Unicorns are Great; Unisaurs are Better

The vast majority of Silicon Valley is obsessed with finding Unicorns.

Not me. I’m hunting Unisaurs.

“Unisaur” by my son Rohaan Motiwala (12)

Not that I have any beef with early stage companies that are approaching billion-dollar valuations! And there are a growing number of them in mostly consumer-facing areas like food delivery, social media and ride sharing.

Nope, we at Draper Nexus are obsessed with an another mythical creature: the Unisaur; those B2B-oriented start-ups which are applying machine learning to data sets acquired by IoT hardware to innovate and shake up some decidedly established industries. These are mostly under-the-radar companies using innovative technology to transform so-called “dinosaur” businesses, thereby generating massive new efficiencies and data insights. Turning traditional, physical-world dinosaur businesses into Unisaurs can have a big knock-on effect; igniting transformation across related supply chains and a raft of other verticals.

The average smartphone obsessed consumer might never give a second thought to Ocean Freight Shipping (which is already a $300 billion industry today), or Commodities Trading, Commercial Fleets, Industrial Manufacturing, Supply Chain Logistics or Satellites. But again, they might, if their Amazon Prime delivery gets delayed.

In today’s on-demand world, these foundational (albeit, in some cases, nearly very conservative and sometimes bureaucratic) businesses do matter. Show me an industry that might not be a great cocktail party conversation subject, and I’ll show you how that industry might be quickly transformed by a smart startup, ready to turn that massive, traditional enterprise into a rocket ship, unlocking major value with AI and data to drive the global economy.

That’s why we placed bets on companies like Nauto, the autonomous vehicle and safety tech company aimed at otherwise slow-moving verticals like commercial fleets and insurance. And why we recently led a $8.5 million fundraising round for ICEYE, the micro-satellite startup, which is putting valuable high temporal, Earth Observation capabilities, and resulting data insights in reach of a huge range of new industries. It’s why we are backing other B2B startups like Enlighted (they collect data and drive actionable insights inside commercial buildings ), Sight Machine(they use manufacturing data to improve operational metrics) and Haven (they optimize supply chain management buy digitizing the logistics and transportations process).

Sight Machine helps any factory increase efficiency, reduce downtime, cut down on waste and more in a fast, super precise way by using their unique data gathering and analytics technology. Sight Machine is also putting these powerful insights within reach of small and medium sized businesses, and at the same time, is robust enough for some of the world’s biggest global manufacturers. And Haven is transforming and adding remarkable transparency into supply chain management, starting first with the the major shipping industry.

Unicorns are sexy and magical, there’s no doubt. And even though some of them might be tough to explain to your grandparents, we are big believers in equally magic Unisaurs and the startup leaders who are driving them as being the biggest sources of business transportation today.