The Story Behind My Investment In CARMERA

Years ago, when I was working at a startup, I made my first trip down to SXSW. It was a blast. That weekend, I happened to stay in a house along with a bunch of folks from Disqus. I knew Daniel, the founder, a bit from before, as most people writing blogs online knew and respected Disqus. Daniel was in Austin with some of his team, including Mat (now at Slack), Tyler (now at Bebo), and Ro (the founder of CARMERA). We had a blast that weekend and those folks from Disqus were both gracious and a lot of fun to hang out with.

Fast-forward a few years later, I stayed in touch with the team from that trip. Though I haven’t talked to Daniel or Mat in some time (Hello, guys!), I did spend time with Tyler as he was thinking about his next moves. And, I was fortunate to get a phone call from Ro as he was thinking about his next startup — which happened to be in a totally different industry.

I told Ro that I wanted to invest in whatever he was doing, within reason. (I would’ve done the same with Tyler, except he was in the healthcare space, which is an area I haven’t invested in at all — I think that highly of Tyler.) I met with a Ro a few times and, as is the case with most investments, he opened my eyes to a new emerging trend that I hadn’t been exposed to — V2V, or vehicle-to-vehicle communications. At that time in 2014, while I had heard of Veniam and met the founder, it didn’t intuitively occur to me that moving vehicles would not only communicate with the cloud, but that they would also communicate with other vehicles because decisions would need to be processed locally. Of course, now with hindsight, that is obvious.

Ro and his team formed in NYC and went into stealth mode with CARMERA. I was lucky to be a very early investor in the seed round along with folks like Resolute, Notation, and Jud, among others. Later on, they scored a fantastic Series A round from Matrix, with Hardi Meybaum from Matrix joining the Board of Directors. (If you want to read more about the company, also see Erin Griffith’s piece in Fortune here.)

I could go on and on about why CARMERA is a fascinating plan in the burgeoning landscape of autonomous vehicles, but in this case, I would encourage you to spend time on their website: https://www.carmera.com/ I would say their website is one of the most unique and creative and informative startup websites I’ve seen today.

Finally, my seed investment in CARMERA is yet another example of how venture investing as I hope to practice it is a “people flow” journey — not a deal flow business. It is one of the many things I’ve learned by watching a great investor at work. I am grateful Ro and I became friends years before he started on this journey, and I am thankful I get to go along for the new one.

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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