The above image was the first slide for our 2010 investor pitch deck for OATV’s second fund.
It was as close as we could come to an image that captured out investment thesis; namely, that the most impactful technologies begin with hobbyists and hackers scratching their own itches in their free time. And, that as some of those technologies take hold, there’s an evolution from the primordial soup of the AlphA Geeks to more obvious and substantial market opportunities that begin to attract entrepreneurs and main stream venture capitalists.
That’s the evolution we’ve witness in the early days of the internet. That’s the evolution we’ve witnessed with open source. That’s the evolution we’re currently watching with the Maker movement.
I thought of this graph as I flipped through Mary Meeker’s data rich (and KP postfolio company heavy) Internet Trends report last week. A series of slides in particular grabbed my attention stating with slide 48 where she describes an emergent third cycle of computing she describes as “wearables, driveables, flyables, scanables”.
In that 2010 investor presentation we outlined a number of trends we were tracking in the early days of their evolution. Among them we discussed Quantified Self (wearables), Smart Networks of Things (driveables, flyables and scanables were all talking points). At the time, we projected that each of those trends were about half way through the evolutionary graph. Seeing them in Mary’s presentation brought home the reality that these trends have evolved to the point of being perceived as sufficiently large markets that will now begin to attract mainstream entrepreneurs and VCs.
Coming to that realization last week has got me thinking- whither the Alpha Geeks today?
WIth that question in mind I decided to look back at the pitch deck for the fund we raised last year (note- I posted that pitch deck here). The trends we discussed last year included:
- Quantified Self Pro
- Maker Pro
- Hacking Education
- Hidden Economies
- Operations as a Competitive Advantage
- A Router in Every Pocket
- The Internet Operating System
Each of these continue to move up the evolutionary graph and we’re actively investing in these areas.
If I were going to make an addition to that list today I’d add a bullet for Synthetic Biology.
We’re seeing a huge surge of Alpha Geek activity in tools and commercial applications (read: non-medical) for building new and renewable structures from DNA, RNA and various proteins. We’re seeing DIY biolabs popping up in garages and comercial spaces on each coast. And, we’re seeing more and activity within our network moving from tinkering and prototyping to pitching and commercializing.
My sense is that we’re still in the primordial soup phase of the synth-bio evolution, but if the last two years are any indication it will likely accelerate much faster than we can anticipate.