The Jay Kim Show #68: Kyle Ellicott (Transcript)
This week we sit down and speak with Kyle Ellicott, who is the founder and chief labs officer of chief labs officer of ReadWrite Labs. ReadWrite Labs is the world’s first accelerator focused on the Internet of Things, IoT, wearables, and emerging technologies. They have officer around the world, including San Francisco and Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China. Since the launch of their accelerator, they’ve worked with hundreds of companies, helped successfully raise over a hundred million dollars in venture funding, including 15 companies that they’ve successfully helped crowd fund. So Kyle spends a lot of time today talking about the accelerator, how startup founders who are applying should strategically approach the application process, exactly what to expect if you’re going through the accelerator, the steps afterwards on how ReadWrite will help with the funding process. Kyle goes, also, into what he’s extremely excited about in the IoT and wearables space in the future. So this one is certainly one that you don’t want to miss if you are a hardware tech enthusiast. Let’s get on to the show.
Jay: Kyle, how are you doing, my man? Welcome to the show.
Kyle: Thank you, Jay. Honored and proud to be here.
Jay: Yeah, so I have to… It’s funny because we basically live — what? — 40 minutes away from each other. But then I have to wait until you’re halfway around the world to get you on my podcast, so… Just one of those things, I suppose, you being the global traveler that you are. Well thanks, man. I appreciate you coming on. We had a blast having you on the virtual summit, which went off, which was very highly successful and well received. And so, yeah, we’re happy to have a follow on with you on the Jay Kim show. So for the audience listening in, why don’t you give us a little introduction. Who is Kyle Ellicott, and what do you do for a living?
Kyle: For sure. First and foremost, this is a dream come true. I remember the day we met. I was talking about the Jay Kim Show and how honored I’d be to be interviewed on it, and here I am today. It’s such a big deal. I’ll wait till after the show to get your autograph. Shameless plug for you. But, no. So, yeah. I’m Kyle. I’m the founder of ReadWrite and the chief labs officer of ReadWrite Labs. For those who don’t know, ReadWrite is one of the oldest and the very first tech publications that was launched on the web back in 2003 talking about the early days of technology and the ins and outs, the real guts, if you will, to what technology was. And today, almost 15 years later, we are the number one publication for all of the Internet of Things and connected devices or our connected world. And ReadWrite Labs is our accelerator, and we were the very first and still today the largest accelerator around the world for the Internet of Things, with offices in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and San Francisco, helping companies around the world build their businesses and go global.
Jay: Awesome. That’s a huge undertaking and a huge success that you guys are, in fact, the forerunner there, which is a massive space that we’re going to get into, to explain that space to the audience.
So personally, let’s take a little peak into the entrepreneur of Kyle. How did you get started in tech or hardware of even before that? Give us a little bit of human flavor. How did you come up? Where are you from originally, that sort of thing?
Kyle: Yeah, so taking it all the way back. I am born and raised in the great state of Michigan in the US. It was there that, naturally, I fell into entrepreneurship. I say naturally just based on the history of the state, the history of my family, which runs very deep with entrepreneurship. I kind of bit the bug early and around 14 years old started my first business around hardware and building custom PCs and softwares and later, at one point, network infrastructures. And so I started at this young age. I wanted to have my own first computer. My parents told me, “That’s great, exciting for you. But to do so, you need to get a job. You need to help pay for this,” because computers at that time were still pretty pricey in comparison to what you get for today’s prices. So I did.
So I got a job, started working, and then bought my first computer. And rather than going the traditional route of buying a computer all put together, I decided to purchase pieces and figure out how it all worked myself. So I put it together and I was in love.
From there, I really just continued to blossom in different ways of technology and innovation from website design to cybersecurity and forensics to really every bit of the latest trends or sometimes early, before they became latest trends in technology, and it really just kept taking off until after college when I started my next two businesses. One was in the sports and entertainment industry, and the other was a digital agency which was one of the first in Michigan at the time, helping companies who were very established come into web 2.0 and start getting on social media, start understanding content management systems like WordPress and really helping them transform their businesses.
From there, I took the next giant leap into venture, into mobile apps, and from there, into big data, and all the way into IoT. So long story long, entrepreneurship started at a very young age in the Midwest. It grew as I moved to the West Coast, so Los Angeles and San Francisco, and then took even a greater leap as I started moving out to and working a lot in Asia between Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and greater APAC.
Jay: Right. Awesome. That’s a life-long entrepreneur, which is super cool because entrepreneurship is a funny thing these days. It seems like everyone wants to do a startup or bootstrap a company and be the next whatever, what have you — Zuckerberg or whatever app you’re building. But a lot of people have different life paths that take them there. It’s pretty cool, I think, that your family was somewhat supportive at an early age for you to do that.
It sound like you yourself took a broad survey of all the different aspects of tech, so to speak. And so I’m curious. At what point did you sort of stumble upon or were introduced to ReadWrite and then how did you parlay that into launching the accelerator there?
Kyle: Great question. ReadWrite.com was founded by Richard MacManus. So the website itself was founded by Richard, an amazing journalist and individual over in Australia/New Zealand. I first stumbled upon the dot-com, so the publication, around… I think it was actually right in 2003 when it first launched, because I was so geeky and nerdy around technology that, thanks to Richard, it was able to enjoy and feel as though I wasn’t alone in the world. So a huge shout out to him and what he did.
Really, what led me to founding and co-founding this company almost now four and half years ago, going on five, it was kind of an accumulation of everything that I had worked for, had put into my career. I had been in startups. I’d been in corporate. I’d been in education. I loved helping people. From a very young age, I enjoyed helping people understand business, how to start businesses, how to scale them. I understood the basics from an early age of raising money, but then I learned some hard lessons about raising money as my career would go on.
When we started the accelerator at the end of 2013 and 2014, my knowledge at that point had really come together, understanding how to build and scale businesses as I had been advising them. Some of today’s largest “unicorns” or top tech companies that I had advised when they were very, very early and just getting started, to venture capital when I was working with VCs and angels and corporate venture to help fix some of their portfolio companies or learning from those who mentored me, to understanding how industry trends worked… So to me, it was a natural progression. Again, I just wanted to help people, and I loved entrepreneurship so great.
My cofounder at the same time was very, very deep into media and mobile and saw the shift from mobile to what was then wearables. I was seeing the same shift by from the IoT. So I was looking at it from a hardware perspective. He was looking at it from the content and data perspective. So our brains just kind of came together, and the natural step, again, because of our resources, our knowledge, and how we both work within individuals, was an accelerator and then doing more content in media.
Jay: It’s pretty impressive, though. Was there any sort of story on how you were able to tie it with ReadWrite, which is quite a significant household name in that specific niche? But it’s such a media asset, so to speak, that it would be like me walking up to — I don’t know — The Wall Street Journal or something, being like, “Oh, I want to start an in-house investing camp with your thing” or whatever. You get my point. How did you even get connected with them? You know what I mean?
Kyle: Yeah. It was an amazing opportunity. I would love to say that it was planned and it was all strategic, but it was an amazing opportunity that kind of was placed in front of us. The publication we acquired back in 2015. So the ReadWrite.com publication was something that we acquired, and we had started what was then called Wearable World about two years prior. So we had already been in this business of acceleration and doing content and doing events. It was very community driven, and then we had the opportunity to kind of acquire this asset, this brand, this publication, that needed its life placed back in it. We took that opportunity, and as we kind of realigned its voice, its vision, and where it was going, we looked at the industry as a whole where we wanted to go where it was going, what the brand ReadWrite stood for, and looked back at its roots of looking at technology, being the forefront of it, and then being on the inside. So at that point, we renamed the company and since have been very focused on how we can continue to make that original voice live through our vision of where this connected world goes and how we want to continue to be the community leaders and help every bit of the industry with all of the resources and knowledge that we have.
Jay: That’s super exciting and strategic too, if I might add, because especially in this day and age, everything is media. The power of media is so vast. People always say for these old companies that are resisting, they have to transform into a media company. Every company has to become a media company because if you’re not intrinsically a media company in some way, shape, or form, then you’re going to die out eventually because that’s basically the life blood now of any company. Pretty cool story. Thanks for sharing.
Let’s dig into a little bit on the more technical side of what you guys specifically do there at the accelerator. Internet of Things, obviously hardware related — maybe you could give us a little primer on what is IoT because if you’re not in the space and maybe you don’t follow tech, you might not know. You probably have heard of the IoT, that little acronym or whatever, but you might not actually know what that means. And maybe you could give us a little bit of a primer.
Kyle: Yeah, sure. So most people would probably know this industry in the form of wearable technology. We had Google Glass and Fitbit, Basis Watch, Pebble — some of these early devices that kick started what was then wearables and was progressing into the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things really made a shift somewhere between 2014 and 2015 where we went from, again, wearable technology and mobile to the idea that something so large and so substantial was going to be created around technology for our world that it was literally going to disrupt and shift what we had seen with how the internet had years prior. And so the Internet of Things is the idea that you have everything connected from devices to human beings to everything in between are connected with either a device, on the internet, generating data, and using that data to improve on what they’re building or actually help them make better decisions and generate user-based data.
So a perfect example is something like the Fitbit device which started off as a wearable because it was something that we were wearing. But today it’s looked at very differently. It’s a device that some people can’t live without. It records your sleep. It records your activity. It can record and track what you’re eating, drinking. So now you’re able to see data about yourself in a way that you never could and in return, that data is sent back to you helping you to adjust certain parts of your life.
Another common example is Nest, the Nest thermostat. It’s something that can sit in your home. You’re able to control it remotely. It learns your habits. It understands your environment in the home and can adjust the temperature as such to whoever is in the room or the time of day, how to save energy, etc. So those are two common use cases.
Where Internet of Things gets really exciting… When you start to look at all of the potential opportunities, and you look at how each and every industry that is out there is affected by this and for the better in most cases. I mean, you look at finance, and you bring in things like blockchain and contact list payments. You look at Amazon and the store that they created, which gets into retail. So I’m now able to walk into a store that is an Amazon Go store. I’m able to walk in, pick up a sandwich, pick up a drink, and walk out. And at no point do I need to pull out my wallet. At no point do I need to pull out my phone — anything. I’m actually able to seamlessly walk in, pick up my purchases, and walk out. And that’s powered by the Internet of Things. And that’s powered by data. It’s powered by this mobile phone we always have in our pocket. It beacons and sensors so that things can easily move. And what it has done is it really brought our lives into this idea of efficiency, seamlessness, and really improving ourselves and what we do.
It’s pretty exciting. You look at the next area, and the big conversations today are around what’s called connected cars. And the idea that we went from driving back to my roots — no pun intended — but going back to my roots in Michigan where the auto industry thrived, today, we’re not just talking about engine size or tire size or even fuel efficiency in a car. Instead we’re looking at how do our vehicles become electric. How do they self-park? Self-drive? How are they just completely autonomous? How do they share data?
We’re working with a company that, right now, you have a small little device you put into your car. It reads everything that’s going on with a car, and it can do what’s called preventative maintenance. So based on the vibrations the car is generating, it can pick up if it’s normal, if it’s not. If you’ve hit a pothole, it can tell that based on the vibrations of the car. If it’s raining, anything that happens, and now it can take that data, send it back to the dealership or to your auto mechanic and say, “Hey, we just got a flat,” or, “Our alignment is off. Can you offer us a discount for coming in early?”
That changes, very much, our consumer habits. It changes our behaviors when it comes to our cars. So it’s interesting. When you think of the Internet of Things, it’s a very large and heavy term. But when you start to really dive into it, the best way to look at it for listeners is every industry and yourself is connected in some way. All of us in every industry generate data. And now we’re able to use that data through our products, through our services, and through ourselves to better our lives and better our experiences in life as well.
Jay: That’s a great explanation, Kyle. IoT is essentially like our future. Just hearing how you explained it and just from what I’ve read and know about it, it’s essentially… When I think about the futuristic movies that I see, like Minority Report or whatever where basically you walk into that room and everything is seamless and all this data is being collected by hardware that, a lot of times, you don’t even see. It’s just somewhere in the room, or it’s a wearable or something like that. But it’s, like you said, making our lives easier and more seamless. And you’re right. It is a heavy sort of term because it’s essentially everything.
So when we reach singularity and machines take over and kill us all, Kyle, I’m blaming you for fueling this.
Kyle: It’s understood, and it’s recorded on this podcast, so everyone will be able to look back at it.
Kyle: I will not be the John Connor to save us all. I will be the opposite. At least we have that on record.
Jay: That’s right. That’s right. The Jay Kim Show will clean the record for everyone that survives. Awesome.
Let’s talk specifically about the accelerator because it’s some super exciting stuff. I’m sure when you’re vetting some of these companies that are applying, the ones that you actually get to work with, that you look at, they must just be super exciting. What is the process by which a company can apply and potentially come through your accelerator and get to work with you and your team?
Kyle: That’s a great question. In terms of application, there’s a number of ways. The easiest and the first would probably be to go to our website. So go to ReadWriteLabs.com. And ReadWrite.com, which we can add into the show notes. That’s one. And you can fill out our application there. You can find us on AngelList, f6s, Gust, which are common platforms for accelerators and entrepreneurs, helping to match them and apply. And then, the other is you can reach out to me or my team directly on social media or through email. And then the last is you can come to any of our events. You can walk into any of our offices, say hello, and let us know what you’re doing. From there, generally we’ll take you through that next step if it’s of interest and helping you apply and taking you through the interview process and vetting. And then, if all goes well, application.
I’ll tell you, Jay, the thing is, we have so many people that have applied, which has been very humbling and wonderful, but usually the entrepreneurs that really get that next step are the ones who are walking into the office showing off the technology, really, really getting in front of us to show us something that we’ve never seen. And that’s where things get pretty exciting. You’re at a show, and you meet a company, and they’re showing you the latest in hydroponic technology, for instance, with cloud control and how it’s going to shift and change the way we grow food and how cannabis is grown, from consumers to enterprise… Those are things that are just hard to read in an application.
What I will say is we scan thousands of applications for the accelerator. And for any entrepreneur, you can generally tell very quickly if an entrepreneur is serious, a little lost or a little confused, or not so serious about joining your accelerator. I know a lot of my friends who also run these other programs around the world would probably say the same. Those who are not too interested just generally, application looks kind of the same, cookie cutter. Those who really, really want to be in will go that extra mile. They’ll submit an application. They’ll send me an email. They’ll reach out on social. They’ll show up at an event. They will be aggressively pursuing and continually reaching out. What’s important about that, to anyone listening, or to the investors that are out there as well, is this shows the drive. This shows the passion that an entrepreneur should have. Whether they’re successful in the end or not is not the point. It’s that they’re willing to go the extra mile, and that’s kind of a first trigger point of someone that we and others would want to work with. Someone who’s willing to give it all.
Jay: That’s a good piece of advice. I also feel that, specifically on the hardware side, I feel like the cycle to build a hardware company might be longer than a software company. And so the commitment that a founder or a team needs is all the more. You can’t be nine months in and all of a sudden, you can’t just pivot a hardware product as easily as you can a software. So I feel like that is definitely one of the key metrics that you should look out for.
Are companies or founders that come in, is this all pre-prototype stage or is it post-prototype or both?
Kyle: It’s actually both. We have had companies come in with not even a napkin, just an idea, to companies that are generating revenue around their Series A or raising to their Series B, want to come work with us. And we love that range.
Today in the accelerator, we look for more companies who have an established product. So they have the typical terms, the MVP, minimal viable product, but even so much as a prototype. Because to your point, hardware is a long game. Everyone knows hardware is hard. That’s kind of the overplayed statement. But really, it is a long game, and you want to make sure that things have been tested. You want to make sure that the entrepreneur has really thought through how this may be put together, not what it’s finally going to look like but just how it’s going to come together from a technical perspective to a physical perspective.
And even from a software side now, we’re looking for companies that, again, have proven out what they want to build and, for those who are listening, could challenge that. But here’s the bottom line. When it comes to building a software product, you can get an MVP spun up pretty quick. The cost is low. The development is easier than it was. And even if you’re not a technician, you can still come with something.
When it comes to hardware, same thing. You’ve got 3D print shops around the world or fabrication and rapid prototyping places that you can get something put together. You’ve got places like we have in Shenzhen and Hong Kong and around greater China where you can quickly build a product in a number of days and have it turn on. So really, it’s a progression that we want to see, but it’s also a progression that things are moving to because of how fast it is.
But I will add this caveat to confuse everybody. Those entrepreneurs who are multi-time over, or those entrepreneurs who really have something of difference and spark, we do give them that extra look if it’s just the idea. But we try less and less to have that happen, and instead, we really require that prototype. So anyone listening, if you have a prototype, if you’re not sure how to build a prototype, talk to someone or talk to myself and think about having that before you apply.
Jay: Awesome. That’s another good little tip for the audience. So the next couple of questions are, how long is the accelerator? How many classes do you have each year? Is it the standard you take a percentage of the company and provide some funding, and then you help them with some of your resources post-graduation? Maybe you could just give us a run-down.
Kyle: Yeah. We take about two to four percent, in some cases a little bit more, in some cases a little bit less, mostly because we work with such a wide range of companies. So again, you can come in at a very early stage or a very late stage, already generating revenue. So we have that range, which is generally discussed between us and the teams to find the perfect fit that works for everybody and the time that’s going to be put in.
The structure for the accelerator is a little different than your traditional. And we’ve done that in two parts — one, having built or gone through accelerators in the past and then two, our own lessons learned. Running an accelerator, we noticed the model was broken, and the traditional three, four months just does not work for everybody. And instead, there’s a better way to do it, and which we’re still learning from, and we’re still improving.
But the way the accelerator works today is you come in for four weeks. Two weeks is a very intensive boot camp where you have to see, generally, too much of my face than you would want to see in a 40-hour work week. But two week boot camp, really accelerating you into doing business in the Internet of Things — fundraising, business development, strategy, branding, marketing, manufacturing, etc. Really, really accelerated education with some of the top leaders in the industry, top VCs and our mentors along with our team who pretty much take you from the day-one point to the day 14 and gets you a year’s-plus worth of education in a short amount of time.
And the next two weeks is very focused around business development and strategy development. So whether we’re focusing on fundraising, crowd funding, building a product, manufacturing, going on a global scale, we’re very focused on putting those efforts in place during that time which leads into the next year. And over the next year, we’re very hands-on as deeply integrated advisors helping to execute on the strategies for the company, work towards milestones of product launch to fundraising, product releases, manufacturing and the like to continue to watch you grow and succeed.
What’s a little different as well about us is that we have these offices around the world. So you can take this program in any of our locations — Hong Kong, Shenzhen, San Francisco — and during the year, after your four weeks, you’re actually able to move through each of those locations. So if you start in San Francisco and the goal is to start manufacturing your product in the next three months, you’re able to come here, get the education, build your context, start laying in strategy and working with the team. And then in three months’ time, go do a similar course in Shenzhen and start meeting with manufacturers, talking about your production schedule and how you’re going to go from prototype to mass production and have all those resources available to you during that time.
So it’s a little different than the traditional four months or 15, 16 weeks. You have a demo day. You graduate and see you later…
Jay: You’re out.
Kyle: Exactly. It’s more of an ongoing process. Come in, get what you need. Because, again, everybody is different. So we want to give you the base and a little more, work with you on that strategy and then take you, over the next year, through all these different points of your company, and then continue to work with you through the lifecycle, because you’re going to need us at different points. And as the company continues to grow, we want to continue to provide more and more resources for you.
Jay: That’s incredible. So I guess it’s like a rolling type… Because if your program lasts upwards of a year, then I guess it’s just as you have space you fill that up. How does it work?
Kyle: So we do have classes. Generally, just to make it a little bit easier because working in one-offs can be tough for the entrepreneur because you want to have that sense of community. So we do do classes where we’ll take in batches of companies, anywhere from two to three times a year, depending on the city. So that way it provides a support system for the entrepreneurs.
But we do take companies in a one- or two-off fashion. Sometimes there’s a company that comes in late or we just happen to meet and there is an opportunity or support that we can provide. And so we don’t want to discredit entrepreneurs because they didn’t make the deadline for an application. Instead, we can still welcome them in.
In San Francisco and soon in Asia, we actually have an incubation program. So companies who are not yet ready for an accelerator are just looking to soft land and get started in San Francisco, for instance, and start to build their network, get to know the community, we have an early program for them where they can come in and get office space, start working with mentors, get a chance to be in our office, attend events, and get that early entrance before they come into the accelerator, which is kind of a nice cue-up for some of those companies we talked about earlier that are still working on their prototype.
Jay: Sounds so comprehensive. It’s definitely much, much more comprehensive than some of the other programs that I’ve heard of. So speaking of Asia, you obviously split your time — you’re San Fran right now. But I know that you have quite a large presence in Hong Kong and China. Obviously, Shenzhen, as we all know is the hardware capital of the world. What was your experience with launching an Asian location for your company? And have you found that it’s massively helpful for companies to be able to actually come through and experience that, meet the suppliers, and go through that process within the confines of your program? Tell us a little bit about that.
Kyle: One thing, just to touch on real quick… Your last point about how comprehensive the accelerator is, we made it that way because we continued to look — and this actually plays in to why we came to Asia — we continued to look at all the different types of companies — their stages, where they were coming from, their needs, where they were going. And what we found is, again, there was no one solution. So an accelerator didn’t fit everybody. And so we created the accelerator first, took a step back into incubation, and then moved towards helping companies come cross border between the US and Asia and then also start soft landing and establishing in Asia.
The reason we came to Asia was we had all these great hardware companies who needed to go build a product and would come to China in the majority of cases, but they wouldn’t have a network. They wouldn’t have resources or people they could trust. And so Asia was always on our map of, how can we help our community. How can we better help our entrepreneurs and build that community and those resources for them?
We got very lucky that we had some amazing partners who allowed us to come into Hong Kong and thrive and really welcomed us into their networks and, really, to the Hong Kong community as a whole. When it was still in its infancy — and today, now, it’s in its early days, I would say. From there, we progressed, not just in Hong Kong but moved into mainland China, wanting to, again, build that network, work with some of our partners who have really welcomed and shown us the value of doing business in China and in doing business around Asia.
Since we have… As you said, I split my time between there and the US, and that’s for a number of reasons, to very much focus on growing those cross-border relations because typically what you have is ecosystems around the world that are very location centric. There is not much crossover until someone from some other city — big name, Tony Fadell, the founder of Nest and product at Apple, big, big name here in the Valley, in San Francisco — has now moved to Paris and France to do his next startup at Station F, their big accelerator. That’s creating a wave.
And now what you hear is the idea of Paris or the French ecosystem really being tied back to the local ecosystem in San Francisco. What I’m trying to do and what we’re trying to do as a company is help bridge the two worlds between Asia and San Francisco in the US of the resources, the knowledge, the opportunities between the two and helping them all realize that for us to really grow, for us as entrepreneurs and founders to succeed, and for the Internet of Things to really be successful in our lives, we all need to work together. And so I spend a lot of my time back and forth between some really great ecosystems, which has been pretty humbling.
Jay: Yeah. I love that because being an Asia advocate myself, I love the bridging the gap. There is always the different camps. Some of the hardcore Silicon Valley old-school guys are still stuck in their mentality that it’s sort of like the Mecca of innovation and this sort of thing. But obviously, for both of us being based out here, we think otherwise. So I’m glad that you guys are committed to doing that. It’s an awesome thing.
So finally, on just the accelerator stuff, what about come funding time, fundraising time for the companies that are going through your program, what kind of support do you provide on that front if they’re ready to potentially take venture capital or perhaps even crowdfunding?
Kyle: When it comes to funding… We’ll start with crowdfunding. We’ve been very fortunate to have great companies with great products that has allowed us to really get behind them and support them to see 16…16 products go through crowding during our accelerator’s time. All have been successful, either reaching their goal or more than ten X their goal. And so the support that—
Kyle: Yeah. I mean, high five to the founders. We’re just the people behind the scenes. But in terms of the support that we provide around crowd funding, we definitely allow or definitely tap into our community, our marketing and resources, our networks, to help promote and to help strategize around those crowdfunding campaigns. Most think it’s just as easy as saying, “I’m going to do a crowdfunding campaign. It’s going to be successful.” Uh, no. False. There is a lot of work that has to be done, and we have partnered with Indiegogo. We’ve worked with Kickstarter and some of the others in the past to work side by side with our entrepreneurs, along with ourselves, to make sure the right strategy is in place, the campaign is designed to be effective, to be successful, and to really help the product come to market for those consumers who are going to be their early adopters.
A great example is someone like Orii out of Hong Kong and the wonderfully successful campaign that they had recently this year. Another is Nuheara. They’re a wireless earbud, a hearable, if you will. Again, they also had a very successful campaign. In both cases, we worked with the entrepreneurs to get the strategy, to get things ready, and then we offer some marketing and community support as well. And those entrepreneurs who are interested, I can dive deeper into that for them.
When it comes to crowd equity or equity crowdfunding and venture fundraising, we do not write direct capital checks as of right now. But we do have a very deep engaged and highly active investor network. So we help companies source capital from our network and help them from the beginning to the end — whether that’s setting the strategy, working through term sheets, very much preparing for the pitch, going through negotiations, all the way through the check signing. So whether it’s an introduction or it’s taking you through check signing, we’re involved in that entire process. To date, we’ve helped companies raise over $130 million US. So 1-3-0 million US dollars in venture capital. From early stage to late stage. And we’ve taken one company through a public offering as well and continue to try to improve that process to make sure that companies have as much access to capital, whether it’s strategic… So someone like a corporate venture or a strategic individual like yourself or others who may fit their particular industry or product set to those who generally fund seed or early stage or stage-based.
Jay: That’s incredible, man. Thanks so much for the very detailed overview and taking the time to explain to the audience exactly what you guys do there. Your accelerator is awesome. I think there’s going to be a lot of interest after this episode drops. A couple of last questions as we look to wrap up, Kyle… And again, thank you for your time. I know it’s pretty early over there in San Fran, but I appreciate you making the time for this.
Are there any…maybe you can’t really say or aren’t allowed to or whatnot, but what are some sectors maybe within the IoT space that really excite you right now as far as what you’re seeing — the innovation, maybe some of the companies that have come through your accelerator that you’re just like, “Wow, this is going to be groundbreaking or monumental or going to change the world.” Give us a little bit of inside peek of what excites you right now.
Kyle: I definitely can answer this. I’m chuckling a little bit on the side because we talked about this at the virtual summit, which by the way, still today, was one of my favorite conferences. And to anyone who hasn’t checked it out, the virtual summit was very focused on educating the world on investing into Asia. This conversation and topic came up, and, Jay, you and I had a great conversation about this. So I’ll give the summary.
Jay: That’s why I asked you again because you had such a good answer.
Kyle: So I’ll give the summary version and everyone can find our conversation from the summit. But in terms of industry, from when we talked to where we are today, things have even further accelerated. And I think the really exciting industries that are going to be around for the next three, five-plus years… So if you’re looking to start making a startup based in investment or looking to build your next company or are a company looking to join us as an accelerator, places that are exciting me right now is connected car, and that includes self-driving, autonomous driving, preventative maintenance, building the physical vehicle itself. I’m interested in that whole world. We have Baidu that just launched a $1.5 billion venture fund. They just had news recently come out that they’re putting even more money and resources behind autonomous driving. So for me, connected car, I think, has a huge future.
Blockchain — and I’m not referring to Bitcoin. I’m not referring to Ethereum or any of the currencies, coins — I’m talking about blockchain. There is a lot that can be built on that as an infrastructure. So you’ve got connected car, blockchain. You have smart cities.
One of the things that we are seeing happen on a day-to-day base, Jay, is this huge migration in China of all of these people who have lived in towns, which are still bigger than most cities in the US, but towns, migrating into actual metropolitan cities. While they’re moving into these cities, we need to upgrade the infrastructures. We need to make these cities smarter and more intelligent on how we live, how they work with us, and how they better our lives. And that includes areas like retail, energy, the grid, and several other pieces.
And then the curveball industry that I’m starting to get really amped up about is eSports. With the change that we’re starting to see in entertainment and sports in general, eSports, or entertainment-based sports, is going to be a thriving industry throughout Asia and also the world as we’re already beginning to see people like Mark Cuban putting in $25 million into the industry. We have Steve Job’s widow who just threw a ton of money into a company. This is becoming a common conversation in the news right now.
So eSports is the curveball. Keep your eye on it. Blockchain, smart cities, and connected cars.
Jay: ESports, what exactly… I don’t know if I even know what eSports is. I looked into it a little bit after you said it last time. But I mean, it goes beyond like fantasy baseball and that sort of stuff. Right?
Kyle: Oh, yes. First, even though we’re recording, I’ll say this. There is an eSports bar — these exist around the world — but there is one in Hong Kong that I will take you to, and we can live this. So eSports can mean several things. On the top level, it’s literally electronic games. So when you’re playing Fifa or Madden or getting into League of Legends or World of Warcraft, these games that you play at home or with friends now, not only are you playing online, but you’re actually recording playing these games. They have tournaments where people are playing one-on-one or teams-on-teams in a Fifa match. There is a crowd. There’s cheering. It’s CES this past year, the Consumer Electronic Show in Vegas, they had an eSports arena where they had people who were sitting in these cars, modeled-down Indy cars, and they were racing. And they were racing each other, and they had a big screen, and they were showing switching between camera angles of the driver’s face and their facial reactions playing the video game to then the actual game itself. And they have contests around the world. There is professional teams around the world who go and travel and compete against each other in these video games that are actually a business. It’s fascinating.
It’s fascinating to watch for so many reasons. We all grew up playing video games, and then video games became online, so you and I could play, no matter where we were in the world. And now it’s becoming a tournament-based industry that—
Jay: There’s so much money in it too.
Kyle: Oh my go—. It’s amazing. It’s phenomenal. I mean, the amount of—
Jay: Wasn’t there that one guy that, somewhere in Europe, he just plays video games, and he gets paid millions of dollars because all these people watch him play the game.
Jay: I can’t remember what his name is. But you know who I’m talking about. Right?
Kyle: Yes, yes I do. And I’ve had the chance to advise and work with a few of some of the companies and teams in this industry. I’ll tell you, they do a phenomenal job. This is a serious business. Most people would discredit it because it’s a “video game” but no. It’s a business. There’s millions and, in some cases, billions of dollars behind this. And these guys are making a living off of this industry and for good reason. So keep your eye on it. It’s an industry to come.
Jay: You heard it here first, audience listening in. Kyle is giving us the predictions, and eSports, the curveball eSports, I think we’re all going to be looking forward to seeing how that one pans out. Man, thank you so much again for your time. You went above and beyond the call of duty of any of my podcast guests. I really appreciate it. We really appreciate it.
For the last couple of questions, where can people find you, follow you, connect with you, apply to your accelerator and just learn a little bit more about what you guys do there?
Kyle: Sure. In terms of applying to an accelerator, you can go to ReadWrite.com, ReadWriteLabs.com. In terms of finding me, you can there or you can find me on Twitter, at kyleellicott.com. If I’m not hanging out with Jay—
Jay: At the eSports bar.
Kyle: At the eSports bar, you can find me at any one of our offices between San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen. If you have any questions, reach out on Twitter. I’ll happily connect with you, give you the email, and talk to you from there. If you’ve got a good idea, a good company, and you want to learn more about coming to China, becoming a global business and really how to be successful at both, reach out. I’m happy to talk.
Jay: Awesome. There you have it, ladies and gents. Kyle Ellicott, founder, chief of labs officer of ReadWriteLabs.com. So thanks again, man. We really appreciate your time. Looking forward to catching up when you get back in town.
Kyle: Looking forward to it as well. Thank you so much, Jay. It’s been an absolute honor, dream come true. And happy to be a part of it.
Jay: Talk soon, man.
Kyle: Talk soon.
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