It is that time again—when we take a moment from finding and nurturing the best hardware startups to talk about what we are excited about this year. After more than seven years of finding and working with successful, cutting-edge hardware startups, we know how to spot trends and opportunities in hardware. Just as we noted the upswing in gesture control in 2013, the rapid expansion of aerospace in 2014, and IoT’s development into at least three separate markets in 2015, we believe the defining trend of 2018 will be applied robotics.
We’re incredibly bullish on this market, and our investments in Momentum Machines, Dishcraft Robotics, Built Robotics, Marble, FarmWise, Simbe Robotics, RavenOps, and other soon-to-be-announced companies highlight our commitment to being the premiere home for early stage robotics startups.
It is a golden age for this field. The needed technology is now readily available and affordable, massive opportunities exist to augment human labor with robot assistants, and the results could be greatly beneficial to the basic human condition. Robots will help workers and businesses be more productive and transition more difficult, menial, and dangerous jobs to safe “hands”. One of Lemnos’s founding partners, Jeremy Conrad, wrote a series of posts last year covering the basic technology enablers, and he felt so strongly about the opportunity that he transitioned into his own robotics startup!
That said, we also believe that advanced manufacturing technology and techniques, such as generative design, the integration of machine learning into the manufacturing process, and advanced and granular sensors will unlock new end products that radically improve strength, functionality, durability, and costs. Our investments in MatterFab and Seriforge are just the beginning for us in this segment.
Aerospace, from drones to airplanes to satellites, has been another strong investment area for us for some time. We led the early stage hardware investment community into the first wave of aerospace startups through Airware, Spire, Vires Aeronautics, Flybrix, Ceres Imaging, and Enview, and we see a second wave of entrepreneurs coming now with startups like Elroy Air and Camp Six Labs, which are focused on specific market opportunities and new enabling technologies.
There are, of course, other areas that pique our interest. We love entrepreneurs and startups focused on improving mundane yet massive market segments. Compology’s significant contributions to waste management are a perfect example of a company we love to invest in. Trash is sexy to us—a huge business opportunity wrapped in difficult but solvable technology and business challenges. While Swift Navigation personifies the use of advanced sensors to deeply impact multiple industries.
Consumer hardware startups are quite difficult due to significant capital requirements, as well as the emergence of dominant platform companies (Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung) that control many of the key consumer touchpoints. However, we were drawn to two investments, Privacy Labs and Munnie & Savvie, because of the significant challenges they are solving that we believe many consumers will be drawn to.
Lastly, we’ve expanded our investing to include software startups working in and around hardware, the first of which is Dream. Others are soon to be announced. And while most of our investments are focused in the Bay Area, for the right opportunities, we are partnering with startups throughout the western US.
We believe the hardware renaissance is in full bloom, and we’re incredibly excited about what the coming years will bring. We look forward to learning about your amazing hardware or software startup!