Engineering to Entrepreneurship – Making the jump

As an engineer it’s easy to find a nice entry level 9-5 job and settle down, but is that what you really want? Making the jump from a well paid mechanical engineer to an entrepreneur can be a difficult leap for most. There are obvious tradeoffs and I don’t want to be a venture capitalist who tries to convince mechanical entrepreneurs to take unreasonable risks that myself as an investor might not be willing to take.

The current state of manufacturing automation and IIoT is creating many new opportunities which didn’t exist a few years ago. You get to decide whether to help move your current employer forward or whether to do it yourself!

One way that we help this is through our “starting out” program. Many times mechanical engineers don’t want to take the full leap right out of the gate and we don’t expect them to. They would rather moonlight on their product for a while first. This can be difficult if you need specialized and/or costly equipment. This is how we help, by providing the investment needed to buy manufacturing equipment and proving the space to store your equipment and dabble on your product. Many venture capital firms generate returns by extracting value, we look to help entrepreneurs create value and create companies. Here is a list of entrepreneurs who moonlit their way to large empires – https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/06/these-billionaires-started-their-empires-while-working-day-jobs.html

Many younger engineers think maybe I am not old enough or don’t have the maturity yet to pull it off. We disagree, many younger entrepreneurs don’t yet have as many filters, which can be helpful when exploring new markets. Like MJ said…”I prefer to live in regret of failure than in regret of never trying!”.

I was reminded again in a recent article by Sam Altman (http://blog.samaltman.com/how-to-be-successful) one of the main reasons to consider starting your own company:

You get rich by owning things
The biggest economic misunderstanding of my childhood was that people got rich from high salaries. Though there are some exceptions—entertainers for example —almost no one in the history of the Forbes list has gotten there with a salary.
You get truly rich by owning things that increase rapidly in value.
This can be a piece of a business, real estate, natural resource, intellectual property, or other similar things. But somehow or other, you need to own equity in something, instead of just selling your time. Time only scales linearly.
The best way to make things that increase rapidly in value is by making things people want at scale.

Paying rents will eventually leave you without money and without assets. Collecting rents, charging people for products and saving money will help you achieve your goals. My goal is to find makers who want to run their own company and make their own products.

Forward Capital is at an intersection of two oxy morons. The first is Venture Capital Fund focused on manufacturing. The second is private equity focused on startups. We think that we have found a unique space and we are excited to see where it goes. We are crossroads of manufacturing. The off the shelf tools are becoming more impactful and less costly. We believe that there is a competitive advantage both in creating the tools and understanding how to use them.

We don’t like to plant flags in the ground in terms of which industrial revolution we are in. We do however believe strongly in the concept of mass-customization. Manufacturers are quickly adapting from a one size fits all model to an era of adaption, flexibility and automation.

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.