Lux Leads $8M Series A Investment In Tempo Automation To Accelerate Electronics Development Cycles
This piece initially published June 29, 2016 at Lux Capital
Barriers to creation are falling. Creativity is, in essence, commoditizing. This sounds hyperbolic, but a quick look at Google’s recent work with DeepDream should quell most doubt. The computer generated, yet deeply human, art generated by Google’s autonomous artist doesn’t live in a vacuum. Behind the scenes were countless libraries, SDKs, servers, containers, algorithms, and frameworks that supported the rapid iteration and creation of DeepDream, which itself was creating art de novo.
This isn’t a new trend. A few decades ago putting up a website required large capital investment, custom servers, and took months, if not quarters, to get an early iteration live. Now with AWS, mature web frameworks, and a plethora of data repositories ranging from SQL to Hadoop this same process is measured in days … if not hours. The history of software engineering has proven that standardization of best development practices, modular abstractions and building blocks, and methodic focus on each step of scaling from mockup to MVP to beta to global yields fruit for everyone: from developers to end users. If software is eating the world, it has AWS to thank for it.
But what of hardware and electronics? The last decade witnessed a renaissance in venture appetite to fund, entrepreneurial appetite to start, and public and enterprise appetite to consume emerging tangible products from scrappy startups building hardware and electronics. On the gradient of custom bespoke servers to AWS, it’s reasonable to ask “how far along the analogous path for hardware and electronics are we?” Even just two years ago, the answer would have been: very, very early.
Factories abroad and multinationals like Flex and Jabil have near perfected large scale manufacturing of electronics and hardware, but the path to global orders from few to hundreds to thousands of units has remained static, void of innovation, and opaque. Enter Tempo Automation. Just as programmers don’t ad hoc spin up thousands of servers writing web scale code at first pass, but rather build in incremental and additive pieces so do electrical engineers. Prior to sending designs for bulk order to Asia, builders must prototype, error check, and design for manufacturing such that when bulk orders are shipped, they come back with no surprises.
This early stage of electronics development has traditionally stayed fragmented, opaque, and error-prone with most low volume prototyping outsourced to service shops who work by hand, take weeks, and are prohibitively expensive for cash strapped startups working feverishly to bring products to market. When I first met Tempo Automation CEO Jeff McAlvay, it was immediately clear what drove him was to to fix this broken process. To make electronics and hardware product creation more like software deployment cycles, and to lower the creative barriers for creators — not just in software but also in hardware.
Tempo Automation’s team of roboticists, software engineers, hackers, and builders have since developed the first iteration of a modern electronics factory. One that uses cutting edge robotics, software, and process optimization to address, head on, the prototyping pain felt across industry. In doing so, not only does Tempo provide an easy-to-use “Amazon-like” experience to electrical engineers, but they also decrease costs and increase turnaround times. Hence decreasing the latency of iteration cycles and increasing the throughput of product creation.
It’s easy to wonder, with shock and awe, at the creative, inventive, and risk-seeking energy technology culture imbues. One that has brought self-landing rockets, autonomous cars, and super computers in every pocket over the last decade. We catch ourselves feeling and championing the same at Lux. With that, we’re excited to announce Lux’s partnership and Series A lead with Tempo Automation, a company we believe not only has the potential to be an AWS analogue for the physical world, but also one that provides additional jet fuel for the creative sparks, fires, and flames that already surround us today.