puppet / Opsworks configuration / automation tools. Think of JumpCloud as taking over server maintenance, management, monitoring, and security once the provisioning tools have done their thing.
JumpCloud closes the gap between what you can do and what you know you should be doing with regard to user management and security of your cloud infrastructure. That means fewer late-night calls, an easier to manage environment, and more reliability for your customers.
Also, if you are a DevOps person or senior technical person in your organizations, Raj, Paul Ford from SoftLayer, and I are hosting a private DevOps Conference in Boulder on October 24th. While the event is for Foundry Group, Techstars, and Bullet Time Ventures portfolio companies, we have a few open slots in case a few folks would like to join us. Just reach out to me via email and I’ll get you connected.
I’m a big fan of Jason Calacanis’ show This Week In Startups. I usually run naked (no headphones) but when I listen to something it’s usually an interview or a book.
Amy and I had dinner last night with Paul Berberian and his wife Renee and Paul mentioned Jason had interviewed him at Techstars FounderCon in Chicago a few weeks ago. So – I grabbed my iPhone, downloaded the interview, and listened to it. Dynamite stuff.
Earlier in the morning I read Jason’s post on LinkedIn titled The Great Venture Capital Rotation. I think it was originally titled “The End of Venture Capital Sort Of” (based on the URL). In addition to being provocative, it lined up nicely along a few others posts on this topic from Fred Wilson (Leading vs Following), Hunter Walk (AngelList Syndicates Will Also Pit Angel Against Angel) and Howard Lindzon (So You Want to Angel Invest…Be Prepared to Lead and Follow.) Naval, Nivi, and the gang at AngelList have really busted some stuff open and it’s interesting to watch it play out.