The Founder of Robot Maker, Kiva, Couldn't Get Silicon Valley to Fund Him

By Alexis C. Madrigal

Just one more pebble of evidence on a growing pile that Silicon Valley has been too focused on small ideas in the social space.

In a blog post today, an early investor in the warehouse robot company, Kiva, detailed what he learned from the venture.

If you haven't been watching the logistics space, Kiva makes squat little robots that work in vast teams in e-commerce fulfillment centers. Instead of humans wandering into vast stacks of merchandise, robots bring that merchandise to the workers. The robots carry out the work according to constantly evolving algorithms that maximize the efficiency of the operation.

They are a very big idea in logistics -- and one that founder Mick Mountz built a company around that Amazon purchased for $775 million in a deal that closed this week.

In today's blog post, Ajay Agarwal of Bain Capital Ventures noted that Mountz was unable to find funding in Silicon Valley, despite the idea's now-fulfilled promise.

There have been several blog posts, most notably by Peter Thiel and Founders Fund, discussing the venture community's lack of desire to fund transformational companies -those with disruptive technologies taking on big problems.  Mick saw this firsthand. When Mick first started Kiva shortly after the bubble burst, he was unable to raise funding on Sand Hill Road.  This ultimately caused him to move to Boston, where he raised his angel round and eventually his round from Bain Capital Ventures...

The truth is, Kiva simply wasn't a company that could be cranked out in weeks with some seed money, and the technical obstacles inherent in building a solution like this forced Kiva to invest years working on the solution pre GA. However, once they built a working and viable solution, they had the advantage of significant IP and few direct competitors.

There are echoes in Agarwal's post of the no-idea-too-small attitude that I discussed in my recent essay, "The Jig Is Up: Time to Get Past Facebook and Invent a New Future."



This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/05/the-founder-of-robot-maker-kiva-couldnt-get-silicon-valley-to-fund-him/256710/