IoT Venture Studios Sets Out to Get Start-Ups Off the Ground


There is so much going on in the world of connected things it can be hard to discover and track the thousands of entrepreneurial companies entering the space, even as larger enterprises, including communications service providers, are now moving on building scalable networks and looking for applications to run on those networks.

Over the last few years, primarily in Europe and the UK, incubators and accelerators that focus on the IoT and Industrial IoT have been established, including Barclays Eagle Labs, UK; Breed Reply, London, UK; CRL, Hayes, UK; RGA IoT Venture Studio, London, UK; Startupbootcamp IoT, London, UK; Forge, Newcastle, UK; IoTa Wales, UK and IoT Tribe North, Barnsley, UK.

Each have rolled out the development of loosely coupled portfolios of small start-ups with different models, from providing mentors and shared office space, to producing demo days for a select group of “cohort” companies.

A year ago this month in London, R/GA hosted its second demo day, with a diverse mix of companies featured. Those companies were provided with support from R/GA’s leadership, business units, and industry network as well as R/GA’s strategic marketing, branding, design, and technology services. The program was run in collaboration with Innovate UK, the UK Government’s innovation agency, and was also sponsored by Latch, a pioneer in Enterprise IoT, and itself a participant in an R/GA Ventures program in 2015.

The Graduating Class from R/GA’s second UK-based venture program included:

  • Beringar which creates clever sensors powered by machine learning that make buildings talk.
  • Carter’s software which optimises in-store experiences by enabling customers to shop directly from their smartphone.
  • CupClub whose missions is replacing the £750M disposable cups market with reusable cups-as-a-service.
  • Flow City which makes out-of-home advertising as easy to plan and buy as online advertising, enabling more independent brands to access a broader media mix.
  • Homebox, which gives consumers a single impartial, trusted and transparent view of their home services.
  • Mimica which is creating accessible, affordable freshness indicators for all types of perishable products, from food to pharmaceutical.
  • Sceenic which provides a white label SaaS solution that allows media companies to bring a ‘watch together’ experience to their viewers.
  • Sensing Feeling which creates advanced human emotion sensing products, providing businesses with real-time measurement of the emotional response of people in physical environments.
  • Wearable X developers of woven-in sensors and haptics for yoga clothing which allows individuals to feel the guidance of an instructor from a remote location.

Some have been skeptical about the success of incubators and accelerators, including those who strongly advocate a more structured venture studio approach, with not just minimal investments (“up to £75K in funding” for example from R/GA) but correctly sized, scaled and strategic investments that come with experienced and proven experts to reduce risk and accelerate go-to-market.

"I have nothing but respect for the work that has been done in a myriad of incubators and accelerators.  The whole notion of accelerators was recognition that leaning in more heavily to aid startups should produce a higher probability of success and higher valuations. If you are an early stage tech investor, it's hard not to see the value there," said Don DeLoach, Co-Founder and CEO of Rocket Wagon Venture Studios, "But it also explains the growing momentum of venture studios, which extends the accelerator model considerably further. It also inextricably ties the success of the studio to the success of the entrepreneurs. We are beginning to see the more prominent accelerators like TechStars initiate their own venture studios, which speaks volumes. Our approach was to take the baseline team of entrepreneurs and build on that by adding focus and expertise on startups aimed at the cyber-physical world, and further add to that by making the studios vertically aligned, complete with the requisite domain expertise."

Rocket Wagon Venture Studios is a venture studio company focused on IoT Innovation with “a mission to launch great companies from Idea to Exit, implemented as a series of vertically focused IoT studios guided by a forward-looking enterprise IoT architectural framework.” DeLoach, a veteran in IoT, big data analytics, software and networking, and CEO of several companies over the past 20 years, believes technology ecosystems work when healthy, fully-funded start-ups are right-sized for success and “plugged in” to the cyber-physical ecosystems from the beginning.

The company is the sister company of Rocket Wagon Labs, an innovation and development company also headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. DeLoach is bringing together founders with ideas for disruptive IoT products and services together with corporations seeking greater access to innovation and equity participation opportunities, in addition to financial investors wishing to be part of fast-growing cyber-physical world.

 “The receptivity to this has been beyond anything I expected,” said DeLoach. “The people who heard about us and have been reaching out to get involved are incredibly smart, driven people who clearly want to make money, but make a difference in our world as well. It’s humbling. The timing seems right, and the passion is palpable.”

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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