Tag Archives: hardware

New Investment: Optimus Ride

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As active investors in ‘frontier tech‘ (as described by my colleague Matt Turck), I couldn’t be more excited to announce today our investment in Optimus Ride.  We co-led a $5.25M seed round of financing with our friends at NextView Ventures, with participation by a strong syndicate of investors.

Aside from a really cool name, the team at Optimus Ride is developing Level 4 autonomous vehicle technology, meaning fully autonomous systems without any need for human interaction. While the company is not ready to discuss its plans, suffice to say it involves the intersection of leading edge hardware, computer vision, sensor fusion, mapping, and machine learning.  If the company is successful, we believe they will have a material impact on one of the most important advances coming in the next decade.  The benefits of autonomous technologies — from enhanced road safety to carbon footprint reduction to traffic optimization — are almost too numerous to name.

We were particularly compelled by Optimus Ride’s team and rich experience in such an emergent space.  With deep roots from MIT, each of the co-founders have worked on successful autonomous vehicle and transportation projects in their past. The co-founders include 3 MIT PhDs / professors – Ryan Chin, Albert Huang, and Sertac Karaman – who have worked on a number of self-driving projects over the past decade, including the MIT CityCar and DARPA’s Urban Challenge. Co-founders Jenny Larios Berlin and Ramiro Almeida bring unique experience in car fleet and transportation optimization. Beyond the founding team, the company is assembling an incredible team of engineers with experience in computer vision, robotics, and electrical / mechanical / software engineering.

We’re impressed by Optimus Ride’s accomplishments to date and are excited to see what they have in store for the autonomous vehicle market in the coming months. We’re psyched to join the team on this journey – onward to a better, more efficient transportation system!

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ROLI & The Future of Music Making

At FirstMark, we love to back companies that are pursuing differentiated ideas and building entirely new markets. ROLI is a perfect example. The Seaboard is one of the most unique music instruments ever created, and certainly the most ambitious.  It represents the intersection of deep material science, advanced hardware capabilities, high performance firmware and development framework,  an expressive sound engine, and a user facing application to boot — all of which had to satisfy the simple needs of Grammy winning musicians.  Not quite the “MVP” model of startup design.

You can read much more about the products online but please don’t mistake the ROLI for “just another keyboard.” In the place of keys on a traditional keyboard is a soft, pliable, sensor-embedded surface that enables players to shape notes like a stringed instrument. The sounds achievable with the ROLI are like no other.  We have a ROLI Seaboard RISE stationed in the FirstMark office and it’s been incredible to see and hear the reactions it receives from friends who visit FirstMark. It’s truly a product that wows people.  And yet, it is the broader vision to transform all elements of the music creation process in a seamless, elegant way that inspired us to see a different and much larger opportunity.

It’s been nearly two years since FirstMark initially invested in ROLI and I’m very proud of what Founder & CEO Roland Lamb and his amazing team have accomplished. ROLI keyboards and software are used by artists such as A.R. Rahman, Hans Zimmer, and Jamie xx; and in major studios such as Abbey Road Studios, Atlantic, and Interscope. What’s equally exciting is seeing ROLI keyboards used in music education at schools like Central Bucks High School West in Doylestown, Pa.

The keyboards are incredible, but ROLI’s software efforts have been as groundbreaking as its hardware. The free NOISE app transforms the surface of your iPhone into a powerful multidimensional instrument. JUCE is the leading engine for the creation of audio applications on all platforms. And Blend is a unique social network that helps music producers share music projects in source format for remixing, collaborating, and gathering feedback from others in the global community. Ultimately, ROLI’s vision is to build smarter ways to connect people and technology. I believe they are well on their way.

FirstMark has been a proud backer of ROLI and we were happy to re-up with Roland for their new $27MM Series B round of funding led by our friends at the Foundry Group. I couldn’t be more excited for the music that will be made with ROLI for years to come.

 

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Introducing Starry!

I am excited to write about the launch of Starry today!  We’ve had the privilege of working with Starry’s founder, Chet Kanojia, now three times.  His first venture, Navic Networks, put rich, interactive software in tens of millions of cable boxes across America (and had a great exit to Microsoft). His second venture, Aereo, transformed the broadcast TV industry and accelerated OTT video by several years. Aereo’s technology was so disruptive it eventually wound up before the Supreme Court, a journey which I wrote about here.

Today, Starry comes out of stealth, with a mission to redefine how we access the internet. To call this vision “ambitious” is an understatement, and represents exactly the kind of challenge we love to get behind.  The first product is the Starry Station, which is a revolutionary WiFi router with the world’s first ambient touch screen interface.
Starry Station allows you to measure the health of your Internet service, see devices attached to your network, easily create access rules (like managing Screen Time for children), and connect to customer support all through a simple touch screen interface. Anyone that uses Internet based services will love the new platform (not just product) that Starry Station is building.

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The company also announced Starry Internet, a radical new ISP for broadband access using state of the art wireless technologies.  Rather than overbuilding and digging up ground that costs $2500 per home passed, Starry Internet will be able to serve that same home with equivalent (or better) speeds at 1/100th of the cost!  While each product (the router and the ISP) can be used independently, together one can imagine what a seamless end-to-end modern Internet experience will look like.

We’re very excited to partner with Starry and can’t wait to see how they will revolutionize the way consumers connect to the internet.

To learn more about Starry’s products and service, visit https://starry.com/.
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New Investment: ROLI

I am excited to announce our investment in ROLI, the inventor of the Seaboard.

The Seaboard is a beautiful redesign of one of the world’s most iconic instruments – the piano – for the modern digital world we live in.  It is the first in a line of digitally programmable, highly interactive, connected music products for ROLI that combine novel design aesthetics, proprietary touch interfaces, and powerful social elements.

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The degree of difficulty on executing a product like this is extraordinarily high.  It requires expertise in material design, fabrication, manufacturing, hardware, and software.  It has to satisfy the demands of the world’s leading artists, while incorporating social elements that appeal to the masses.  Getting to a shipping product was no small feat, and we believe ROLI is at the forefront of a transformation in the music creation, collaboration and consumption process.

We are delighted to partner with Roland Lamb, the founder/CEO of  ROLI, and welcome him to the FirstMark family!

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