Hope you had a relaxing and safe holiday!
We made Mochi to celebrate Japanese New Year with our friends visiting from San Francisco. I wanted to share some of the things we’ve been up too; learning, investing and working with companies that are changing the world in a positive sum way!
We started Surf Club Ventures initially to invest early in YC companies across a broad category from consumer bio-tech, community financial empowerment, climate change and machine perception. Commensurate with how fast the world is throwing problems at us, its been an incredibly necessary year for entrepreneurship.
We found this year that our experiences as technical founders resonated well with a new generation of founders that have a healthy amount apocryphal ambition and are taking advantage of advances in the state of the art in design, software, robotics and machine perception.
We are starting to find our voice and where we can be most helpful in the start-up eco-system, here are some of the exciting companies we have partnered with as we continue to grow!
Autonomous Delivery Drones
Charles Acknin is an ex-Googler that I met as I was diving deeper into the intersection of machine perception and climate change. Charles and his team have made incredible progress in deploying profitable drones into the world securing many multi-million dollar contracts already. These autonomous hybrid-electric delivery drones can travel hundreds of miles and deliver goods without human operators.
Charles is the exact type of founder we love to back, someone who is incredibly technical and ambitious in addressing autonomous flight, but has found a way to advance the state of the art while getting these drones out into customer hands. Acquiring the flight time and real-world inputs are necessary to improving machine perception models.
One of the things I’m most excited about in this is space is the fact that machine perception is maturing from research to viability today, and what I suspect will be large scale profitability over the next 5-10 years. I spent much time at Google researching and working on the promise of “AI”, a promise that without first hand experience I would say the average crowd following VC has drastically mis-timed.
Robotically Enhanced Living Space
We have truly enjoyed getting to know Sankarshan’s team from seed to series A of ex-Tesla, Apple and Google alumni, they have a very rare discipline in first principle thinking, design and religious zeal in reducing BOM (Bill of Materials). Arguably the bill of materials in architecture is one of the absolute worst, most invisible and dangerous problems in the world as shelter and it’s operation contributes near 40% to global emissions.
Shelter is one of the last frontiers of integrated computation, computers have been part of the process but never something that fundamentally was a part of the product.
But it is about time that the flexibility, expression and scale that fully computerized shelter could accomplish would meet the extreme demand that we have for space now especially in America where everywhere there simply isn’t enough, and what is there can’t meet even the basic needs of biological safety that have changed in the pandemic.
There was a lot of fast follow non-first principle thinking that went into the ‘ambient’ computing wave at big tech of which I was horrifically exposed too making me worry if I too will age into being an intellectual coward.
All of it essentially hitting a wall* of failure unable to reproduce the same level insight that the Xerox Parc team created with the first personal computer. Success in the previous personal computing revolution seem to have become heavy weights into pushing into the next, one would think that enormous resources would make you more bold, but it seems to have had an opposite effect instead.
Robotically Augmented EV Battery Recycling
This was an exciting company to work with because we were involved the earliest out of any investor, eventually leading the company to a successful seed round with 50years as their lead investor.
Wiebe and Andy are ex-Tesla Machine Vision researchers that are building an robotically automated electric vehicle battery recycler. Supplying enough lithium ion to the world is a real and present problem, we just don’t have enough of it, and it is very problematic environmentally to mine and distill.
The largest mine of lithium ion or any advance in electric car propulsion is the vehicles we already have, and Wiebe and Andy have made incredible progress working with recyclers to be the go to software, hardware platform that automates one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Something I am intimately aware of converting a VW bus to electric.
There’s a real opportunity to create a technology-stack and brand of high quality recycled batteries here in the US and in Europe and I can’t think of a better team to tackle it.
It’s also in line with how I see smaller companies taking advantage of new levels of reliability in machine perception to augment our industrial processes and daily lives. What a time to be alive narrowly avoiding coronavirus!
This update covers many of the things that I have been working in my thesis of machine perception and climate change, but there are many other great companies I have not been able to get too such as Pry Financial, Enso Visual Programming, Kiwibiosciences that I would like to dive into at a later date or in short video form.
Thanks for checking in, we’re really excited about the year to come, and we’ve really enjoyed hosting you guys when you come out to Hawaii. We have many projects underway this year and we’re looking forward to connecting with you and new exciting companies!