Alon Weinberg is a Director at Dell Technologies Capital and was also formerly a Principal at Viola Ventures. This post was written during his tenure at Viola.
Over the course of meeting many interesting startups in the area of IoT, I’ve had many opportunities to hear different perspectives about the future of this field and the challenges of developing IoT smart products, so when I first met Seebo, I could immediately relate to the value that they bring to IoT development. Taking a major part in our recent investment in Seebo was exciting for me not only because of the great visionary team (led by Lior Akavia and Liran Akavia) but also because of their product, which I believe can change the way we think about smart IoT product development.
IoT clumps so many industry verticals together, it’s no wonder that it means different things to different people. The Blind Men and the Elephant (by John Godfrey Saxe 1816-1887), is a story of a group of blind men who touch an elephant to learn what it is. Each one feels a different part, and only that part, and therefore each man has a completely different idea of what an elephant is. I often think of this story when I think about IoT.
In general, IoT can be divided into a few verticals:
Consumer verticals (such as smart homes, connected cars, wearables, consumer devices, etc.)
Enterprise verticals (such as heavy industries, utilities, agritech, healthcare, retail, etc.)
Horizontal technologies (semiconductors and sensors, networking and communication, big data platforms, etc.).
It is therefore, in my opinion, not really an area of investment but a new driver, much like the way that the internet and mobile are driving innovation in various industries and in our everyday life. In addition, IoT brings a mix of evolutionary and revolutionary concepts and therefore represents solutions that are at different levels of maturity.
Technological advances in recent years have resulted in very cost effective hardware, ubiquitous connectivity, and powerful cloud computing platforms. In addition, the hype around IoT has led to greater awareness of the possibilities for driving value and reducing costs by connecting systems to the internet and leveraging data. For many companies the race to capture a market share (or just to face potential competition) has begun, and we therefore expect to see a lot of resources allocated to smart IoT product development in coming years.
Why we’re excited about our investment in Seebo
When it comes to consumer devices, there are thousands of brands and startups that are looking to innovate with IoT. Some of these products include, for example, a smart baby bottle (that monitors how much and how fast a baby is drinking and at what temperature); smart luggage (that provides indications about the weight and the location of the luggage), etc. It is difficult to evaluate which one of these smart products will be a “hit” in the market and who the winning players will be, but what is almost certain is that thousands of IoT products will be developed in the near future.
Seebo provides a software platform that helps companies build smart IoT products cost effectively and fast.
Developing a smart IoT product is fairly complex both during the development phase as well as post launch (it’s an ongoing process), and companies need to build strong multidisciplinary teams to manage all of it. This results not only in high development costs but also in a long time to market, which can be very painful in this dynamic ecosystem.
In order to develop a smart IoT product, you first need to:
Define the hardware elements that are required, like inputs (such as readers, sensors and buttons), outputs (such as displays, speakers and mechanical motors), and infrastructure components (such as processors and memories).
Design a prototype, test it, create a demo app and make adjustment according to the stakeholders’ feedback
Build the hardware design for mass production
Select and negotiate the components with various hardware vendors, balancing cost, performance and other business considerations
Make sure that you have the team that can develop and or test the firmware and meet the security requirements, and finally…
You need to develop the application itself.
The beauty of using Seebo to develop your smart IoT product is that you don’t need to have a dedicated R&D team. Using the Seebo Studio you can discover and select components from a rich and large library, understand what would be the actual cost in mass production and optimize the build of material accordingly. The Seebo platform then performs ‘hardware compilation’ and instantly provides you with the virtual hardware design, as well as a physical prototype within a few business days. It then generates the firmware and client side SDK so that you can have the right infrastructure for development, simulation and testing.
In addition, the Seebo platform provides server side APIs and the related cloud infrastructure so you can instantly have an end-to-end development environment as well as a post-launch maintenance and analytics infrastructure.
With Seebo the business can focus on the application, dramatically reducing costs and time to market.
How Seebo is revolutionizing Product Development
Firstly, these days, hardware components are selected based on the specs provided by the hardware vendors. This makes life difficult for the product management team not only because their capacity to communicate with multiple vendors simultaneously and select the rights components is limited, but also because it impossible to understand the gap between the spec and reality until the product is tested in production. Seebo aggregates real time data of the actual performance for the various components and is therefore creating the first library of hardware components that is based on real performance metrics.
Secondly, with Seebo, the development of a smart IoT product will resemble software development. Once a product is launched, there is an opportunity to monitor the actual usage and execute an iterative and incremental development methodology for bug fixes, enhancements and new features.
Last (but not least!), analytics will be able to provide information about how the product is used as well as insights that can be valuable for related services. From a business point of view, the promise of IoT is that a connected device will not only bring functional enhancements but also enable related data-driven services, e-commerce and even new marketplaces.
Seebo is taking a leading role in revolutionizing smart IoT product development. It has already delivered successful projects and the feedback from the customers is outstanding. The recent $8.5 million investment led by Viola Ventures will enable the company to cope with the already intensive pipeline of opportunities and further develop the platform. The great product market fit, the strong multidisciplinary team and the initial execution puts Seebo in a great position to become a significant platform player in the growing IoT ecosystem.