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Looker is a data analytics and business intelligence startup.  Their software is used for exploring data and making decisions for everything from marketing, sales, operations, logistics, web, etc.  It is able to pull and digest data in real time from numerous sources including Salesforce, Slack, SQL, Hadoop, web APIs and produce a number of dashboard visualizations and analytics. 

Looker's business model is a standard SaaS subscription model.

The team is based in the San Francisco bay area.

Why I like Them

Companies currently are flooded with data in the "Big Data Age" but understanding that data and being able to use it to make better decisions is something many firm's struggle with.  Today, to make any sort of headway with their data, specialist data scientists with years of advanced education and expertise in tools like SQL, R, etc. are needed.  However, every job function in a company needs to be able to quickly analyze and make decisions off this data without going through the bottleneck of a limited number of data scientists.  Looker provides this ability to every person in the company without the bottleneck and without needing advanced training to use and analyze this data.  In our data driven age this is a critical ability and it's easy to see Looker becoming a standard tool utilized across every levels of a company just like Microsoft Office Suite.

Despite how crowded the Business Intelligence space is, Looker has a lot of tractionI at over 1,000 paying customers and more than 50,000 users.  These include some large names such as Square, IBM, WeWork, Nordstrom, and Amazon. 


Disclosure:  All information is from publicly available sources, I have not had any contact with a member of the company or its investors.





DeepScale AI is a computer vision startup focused on real time automotive perception systems that give cars self driving capabilities.  The team deploys onto cars pre-trained neural networks able to take information from any type of sensor system (including cameras, LiDar, etc.).  They are focused on "efficient" deep learning that is high powered but doesn't rely on expensive and specialized hardware.

DeepScale has a standard software licensing model that charges per sensor and per car to the manufacturer.  Their technology has already been licensed by a number of manufacturers and will be in customer cars in the next few years

The team is around 20 employees and is based in California. 

Why I like Them

What most people don't realize is that existing autonomous vehicles such as Waymo's are massively expensive.  The industry isn't cost-sensitive currently but it will have to become extremely cost conscience as it scales.  The current modus operandi for solving deep learning challenges is to throw more expensive hardware at it.  Automotive manufacturing is a low margin business and would never reach close to profitability with autonomous cars cost structure as they are being developed today.

 I like that DeepScale has thought ahead on this and is focused on creating computer vision systems that work on cars existing electronics (known as ECUs) rather than requiring additional specialized and expensive chips to be installed.  Under the current cost structures of automobile manufacturers, autonomous vehicles will not be able to be sold even close to current car prices, so the team's focus on the business side of the technology is particularly noteworthy.  By using systems already in the latest vehicles, they help automotive manufacturers save on cost by doing more with less.  Think of DeepScale as building efficient automotive AI.  

I also like the competitive nature of the product.  Their systems continue to gather data in the field and are able to be continuously updated with upgraded neural networks pushed to cars remotely that have already been sold.

Disclosure:  I have spoken to members of the team.




Edgybees is an augmented reality startup focused on enterprise augmented reality for fast moving camera systems.  This include cameras on drones, cars, military vehicles, and body cameras.  They've found great initial traction among public safety organizations including fire,  search and rescue, disaster response, police departments, etc. with their product showing great value during the California fires and the Hurricane Irma floods.  Other customers they are engaging with are in media, defense, gaming, and other fields where situational awareness is critical. 

Edgybees software platform is flexible, able to work with any full motion camera hardware with the ability for other developers to build upon it.  Features include mapping, markers, and other data layer overlays with new features being continously added.  The team monetizes by selling software licenses per vehicle pilot, people on the ground, and people in the command center. 

The team is based in Palo Alto, California and Israel and currently has around 20 employees.  

Why I like Them

I like them because to date I believe augmented reality has been overhyped without any real application that solve an actual problem.  Edgybees solves the real world problem of situational awareness for when speed and accuracy are critical and thus has a real business built on solving actual customer pain points.  

This is also an area where there is a ton of demand for a solution like this and few competitors.  With more and more cameras everywhere generating a torrent of data, technology like Edgybees is vital in bringing context and identifying what is critical in real time so decision makers can quickly make the correct decisions.  

I agree with the team that drone technology and augmented reality are still in very early days and I can easily see Edgybees becoming a very large enterprise augmented reality and sensor company.

Disclosure:  I have spoken to members of the team.



Emerging Trend: Voice Synthesis and the Next Generation of Fake News

Voice synthesis is the the next generation of audio editing.  It has been called “the Photoshop of voice" and is a rapidly emerging technology which allows software to convert text into speech synthesis of a voice that is completely indistinguishable from the real thing.  It allows anyone to edit recordings of what someone has said such that it sounds like the person actually has said the edit or even flat out create artificial sound-alike voice recordings of anyone in the world. 

Voice synthesis software works by taking in sound clips from the person you want to copy as inputs, with the software able to convert these to make any sound or combination of sounds (i.e. words and actual sentences).  Examples of these new types of software include Adobe Voco, WaveNet, and the recently launched Descript.  

My concern is around the ethical issues and the next level of fakes news this type of technology will give rise to.  It is extremely scary to think about the power of anyone having the ability to make it sound like world and corporate leaders have said anything you want.  It also extends to being able to create songs and albums sounding like they were sung by your favorite celebrity without their consent.  Even worse, it is nearly indistinguishable from real voice recordings with no way to verify if the audio is real or fake. 

There many legitimate use cases for this type of software, especially for members of the media and the record industry, but I do have a lot of concern that voice synthesis technology will enable a more insidious and dangerous form of fake news and manipulation.   Being able to make anyone say anything with no way to prove it is a scary prospect with a number of potentially malicious use cases.

You can see this technology in action on Barack Obama below as well as a demonstration of Descript's software.

Crypton Future Media



Crypton Future Media is a startup that does sound and music related software including sound synthesizers and music library manipulation.  The company licences its software to large and small companies across a number of industries including everyone from small music stores to Nintendo, Apple, government organizations, traditional media companies, etc.  In addition the company has an eCommerce business for mobile devices including ringtones.

Most noteworthy of their products is Hatsune Miku a software singing voice synthesizer that has morphed into a community constructed digital persona and cyber celebrity throwing sold out live concerts everywhere from Los Angeles to Tokyo.  To really grasp the concept see this amazing video of a packed concert as a piece of voice software attracts cheering legions of fans.  Hatsune Miku has over 100,000 unique songs, millions of social media fans, and hundreds of thousands of music videos all created by a global creative fanbase.  With the smashing success of turning a piece of software into a celebrity persona,  Crypton has created more cyber celebrities around their other voicebank products and software with similar results and fanbases being created.  Amazingly this allows Crypton to monetize not just by selling their software, but also through concert ticket sales and character licensing of their products.

The team is based in Sapporo, Japan.

Why I like Them

I like Crypton because they have a fascinating, almost science fiction like business by giving charaterization to software that has inadvertently become the first ever cyber celebrity.  The company has even gone as far as assigning a gender (female), an age (a perpetual 16), height, weight and blood type to make "her" more relatable to fans.  The idea of making a software product into a humanoid figure (a celebrity no less) with human traits boggles my mind every time I think about it.  The fact that it worked beyond their wildest expectations further blows my mind.  This humanization of a product (an intangible product like software no less) is brilliant and could very well be the next generation of marketing.  You aren't buying a product, you are buying a piece of and interaction with a celebrity.

The iPhone is the most successful consumer product in history and even it is not given a persona or celebrityhood status by its fans.  Crypton has broken innovative new ground on what could very much be a new type of product and marketing strategy - digital celebrities wholly owned by corporations but with their content created by a global fan community.  I can't wait to see what happens when this concept meets more traditional AI technologies!

Disclosure:  All information is from publicly available sources, I have not had any contact with a member of the company or its investors.

Hatsune Miku, Crypto Future Media's most successful product and the world's first digital celebrity.

Hatsune Miku, Crypto Future Media's most successful product and the world's first digital celebrity.