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December 1, 2017

Venture Cafe IoT Connect conference draws hundreds to Cambridge Innovation Center

IoT Connect at Venture Cafe

On November 30th, ImpactLABS and Foley & Lardner co-hosted and co-sponsored Venture Cafe’s IoT Connect mini-conference at the Cambridge Innovation Center. ImpactLABS followed Foley & Lardner’s lead in supporting Kevin Wiant, Venture Cafe’s Executive Director, throughout this high-energy evening. ImpactLABS contributed to the event by fostering agenda development, speaker recruitment, and event marketing alongside the Boston/New England IoT Meetup Group.

The Future of Funding IoT

As part of this support, Chris Rezendes of ImpactLABS moderated a panel of entrepreneurs who are leading the way in building durable, profitable and sustainable IoT businesses. The panel was dubbed “The Future of Funding IoT”, and it focused on panelists’ experiences in generating revenue to customer-fund their businesses and/or raising capital to equity-finance growth.

Other organizations present for the panel included Anterra Capital  (Fidelity and Rabobank as lead investors), along with Sustainability Visions, Biobot Analytics, and OptiRTC.

The panel’s key topics included:

  1. The return to prominence of physical science experts in a growing number of successful IoT startups. All 5 panelists had an MA, JD or PhD in fields outside tech.
  2. Infrastructure opportunities — including and especially Brownfield public infrastructure — as a strong market for scale at margin with the right approaches.
  3. The need to address security and DRM (digital rights management) concerns up front, as asset operators/managers must continue to reduce risks and enhance returns.

Just as importantly, however, the panel was clear that three key challenges remain within their businesses:

  1. Market education and training — even for subject matter experts (SMEs) — in both digital and physical communities.
  2. Financing early stage and growth stage companies — few markets offer enough opportunity in scale to justify outsized early stage rounds and valuations, making customer revenue, partner NRE, and other sources of funding critical.
  3. Value propositions are as complex as ever — for while payback and ROI remain key metrics, there are others in ESG, UNSDG and other impact metrics that are rising in prominence.

Grand Challenge: Resilience in public and private infrastructure

Given these challenges, the next step for ImpactLABS would be to meet with more stakeholders from the IoT market/buy-side and hash out approaches to financing projects that would boost demand and CEN results in cities.