Send in the Drones!

By David Cremin

We all know that drone technology is mature, and the presence of drones is broad, and growing.  The growth comes from both military and consumer usage.  Consumers are increasingly “playing” with drones in all kinds of ways and some of that playing has caused issues.  We all read about drone interference during the firefighting efforts in the Santa Barbara fires a few years ago.  And Gatwick airport.  Obviously, military drone use is sophisticated and growing.  How about recent events at oil fields in Saudi Arabia?  

And then in a 24 hour period I read two eye opening articles:

1.       Time Magazine: America needs a new strategic triad ; and

2.       Los Angeles Times:  FAA certifies UPS for drone deliveries with few limitations

Ever see a brown truck on the road.  Yeah!  The skies are going to be full of brown drones!!!  And our enemies can use drones to access us anywhere, pretty easily. 

We were thinking about the unintended consequence of drone technology a lot after the Santa Barbara fires, and it was one of the drivers for us to provide seed stage capital to Whitefox Defense in 2017, along with Stage Venture Partners, Serra Ventures and Okapi.  We met founder Luke Fox when he was experimenting with his innovation to “mitigate” a drone when and where it wasn’t wanted, or deemed dangerous.  Mitigate means, returning a drone back to its unaware teenage operator, or guiding the drone to a safe place, or dropping it on the spot.  Whitefox makes all this happen instantly, in real-time, enabled by advances in mobile and connectivity.  We believe Whitefox is unique, and a very timely solution; these two articles simply amplified for me the importance of drone airspace management. 

What I Learned Pitching The Richest Man In The World

In August of 2011, I had the fortune to be invited to meet and pitch Carlos Slim, who was the richest man in the world at the time.

The meeting was a favor to Carlos’s friend Eduardo Verastegui, who is best known as a Mexican Telenovela star and is a true gentleman. Eduardo and I had struck up a relationship through our mutual friend, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Dan Peate. Eduardo suggested that one of my portfolio companies might be of interest to the Slim family, so Eduardo, Dan, and I flew to Mexico City to pitch the opportunity.

Dan and I are investors together in the company, but as the lead investor and executive chairman, I was responsible for making the pitch. As we walked into Carlos’s office around 7:30pm, he informed me through his translator that we had 15 minutes.

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“Everyone has competition, but why will you win? How will you maintain your leadership position?” with David Cremin of Frontier

I had the pleasure of interviewing David Cremin, who is the founder and Managing Partner of Frontier, where he leads fund operations, fundraising and portfolio management. David has raised over $200 million in venture capital partnerships and helped lead investments in over 100 companies, including DailyPay, Divx Networks (NASDAQ:DIVX), Big Frame (DreamWorks), MaxPreps (CBS), Clear Access (Cisco) and Prolacta Bioscience. He previously served as Founder and CEO of Vis-à-Vis Entertainment, a venture-backed startup focused on music media. He spent several years touring as a professional musician and recording artist for RCA Records, Atlantic Records, Elektra Records and EastWest Records. David has taught business feasibility as an adjunct professor at UC Santa Barbara and California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo. He holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University.

Click here for the full interview…..

Gender Pay Equity Analysis Is Here to Stay. Is Your Company Doing It Right?

Turning over the Partner PoV column to Zev Eigen, founder and chief data scientist of our portfolio company, Syndio.

Equal pay for equal work by people of different genders is top of mind for most companies in 2019, with a December World Economic Forum report noting the gender pay gap is on track to persist for the next twenty decades.

There is absolutely no reason for the pay gap to persist, and some actors have begun taking steps on what they have realized is a solvable problem. For example, many states are enacting laws that require organizations of all sizes to close the gender pay gap. Shareholder activists, third-party organizations, and activist fund managers are pressing companies for transparency on their pay equity to avoid facing a shareholder proposal. Within companies, employee networks are more frequently sharing their own pay information when pressing their employers on pay equity. 

But more than the legal requirements or external and internal pressure, gender-based pay equity is the right thing to do. When employees know a company takes pay practices seriously, they are more engaged, happier, more productive, and less likely to leave. Employers that are transparent about their commitment to pay equity earn trust, and a reputation for pay equity is also the number-one way to attract top talent.

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Drone Security

Here’s a “Portfolio PoV” from Luke Fox, CEO of drone security company WhiteFox Defense Technologies sharing his thoughts with us today……

As of February 23, 2019, drone owners must begin displaying their FAA ID numbers on the outside of their drones, a new requirement in response to fears of terrorism. Previously, the FAA allowed registration numbers to be placed on the inside of drones. While this is a step in the right direction, the industry still has a long way to go with drone identification. There are over a million unregistered drones in the US, and the current system is manual and easy to exploit. The solution for drone remote ID should be digital, automated, and cryptographically-secure. The importance of cybersecurity in remote ID Is two-sided. Smart cities should be confident that authenticated drones operating within it are well intentioned, while also honoring the privacy of drones operators. Why must drone remote ID be secure? Without necessary cybersecurity in place, forging a digital identifier is easy. Anyone can claim to be any identify, from any location. Tampering with another drone’s identity is easy, as well. As drones proliferate, the manual registration process will need to be phased out. It’s imperative a system is implemented that both sends and receives data we can trust.

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