Internet of Things: a European advantage?

I just came back from showcasing Good Night Lamp at the Launch Festival (thanks Jason for inviting us). If you don’t know it, it’s a fairly local San Francisco event for startups, and we were one of a handful of startups that had a physical component to them. Here are some quick thoughts on what I learnt over the course of those 3 days in the Demo Pit.

- Internet of Things? You mean Quantified Self right?
In SF, most people’s references to the Internet of Things are FitBit & Jawbone who are the only ones with offices there. Self-improvement and health are the types of ideas and concepts that people understood well. Everything else, felt really new to them.

- Internet of Things? You mean hardware right?
The term internet of things doesn’t map onto many examples of projects for a community of people who are extremely web or mobile focused. If there’s hardware, it’s got to be connected to a screen basically (see this week’s sxsw trends). The best example of this is the “pivoting” that Green Goose has been going through. They started with RFID tags in everyday objects, to augmented toothbrushes which they found a lot of funding for, to now sensors in toys and objects using the Belkin WeMo to talk to an iPhone or iPad. The reaction from the judges is worth listening to (6:30 minutes in).

- Investment in Internet of Things isn’t in SF yet.
There were a LOT of investors at Launch, and most of them only talked about software, which is why Green Goose’s pivot from a hardware heavy product to a few sensors in a bear makes sense. If you’re after money and financial support, you will tend to end up catering to the investment you know you can get, because investment also means support and contacts.

- Europe has an advantage in terms of community, but not capital
SF has just had its first 2 internet of things meetups last month, there’s an Open Internet of Things meetup in Silicon Valley every month with 50 odd participants. This will get big very quickly. I’ve been running the #iotlondon meetup for Cosm for over a year and before that at Tinker, we grew a community who were creative, understood what hardware could bring to product design, to spaces, buildings, installations and more. That hasn’t quite happened in SF yet it seems to me, as there aren’t as many art/design schools or R&D departments. But this is just a question of time. They have the capital, and once a few VCs get into the swing of things (Fitbit & Jawbone were initially supported by the Foundry Group who are in Boulder, CO the home of Sparkfun not surprisingly) then people will move their startups over and flock to the States for another boom. Europe has the community of investors believe me, but they are slow off the block. Hopefully they will realise, this is what their Silicon Valley could be. Not web, but things.