This is a guest post by investor Katherine Barr
Google’s recent $3.2 billion acquisition of software-enabled thermostat and smoke detector provider Nest clearly diverged from the path of large consumer social platform exits such as Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter, which have dominated consumer venture exits over the past few years.
Nest is associated with the “Internet of Things” (IoT) trend, which sits under the umbrella of a larger wave of innovation that I call “LifeTech” – products and services that optimize, personalize and automate our lives as consumers to create a smart world that shifts and responds to our needs.
LifeTech is desperately needed by those of us who live and breathe in the digital fire hose. Increasingly, more data demonstrates that a majority of consumers don’t believe they have enough time to get everything done. One Gallup Poll study shows that working Americans between the ages of 30-49 are the most likely to report that they lack the time they need. Consumers have multiple devices (mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and so on), an overwhelming number of apps to select from, and a world of disparate digital and analog tools complicating things instead of making it better.
Life is complex and busy, and irrelevant digital noise doesn’t help. LifeTech technologies will enable consumers to accomplish everything they need (and want) to do in their lives.
When I think about some of the innovation that has taken place in the enterprise, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) technologies helped companies optimize their work environment across a number of different areas, including finance, accounting, operations, and inventory management. Consumers now need Life Resource Planning (LRP) to optimize their lives not only with home device controls, but also with the various functional areas of life, including activity planning and commerce.
This is a significant opportunity as we already see consumers spending a lot of money on analog or digitally sub-optimized product and service verticals: Grocery ($1+ trillion); Weddings ($55 billion); Childcare/preschool ($47 billion); Summer camp and youth sports ($7 billion); Home improvement ($450 billion); Entertainment ($700 billion); Retail broadly ($5 trillion).
A number of technology companies, like Nest, are now delivering an LRP experience via unique, transformative direct-to-consumer products and services in large, fragmented, inefficient industries.
Uber, now valued at $3.5 billion, is certainly one example of a LifeTech company that is disrupting the consumer transportation vertical by providing real-time rides for users in urban environments.
One of my portfolio companies, BandPage, is disrupting the way that bands and fans have traditionally interacted in the fragmented music industry. Another LifeTech example is Hointer, which is personalizing and optimizing the offline consumer retail experience by reimagining how retail space is structured by leveraging mobile technology and robotics. Another Mohr Davidow company, BuildDirect, is representative of the next generation of LifeTech e-commerce. Think Warby Parker for flooring and siding.
Cloud, open source technologies, big data analytics, and wireless standards such as Bluetooth LE and ZigBee, are going to impact consumers in increasingly powerful ways over the next few years — just like ERP dramatically moved the needle in optimizing the enterprise environment. It’s not just about making and maintaining social networks between people anymore (though that will continue to be an important part of the consumer experience), it’s about making technology do more of the heavy lifting for us in our lives as consumers.
Katherine Barr is general partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures and focuses primarily on investments in web and mobile consumer and business products and services.
Specific areas of investment focus include Retail and Commerce Innovation, Life Tech, and Labor Innovation. Katherine currently sits on the boards of Ruby Ribbon, PunchTab and BandPage. She is Co-Chair of C100, the leading Canadian technology entrepreneur association in North America and has over 11 years of operating and entrepreneurial experience.
Follow her on Twitter @kbmdv