At the beginning of each year, I write a short post outlining a handful of themes I’ve been researching as potential markets for True.
If you’re working in any of these markets, would love to chat more.
Vertical Applications of Mass Customization via 3D Printing
As camera quality on cellphones continues to increase and 3D modeling software continues to get more efficient, there will be an increasing number of companies that being to leverage 3D Printing for mass customization using a direct to consumer business model (in contrast to early examples of the technology used in conjunction with channel sales at companies like Invisalign and Brontes Technologies.) Some early examples include Shapeways, NRML (headphones with a nifty iPhone App), and Sols.
Applications of the Blockchain / Smart Contracts
My first exposure to Bitcoin was on WordPress.com in November 2011 (we’re investors in Automattic in the space.) We’ve been tracking the space since then and made our first investment in the space earlier this year. Following the big early infrastructure investments, we’re looking for companies building applications on top of the blockchain – leveraging the technology to apply it to solve business or consumer problems in an unique way.
Vertical Data Sets in Healthcare
Healthcare is being entirely re-invented by software and data. Unlike traditional care, decisions will be increasingly made by computers leveraging tremendous amounts of information – both personal and from the broader population. Our first investment in the space was Ginger.io which focuses on providing behavior health solutions direct to consumer and alongside doctors through mobile phones. Another early example includes AliveCor which focuses on issues related to heart disease and the circulatory system.
Intersection of software / data with biology. Our first investment in the space was Moleculo (acquired by Illumina), which enabled high quality long read DNA sequencing with a combination of bio-tagging and software algorithms. The team consisted of two PhDs in Computer Science who had gone back to school to work on graduate degrees in Micro Biology.
Since then, we’ve made 4 additional investments along this theme and will continue to be active in the space. Similar to hardware in 2008, there’s a tremendous opportunity to take high risk, low capital bets on companies solving problems in drug discovery, synthetic biology, energy, and healthcare.
Consumerization of the Enterprise (V2)
Enterprise Software will continue to become more user friendly and intuitive. Even deeper, the next wave of cloud software will take advantage of the data in the systems to go beyond simply being a system of record to becoming a system of insight. Early examples include RelateIQ as well as True-backed Namely and True-backed Prosperworks which work to surface data in the right context intutively (beyond just simply storing the information for retrevial)
Soft Robotics Opportunity
Robots have historically been made of hard components (steel) because sensors and compute were too expensive to build the necessary systems to have flexibility and dynamic shapes. The scale of the smartphone (and related consumer device market) has driven these costs low enough to drive experimentation in new materials such as plastic and rubber which could create “robots” that could work together with humans in consumer and industrial applications.
There are a handful of research groups working on the problem now and tons of market opportunity for the right solutions.
3rd Wave Commercial Open Source
True has been an active investor in commercial open source since 2005. While open source software development has matured, companies are still experimenting and evaluating business models in the space. If the first wave of companies monetized with training and services (MySQL, Red Hat) – the second wave has monetized by offering a commercial version of the open source product with additional enterprise-only features (Cloudera, NPM, Puppet Labs, etc)
The third wave will be driven by companies creating new solutions that bridge together different products with a true enterprise offering that makes running the solution in production far easier to deploy and maintain. Early examples of this in our portfolio include our investments in HashiCorp and Runscope.