Eniac Ventures
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Eniac Ventures

Eniac goes deep into the future of tech

By Vic Singh, Founding General Partner

As seed investors, we have a unique opportunity to invest in world-changing companies early. We’ve been actively investing in and spending more time in deeper tech areas in addition to our focus on opportunities in consumer, marketplaces, SaaS, and vertical AI. Inspired by the ENIAC computer, the first automated computer created at UPenn during WWII, we like deep tech opportunities that place computing at their core.

Below, we’ve dug into some of the deep tech we’re interested in:

Autonomous Robotics — picks, dexterity, data collection and control in big GDP sectors

We are big believers in the autonomous transport future and have made an undisclosed bet in a full stack autonomous trucking company and are actively looking at autonomy in other transport areas. We are also investors in several autonomous robotics startups, including IronOx and Ready Robotics. While transportation itself is on the verge of a seismic shift through autonomous, we believe many other areas will benefit from the combination of autonomy and robotics.

Autonomous robots will be able to collect data, conduct field monitoring and control environments where it’s too dangerous and inefficient for humans to do so. While drones can provide valuable data, the ability to implement tasks and move on ground terrain is fairly greenfield and we believe autonomous robots will be a key component to solving these challenges. We are also on the lookout for startups that solve one of the biggest problems in robotics — mimicking the human hand. This problem requires deep computer vision, machine learning and engineering design to recreate the tender touch and dexterity we humans possess. Finally, we are very bullish on picks and shovels opportunities in the autonomous space which will be more critical as the stacks begin to mature. Specific industries we believe autonomous robots can be leveraged include mining, forestry, agriculture, construction, supply chain, hospitality and more. The problem set is very deep and we are bullish on this future.

Brain Computer Interfaces — control systems and passive interactions with big data

Although still in its very early days, there has been much activity in the BCI space. We are interested in non-invasive approaches that could provide a large missing component in mixed reality and real-world environments. We are looking at active systems that can control mixed reality (ex. Neurable, Ctrl-Labs) as well as passive systems that collect brain data to be leveraged for enhancing user experiences. The dataset generated by BCI will likely be the most complex, largest and valuable data set that ever existed and we are bullish on the space but mindful of the time horizon.

Blockchain — AI, picks and public protocols

We are believers in the distributed ledger systems created by blockchains. While we are closely following the crypto asset markets, our expertise and passion lie in the foundational protocols and applications that will be built rather than the financial currency aspect. Protocols like Ethereum for decentralized applications (dApps), Ox for decentralized exchanges, LivePeer for video streaming, Blockdaemon for managing nodes and others will grow in impact. Early applications like Filecoin for distributed storage show the promise of dApps. We want to see more public protocols in security, scalability and dApps that help enable the decentralized computing infrastructure. We prefer to invest in equity rounds with the potential of holding crypto assets at a token sale.

AI on the blockchain: Although existing blockchains are not very scalable, we see a future where AI can use the collective power of distributed computing to process data at in a much faster, efficient and scalable way. For this to happen, we may need more forks to existing systems, proof of stake or entirely new blockchains will emerge from scratch. We would love to talk to any startups building AI on the blockchain.

Computational Biology — root causes, drug discovery, information storage

We are not life science investors but we do understand computing, machine learning and big data. Since the human genome was sequenced almost 20 years ago, there have been significant breakthroughs in biological data including RNA sequencing, gene editing, information transfer through DNA and much more. We are interested in startups using big data sets (readily available at first) that can generate insights into drug discovery, help determine causes and cures for major diseases and use genomes to store and communicate information.

Computational Rich Media — audio, photos and video enter a new era

In the early days of mobile apps, Instagram helped users to edit and share high-quality photos and short form videos. Other applications leverage neural networks to train algorithms that create art from existing photos and videos (Kanvas, Prisma, many more). Audio is also getting an upgrade via machine learning. Apple’s Homepod and startups like Soundrex are using machine learning to tune and clean up audio. This emerging area of using neural networks to enhance and potentially create new media (Lyrebird for voice and Amper music for composition) broadly fits into computational rich media. The maturity of more depth-sensing cameras will also create opportunities for computational computer vision as more sophisticated media types like volumetric and 3d video are produced and consumed. We think that the role of neural networks will become more important as we enter the era of computational rich media.

Electric Transport — land, sea and air

Much like automobiles will be transformed from the combustion engine to an electric drivetrain, we believe industries like cycling, aviation and shipping are poised to follow suit. In aviation, airlines spend over one-third of their operating costs on fuel alone and the CO2 emissions is projected to be 50 billion tonnes by 2050, making it one of the top 3 contributors to carbon in the environment. With new regulations forcing airlines to cut back on carbon emissions and the increasing cost of fossil fuels, electrification is inevitable. This will create an entirely new platform stack upon which sensors, cameras, cloud services, machine learning, electric drive trains and fully electric aircraft will come to market. The battery density limitations will continue to plague the speed of this transformation but startups are already starting to build the systems themselves on a path to reduced fossil fuel usage with better and more efficient electric transport including aviation, bicycles, motorcycles and maritime.

Quantum Computing — algorithms and applications

Our laptops, tablets and phones operate in a classical computing paradigm, switching states between 0 and 1 to store and process information. Quantum computing offers the promise of probabilistic states where 0s and 1s can coexist, theoretically creating infinite processing or at least asymptotically approaching that through power law improvements. In the future, we believe classical computers and quantum computers both have a role.

The types of applications quantum could unlock include encryption via Shor’s algorithm for encryption, improvements in neural networks through faster matrix operations, and better drug discovery through molecule simulations. While Rigetti, IonQ, Google, and Microsoft are creating quantum computing hardware, there are huge opportunities for startups to build the application layer to run on quantum computers. Deep AI, cryptography, communication networks and more will be exploited by quantum software.

Spacetech — observe, gather, communicate

SpaceX opened space for commercial business and allowed commercial payloads to be launched into space for enterprises. More space travel companies like Amazon’s Blue origin and Rocketlab now offer space entrepreneurs a travel service to get to space. The advent of the cube-sats lowered the payload requirements to deploy satellite infrastructure and combined with travel companies like SpaceX and Rocket g, space is now open for business. Space is a platform onto itself and starting with basic infrastructure like we have on terrestrial systems and moving up the stack to communications, observation, data analytics, cloud services and more will provide ample opportunity for this emerging sector. We are looking across the spectrum of enabling technologies including new ways to observe earth, get data, communicate and more.

Would love to hear your thoughts! Share comments or questions below, or to Twitter @eniacvc.



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Eniac Ventures

We lead seed rounds in bold founders who use code to create transformational companies.