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Behold the Mobile Era
Keval Desai
partner-InterWest Partners
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Headquartered in Menlo Park, CA, InterWest Partner has raised $2.8 billion, completed more than 70 IPOs, and participated in 60 upside acquisitions till date. Founded in 1979, the firm’s primary focus is providing venture capital to early-stage Life Sciences and Information Technology companies and invests an average of about $10 - 15 million over the span of their involvement with each company in their portfolio.

Tapping into the adoption of Smartphones

The focus for investment is on technologies and companies that are bringing innovation to the consumer. The big trend is clearly the massive adoption of smartphones and tablets worldwide which is heralding an unprecedented level of rewiring (or most aptly unwiring) of several industries including Retail, E-commerce, Financial Services, Healthcare, Education and even the Government. It was only eight years ago that Google went public in 2004 and businesses all over the world re-engineered themselves for the "Google era" to reach a consumer base which started their quest for a product or service by typing in a few keywords into Google. In a few years, when LinkedIn and Facebook went public in 2011-12, the same businesses re-engineered themselves for the "Social era" to reach consumers who had established an online identity with original names on the social nets. While this social internet re-engineering was still in progress, the mobile era sprung up first with the advent of iPhones & iPads and later with Android devices. These touch based devices, coupled with increased broadband speed on mobile networks, is ushering a completely new era where users are interacting with the web in a 24x7 fashion and from anywhere in the world, far away from their desks at offices and homes. Since more people in the world have mobile devices than there ever were PCs, the "Mobile era" promises to be a bigger trendsetter than anything else we have seen before.

IP is the undisputed winner

One of the most remarkable and longest running technology trends is the spread of Internet Protocol (IP) into every area of computing. IP initially began in the Wide Area Network (WAN) connecting the World Wide Web, which spread to the Local Area Network (LAN) connecting work groups in then offices. Now IP is poised to spread to our homes, connecting the various devices/appliances that reside within the living walls. Today, the devices in our home speak different "languages" i.e there are 3 - 4 remote controls available at homes, but still there is a struggle to get the Home Theater to work!

History shows repeatedly that during protocol wars, IP always emerges as the winner, and as appliances at homes become IP enabled, it is possible to look forward to the world where the "internet of things" is a reality. This reality enables individuals to apply all of the techniques of resource optimization and automation that was predicted from the internet in the WAN and LAN. In this regard, the day when a smartphone is to be used as a universal remote for all appliances at homes is not very far ahead.

Five Simultaneous areas of Innovation

Having worked in the Silicon Valley since 1991, this is the first time in the history of the valley that there are five major simultaneous areas of innovation going on, i.e. Mobile, Cloud, Space, Healthcare/IT and Alternative transportation. This is a new scenario in the valley as there are usually only a maximum of two technology cycles at a given time(e.g. Browser & Consumer Web in the early 2000’s, Social Networking in the mid 2000’s). As seen consistently, with every tech cycle, there is an opportunity to build category leading companies.

Create a meaning for an investment

"Think money last". This may sounds surprising coming from a VC. The advice was planted in my mind by the late Prof. Jeff Timmons at HBS & Babson, who wrote the book on New Venture Creation. Jeff's advice was "Think MONEY last. FIRST, create the meaning". The point to be taken is, if a big business opportunity is found, money will turn in automatically. After 21 years in Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur, operator and investor, Jeff's ideology continues to inspire the journey ahead.

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