Q&A with Kleiner Perkin’s new Industrial IoT entrepreneur

  • Posted by admin on September 12, 2017

Nate Williams had been immersed in IoT for some time. He’s been the CMO and head of business at Greenwave Systems (an early IoT platform company), a senior director of marketing and business development at Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility (following its acquisition of 4Home where he was CMO & head of business). He helped August build its Access program that lets other companies use August’s locks to deliver services inside your home.

Now he is an entrepreneur-in-residence at Kleiner Perkins, and since the industrial internet is the new hotness in both VC and M&A, I asked him a few questions about it role. His answers have been edited.

What is your new role?

I’m an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Kleiner Perkins focused on the intersection of IoT and SaaS. I’ll be researching where the IoT industry is heading, connecting with leaders across industry and possible collaborators, and also spending time evaluating investment opportunities in our HardTech practice. My goal is to start or find a company in IoT that Kleiner and I can partner on this fall.

You’ve said you will focus on industrial IoT. Why? Short answer – because it is very big and it is very hard. The sheer scale of the Industrial opportunity and the disruption feels to me like I could make an impact. It is important for me to feel like I’m doing right by the industry and pushing hard on opportunities that are high risk; often times before they become no-brainers.

Why Kleiner? Instead of working stealth somewhere in SF, I wanted to affiliate with a venture firm that deeply understood Internet of Things and had the networks and resources to make an impact. I developed a pretty detailed plan for the market analysis and product exploration I wanted to accomplish this fall. Kleiner has a long history with connected devices and industrial Internet including Nest, iControl, Relayr, OSIsoft, DJI, and Dropcam.

It feels like the industrial IoT has been waiting to happen for a while. There are dozens of startups all trying to tackle part of this problem. Why is this taking so long to emerge? Progress, unfortunately, never happens linearly so I think we sometimes underindex the positives and overindex the problems. Take the energy industry for example. Although the distributed grid and smart metering opportunity took time, the industry now has a baseline to do follow-on activities with analytics, autonomy, and security. And IoT Security is something that you’ve covered really extensively on the podcast. Probably the 2nd question a potential customer asks in Industrial IoT after “does it work” is “is it secure”? So instead of sputtering in the market, there may be a few breakthrough companies  and technologies that can finally uncork the demand. I’m on the hunt for those companies and those approaches.

There are dozens of huge companies from GE and IBM to SAP and Salesforce all touting their industrial IoT capabilities. Where are the opportunities for startups?

In the early days of software and computing, everything felt very vertically specific, and was later rolled up into giants like SAP and Oracle. Do you think we’ll see that same highly vertical development happen in Industrial IoT?  

Great questions Stacey. First, I think that the marketing for IIoT has been effective from the standpoint of creating pools of demand. Unfortunately there have also been cases where those products don’t fit the requirements of the potential customer or are just too cost prohibitive to be localized. I believe the opportunity is in “Verticalized IoT” where very focused startups attack the larger platforms by focusing on a discrete market/offering. I call these startups “seam startups” because they can attack a discrete segment and then grow through adjacencies. If we use SaaS as exemplar, there are large public companies like Veeva Systems and Guidewire that were formed to take advantage of a vertical opportunity (in their case healthcare and insurance respectively).

What are some startups that you are excited about that you have worked with or invested in during the last few years?

Lots of exciting startups attacking big problems but three where I’m involved that are very relevant are Cirrent, Matterport, and Roost. Cirrent is solving a major issue for connected devices; out of box experience in a simple and compelling way. For any Wi-Fi device to be successful it needs to get and stay connected and Cirrent has created a software-only network-as-a-service that can do that.

We’ve spoken about Roost in the home telematics space and I’m really excited for Roel and his team. They just announced a $ 10M Series B round and are partnering with many leading insurance companies. And Matterport is showcasing how disruptive computer vision can be when applied to commerce. They have a 3D Camera to scan 4K virtual tours of real estate, hotels, retail etc. and using that technology it can be applied to a variety of activities. We recently sold our home with a Matterport tour that allowed buyers to view it in 360 from across the country.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

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