The Story Behind My Investment In Tempo Automation

About a year ago, my friend in NYC Joel pinged me about a company he had invested in. It was a short description, but I took the intro and met Jeff, the CEO of Tempo Automation, for coffee. We had a great discussion, and he had the right background in hardware, automation, and systems. My shortcoming at the time was that I didn’t totally understand his market, so I kind of asked to just leave the conversation. Jeff pressed me over email and now, looking back, was incredibly gracious and thoughtful in making time for me.

In those subsequent conversations, I saw Jeff’s measured aggressiveness emerge (I mean this in a good way) and he took the time to teach me about his world. I am looking over the email threads right now as I’m writing this, and it’s embarrassing that he put up with my questions. Nevertheless, through his relentless and thorough answers, I finally said “OK.”

Today, Tempo Automation, one of my companies in Haystack Fund #2 announced their Series A led by Lux Capital, where I am close with the partnership. The round was actually done way back in 2015. The news about their announcement reminds me what an unorthodox and lucky story it was in terms of how I got involved with the company.

That turned out to be a good decision on my part. What I didn’t realize at the time was (1) the company sits at a very dynamic point in the ecosystem for manufacturing and (2) Jeff, the CEO, is an absolute machine. As software has invaded the industrial manufacturing process (like 3D printing — which I’ll write more about soon), Tempo Automation’s factory harnesses software to make the business of hardware move faster. Tempo started by automating the most cumbersome piece of the process (logistics) and will expand into other production processes as they grow, driving time and cost savings to hardware developers. This frees engineers designing hardware to focus on what they know best and not have to become logistics experts, as well.

Other investors noticed as well. Tempo ended up going to from “seed to Series A” faster than any other company I’ve been fortunate enough to seed, and I’ve been around some fast ones. Part of that is because investors are starting to recognize the scope of the opportunity in the industrial space, and part of that is because the team’s leadership focus in pursuit of building the company. Now with a team of 25 and growing, it is humbling to look back on all my questions I peppered Jeff with. It is my job to ask questions and listen, but it’s also my job to lean in without perfect information and try to help out. I’m thankful they gave me a few chances to do so.

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2017 Semil Shah.

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