There are very few places in the world with such an active, vibrant startup community as in the San Francisco Bay Area. Which is why some Analog Garage Venture team members conduct their strategic partnership exploration extensively there.
Silicon Valley Senior Marketing Manager Sylvain Marseille collaborates to find solutions to important problems with Analog Garage’s Bay Area accelerator partners, like Alchemist. Alchemist is unique in that it exclusively works with startups with solutions for the enterprise.
Sylvain says he enjoys working with Alchemist because its B2B focus aligns well with Analog Devices (ADI), which is so well entrenched in industrial markets. He just attended a Demo Day for one Alchemist class. And the cycle is set to begin again, with the next class set to kick off in August.
Image of Alchemist Demo Day kickoff
We sat down with Sylvain and Ravi Belani, a Managing Partner at Alchemist, to talk about what goes into preparing a class for its Demo Day, and how the activity helps further the partnership between Alchemist and the Analog Garage.
Ravi Belani, Managing Partner at Alchemist Sylvain Marseille, Sr. Marketing Manager Analog Garage
Q: How does the Analog Garage and Alchemist work together?
Sylvain: We are a Strategic investor in the Alchemist fund. This gives the Analog Garage team preferential access to the startups once they have been accepted into the program.
That’s really valuable to us. Because there are just so many new ideas cropping up all the time in the sensor-to-cloud space that we couldn’t possibly review them all. So it’s great to have a partner like Alchemist help vet potential B2B partners for us, and pave the way for us to connect with them at an early stage. That way, we can help them develop their business, leveraging the technical and business resources that ADI has to offer.
I’m the primary ADI contact for Alchemist, so I act as an advisor to the startups that need help with B2B sales and marketing, product strategies or pitch preparation.
Q: How does Alchemist prepare for demo day?
Ravi: The teams work intensively for five months before Demo Day to get ready for the big day. In general, the teams are maniacally focusing on getting traction and improving their products to put their best foot forwards when Demo Day comes around. Of course, in the weeks leading up to Demo Day, there is an added focus on the Demo Day presentation – including practices in front of a cross section of Alchemist's staff, pitch experts, Alumni who had successfully Demo'd previously, and real investors. There is continuous and ample feedback given to the founders as they go through the practices culminating in the final Demo Day presentation.
Q: What types of demos were presented at demo day?
Ravi: At our last Demo Day we showcased 19 startups that ranged from infrastructure to applications to services. Some of the Demo's that got the press' attention included a battery efficient high-density sensor network for industrial IoT; autonomous AI-enabled drones for agriculture that can kill weeds without requiring farmers to use toxic pesticides; a next gen, agile visibility dashboard into manufacturing operations and sensors; an error analytics platform for developers to do root cause analysis on their code; and a course management app built by Carnegie Mellon alums for higher ed students.
You can see all the presentations and connect with the companies here.
Q: Sylvain, What were your impressions of Demo Day?
Sylvain: You know, I was really impressed. I’ve attended lots of showcase-type events for startups. But this was the first time I’d been to one hosted by Alchemist, so I didn’t know what to expect. Hats off to Alchemist – the event was very well organized, and the startups were all of really high quality. Each of the teams were solving real-world problems in the B2B space.
Q: Ravi, how do you evaluate ideas that reduce the cost for things like farming using robotics?
Ravi: When we look at ideas, in general, we are looking at how significant an impact the venture can have if things go right. We are more concerned with backing risky ventures that could have a huge impact vs. safer ventures where the downside risk may be limited, but the upside is limited as well.
In robotics for farming, we are looking for validation that the technology innovation in the product is significant, or that the team has some unfair advantage in fulfilling it. In the agriculture robotics company in the last class - Farmwise - the team was distinctive technically as the founders were some of the top grads out of MIT and Stanford's AI Labs and launchpad programs.
From a cost perspective, we want to see that the value proposition to all the stakeholders make the product an inevitability given both cost reductions and/or value creation. And that there is a long-term competitive advantage at scale if competition encroaches as the company grows
Q: What do you think of the role AI in b2b applications?
Ravi: We think the role of AI in B2B applications is incredibly significant in its scope of impact -- and will be one of the most significant trends in the foreseeable future. There are several trends converging which is why AI is suddenly so salient: the emergence of APIs has exposed data sets in the enterprise space that used to be hard to interact with; sensors are becoming so cheap and ubiquitous that there is the ability to create intelligence across many aspects of the enterprise that was not previously available; machine learning algorithms are becoming deeply impressive. Given these, we think AI in B2B will affect almost every industry and every function -- it's hard to overestimate the impact AI will have.
Q: What are some of the future problems that Alchemist start-ups are solving?
Alchemist founders are attacking large problems using innovative technology. There is a wide variety of innovations and markets.
Here is a sample to give you a feel:
The list would be far too long for us to include everything here. Those interested in learning more should visit us here!