Flashback: BootstrapLabs Applied AI Conference – Will AI Break or Save the Internet?

The BootstrapLabs Applied Artificial Intelligence Conference 2019 #AAI19 brought together the brightest and most experienced experts in the field of AI for an immersive day of learning, discussion, and connection.

On our BootstrapWorks we have released the videos from this past conference to relive the moments and spread the knowledge around the diverse topics covered by our experts on stage. 

BootstrapLabs has built a community of more than 40,000 people from over 60 countries who care about applying Artificial Intelligence to solve the hardest problems of our society.

Get access to practical wisdom on Applied AI methodologies and take advantage of AI’s powerful potential, sign up here to receive the videos directly into your inbox. 

Together, the lack of attribution models, an integrated identity, and the complexity of establishing global privacy and ethical standards within the core building blocks of the Internet pose a critical threat to the very fabric of our modern society. Moderator Daniel RiedelFounder and CEO of New Context, and panelists Erin Kenneally of the U.S. Department of Homeland SecurityHerb Kelsey of Quantum VaultJason Hoffman of MobileEdgeX, and Jonathan Ward of Atlas Organization discuss how AI has contributed to the exacerbation of state actors, terrorist organizations, and criminals’ political and ideologically motivated use of the internet for financial gain. The panelists also explore how AI presents an opportunity to alleviate that threat by strengthening our existing digital infrastructures and creating stronger platforms for the future stability, economic prosperity, and security of our society, companies, and citizens.

Moderator: Daniel Riedel, Founder & CEO, New Context

Panelists: Erin Kenneally, Portfolio Manager, Cyber Security Division, Science & Technology, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Herb Kelsey, Founder & CEO, Quantum Vault Inc.; Jonathan Ward, Founder & CEO, Atlas Organization; Jason Hoffman, President & CEO of MobiledgeX.

Some of the key takeaways from the session are:

  • Currently, we do not have a collective mental model for AI and risk. AI is forcing a conflation of rights as well as individual, company and state interests like privacy, free expression, security, critical infrastructures etc.
  • AI is a tool and a strategy focused on optimization and care. It is very difficult to optimize something and thus important to have a strategy around how to optimize something and to understand all implications of that process.
  • AI is used in scoring and recommender systems, news feeds and search results and for classification prediction (crime, health etc.) which bears certain risks.
  • In a time of continuous accelerated change, it is important to go back to fundamental truths: The ability to generate unique insights via proprietary access to data is always advantageous.
  • If the delta between our growing AI capabilities and our expectations (laws: privacy, data protection, human rights etc.) continues to grow, we have:
    • Inefficient avoidance of risk.
    • Increasing tensions between legitimate stakeholders.
    • Undermining of trust in our ordering forces (law, markets etc.).
  • AI will break the internet, if:
    • It is in the hands of an attacker, allowing higher efficiencies in creating synthetic identities to simulate transactions, because this eliminates trust.
    • Automated social network behavior to influence politics as well as automated trolling or racist comments become the norm.
    • We fail to align our expectations with our capabilities.
  • AI will save the internet, if:
    • We use it successfully to protect, care for and optimize membership in open and insecure networks like the internet.
  • The pressure of the rise of China and its relationship with Russia on the liberal democratic world order will change everything on a geopolitical scale. We are going through two historical changes: Industry 4.0 and the rise of major-nation states with heated competition between two major world powers for the first time since the cold war. China as a leading investor in AI has a national AI strategy that aims to be the undisputed world leader by 2030 which shows the nature of this arms race. The alignment of state and company goals in China will lead to continued global confrontation of multinational companies with emerging champions from an authoritarian system.

About Daniel Riedel:
Daniel Riedel, the CEO of New Context, is an innovator in data security for highly regulated industries. He is a trusted authority in data security for the industrial internet, speaking before the US Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, OASIS‘s Borderless Cyber and Johns Hopkins IACD, and has been published in the Washington Post, Federal Times, Wired and Dark Reading. Riedel has over 20 years of expertise building secure and scalable technologies, products and companies.

About Erin Kenneally:
Erin Kenneally is Program Manager in the Cyber Security Division of the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security, Science & Technology Directorate. Her portfolio comprises cybersecurity research infrastructure, privacy, security economics, and technology ethics. She manages the IMPACT, CYRIE, and Data Privacy programs. Erin is Founder and CEO of Elchemy, Inc., and served as Technology-Law Specialist at the International Computer Science Institute, Center for Internet Data Analysis and Center for Evidence-based Security Research at the University of California, San Diego. Erin is a licensed Attorney specializing in information technology law, including privacy technology, data protection, AI ethics and legal risk, trusted information sharing, and technology policy.

About Herb Kelsey:
Herb Kelsey’s time as Chief Architect for NSA/CSS LSI and at IBM as Federal CTO for cybersecurity heavily influenced his 25-year career. At NSA, he learned to engineer for global scale and secure systems against ruthless villains. IBM taught him product management and enterprise integration. He’s deployed these skills for corporations, our country, and our allies. Most notably, as the head of computation for U.S. National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC), the highest volume, most secure, yet heavily attacked analytic fusion center in the world. His passion is making the global, networked, world safe for transactions, private information, intellectual property and children.

About Jonathan Ward:
Dr. Jonathan Ward is the Founder of Atlas Organization, a DC and NY based consultancy focused on the rise of India and China, and US-China global competition. He is the author of China’s Vision of Victory, about Chinese global strategy and what America must do to respond. From travels in Tibet and across the South China Sea, to accessing restricted Communist Party archives, to consulting for the U.S. Department of Defense and Fortune 500 companies, Dr. Ward has brought the experience of a traveler and scholar, and the insight of a strategy consultant to one challenge: what does China want, how will it try to get it, and what should America do?

About Jason Hoffman:
Jason Hoffman is the President and CEO of MobiledgeX, a company focusing on edge computing and founded by Deutsche Telekom. Previously he was a CTO at Ericsson AB and was P&L responsible for their cloud and datacenter infrastructure business. While at Ericsson his group created the world’s first hyperscale, disaggregated system and led the market in the modernization of telecom infrastructure. Prior to Ericsson, he was a founder and the CTO at Joyent (now owned by Samsung), a pioneering high-performance cloud IaaS and software provider, where he ran product, engineering, operations, and commercial management for a decade.

Founder Stories – unitQ

Turning User Feedback Data into Product Success

In our hyperconnected world, no sector of the economy is untouched by software technology. Over the past two decades the very nature of all aspects of our daily lives has shifted as the digital and physical worlds converge into connected services.

It comes as no surprise that the financial impact of software quality issues (or “bugs”) has skyrocketed and is now estimated to cost the US economy over  $1 trillion each year (up from ~$60B/year in 2002; details here).

unitQ is an AI-enabled Quality Monitoring Platform that helps companies quickly find and  understand bugs and other quality issues in their software systems. unitQ’s proprietary AI technology aggregates, monitors, and analyzes user feedback from the Internet and other public channels (and over time internal data sources and systems) to identify quality issues in real-time. The company has already identified over a half million quality issues across a portfolio of multiple major software players and are on a path to this massive opportunity with their novel and proprietary platform.

unitQ has been a BootstrapLabs portfolio company since 2017. 

Christian Wiklund is co-founder and CEO at unitQ. Upon leaving VMware, Christian co-founded Skout, an Andreessen Horowitz-backed mobile network startup that earned $30 million in annual revenue, reaching profitability within six years. After leading Skout’s 2016 acquisition by MeetMe, Inc. — a market leader in social discovery — Christian co-founded unitQ. A native Swede, Christian is an avid surfer, a prolific tomato grower, and a proud father of three.

Niklas Lindstrom is co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at unitQ. As co-founder and CTO of Skout, Niklas led the company’s technology strategy, and product vision and design. Prior to Skout, he worked as a software engineer for embedded devices and hardware products. Outside of the office, Niklas can be found skiing the slopes of Tahoe or looking for his next travel adventure.

Flashback: BootstrapLabs Applied AI Conference – Life In The Fast Lane: What’s Different About Transportation AI?

The BootstrapLabs Applied Artificial Intelligence Conference 2019 #AAI19 brought together the brightest and most experienced experts in the field of AI for an immersive day of learning, discussion, and connection.

On our BootstrapWorks we have released the videos from this past conference to relive the moments and spread the knowledge around the diverse topics covered by our experts on stage. 

BootstrapLabs has built a community of more than 40,000 people from over 60 countries who care about applying Artificial Intelligence to solve the hardest problems of our society.

Get access to practical wisdom on Applied AI methodologies and take advantage of AI’s powerful potential, sign up here to receive the videos directly into your inbox. 

AI is a critical tool for using observed data to make and predict decisions. While most industries work with curated data, transportation is a different situation: self-driving cars rely on volumes of real-time information. AEye chief scientist Dr. Allan Steinhardt discusses the role of AI in abstracting and extracting the right information from a car’s environment, including how to deal with the influx of data in vehicle autonomy and ADAS. Additionally, he explores the role of transportation AI in smart highways and how smart cities with next-generation wireless (5G) will impact transportation AI trends.

Speaker: Dr. Allan Steinhardt, Chief Scientist, AEye

Some of the key takeaways from the session are:

  • If you look at the individual components of a system you learn nothing, it is important to understand the overlaying complex adaptive systems.
  • The mathematics of understanding complex adaptive systems is similar to mathematics of quantum theory.
  • If we think about AI for transportation in cities, we have to think like complex adaptive systems with all the different layers of meaning that intersect in very complex ways: Merging the different tribes of car makers, transportation engineers and Perception/AI engineers and their respective areas of focus is important to understand the different layers around transportation AI.
  • Signals from autonomous vehicle sensors are plotted in a point cloud, but the noise in the data can be used to identify road surface features, background light that is interfering with the laser etc.
  • MIT students were able to utilize RF exhaust noise from various wireless signals as a radar beacon to track humans through walls.
  • Massive amounts of RF bandwidth is being used for communication in transportation AI: One of six radars on a car might use 2 Gigahertz of bandwidth meaning that one car needs more bandwidth than dozens of cell-towers which is clearly not sustainable.
  • Complex adaptive systems do brokering between layers and today there are many start-ups that provide various technologies for brokering of communication networks.
  • Congestion represents a lot of wasted capital assets.
  • The current data mindset is the more data, the better. AEye’s mindset however is described as the latest time of value: Navigating space-time obstacles safely because it is essential to make a decision immediately since there will not be a better decision later in any traffic situation. Therefore it is essential to increase the quality of the data capture process which can be modeled to focus only on key objects like the human brain.

About Allan Steinhardt:
Dr. Allan Steinhardt is among the world’s most widely esteemed defense scientists. An IEEE fellow, he is a sought-after expert on radar, missile defense, GMTI and space surveillance. He was Chief Scientist for DARPA, co-author of a book on adaptive radar, and assistant professor in Electrical Engineering and Applied Mathematics at Cornell University, where he researched sensor arrays and optimal detection capabilities. Allan also served as chief scientist at Booz Allen at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and director of signal processing for the defense industry with BAE/Alphatech. He holds a bachelor’s in Mathematics, and graduate degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Founder Stories – Sibly

Someone to Talk to

The technology sector still is the engine of productivity and economic growth, and this pandemic is actually accelerating the digitization of many sectors.

Sibly – a mobile platform that provides companies the ability to give employees and their families on-demand support for a wide range of emotional and behavioral health challenges – is a great example of a start-up leader stepping up and making a difference in these challenging times. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, Sibly launched a US initiative that provides organizations, including employees and their family members, with complimentary three-month wellness coaching, which provides:

  • Someone to talk to, anytime, anywhere, anonymously, about anything. Sibly’s chat-based application has real people trained in empathic listening available to each user 24/7, within minutes, to address a range of concerns and challenges one may be facing.
  • Real-time navigation to the national COVID-19 resources, and individualized access to resources that meet a user’s specific needs.

“The effects of the current pandemic on communities have wider ramifications than just physical illness,” says Moe AlKadi, CEO and co-founder of Sibly. “Social distancing, while imperative at a time such as this, can have dire effects on our social, professional, and emotional lives. Our issues don’t occur in a vacuum, but are in fact complex and interconnected. What helps is simple: a friend in your pocket that understands the whole you and is able to give you the right help at the right time. We call that friend Sibly.”

Mohammed AlKadi has won many entrepreneurial Awards including 1st place at the Arabnet Startup Competition and the Henkel Innovation Challenge. He previously built Feelit, a social network that went viral in the Middle East with over 200K users. 

Paula Wilbourne is co-founder and CSO at Sibly. She has over 18 years experience building mental health treatment services and was the National Program Coordinator for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Paula earned a Post Doctoral Fellowship Health Science Researcher and Development from Stanford University, and a Masters and Ph.D. in Psychology, Statistics, Addiction, Program Evaluation at the University of New Mexico.

Omar AlEisa is co-founder & Head of Design at Sibly. He is passionate about mental health, wellness, and designing high-quality, user-centered digital products. As a seasoned founder and product designer, Omar built expertise in consumer products & user experience by designing and building scalable applications that have been used by hundreds of thousands of users. He received his Software Engineering degree with honors from King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals. When Omar is not working, he enjoys running, exploring new places, or doing both at the same time.

Flashback: BootstrapLabs Applied AI Conference – AI and Financial Automation

The BootstrapLabs Applied Artificial Intelligence Conference 2019 #AAI19 brought together the brightest and most experienced experts in the field of AI for an immersive day of learning, discussion, and connection.

On our BootstrapWorks portal we have released the videos from this past conference to relive the moments and spread the knowledge around the diverse topics covered by our experts on stage. 

BootstrapLabs has built a community of more than 40,000 people from over 60 countries who care about applying Artificial Intelligence to solve the hardest problems of our society.

Get access to practical wisdom on Applied AI methodologies and take advantage of AI’s powerful potential, sign up here to receive the videos directly into your inbox. 

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing are undergoing rapid changes, driven in large part by the ability to digitally automate tasks previously performed manually by humans. Machine Learning and AI are driving a shift across the entire industry with the technology already being adopted by firms and individuals at a rapid pace and low price point, enabling a shift from Cloud Accounting to Augmented Accounting. Cathrine AndersenCo-Founder of Roger.ai, discusses how in addition to making humans up to 20x faster in the bookkeeping and reconciliation process, machines can find patterns and put large data sets into perspective in a way no auditor would ever be able.

Speaker: Cathrine Andersen, Co-founder & CEO, Roger.ai

Some of the key takeaways from the session are:

  • Accountant and auditor jobs were predicted to be at high risk of being automated with the help of AI and since 2004, the number of FTEs in finance departments of large companies declined by 40%.
  • 90% of accountants and bookkeepers agree that the future is rapidly approaching, but only 10% think of themselves as innovative and 8% think the industry is “future ready”.
  • Areas of automation:
    • Day-to-day financial operations: Accounts receivable, Accounts Payable, Cash-flow management
    • Bookkeeping / Reconciliation
    • Compliance
    • Fraud detection / Prevention
    • Auditing
  • Product examples:
    • Roger.ai automates all the steps along the way by scanning documents and following determined flows within the platform. This gives the accountant the responsibility of supervision with integrated audit trails and fraud detection flags.
    • Pleo facilitates expense reporting.
    • Other companies include YayPay, Chata.ai and Mindbridge.
  • The accounting firms of the future will either include a few winners who create the next generation of AI/ML-driven accounting and auditing software OR existing companies will quickly adapt to automation tools in order to compete with major players and keep their clients.
  • In order to adapt to that change, re-skilling is essential to enable accountants and bookkeepers to focus on tasks like supervising the technology.

About Cathrine Andersen:
Cathrine Andersen is the co-founder and CEO of Roger.ai, an accounting automation product used by over 1,000 businesses and accounting firms worldwide. Starting with accounts payable and bill pay, Roger is moving the accounting industry from the cloud toward augmented accounting – one big step at the time. Originally from Denmark, Cathrine moved to the Bay Area in 2014 when her first company Assemblage was acquired by Cisco. She holds 2 US patents and was named Founder of the Year in her home country in 2018.

Founder Stories – Vidora

The future of work is digital, and the demand for the skills that enable this paradigm continue to accelerate. The biggest catalyst is the adoption of Automation and AI, that holds the promise to drive trillions of dollars in economic output in the next two decades.

At the same time, skills such as Data Science and Machine Learning that are required to implement these technologies are both scarce and highly sought after.

To enable enterprises to quickly deploy and benefit from AI, our portfolio company Vidora created a platform that enables fast deployment of Machine Learning, which processes pipelines without a deep bench of data scientists and engineers. In fact, many of their larger enterprises have scaled out their deployment of automation and Machine Learning without needing large engineering and data science teams by democratizing and accelerating the adaptation, deployment and constant improvement of AI models.

Their customers include some of the largest global companies, such as Walmart, News Corp, and Realtor.com, that leverage Vidora’s proprietary technology, Cortex, which intelligently learns from continuous streams of data to drive higher ROI across the enterprise. Cortex automates the most complex aspects of machine learning workflows and enables enterprises to quickly deploy and continuously optimize event-based predictions without the need for technical expertise.

Alex Holub, Co-Founder and CEO at Vidora, studied artificial intelligence throughout his academic career at Cornell University and during his Ph.D. at Caltech. He has published over 15 academic papers and holds numerous patents in the areas of machine learning, computer vision, and artificial intelligence. Prior to co-founding Vidora, Alex was a technical and product management lead at Ooyala. You can learn more about him by viewing his Bloomberg TV interview.

Abhik Majumdar, Co-Founder and CTO at Vidora, is responsible for the roadmap and build out of Vidora’s technology platform. He graduated from IIT and UC Berkeley with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Information Theory. Abhik’s work has been published and featured in over 20 journal and conference articles. Before Vidora, he was a staff engineer and technical lead at Ooyala and an instrumental part of developing the first generation Flip Video camera.

Philip West, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Vidora, graduated with a bachelors in Computer Science from Stanford where he was part of the NCAA Champion Track team. At Stanford, he learned about product, human computer interaction, and design, which helped him start his entrepreneurial journey. After graduation, Philip joined Affinity Circles as a technical co-founder. Later, he joined Ooyala, as one of the first engineers where he helped build and grow the initial video platform and team before its acquisition.

Flashback: BootstrapLabs Applied AI Conference – AI Impact on the Global South

The BootstrapLabs Applied Artificial Intelligence Conference 2019 #AAI19 brought together the brightest and most experienced experts in the field of AI for an immersive day of learning, discussion, and connection.

On our BootstrapWorks portal we have released the videos from this past conference to relive the moments and spread the knowledge around the diverse topics covered by our experts on stage.

BootstrapLabs has built a community of more than 40,000 people from over 60 countries who care about applying Artificial Intelligence to solve the hardest problems of our society.

Get access to practical wisdom on Applied AI methodologies and take advantage of AI’s powerful potential, sign up here to receive the videos directly into your inbox. 

The Global South is home to some of the fastest growing economies on the planet despite being crippled by a general lack of traditional infrastructure, trade frictions, political and currency risks, and corruption. And yet, the benefits far outweigh the risks of bringing the next billion people into the Global Economy. In fact, massive investments are already being made in infrastructure, healthcare, IT, and transportation by governments, NGOs, and foundations alike. In this mini keynote and fireside chat, Chris Hale of Kountable and Jonas Svensson of UNOPS discuss how AI can empower entrepreneurs in the region by accelerating their growth, job creation, and taxable income recognition.

Presenter: Christopher Hale, Founder & CEO, Kountable

Panelist: Jonas Svensson, Head of Global Innovation and Technology, UNOPS

Some of the key takeaways from the session are:

  • The global south is a relatively new term that describes countries which are not high-income countries. They represent 5B+ people or 60% of the world population.
  • Africa’s population will double by 2050 and by 2100, 80% of the world’s population will live in Africa and Asia.
  • Entrepreneurs are engines of change in these emerging markets, but it is difficult to identify and analyze them and their behaviors.
  • Kountable built a tech platform that organizes entrepreneur behaviors as they access global markets with the help of NLP, currency forecasting, behavioral scoring & feedback loops to learn what a good trader looks like and to optimize and train against that behavior.
  • The UNOPS reach is $2B to invest globally, but to innovate inside such a large structure becomes difficult. Therefore, they invest in  innovation procurement from the private sector who are able to generate profits. The EU innovation procurement policy (2018) focuses on outcome and lifetime cost instead of upfront cost and usage which facilitates innovation.
  • Today, there is a funding gap of $15T to reach the sustainable development goals for 2030, which represents tremendous business opportunities for the private sector. This allows co-development with the UN, where private companies are enabled to keep the IP for usage in other sectors.
  • We need to make technology available and understandable by facilitating education to bridge the social gaps around the world: The motivational driver is not shareholder profit, but global change by bringing critical infrastructure to the fastest-growing markets in the world. For example, AI is used to analyze infrastructure, food waste and to predict extreme weather patterns to facilitate support.

About Christopher Hale:
Chris Hale is founder and CEO of Kountable, Inc., an SF-based start-up that combines data science, social capital and proven financial instruments to provide highly scalable financing solutions to underserved entrepreneurs in developing countries. Kountable creates a low-friction, cloud-based bridge between investors and a massive opportunity to finance the most promising and well-networked entrepreneurs in emerging economies. Chris also doubled headcount and grew assets under management almost six-fold as the COO of Perigon Wealth Management, one of 2014’s 50 fastest growing RIAs in the country, serving approximately 100 families and managing almost $1 billion in assets.

About Jonas Svensson:
Jonas Svensson is the Head of Global Innovation and Technology at UNOPS. The UNOPS Global Innovation and Technology program operates under the Social Impact Investing Initiative with the mission to facilitate innovation wherever it happens. Connecting with Global stakeholders who share the UN foundation values regarding sustainability and the understanding that Innovation happens everywhere UNOPS together with partners have created a toolkit providing Education, Incubation, Investment and Policy support.

Prior to the role with UNOPS Mr Svensson has worked within the startup industry for the past 20 years as founder, incubator manager, business consultant, investor, last as President for a Venture capital company headed out of Tokyo Japan. Mr Svensson holds a Master in Global Management from the University of Salford and is currently pursuing his PhD.

Congratulations to Cathrine Andersen and Christian Rasmussen – Roger.ai acquired by FLEETCOR, a leading global business payments company

BootstrapLabs is pleased to share that FLEETCOR Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: FLT) acquired our portfolio company Roger.ai on January 28, 2021.

The worldwide acceleration of digital transformation is creating an explosion of new data that creates exciting new opportunities for automation and artificial intelligence applications. Roger.ai provides businesses with an efficient way to manage bill payment and cash-flow. Roger.ai enables businesses to manage their accounts payable and vendors efficiently, by applying Artificial Intelligence to route approval of bills to the right person, detect fraud, and inject the resulting data directly into accounting or ERP systems. This saves small to medium sized businesses time and money.

Roger.ai’s two founders, Cathrine Andersen and Christian Rasmussen are serial entrepreneurs who sold their prior company, Assemblage, to Cisco in 2014. BootstrapLabs was the first institutional investor in Roger.ai in 2016 after the company was founded. BootstrapLabs has worked closely with the founders to support them in building Roger.ai to become a leading emerging company in the financial industry. With the acquisition by FLEETCOR, Roger.ai will be able to continue to build and expand their vision.

“Teaming up with FLEETCOR just makes sense. Roger is an emerging technology for SMBs, pushing the boundaries of every day processes like business bill pay and bookkeeping. Joining forces with a global payments leader like FLEETCOR gives us the power to grow and scale faster than alone”.

-Cathrine Andersen, Co-Founder and CEO

The acquisition will extend FLEETCOR’s portfolio of accounts payable automation solutions to small businesses, helping them automate their manual payment processes. The acquisition provides FLEETCOR with a proven, modern automation platform for B2B online bill payment.

“I am excited about FLEETCOR’s acquisition of Roger.ai. I still remember when Cathrine A. pinged me and told me that she and Christian Rasmussen were working on their next thing – I loved the vision right away, and that vision grew over time to build an amazing product that help businesses manage the pain of bills, payments, and the accounting mess that often follows. Now the Roger team and vision will grow to the next level, backed by one of the largest payment infrastructure companies in the world”.

Nicolai Wadstrom, Founder, CEO & General Partner of BootstrapLabs

Below you can read the full press release:

ATLANTA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jan. 28, 2021– FLEETCOR Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: FLT), a leading global business payments company, today announced it has acquired Roger, a global accounts payable (AP) cloud software platform for small businesses. The acquisition will extend FLEETCOR’s portfolio of accounts payable automation solutions to small businesses, helping them automate their manual payment processes. Read More.

AI Policy, artificial intelligence

Flashback: BootstrapLabs Applied AI Conference – How AI will place Humans at the Heart of Healthcare

The BootstrapLabs Applied Artificial Intelligence Conference 2019 #AAI19 brought together the brightest and most experienced experts in the field of AI for an immersive day of learning, discussion, and connection.

On our BootstrapWorks portal we have released the videos from this past conference to relive the moments and spread the knowledge around the diverse topics covered by our experts on stage. 

BootstrapLabs has built a community of more than 40,000 people from over 60 countries who care about applying Artificial Intelligence to solve the hardest problems of our society.

Get access to practical wisdom on Applied AI methodologies and take advantage of AI’s powerful potential, sign up here to receive the videos directly into your inbox. 

The application of AI in healthcare is an exciting and complex area. AI promises to streamline trial-patient enrollments and support compliance, monitor patients remotely, discover biomarkers, and deliver better, faster, and cheaper diagnoses.

Moderator Margaretta ColangeloManaging Partner at Deep Knowledge Ventures, brings together panelists:

  • Karim GalilFounder and CEO of Mendel Health;
  • Simon MacGibbonCEO and Co-Founder of Myia Labs;
  • Nada HanafiChief Strategy Officer of Experien Group;
  • Dr. John RumsfeldCIO at the American College of Cardiology and Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado.

The conversation focuses on how AI can fundamentally change the healthcare system: moving from episodic action plans to constant monitoring, from ICUs in hospitals to Intensive Home Care Units (IHCUs) deployed in patients’ homes, from the ability to run virtual drug trials to the possibility for trials of one. Watch the video for a conversation on the most exciting and imminent areas where AI will drive positive-impact in the healthcare space.

Some of the key takeaways from the session are:

  • The university of Hawaii Cancer center is analyzing 5 million mammograms from women on 5 continents with the help of AI to identify the role of ethnicity in breast cancer.
  • By 2030 half of the US population will have a chronic condition. 50-60 million Americans will even have 5 or more chronic conditions.
  • AI has not yet disrupted healthcare delivery since electronic health records are often messy and incomplete and do not represent high quality, clean digital data. AI technology however can consider all parameters, including those that would not have been considered by a researcher or doctor. This way predictions can be made and mistakes can be avoided.
  • The earliest opportunities for AI in healthcare are:
    • Interpretations and recommendations from pre-reading images from CT, ultrasound and MRI scans.
    • Risk prediction from wearable and non-wearable biosensor data.
    • Helping clinicians prioritize steps and areas of their treatment.
  • Growing the data set is the highest barrier for healthcare AI start-ups but growing a community can help attract patients for product trials.
  • The FDA cleared a few dozen AI applications in healthcare so far which are low to moderate risk, but they need to adapt their regulatory efforts: The cycles of change through software are faster and so far only locked algorithms have been cleared which do not allow continuous learning.
  • In April 2018 an AI tool was been introduced that diagnoses diabetic retinopathy in Type I and II diabetes and delivers a diagnosis within 5 minutes thereby removing the clinician.
  • Apple’s health analytic algorithm has been cleared by the FDA because it is considered to be working on any platform while the connected sensors (on the Apple watch) have not been approved but are considered as an off-the-shelf consumer device.
  • MyiaHealth focuses on three primary use cases:
    • Predicting negative events like imminent hospitalizations.
    • Personalization of the care plan.
    • Automation of clinical groundwork.
  • Myia Health works with passive sensor wearable partners, because data is only reliable if it represents a holistic view. If a user wears a sensor only 30% of the time, it is of no value for analysis in healthcare.
  • Mendel AI improves clinical trials with vision, inferencing and NLP research to accelerate the trial process. The platform automates processes and enables trial teams to find more eligible patients.
  • The Mendel Brain organizes all data in the records in a searchable, machine-understandable format that can bridge the missing gaps in patient data.
  • One of the main challenges to approaching doctors is the labeling of AI: Doctors can become defensive because they do not understand the technical terms around AI, but if they can simply see it as a tool they are open to improve processes. Cardiologists are seen as early adopters because they are generally computationally strong, tech conscious and understand statistics.

About Margaretta Colangelo:
Margaretta Colangelo is Managing Partner at Deep Knowledge Ventures, a Hong Kong based investment fund focused on DeepTech. Investment sectors include AI, Precision Medicine, Longevity, and Neurotech. Margaretta has been President of U1 Technologies since 2007, providing the communications infrastructure for stock trading platforms used by some of the world‘s top multinational investment banks. U1’s software is used at the core of large-scale stock trading applications. Margaretta serves on several advisory boards including The AI Precision Health Institute at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Robots Go Mental, and Woolf University – The World’s First Blockchain University.

About Karim Galil:
Karim Galil, CEO and Founder of Mendel AI, is advancing clinical oncology research by applying AI-powered EMR data solutions to current healthcare challenges. Karim is an MD with an entrepreneurial spirit. His first company Kryptonworx led health tech in the MENA region with customers like Pfizer and the Ministry of Health in UAE. Karim has also aided companies, such as Sirona and Straumann, in the field of medical image processing.

About Simon MacGibbon:
Simon MacGibbon is the CEO and co-founder of Myia Health, an intelligent remote monitoring platform. Simon has over 20 years experience using technology to enable transformational industry change in both consumer and complex B2B settings. Prior to co-founding Myia Health, Simon co-founded the Boston Consulting Group’s Digital Ventures business, where he led the creation of numerous data-driven software platforms while growing the global team to over 500 talented strategists, designers, engineers and data scientists. Formerly, Simon was an Associate Partner at McKinsey & Co. and a leader in the systems integration area at IBM Global Services.

About Nada Hanafi:
Nada Hanafi joined Experien Group in 2017 after working 12 years at FDA’s CDRH as a Senior Science Health Advisor, serving as an expert consultant and senior advisor in the Center Director’s office. Nada combines her deep institutional knowledge with innovative approaches to help companies successfully communicate product information to FDA throughout the product life cycle. At Experien Group, Nada leverages her years of reviewer experience and broad FDA exposure, helping medical device companies generate regulatory/clinical roadmaps for success. Building upon her strong engineering background, she helps organizations devise and position product performance testing and/or clinical studies to achieve major milestones.

About John Rumsfeld:
Dr. John Rumsfeld is the Chief Innovation Officer for the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Previously, Dr. Rumsfeld served as National Director for Cardiology for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and as Chief Science Officer for the ACC’s National Cardiovascular Data Registry (NCDR) programs. Dr. Rumsfeld has more than 330 scientific publications and is past-Chair of the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research (QCOR) Scientific Council.

Congratulations to Sabrina Atienza and George Ramonov – Qurious.io acquired by Pegasystems, Inc

BootstrapLabs is pleased to share that Pegasystems Inc. (NASDAQ: PEGA) has announced the acquisition of Qurious.io on January 11, 2021. 

The worldwide acceleration of digital transformation is creating an explosion of new data that creates exciting new opportunities for automation and artificial intelligence applications. Qurious.io analyzes voice calls in real time to enable customer service teams to have a better understanding of conversations and customers’ emotions.

BootstrapLabs was one of the first institutional Investors in Qurious.io in 2016, after the company was founded with initial funding from angel investors that included serial entrepreneurs, and early Google team members. BootstrapLabs has worked closely with founders Sabrina Atienza and George Ramonov to support them in building Qurious.io, and the acquisition is a recognition of the incredible talent in Qurious.io.

Sabrina Atienza, Founder and CEO at Qurious

“We’re thrilled to join Pega and deploy our real-time voice A.I. technology for the world’s largest brands, accelerating their digital transformation and improving customer service, sales, and productivity. BootstrapLabs has been a terrific and supportive investor in our journey, a true partner at every step.”

The acquisition allows Pegasystems to gain access to the incredible talent and technology that Qurious.io has created to empower hundreds of the most important brands in global business with intelligent speech analytics.

Nicolai Wadstrom, Founder, CEO & General Partner of BootstrapLabs

“Working with Sabrina and George to support them in building Qurious.io has been a privilege and they are adding world class real time voice technology and expertise to Pegasystems’ product family through this acquisition”.

Below you can read the full press release:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 11, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Pegasystems Inc. (NASDAQ: PEGA), the software company that crushes business complexity, today announced its acquisition of Qurious.io, Inc., a cloud-based real-time speech analytics solution powered by artificial intelligence (AI) for customer service teams. Read More.

Announcing BootstrapLabs’ investment in Hayden AI Technologies, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, Oct 13, 2020 – As cities across the globe announce their commitments to becoming smart and safe, technologies enabling this future emerge.  

Today, BootstrapLabs announced our latest investment – Hayden AI Technologies, Inc, a company that empowers cities on the path to becoming Smart Cities through their unique AI platform.

The funding round also includes investors Autotech Ventures, Tsingyuan Ventures and others, and will enable Hayden AI to accelerate their product development, helping cities eliminate traffic fatalities and improve efficiency.

Founded by Chris Carson, Bo Shen, Vaibhav Ghadiok, and Michael Byrne, Hayden AI revolutionizes urban mobility, providing cities a scalable and more efficient way to bring safe, healthy, and equitable mobility to the public.  Using edge computing and AI to process real time data from mobile cameras, the platform is able to create vast and detailed situational awareness for cities at a fraction of their current fixed camera cost.  Coupled with a knowledge and reasoning engine that fully automates the detection of any kind of traffic violation, the solution eliminates the need for human review, inherently filtering out bias and inefficiencies.

“We envision a world with safe roadways, efficient transportation, and fair and equitable mobility for all.  Leveraging our expertise in the autonomous vehicle space, we’ve created technology that does just that,” said Chris Carson, Co-Founder & CEO of Hayden AI.  “This funding enables us to connect additional smart cities and move forward with our vision.”

“Hayden’s unique ability to use computer vision and AI to extract data and knowledge from the physical environment of cities is the key for Smart Cities to become a reality,” said Nicolai Wadstrom, Founder and General Partner of BootstrapLabs. “Hayden’s platform is making cities smarter, their traffic flows safer, faster and more efficient.”

Hayden AI also announced that Stuart McKee is joining the executive team as COO, and Anthony Foxx has joined the company’s Board of Directors.

Stuart McKee served for more than 15 years as Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer of U.S. State and Local Government, delivering technologies that advance state and local agencies’ ability to serve citizens.  Turning his attention to bringing Hayden AI to market, McKee sees a clear path, “Centralized, secure data is key to creating solutions that work broadly for public safety and urban mobility.  Hayden AI has the pieces in place ensuring the accuracy, scale and privacy necessary for universal adoption of this trusted platform.” 

Anthony Foxx served as the 17th US Secretary of Transportation, where he embraced technology by pushing forward new rules governing the commercial use of drones, blueprinted the most comprehensive national policy on autonomous vehicles in the world, and launched the Department’s first, and the Administration’s most successful, Smart City Challenge, engaging more than 70 cities to develop their own strategies to incorporate new technologies into their transportation networks.

“I look forward to joining Hayden AI to continue to tackle urban mobility challenges,” said Foxx.  “Their solution not only scales a city’s ability to create safer, more efficient traffic flows, but also addresses the very real issues of fair and just mobility.”

“Both Stuart’s experience bringing enterprise level technologies to state and local agencies, and Anthony’s expertise managing transportation policy, technology, and public-private partnerships will be invaluable as we continue to develop our solutions and expand our reach,” said Carson.

About Hayden AI

California-based Hayden AI Technologies, Inc. has developed an artificial intelligence-powered data collection platform for smart and safe cities to make their traffic flow faster and far more efficiently. The company is partnering with the world’s most innovative cities to deploy its vision-based mobile solution in a city’s fleet of vehicles to collect real-time data for the enforcement of traffic laws and other data services. 

To learn more about Hayden AI, visit www.hayden.ai

About BootstrapLabs

Established in 2008, BootstrapLabs is a leading early-stage Venture Capital firm based in San Francisco and focused on Applied Artificial Intelligence.

BootstrapLabs invests in mission-driven founders who want to shape a better future by applying artificial intelligence to solve some of the world’s most important and valuable opportunities in sectors such as Mobility, Enterprise Productivity, Cybersecurity, Intelligent Computing, Health, Energy, and FinTech, among others. We are often the first institutional capital and act as a lead investor at the early stages, with follow-on capital for the later stages. 

Founded by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, BootstrapLabs has built a large community of Applied AI experts, founders, and executives to support its portfolio companies, and strives to be the most helpful and strategic investor, from product-market fit advisory to recruiting, business development, go-to-market strategy, and fundraising.

Join the BootstrapLabs Applied AI community online

BootstrapLabs has released several videos featuring interviews and presentations from new and past events on its online proprietary platform, BootstrapWorks.

BootstrapWorks is a community-centric platform that brings together the BootstrapLabs Applied AI community – a place where AI founders, executives, and investors can share insights, learn, and build great companies.

Latest video release: Applied AI and Intelligent Communities

Please sign in with LinkedIn to watch the video, receive future event invites, watch footage from BootstrapLabs Applied AI Conferences, and discover Fireside Chat sessions with portfolio founders.

Today, startups are able to use AI to more efficiently and successfully engage, manage, and empower communities to deliver next-generation services and create new business models. From virtual hospitals managing thousands of lives in real time, to community-centric networks powering the internet of things at the edge, or more sustainable energy production and smarter consumption. Intelligent communities will no doubt be at the heart of our new digital society and AI will play a major role in accelerating this transformation.

Speakers include:

  • Ben Levy, Co-Founder and General Partner, BootstrapLabs
  • Natalia Olson-Urtecho, Chief Strategy,  Innovation Officer and Co-Founder, The Disruptive Factory
  • Simon MacGibbon, CEO and Co-Founder, Myia Health
  • Micha Benoliel, CEO and Co-Founder, Nodle

More about BootstrapLabs Applied AI Insiders Series

BootstrapLabs Applied AI Insiders Series are quarterly, invite-only, networking events with thought leaders from our community sharing their latest insights and real-world applications of Artificial Intelligence across industries in which we invest. The fourth Industrial Revolution is already creating billions of dollars in opportunities and will impact people, corporations, and society in profound ways; the question is, what are you doing about it today?

More videos available at https://bootstrapworks.com/

Post COVID-19 World: The Bullish Case for (early stage) VCs & Founders [Part 3]


Applied AI Investment Thesis

The case for rapid adoption of Applied Artificial Intelligence across every sector remains valid, and if anything, the roadmap for adoption is being shortened considerably.

AI is part of the solution to fight COVID-19

Every day, we read about ways AI is helping fight COVID-19:

  • World’s Fastest Supercomputer Used To Stop COVID-19 (link here)
  • Autonomous robots use light beams to zap hospital viruses (link here)
  • A neural network that can detect coughing (link here)
  • Researchers use machine learning to discover coronavirus treatments (link here)

The Case for AI and Healthcare is Huge

Global venture capital funding in the digital health sector reached $8.9B in 2019, fuelled by the needs of an aging population, outdated infrastructure, and unsustainable business models and cost structures. According to Mercom Capital Group, $58B has been invested in the sector since 2010.

AI is driving major advances in diagnostics, drug discovery, trial efficiencies, mental health & wellness, quantified self, preventive medicine, continuous remote patient monitoring, intelligent prioritization. AI is also creating new models that will help redesign our healthcare systems of tomorrow, bringing instant diagnosis/testing at home or the nearest point of care, remote consultations, delivery of drugs, compliance, and providing doctors and drug companies with real time feedback loops. Last year, $4B was invested into AI and Healthcare companies, up from $2.7B the year before. We expect this number to stay flat or increase in the next 12-18 months as investors see the opportunity to benefit from an acceleration of digital health technology adoption as the world tries to better prepare for future health care crises like the one we are now experiencing.

Swift Legislative & Privacy Protection Changes

Governments are taking swift action to authorize or channel the delivery of new technologies and services to the people and organizations that need them the most. These changes in policies should help shorten the path to market for startups and their innovations. (e.g., EU Privacy Guidance for COVID-19 Data Processing, FDA Guidance on COVID-19 drug trials, etc.) 

Governments, like every corporation,  will need to digitalize their services and adopt new technology much faster in order to streamline their services and make them more efficient, scalable, and resilient. According to McKinsey research, this is a $1T annual market opportunity worldwide.

At the same time, western governments will need to find their (and their citizens’) own comfort levels with respect to monitoring policies and privacy protection. As Yuval Noah Harari said in his recent article in The Financial Times, “this storm will pass, but the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come. […] we face two particularly important choices. The first is between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment. The second is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity.”

Several Other Sectors are Set to Thrive

Other sectors benefiting from Applied AI technologies are also expected to see an accelerated adoption curve, including industrial automation/autonomy, autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity/privacy protection, enterprise software collaboration/productivity, education, entertainment, foods, etc. With global experiments such as “Working from Home” and “Remote Tutoring/Schooling” involving millions of people, along with manufacturing site closures, transportation disruption, and people seeking new and interactive entertainment from home, it is hard not to be bullish on early stage venture investment leveraging Applied AI in any of these sectors.

The Digital Transformation can no longer wait

According to Wilshire Associates, $7.3 trillion in value has been removed from the total stock market since the February 19, 2020 high (which includes small and mid-sized companies). Corporations around the world moved from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 1 levels in a matter of weeks. Boards around the world are asking their CEOs to implement immediate and far reaching digital transformation measures TODAY, and commit capital against it NOW, to ensure their survival. This transformation is no longer a “nice to have”, and “innovation theater” is no longer acceptable – time has run out.

On the bright side, 10 years of bull markets have provided significant cash reserves to corporations in the US and abroad. As of November 2019, the US cash reserves of US Corporations, excluding financial institutions, was expected to reach $1.5T by year end 2019, according to Moody’s

We expect corporations to use this accelerated capex/refresh cycle to “leapfrog” the traditional software vendors and adopt (and in some cases, acquire) startup developing AI-software/solutions.

A 2019 CIO survey from Sapphire Ventures stated that over 80% of CIOs are investing in AI and ML innovation today:

And that nearly 70% of them would rather trust a startup with AI/ML technology than an established player/vendor:

This will not only fuel revenue growth for AI startups, including those in BootstrapLabs’ portfolio, but it will accelerate the “build, partner, or buy” decision framework used by corporations as they rush to accelerate the digitalization of their day-to-day operations and seek to acquire talent and new products via strategic M&A deals.


Overall, I remain bullish on venture capital as an asset class, and especially early stage venture investing.

I am concerned about the failure risk of certain early stage companies that have strong long term value-creation potential, but may have gotten caught at the wrong time in their fundraising cycles, or have simply been overwhelmed by the sheer scale and speed at which this Pandemic has shut down the world economy.

Being an optimist though, I remind myself that most startup founders are used to operating under high levels of uncertainty, are capable of making quick decisions, are able to listen and adapt to the world around them, can manage remote teams in their sleep, and therefore, are much better prepared to survive this crisis than large corporations.

The worst stock market corrections may be behind us (since stock markets tend to already anticipate the future based on all known information today), but the health care crisis has not yet peaked.

The impact of this pandemic will be felt for months post contamination peak, and will likely act as a drag to any economic recovery until we find a cure or vaccine (which hopefully will take months, instead of years). The world is likely to plunge into a recession, but I trust the US will be able to recover faster than other economies, and bounce back first, as it often did in the past.

If you are the leader of a large corporation seeking to accelerate your digital transformation and believe that the adoption of AI technologies will be a key driver of your future success, or if you are an asset allocator seeking exposure to early stage Venture Capital returns in the Applied AI space, contact us, and we will be happy to discuss our views in greater depth.

Post COVID-19 World: The Bullish Case for (early stage) VCs & Founders [Part 2]


Exits: IPOs and M&A Landscape

Initial Public Offerings – IPOs

According to the Renaissance Capital research note of March 27, 2020, “The 2020 IPO market began with optimism and ended with the worst crash since the global financial crisis. 24 IPOs raised $6.8 billion, with as many as 20 companies forced to shelve offerings when the IPO window slammed shut in early March, as the focus of investors and policy-makers shifted to a post-coronavirus paradigm….Healthcare was both the most active and best-performing sector, accounting for half of all IPOs and averaging a 24% return, with drug development platform Schrödinger and health clinic One Medical performing well.”

Overall, Q1-2020 was a strong quarter, with half of the deals being Healthcare related, and biotechs driving activity and outperformance. It was significantly higher than Q1-2019, but lower than expected due to the Coronavius affecting the second half of March. As a result of the window shutdown, as many as 20 IPOs are delayed and await re-opening.

We can certainly expect the IPO window to remain shut until after the summer, which will exacerbate the issues for late stage private companies burning a lot of cash. They may need to seek another late stage private round, with significant downward valuation pressure. The window will eventually re-open, as it always does, with high quality companies leading the way, while others may seek an M&A alternative.

We can expect healthcare companies to continue leading the way in the IPO segment over the next few quarters, as the world starts to massively invest in healthcare solutions and infrastructure (see more below on the case for AI and Healthcare). Additionally, we can expect Enterprise Software to do well as corporations around the world seek to increase productivity by empowering their employees, irrespective of their locations (office or home), or reduce their dependence on employees all together. As Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box, said in a tweet on March 28, 2020:

As is always the case after a major market crisis, the bar will be raised and further scrutiny will be applied to companies going public. Investors will likely take a much closer look at supply chain resilience/risks and the capabilities of these businesses to cope with future pandemic-like disruption, remote working capacity, etc.

If the bar gets too high, it will further delay high growth companies from going public, and if Wall Street short-term investor views do not fit the companies focus on customer lifetime value (LTV) and acquisition costs (CAC), then it is likely that innovative, VC-backed, high-growth companies may seek alternative listing on Silicon Valley’s Long Term Stock Exchange.

Mergers and Acquisitions – M&As

Like the IPO market, we can expect M&A to pause as buyers start to look inward and evaluate the immediate and longer term implications of COVID-19 on their business. Deals in progress may also be delayed, as transaction value gets renegotiated, and synergies get re-evaluated.

Speaking with a former head of Global M&A deal at Google during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis, he said “the company, despite being one most active acquirers at the time, did a complete halt of its M&A activity for a period of 6-9 months, but that was immediately followed by one of the most active M&A periods in the history of the company, with more than a deal per week for a sustained period of 12 months”.

We can probably expect a similar “wait and see” period from most corporations, but the smart one should start acquiring smaller tech companies and their teams that will be seeking safe-harbor. Beside the digital leaders of today (most of which were born-digital), most corporations from the prior industrial era have been failing to “digitalize” fast enough, or at all. These companies will be facing significant pressure from their boards and shareholders to “aggressively” invest in their digital transformation, and M&A will become a very valuable tool for them to acquire valuable technology and talent they have not been able to develop and nurture in-house.

With $1.5T on the balance sheet of US Corporations at the end of 2019, I fully expect an acceleration of Tech M&A deals, especially in the $50-500M range.

Additionally, buy-out funds were sitting on $760B of dry powder at the end of 2019 (a historic high) and debt financing rates are likely to go down as well.

Historically PE firms have shied-away from what they consider the highly priced technology (and mostly venture-backed) sector. But as technology (and especially AI/ML) companies start to  be perceived as potential proprietary margin enablers to transform their portfolio companies, PE firms may reconsider how they measure the ROI of such acquisition. What if such an acquisition could lift each of their portfolio company’s profitability by 10-40% – in addition to their financial engineering and management strategies? This would be a total game changer for the fund that could master this strategy.

However, buy-out firms will first need to manage the fact that many of their portfolio companies are burdened with debt, a model that significantly reduces a company’s operational margin of error. Many PE-backed companies could soon default on their debt covenants, sending most PE firms scrambling and slowing down their ability to engage in new investments or acquisitions for months to come.

According to research firm The 415 Group, 2019 saw more tech M&A deals than 2018 (3,640 vs. 3,617), but the total transaction volume fell by 20% to $461B as historical key acquirers such Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and SAP did not ink a single deals over $1Bn. These acquirers could come back with a vengeance in 2020, or new tech firms born in the past two decades could continue to take over as leading acquirers and displace older, more-established buyers.

The US should continue to attract the majority of M&A deals, as per the chart below, and it bodes well for the  Venture Capitalists that are backing these companies.

Not all M&A themes are created equal, and when it come to AI and ML technology, which is BootstrapLabs’ core investment focus, that theme has been ranking #1 in terms of priority for acquirers, and the volume has been growing exponentially (see charts below).


Post COVID-19 World: The Bullish Case for (early stage) VCs & Founders [Part 1]

Early-stage venture capitalists are in the business of hitting targets most people cannot see. Our focal point is usually set 3 to 5 years into the future. We often discover a future that is already available today but is not yet evenly distributed.

This is why founders, like early-stage VCs, need to be visionaries and look beyond the horizon. Many people are struggling to think past tomorrow, especially when the present is uncertain, and the specter of recession looms with skyrocketing unemployment claims as shown in The New York Times recently.

Being born in the mid 70’s during the first oil price shock, I am old enough to remember working my way through several major crises including the Asian Financial Crisis (1997), the Dot-Com Bubble Burst (2000), 9/11 (2001), the Global Financial Crisis (2007), and now, the COVID-19 Pandemic. Today, I find myself managing and investing venture capital on behalf of financial institutions, corporations, and wealthy families (most of whom became wealthy as a result of entrepreneurial endeavors). Below is a chart that puts these crises, and their impact on the S&P 500 in perspective.

And here is a close-up of the 10+ year bull market we experienced, and the recent drop caused by the COVID-19 pandemic: 

While things always seem worse when you are in the midst of it and the lives of you and your loved ones get impacted, you need to remember  that humanity, and our economies, are more resilient than we tend to believe. Through innovation, solidarity, and leadership, things do get better, and often even better than they were before the crisis hit. These crises tend to reveal quickly and dramatically everything that is wrong, broken, or plain backwards in our society, and give us the opportunity to learn, and spring forward to rebuild a better world.

The scale and speed of this pandemic is unprecedented in modern history, but we also have the technology and knowledge to solve for it in unprecedented ways.

Impact on the Venture Funding Environment

Limited Partners

I recently spoke with the head of venture investment of a large public pension fund and the conversation went something like this: “Putting public markets and other asset classes aside, we are pretty comfortable with our seed fund allocations and believe they are in a strong position to take advantage of this market turn-around. This is something we saw in 2000-2001, and again in 2007-2008…we are more concerned with our later stage/growth fund allocations, as recent years have seen very high valuations, the IPO window is likely to remain shut for a prolonged period of time, and some companies have considerable operational loses, which they justified with fast growth…but that may no longer be sustainable.”

As illustrated by the chart below, the US seed stage market will remain the most attractive risk/return segment of the market.

This white paper  from Invesco explains why limited partners should consistently invest in the venture capital asset class, in up and down cycles, while this blog post does a pretty good job of explaining  that we are not in a recession following a global financial meltdown like the one we witnessed in 2007-08, nor are we in a recession caused by a war triggered by a shocking act of terrorism like 9/11, but that we are in a sudden global economic recession due to the consequences of a global health crisis.

While some of the indicators may have pointed to the end of the bull market for the past few months, the economy, job market, and other key indicators were not in the red before this health crisis. Once uncertainty (and fear-driven, irrational exuberance) are removed from the market, people will regain confidence in our ability to get this virus under control, and the path to a recovery will emerge.

I will focus my thoughts on the Seed and Series A stage in this post, since this is where we invest.

Seed Stage

Early stage funding is likely to suffer most in the short term as high-net-worth individuals and angel investors who flooded the market in boom years will retract from the market. Because of the level of noise pre-COVID 19, and the lack of traditional metrics to assess opportunities at that stage, we expect many companies that were funded (and probably should not have been) will not be able to secure additional capital and will fail (or find safe harbor in the hands of a strategic, or negotiate an acquihire), effectively purging the market. After the initial shock, we may see angel investors returning to the market like we saw in 2007-2008 as valuations get lower and they see a “good deal” for their money. Experienced investors, able to perform institutional level due diligence at velocity, will be able to secure great deals/value. A similar flight to quality will happen, and institutional seed fund managers like BootstrapLabs are well positioned to benefit from this “buy-side” driven environment.

Series A Stage

Several Series A stage venture firms raised a lot of “dry powder” in the last 18 months (e.g, Sequoia, Andressen Horowitz, Lightspeed, NEA, etc.), resulting in over $276B available for the best startups reaching that stage and beyond. We expect a similar flight to quality and only top teams and companies with demonstrated traction will receive follow-on funding. But this is not much different from pre-COVID-19 criteria (and BootstrapLabs’ portfolio companies have fared better than most in that area, as demonstrated by our current 48% conversion rate from Seed to Series A within a short 3 year period).

Here is a chart of the venture capital industry since the last Global Financial Crisis. The market has grown significantly since 2008, mostly driven by a bull market, lower returns in the public sector, delayed IPOs, and late-stage mega-rounds, which really  should be considered “Growth Financing” rather than Venture Capital as Mark Suster said in his presentation here.

Back in 2015-2016, BootstrapLabs was among the first seed VC firms to recognize the opportunity to invest in Applied AI technology startups that were solving large and valuable problems by leveraging recent advances in computing power, broadband, and the data explosion. 3-4 years later, Applied AI adoption is still in its infancy and continues to attract a growing portion of the venture capital deals, especially around enterprise/industrial automation, cybersecurity, healthcare, mobility, etc.

What about Corporate Venture Capital (CVC)?

CVCs have been increasingly active over the past decade of bull markets, and last year were involved in approximately 30% of all venture financing rounds.

During the Dot-Com Bubble Burst, CVC seriously retracted from venture investments, and most did not return until after the Global Financial Crisis. Since a large number of CVC still invest from their balance sheet, one of the first things corporations may do to preserve cash is to reduce their CVC budget or allocation. I would not be surprised to see a 25-30% pull back in the market, but the wiser corporations will learn from the past and stay active in this coming market.

Corporations  that did not have CVC programs in place before this crisis will likely need to jumpstart their efforts by setting up shop sooner rather than later, partnering with groups like Silicon Foundry, or finding (earlier stage focused) VC funds to work with via Limited Partnership Investments (usually a much faster – and often more successful – way to tap into specific sector of the startup innovation ecosystem).

CVC arms are a key component to accelerate knowledge and access to outside innovation, and will need to go hand in hand with M&A to accelerate a corporation’s transformation. For more information on how and why to set up a CVC, I would recommend my friend Evangelos Simoundis’ blog posts here

As a VC firm focused on Applied AI, we are working closely with our Corporate Limited Partners, as well as families that own large corporations, to ensure they stay at the forefront of the 4th Industrial Revolution.