@techvitamin 2.3: Matt Revis, VP Product, Jibo

As they say, hardware is hard. Matt Revis -- a veteran of the speech recognition wars at Nuance, and now VP of product at robotics startup Jibo -- is no stranger to this. Getting various software keyboards and versions of Dragon shipped by OEMs on hundreds of millions of handsets (smart and no so smart) takes a willingness to grind, and Matt has that in spades. Good thing too because he's jumped into an exploding segment -- intelligent home devices -- with relentless, well-funded competitors who have platforms and data that provide quite a moat. Jibo is taking a different approach than, say, Echo or Google Home. They believe an anthropomorphic little robot, tuned to interact and genuinely connect with different members of the family, is a differentiated play versus static appliances with disembodied personas (Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.). Much of this strategy is based on research done by Cynthia Breazeal, the magnetic robotics star who pioneered this work at MIT's Media Lab before its spinout into Jibo. Both Matt and Steve Chambers (Nuance's dynamic #2 for years) have signed up to help Cynthia bring the little robot to market.
Matt Revis, VP Product, Jibo

As they say, hardware is hard. Matt Revis — a veteran of the speech recognition wars at Nuance, and now VP of Product Management at social robotics startup Jibo — is not someone to shy away from a tough challenge.

Getting various software keyboards and versions of Dragon shipped by OEMs on hundreds of millions of handsets (smart and some not so smart) takes a willingness to grind, and Matt has that in spades. Good thing too, because he’s jumped into an exploding segment — intelligent home devices — with relentless, well-funded competitors who have platforms and data that may provide quite a moat.

Jibo is taking a different approach than, say, Echo or Google Home. They believe a slightly anthropomorphic little robot, tuned to interact and genuinely connect with different members of the family, is a differentiated play versus static appliances with disembodied personas (Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.). Jibo is all about being relatable, and funny, and someone you’re invested in as they “grow”.

Much of this strategy is based on research done by Cynthia Breazeal, the charismatic robotics star who pioneered this work at MIT’s Media Lab before its spinout into Jibo. Both Matt and Steve Chambers (Nuance’s dynamic #2 for years) have signed up to help Cynthia bring the little robot to market.

It won’t be easy. The tech (think Alexa strapped to an Echo that moves in place but also has facial recognition and a display) has a lot of surface area where the table stakes are moving very quickly. And once they’ve figured all of that out, then they need to build and sell it.

But Matt (and Steve) believed in speech-based personal assistants years before Siri, and if anybody can do it they can. In this episode, Matt and I discuss many of their challenges, their unique approach, and how they doing. It’s “the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most fun — both by a lot”, and you’ll hear the authentic voice of the entrepreneur.  Have a listen to the podcast, but also watch the Jibo Program Update below, which gives you a sense of the V1.0 product, but also of how the business is managing the expectations of a community eager to get its hands on the guy.

Here’s a snippet from the full podcast:

 

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@techvitamin 2.2: Greg Gottesman, Pioneer Square Labs

Greg Gottesman, Managing Director
Greg Gottesman, Managing Director

Much has changed about Venture Capital in the last few decades, and Greg Gottesman has witnessed it up close and personal as a founder of Madrona Venture Group, then of Madrona Labs, and now of Pioneer Square Labs (PSL). And while he’s still involved at Madrona, PSL is part of a clear evolution towards the entrepreneur, and getting closer to the initial creative process in a startup.

Greg’s widely known as an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur, with a strong sense of product, and great empathy for what founders go through. At Madrona Labs, he experimented with the notion of a venture firm providing the space, talent and financial resources to get founders off the ground, and through the first brutal filter.

Greg Gottesman and Geoff Entress lead Pioneer Square labs
The Pioneer Square Labs team (photo credit: Geekwire)

Now at Pioneer Square Labs — along with one of the country’s most quietly successful angel investors, Geoff Entress — Greg has taken the lab model even further, tweaking some of the early formulas at Madrona, and bringing a host of top tier VCs to the table for the entrepreneur. If you’re an aspiring Founder, PSL will quickly put you in close proximity to engineers, designers, and a broad group of investors who are ready to provide both capital and hands-on help. PSLs “limited partners” aren’t passive pension funds, they are top VC like Greycroft.

In this episode, Greg and I talk about entrepreneurship, the new model they’re trying to drive, the kind of people he’s hoping will walk through their front door.  Have a listen.

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