Dynamo Deep Dives, The 2018 List — Part 1

New year, new opportunities to learn

One of the perks of VC is to be constantly synthesizing new information, parsing it into intelligence, and holding opinions on topics with strong conviction. We seek to continuously improve ourselves and by virtue, continually evolve Dynamo for the best.

We’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on where we want to dig deep and learn more. These are areas that interest us in 2018 (and beyond) as we meet founders in trade and commerce. Hyder and I have each settled on three high-level focus areas that we will spend the year digging deep on and publicly sharing our learnings. While we are not thesis-driven, we think the open exploration and sharing of information is good practice for ourselves and the entire ecosystem. Now, on to the good stuff, this is where I want to learn more at a deeper level —

Communication and Workflow Coordination

The traditional methods of communication and coordinating workflow across the supply chain suck. Flat out. Email should be facilitating improved workflow and helping us drive outcomes but we ultimately settle on “inbox 0” being the outcome. Chat interfaces are not much better. Now, this is not a call to end email or chat but to figure out how to better drive execution in the process of communicating information.

What if we could communicate and also execute truck loads or book containers? What if procurement could be done within or on-top of existing email habits? Does chat actually have a role in global supply chain operations?

Increasingly, we are coming across founders that are generating traction because they are better communicating information and providing a platform that upholds coordination and execution. There are execution gaps left by traditional modes of communication and work flow operations — we believe this poses interesting opportunities for founders. There are a few companies in our purview and a couple in our portfolio who are in the early-innings of better understanding how to drive this dynamic.

Industrial Automation

This is a loaded term that includes both physical and digital mediums and candidly, might warrant dedicated sub-opportunity drill downs. We find this to be a fascinating area that can provide immense operating leverage in a world where we must use bits and bytes to move boxes. Increasingly, various parts of the supply chain are facing labor shortages, increased service level requirements, and opportunities for heightened efficiency. We will look across the supply chain to identify such areas where such solutions can provide order-of-magnitude impact.

Our interests will be across functions from sourcing raw materials through to final delivery of value to the end user. We will look at a variety of solution sets including robots, industrial systems, software solutions, and enabling technologies. It is worth noting that we made an investment in a startup building vision solutions for warehousing during the course of 2017.

Supply Chain & Transportation Financial Services

If we say that we’re in the business of moving boxes with bits and bytes, we must look at the fact that each box has a capital flow associated with it and a clear record of understand in regards to the risk/liability. This is a broad topic that we decompose into financial services and insurance/risk management. Often times, founders will come to us with issues posed by existing infrastructure or practice. For example, every company has insurance needs when something is shipped but the procurement, underwriting, and verification are onerous and opaque.

A multi-trillion opportunity on it’s own, we believe areas such as factoring, trade payments, underwriting, insurance and loans products are due for an upgrade. Despite increasingly robust Industrial IoT installs, ever-improving algos, and an uptick of mobile-first habits, the industry has not caught up. This draws very much on my personal experiences in financial services. Everything that touches global trade is of interest through this exploration. While a lot of it will feel like fintech, it’s not enough if we upgrade one pillar of the supply chain — the related pillars must also level-up.

Keep an eye out for our deep dives in 2018 — we’re taking this seriously and making intentional learning a part of our culture. If you’re an expert, founder, corporate, stakeholder in any of these areas, please reach out. We would love to connect to share notes (santosh at dynamo dot vc).

Join us on Thursday for Hyder’s 2018 deep dive plan.