Manufacturing – Venture Capital Want List

This website is mostly incoherent ramblings that I see or think about. Most of my day is spent trying to think through problems and how those can be turned into opportunities. Today I am going to walk through a few, just in case someone who is reading this happens to be trying to solve those problems.

1.) Digital Phone to PLC Communication tool.
We are building a system which communicates from a mobile app to a remote system. Think of it like Starbucks current mobile ordering platform. You enter your order on your mobile phone and you get a confirmation on your phone that the order was sent and the Starbucks that you are going to gets the order printed on a sticker which then gets placed on the cup.

Starbucks has managed to create this product incredibly well such that it looks easy. Its not easy. If anyone is working on a simple API to do this, I would love to talk. Perhaps its just a natural extension of Square, but I am just not aware of it.

What we are trying to do is send an order to remote PLC which sets off a chain of manufacturing operations which creates a custom product based on your order. It notifies you that the order was recieved and that the order is ready.

2.) NLG (Natural Language Generation). I am still amazed that there are only two main NLG companies in the world (Narrative Science) and Automated Insights as far as I can see. This is the type of product which, in theory, could be commoditized through an API but its not and I am not sure why.

If you are an NLG grad or PHD student with any sort of basic NLG idea, which could be just a copy of current technologies, I would love to talk.

3.) 3d Printing of medical products.
Looking for someone versed in manufacturing and the medical device FDA approval process, we can help with the rest.

Top 5 Venture Capital Robotic Investments of 2018

Since it is the top list time of year, we are going to make a list of our favorite robotic fundraises of 2018.

1.) Cruise Automation – $3.5 Billion Capital Raise
– Our vehicles are on the road in communities across the U.S. navigating some of the most challenging and unpredictable driving environments. We believe the best way to bring self-driving technology to the world is to expose them to the same unique and complex traffic scenarios human drivers face every day. We collect and analyze petabytes of data to ensure our vehicles operate safely and reliably.

2.) UBTech Robotics – $820 Million – Series C
Founded in 2012, UBTECH is a global leading AI and humanoid robotic company. UBTECH has successfully developed consumer humanoid robots, robots for business use, and JIMU Robot building kits following breakthroughs made in digital servos, the core part of humanoid robots. In 2018, UBTECH achieved a valuation of USD$5 billion following the single largest funding round ever for an artificial intelligence company, underscoring the company’s technological leadership

3.) Zoox – $500 Million – Series B
We are applying the latest in automotive, robotics and renewable energy to design a symmetrical, bidirectional, zero-emissions vehicle from the ground up to solve the unique challenges of autonomous mobility.

4.) Zymergen – $400 Million – Series C
Over the past century, the pace of industrial progress has declined as humans have exhausted the ways in which petrochemicals and traditional processes can be used to create new things. Instead, Zymergen uses biology as a source of new chemical building blocks that enable the development of novel products and materials. Importantly, we work at scale –– improving industrial economics while making new markets realizable.
To do this, Zymergen takes an atheoretic approach, leveraging machine learning to navigate the genomic search space to make discoveries far beyond the bounds of human intuition. This enables us to deliver material diversity and performance capabilities not previously possible, with applications across industries –– from agriculture, to chemicals and materials, to pharmaceuticals and more.

5.) Automation Anywhere – $300 Million – Series A
Automation Anywhere is a developer of robotic process automation software. The company’s product, Automation Anywhere Enterprise, caters to enterprises looking to deploy a digital workforce composed of software bots that complete business processes end-to-end.

Issue #2 – GE IoT, China VC, Exoskeletons

1.) GE forms separate venture for its industrial IoT software business

GE forms separate venture for its industrial IoT software business


GE (General Electric) is looking to form a separate and independent company for its industrial internet of things (IIoT) software business.Based in the US, GE provides products and services for several industries including aviation, healthcare, power, renewable energy, digital industry, additive manufacturing, venture capital and finance, lighting, transportation, and oil and gas.

2.) China VC has too much money to spend
https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-12-16/china-s-856-billion-startup-juggernaut-is-getting-stuck
If you’re impressed by Masayoshi Son’s $100 billion Vision Fund, China’s $856 billion in “guidance funds” will blow your mind. The country is quickly becoming a major player in the venture capital world. This year, Chinese investors are involved in over $90 billion worth of deals, second only to the U.S. and up from only $11.5 billion five years ago.

3.) Industrial exoskeletons: new systems, improved technologies, increasing adoption.
The Robot Report
INFO: This article from The Robot Report is a summary of state of exoskeletons in the industry. The article covers an introduction to exoskeletons, adoption programmes and enabling technologies.

Cool Robotics Projects Happening Today

Whether you are looking for robotics for the home or office, here is the ultimate robot gift giving guide… for the billionaire in your house. In all seriousness, the robotic industry is evolving and we are very excited at how quickly this space is evolving.

1.) Moley Robotics – Robots for the kitchen.

2.) Endeavor Robotics – Robots for the battlefield

3.) Mayfield Robotics – Robots for the home

4.) Fetch Robotics – Robots for the warehouse

5.) Locus Robotics Autonomous Warehouse Automation

Advanced Manufacturing Weekly News

Welcome to the first ever edition of Advanced Manufacturing Weekly news. Our goal is to aggregate the most interesting moves in advanced manufacturing and deliver to your inboxes. This is an experiment, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or ideas to improve this.

1.) MachineMetrics Raises $11.3 Million in Financing
https://advancedmanufacturing.org/machinemetrics-raises-11-3-million-in-financing/
MachineMetrics, which equips factories with the digital tools needed to increase productivity and win more business, raised $11.3 million in Series A financing, the company said this week.

2.)Hannover Fairs USA Announces New Event for IIoT, Industry 4.0
https://www.hydraulicspneumatics.com/community/hannover-fairs-usa-announces-new-event-iiot-industry-40
Details – This coming September, Deutsche Messe, through its U.S. affiliate, Hannover Fairs USA, will stage the biennial Digital Industry USA, an event for Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) covering everything from proof-of-concept for factories to completely networked operations. Digital Industry USA will be held at the Kentucky International Convention Center, Louisville, Ky., Sept. 11 and 12, 2019.

3.)Robotics manufacturing firm Bright Machines expands to Seattle
https://www.geekwire.com/2018/robotics-manufacturing-firm-bright-machines-expands-seattle-hires-senior-amazon-engineer/
Details – San Francisco-based Bright Machines is coming to Seattle. The maker of software and robotics systems for manufacturing plans to open an office in 2019 and has hired Nick Ciubotariu as SVP of software engineering. Ciubotariu formerly worked as a senior software engineering leader on Amazon’s Alexa and Amazon Cloud Drive.

Issue #3 – 12-26-18 – Softbank, Servo, Solderwerks

A slow week this week with Christmas and New Years.

1.) SoftBank Vision Fund Pours $500M Into Cambridge Mobile Telematics
Cambridge Mobile Telematics said Wednesday morning it has pulled in half a billion dollars in an investment from—you guessed it—the SoftBank Vision Fund. That’s Japan-based SoftBank Group’s reportedly $100 billion fund that has made waves in the venture capital world by cutting massive checks to companies across a variety of sectors.

2.) What’s new with servo presses?
Servo press technology was first introduced on a global production scale in 2001. Since then the production and cost-saving benefits of servo technology have certainly been realized in the market.

Today some press manufacturers are adding more “refinements” to their systems to enhance these benefits to improve the efficiency and performance of the press.

3.) SolderWorks Acquires Technology Consulting Firm SmartSource Management
Last week SolderWorks LLC announced that it has signed a definitive agreement for the acquisition of SmartSource Management. The technology consulting firm’s acquisition will fortify SolderWorks endeavours to add valued partnerships as well as services to an ecosystem that enables the swift realization of innovation.

Mechanical Engineering Startups

Are you a mechanical engineer looking for a change? Want more autonomy? Want to rule your own destiny? Great, you have come to the right spot.

Forward Capital Fund provides seed funding to engineers for contract manufacturing startups. Seed funding is the earliest stage of venture funding. We pay for your expenses, machinery and working capital while you’re getting started.

We think engineers are most productive when they can spend most of their time hacking on equipment, automation and products. Our goal is to create an environment where you can focus exclusively on building products, automation and talking to customers.

We make investments in return for stakes in the companies we fund. All venture investors supply some combination of money and help. In our case the money is by far the smaller component.  The most important thing we do is work with engineers on their ideas. We’re manufacturers ourselves, and we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to make things people want and exploring machines and markets. The next most important thing we do is help founders deal with investors, customers and acquirers. Lastly, we have built a network of manufacturing sales reps, engineers, accountants, lawyers, software partners, machinery, tools companies, investors, and mentors to help you every step of the way.

Forward Capital Fund knows how difficult it is to make the leap from a nice job to a startup, we’ve done it ourselves. We have done our best to create the type of place that we would have liked to jump to and control our own destiny. We hope you like it!

 

 

Manufacturing Venture Capital

When I started planning my first venture capital fund, I really had a difficult time explaining to LPs how I was going to create a venture capital fund which invests in contract manufacturing. I really didn’t know what to call my unique brand of investing.

Venture Capital or Private Equity

Venture capital funds normally invest in fast-growing startups. Private equity firms normally invest in established manufacturing firms. There are quite a few “hardware” incubators, accelerators, prototypers, etc. but nothing remotely close to startup contract manufacturing. If you had to do a poll of how contract manufacturers get started, I think 99% have a machine in their garage or poll barn to build clients on the side. Who invests in manufacturing startups and why?

Financial Arbitrage

Private equity firms typically pay a multiple of EBITDA. Let’s generally call it 5x. When you purchase a manufacturing machine, you are strictly paying for the machine. A good rule of thumb for manufacturers is that you would like to get your machine paid off in 2 years. Granted EBITDA and the amount you pay for your machine are not the same thing but if you can put down 20% on your machine, pay it off in 2 years (5x) and then sell the company for a multiple above that, returns can rival those of a venture capital firm.

Manufacturing Platform

With manufacturing comes jobs. Most economic development groups are interested to help manufacturing operations get going. The fund will develop a platform to help startup manufacturers get off the ground. We will have small manufacturing suites available for low rents or for free with investment. We will have bank relationships that know how to work with startup manufacturers. We will have tool shop space and machines available to startups for standard equipment (mills, lathes). We will work with software and machinery providers to provide discounted prices to startups. We will work with manufacturing reps to identify markets and opportunities.

Manufacturing Network

Several of the key players in the platform also help create the network. Banks, engineers, sales reps, economic development, investors (manufacturers) and most importantly the other manufacturing startups. By building a network of manufacturers with a common thread, we should be able to help each other grow through knowledge sharing, networking and job sub-contracting.

More to come… Do you have thoughts on this concept (good or bad) feel free to email me at research@forwardcapitalfund.com.

Manufacturing Accelerator Beliefs

Here are the Manufacturing Accelerator Beliefs (1st Draft 3-19-15):

  1. The manufacturing accelerator will be a network of contract manufacturers, manufacturing distributors and OEMs.
  2. In addition to accelerator companies, we will build a network of machine makers, service providers, bankers, industrial real estate and foreign sourcing experts to assist our investment companies.
  3. Manufacturing Accelerator companies will be able to operate with autonomy.
  4. We seek out first good people. People that can manage and grow companies. Key characteristics of our CEOs are trustworthiness, attentiveness to needs of the market and quality engineering.
  5. We invest in long-term growth. There are no quarterly goals to be met. CEOs have long term opportunities to see their vision become a reality.
  6. The Manufacturing Accelerator will itself be sparse. We will have a Chairman, CFO and Automation Engineer. We expect our CEOs to be high-level engineers and operators.
  7. Manufacturing Accelerator will almost never sell accelerator companies.