An investment thesis

April 27, 2017 - San Francisco, CA

What’s new and interesting? What’s worth focusing on? Its worth taking a step back and looking at the larger picture. It helps make sure you are doing the right thing, for the right reasons. Doing that every day means nothing gets done, but too infrequently means getting lost in the weeds and, personally, losing a sense of purpose for what your working on.

Recently, I stepped back to look at the themes, industries and technology that I’m excited about; things that I think are important & useful, if not just flat out cool.

General Trends

Looking across technology and industries, there are a couple of general trends that I think are going to drive a lot of changes and innovations. Call it my investment thesis.

  • Leap-frogging technology
    • e.g. cell phones over landlines in Africa
  • More data > more math
  • Environmental disaster is pending/here
  • Information overload is coming/here
  • Increasing productivity
  • Increasing abstraction and automated fixes/recovery

In fact, I think everyone (with the flexibility to choose) should develop their own investment thesis, just as much as any venture capitalist. In fact, you could argue refining this thesis is more important for people as you must make a bigger bet (40-60hrs/week of your time) on a single company.

Finding the right trend and the right industry can often be a case of right a rising tide lifting all ships.

Exciting Emerging Techology

Emerging tech, here, is that technology just starting to see general use in the mainstream, rather than just emerging from the laboratory. In no particular order, some of the cool potential tech:

  • Wireless power
  • self-driving cars
  • holograms
  • Augmented Reality/Heads Up Display
  • Ubiquitous internet connectivity
  • EM Drive
  • AI/ML

These are probably the top of any nerd’s sci-fi wish list, but now its starting to get to a point where it feels tangible; you can almost taste it. Independently, these technologies can enable some really interesting things: ubiquitous monitoring, increasing free time/quality of life and, in the extreme, saving the world.

However, raw technology is not interesting without context and usage within industries.

Important Industries

There are a handful of industries poised to break out given some of the above emerging technologies. At the same time, advancing them is crucial to the advancement of society (not to be too dramatic):

Companies doing things like decreasing supply chain costs, increasing marketing quality or driving sales are distinctly less interesting. They are helping to drive consumerism and line people’s pockets; inherently unsatisfying when considering the number and scale of problems we are facing.

Founding Fineo

And a lot of the above is why I started Fineo. As we get or pass data saturation there is a growing need for the tools to harness it. Unfortunately, many of the existing tools are wildly hard to use, requiring tens of people and 10’s to 100’s of thousands of dollars really use. These tools should be there to help us do the real job - fixing the environment, going to mars, etc. - and then get the hell out of the way.

As we look to being an increasingly connecte (and monitored) world, every company has to become a data driven company. Moreover, they have to become a big data company to make a big impact; the value is in the data and being able to leverage it.

Its so easy to get caught in the hype of IoT - probably why there are hundreds of IoT platforms - and miss seeing the end goal of making people’s lives better. As a technologist deep down, I still attracted to the ‘new shiny’, but now (I hope), tempered by the question of ‘but why?’.

So, no I don’t need an internet connected juicer. And probably no one else does either.

Neuralink

The latest startup from Musk deserves its own little section, if only because (as any of my friend’s will tell you) having a brain-computer interface has long been a dream of mine (and likely many other nerds). The vision for a company driving the innovations to enable that are terribly exciting and potentially game changing for a variety of reasons.

That said, we are still a ways away from anything huge. Call it 10 years from sparking a new industry. For folks with the time and money to wait that long, there are few other endeavors I could recommend pursing. Rememeber, Tesla started in 2003 when one automaker had a hybrid car and an eletric car hadn’t been seen in nearly a decade (GM’s EV1). Fastforward 12 years and every automaker is worried about the rise of electric cars, starting their own production models and nearly everyone has a hybrid.

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