While drones, 3D printers and the world of Internet connected things have benefitted tremendously from what Chris Anderson termed “The Peace Dividend of the Smartphone Wars” (cheap miniaturized components that both ride Moore’s Law and can be built into just about anything), it is somewhat ironic that outside of the cellular connected computers in our pockets, few other communication technologies have benefitted to date.
For most of the working world, telephone landlines (and their ugly VOIP cousins) or decades-old video conferencing equipment occupy the rich end of communications when collaboration is necessary. And while the fattening of the Internet has given us Skype, Hangouts and FaceTime, the endpoints have mostly remained constrained to be bezels of our laptops and the fronts of our smartphones.
So, it is only natural for Mark and Max, two distinguished engineers from iRobot, a company that has leveraged intelligence at the edge of the network from the very early days (it is easy to forget how innovative Roomba was even before the smartphone peace dividend days), have put similar intelligence at the edge of one of today’s worst collaboration problems: making video conferencing work for the remote employee. It’s too early to talk in detail about how their company Owl Labs has solved the problem, but suffice it to say we were excited and impressed enough to lead Owl’s series A investment.
Mark and Max are joined at Owl Labs by early veterans from HubSpot, another portfolio company, who not only witnessed the problem the Owl solves first-hand but who, like us, appreciate the user-first design focus the founders have taken in their first product. Robots can take many forms and in an increasingly complex world, it’s important to maintain empathy for the user and keep her problems front and center.
These Owls really give a hoot and we at Matrix are lucky to be along for the journey.