About the talk
This video was recorded at virtual Code BEAM V America conference, which took place on 10-12th March 2021 - https://codesync.global/conferences/code-beam-v-america-2021/
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Panel Discussion around Startups, Venture Capital in the Erlang Ecosystem
by Rob Mee, Jane Walerud, William King
In this Panel, we bring together angel and VC investors and founders to discuss the main drivers behind startups, investment and the BEAM. The panel features angel investor Jane Walerud, who not only got Erlang open sourced at Ericsson, but has invested and been CEO of multiple companies using the BEAM. Rob Mee is the founder of Pivotal labs, and is currently running an incubator which makes heavy use of Elixir. William King is the co-founder of Subspace, a company building the world’s (and space’s) fastest internet. Subspace has successfully raised over $100m over multiple rounds of funding. Together, we will discuss what really matters when raising funds. Was it the technology stack, the passion, the idea, the track record, or a mixture of all of them? What do VCs look for, and what do founders have to do to succeed?
SPEAKER - Rob Mee
Rob entered the workforce as a dishwasher, a job he clung to for several years until the flashing LED lights of an IBM PC AT lured him into the world of programming. He clung to his next job for three decades: founding Pivotal in 1989, selling it to EMC in 2012, taking it public on the NYSE in 2018, and finally selling it again to VMware in 2019. Now in his third real job, he has started a new incubator called Geometer. Geometer relies on an evolved software development method, extraordinary engineering and product talent, and a killer technology (guess which one) to build businesses that innovate on highly concurrent, large scale services and platforms.
SPEAKER - William King
Co-founder & CTO
When not collecting really hard puzzles and dying often in his favorite first person shooters William is a real-time communications expert and a core developer of the Freeswitch project, William led the development of Flowroute’s core tech, Portugal Telecom next generation network, and the Silent Circle network. You can find William on Discord at william_subspace#0451
Code BEAM V America
I've co-founded & been CEO of two deep tech startups, worked full time in the management team / been CEO of a couple more, and invested time and money in fifteen more. CAGR 38% since 1999. I've coached dozens of companies, at Stockholm Innovation and Growth 2002 - 2016, and nowadays I'm a mentor in the AI and Climate Change streams at @CreativeDestructionLab at Oxford-Said, Norrsken Impact Accelerator and the Royal Institute of Technology. I've also been employed as Key Account Manager /VP Sales / Product Manager in large companies and have extensive board experience, mostly in startups but also in listed companies and institutes.View the profile
Good morning, good afternoon. Good evening, which ever comes on. You guys are all in. Welcome to that Fireside Chats about stopped up Adventure. Capitals me a line system week up three panel guests here today, and we got a relatively open Agenda, record a couple of softball questions to get things started as we get into this, but if you guys want to stop asking questions, please feel free to will try to take you from that. So, could I get you guys to introduce yourself? I don't know how we But maybe we should just stop
and in alphabetical first name order. So, that would be Jane. I know, workers family office. We join very, very early-stage startups and help start blue tail, and help start. Klarna. So, been around for quite some time now, I'm basically old old person here. Nespresso. The rub. Hi, I'm rob me and the CEO of a technology incubator called geometer. We use pretty much elixir for everything. We do that was founded in 2020 prior to that. I was the founder and CEO of a company called pivotal, which in a 30-year, Journey ended up with about 3,000 people
in public. On the New York. Stock Exchange has been acquired by another public company called VMware at the end of 2019. And prior to that. I was a dishwasher. Great William folks. My name is William King on the 60. Okay, I found her of Subspace. Subspace is fixing the internet for gamers and we are using Elixir and thousands of locations globally in order to be able to shave milliseconds off. So the gamers can actually have a good experience as my sweatshirt says, every second counts.
And I got started with erlang actually coming from sea. And so my first exposure language through nips, trying to take some very strong Library. Bring me to distributed systems and I got to see the magic from that side of it. Okay. Well, thanks very much for the, the intros. So it seems like we probably got two of our panelists of of being trying to attract money recently. And I'm one of them seems to be in the business of donating money at the moment. So maybe we should ask the guys
who've been chilling for money recently. How relevant is it to actually talk about? The beam is a technology from your perspective. Do you think it's something that you actively use in your your wooing for capital? Or is it just so they mostly incidental? I can't, I can certainly opine on that a little bit. If it's very important in one sense and not important, another sense of what I mean by that is that part of what what we talked to investors about and we have investors in
geometer itself. That's a bit unusual to have Venture Capital investors in in an incubator, but there's if there's a fair amount of interest, but we're also course, you know, preparing baked investment in our start-up since they mature. And one of the things that we do when we talked about why we haven't a differentiation, is that we using a technology that's really good at doing high-scale, High concurrency applications. And when we say that very confidently in some of these fees, if they're technically,
what is it? And why, when we can go into that, but the fact that we say it with confidence and it is, true is a real important. I'm for the kinds of spaces that we go into. They don't always know what it is or the fact that it's it looks or the beam is not the thing. It's just the fact that we haven't any confidence in using it. I said, share a similar experience more of the VC's that we talked about specialist as a t technology dealing with networking and major globally. Distributed systems. Most of them don't really know about the beam that don't
know about Erlanger Elixir. And we go through and say, look most of the internet routing already is running with our line through a lot of the routers that are running from Cisco and other. And when you look at Major distributed systems and very very height and current user accounts WhatsApp did an amazing thing as soon as we can point those pieces up and say they're already great examples of organizations have already solved these incredible Global Hardy technology challenges and we're just following in his footsteps so that we can Implement our solutions to start seeing challenges. It
becomes a non non a new Lessons Learned. Ange ange. How do you perceive it from your side of you? Very targeted, or would you go off the reservation and invest in companies that are not using beam technology? Actually dealing with atoms. Would you believe it? So, graphing, companies, and Forestry companies with the electrical rides and Diesel, things like that. So I definitely definitely do things with our. I would like to say that generally upc's would like to know that you're solving a problem. That
hurts is somebody actually cares about what you're solving. And if you can prove that, this is something that somebody actually cares about her for a number of people, and when we solve it for them to get very happy, and they really go to scores are high, whatever. If it's be to be interesting to see what everything really care. Then you have a deal often and the fact that you have good using good. Technology is something that people perhaps ask about when they're already quite interested in. Getting to
know, you have to get in the door first and I should get a meeting with we say, that's not so easy. And the next thing you have to do is say that look, we know we're doing, we have traction, our customers love us, and we have this great plan for doing well. And then they might actually say, Okay, were interested enough today to sign some documents and get into your in start asking questions. So you're saying you definitely have to lead with soda Market need and and what the customer potential is. There's no point of
Destruction lab, which is build something Massillon. Science-based. So, if you're a technology in search of a business plan, they do an excellent job of helping companies do that. So that people like to hear the chairman of Twitter, the guy who invented Alexa, many of us, species are who are there metric? And it's amazing. It's really his build something massive science-based. And if you don't really know what you're going to mark, it is, but you have
something pretty cool in these. Think it's good, then apply there, it's free. It's spread over the world. It's absolutely amazing. And you do get those really, really amazing mattress. So, creative destruction out. Look it up. But suddenly it yet. That's not you'll go to. So the question as soon as you stop talking to people is, well, technology you using right? That's way down your laundry list. Sunshine, maybe back to William and Rob. So if you've been I think Willy meet you said for what you were doing that, you're trying to shave in
milliseconds off the the gaming response time, right? Which is it's a laudable and understandable goal. Right? So did to people immediately go to while how are you making that happen or do? They spend more time asking you about why why'd you want to make that happen? How quickly do you get into technology conversations? If at all? I would actually say the first weekend of GAD is usually, are you saving single millisecond saw, or is it bigger than that? And we usually respond with. So, we built our first Network in about 75 calendar days from nothing to
production. And there was a lot of tooling for Elixir and everything world that really help us shave. A huge amount of time and going in production and going and supporting hundreds of thousands of concurrent Gamers. Many of those Gamers were experiencing latency, 720, 280, milliseconds. And that dropped to about 35 milliseconds, 37 milliseconds. And so we had a night and day difference for a lot of Gamers and gamers are very passionate about it. If it doesn't work, they let everybody know. It's not working when it does work. Their friends. Let everybody else know that it works for
somebody, but doesn't work for them. And so we started off very much on the, what's the, the the customer value being delivered? What's the experience, who are the businesses that were supporting who are their customers? And then once people realize just how big of an impact that we can make, like, how bad the internet was for real-time systems and how good it could actually be, then people got super curious. Well, aren't there a thousand impossible problems? You have to solve, and we started talking through distributed systems, concurrency synchronization, resiliency. And a
lot of those questions was ranting like. Well, here's an example in the community has already solved. That one. We didn't have to wait and have to use are there. Five, Innovation tokens to solve a particular heart problem. We had to engineer and put it to work. Well. Something a great customer. You were solving a big problem? Is it Gamers? Don't like latency, right? That's a big problem. That everybody understands, and we found us as we dug into it. We're solving latency. So well that even like a packet loss and all these other types of Quality
Systems and denial of service protection. We start solving all those two after we solve latency because they became the biggest issue. We know from our perspective. There's a proposal to the proposition with geometry. How it doesn't even that is really dependent on technology there and it becomes a compelling proposition to the investors. They really latched onto its explain what that is. We we change the process of north of ideation. That normally works
with incubators where you can come up with an idea and you and you Market tested or you have an incubator to do with their idea. And we said we're going to try something else which is we Implement a very modern scalable version of the core functionality of a very large and very valuable existing system in the world today in some technology domain. And we build that for What it would be like, it's still so that we can say not only could we compete in this
space? And what would it cost us to do so, but we can also compress the discovery with a technology domain and generate a lot of ideas for potential start of build and having elixir in the entire ecosystem. Backing that up, is what allows us to do that, to build things fairly rapidly at scale and cigar. We could compete in this ecosystem and look at all the places we could compete, especially because many of the other companies that are using things are having to implement all of these distributed system capabilities in
that, you know, for example, you know, no door or python or whatever, the heck, they using a problem in the ecosystem and we can, we can stand on top of that. And, and, and What the technology gives us to investors and they're interested in it, but they're more interested in the capability that it that it didn't Naples. Right, babe, but I think both you and William than I'm making an argument about the fabric. You believe, it gives you away without executing your competition
in the market, right? But the VC's probably hear that from everybody, right? I don't think I've ever met been involved into the pitch conversations, Joy, my career. When, you know, the folks that didn't come in and I have that beliefs. I personally believe that CEOs have to be to a certain extent, highly optimistic in order to succeed at what they do, right? So they can be optimistic because they've got the right technology. They can be up to missed it because they're sociopaths, right? How does the BC
differentiate between, you know, those different categories? Right? Do they have the wherewithal to do that or they just is a random process? That's why I said, you know, you're persuading them, that you're great and they give you some money. But when you think about it afterwards you could have just been, you know, you could have been telling them, you know, Jas and they must have given you the money. Anyway, I think we made some really good points is that you can, you can point to a number of things that are important things and, and, very high,
still things that have been done with this technology. I think I'm a very fortunate position, having running some company for four decades that worked on hundreds of startups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. I know a lot of these species so I don't I don't necessarily have to get over that. Hump of, would you believe me? If I told you I'm crazy. Like this. There are at least willing to give me a chance. Which seems to be one of the primary Choice things, right? Is track record, right? So when you talk to VC's it's very much. That's much more a discrimination or as far as
they're concerned. Then what technology have you done? So they back questioning order would be like show me your resume before they say show me your you know, Network stack. Nice more than you have to get the first round. The very first round of angels. Again. It's a really good idea. If you couldn't next, that's a really good idea. If you can get somebody in there, does have Rob's kind of contacts with a V6 community. So you got the defense families in full stage. Include somebody who is well-connected and that person and help you
reach the next group of species is really fairly difficult to go from nothing to go into to find a b. C, should invest when you, when you're so the first part of the best friends are actually quite a bit bored and I was my experience as well. And how does the team pass diligence does the community to be able to talk to the team members and say yes, these guys might not have the answer right now, but this is this is the team that could actually put together and figure out the right answers when they have to do, they actually execute fast enough to bring it to Market at a
time scale. That would be effective. Right back, but again. Say, and I'm not playing devil's advocate here at the moment that sort of Reese's are looking for, transitive property, used to people, and people skills. They not necessarily asking transitive properties of which get repos you using right? Yeah, and I, I would say more than anything feces are focused on the CEO. And and who are they, where do they come from? And do they believe I view. Their
intrinsic value is being able to identify the next great entrepreneur entrepreneur next week leaders of large technology company. So how to give a new CEO credibility as one of one of the challenges. Right, but it said celebrate unit. You need to you need to have your first success underneath. So it's a lot easier after that conversation, really miss you have the right. See you kind of persona. You still need that first group of investors to be the right investors who will give you help. Otherwise, you end up, maybe that's not true in Silicon Valley, but in a lot of places you end up
with local Rotary Club roster wears, if you have somebody who is well connected to begin with miracles happen in the process of starting a company right now. I am not to see how I'm just the investor in so, doing some work as well in the CEO. And before we have any idea how much money we need? None before we know anything. If we have any IP, no idea before we know, even if the damn thing works. She's got offers of three million dollars. Just anything you do.
Right, and that's, that's her contact it. So what would a Rob? Okay. And if you weren't this person, but you were me instead which is not nearly as good. Let me type that it is. The it is the contact. For the First Investors who can help you define the next semester's. William Batts, your observation to very much though. It's the the First Investors that you get connected with really, make a floor. What's the next step for the better? The investors that you can get first better? You can get in the next set of rounds and the more awareness V season the best Community House of
what you're doing. If you have to that first couple of investors is a huge mountain of work. Some people have already done that were previously. So they've already paid that work tax effectively, but it's good. Investors can make it much much easier for the follow-on. And we've found her and I had a very positive experience because we put in a huge amount of work up front or early to help select some of the best, Angel's Nish, Ali and Percy, and following rounds. I'm so I got a couple of questions here from the
from the audience. So let me start up with the first one here. This is from Zaki M. And he said, we are a food. Tech startup with unicorn potential leveraging, Alexia OTP Phoenix nerves text back building disruptive highly concurrence and distributed planetary scale platform in flight and supply chain around food. We want to understand where to connect with potential investors species that apply. But not text acts as a competitive Advantage. Can you give us some advice? Not a hard question
guys. There are a list of impact investors that their world is piling into impact. Has a great list of impact investors that they keep updated. You can also look at Blue Morpho. They have a really good well-curated list of impact investors. You can check if they do food ticket, its investors tend to specialize so they are not the ones you're doing gaming. Yeah, and I think that's probably why I'm assuming that everybody thinks that that's relatively obvious. But but it is worth its rating
Rich irate and has a point. So, I'm willing to do any thoughts on that as well. Start, as we started this, the panel start with, what's the impact who's the customer and what's the value can be providing to the humans and to the systems that are supporting those people and then work your way back from there. If you can make it super clear of the impact you're going to have and the market that you're going to be servicing that will make it much easier to get us first introductions. Once you have those first introductions of
like like that for the impact investors, they'll be able to go through and say, oh you have a competitive advantage on technology or this other logistical supply chain competitive Advantage, they're going to be able to recognize who else you might want to go pull in but star. First with, we are going to be serving an impact. You're going to have. The people in the globe. Don't Trump. I agree with both of those positions on that. And I think you have the technology comes in, when the
money investors believe you're onto something. And if you're, you know what, you're getting some customers, and you are showing that you have, a solution, that's really differentiated, or is going to make an impact. And they say, gosh, that could be really big. How are you going to deal with that young startup? And you say aha, we've got that handled by and you can be really articulate about about what you're, you know, what you're doing and why you can do the planetary scale
that's going to come in, but I don't think it's the, I don't think it's the first. Did the first topic of conversation if they're going to want to discuss? Okay, so I have another question are from this phone for Pete, to always which areas in which areas in which Elixir is already used. Are you most excited about? What do you see the most potential areas like Health networking? Multimedia, Etc. So, maybe that's what you rub at the moment going in reverse order. I'm sure,
yes, we actually you know what? We started just before covid head and and we said, I felt the urgency we we need to do something. And so he kind of put most of our work on on the back burner and I'm really focused on that. And I think there's been some, some folks. Would you able to actually talk about that are exactly give given what is an Elixir? And I are very, very helpful in doing covid response work and in so, you know, I see it whenever we get into, you know, hiking currency, lots
of data loss of scale in all of these waves. It really, it really is something that we can rely on to build. To build systems that are going to work. So yeah, I think, you know, it all those areas. China, William, any thoughts on that question? All of the above. You know, when you're trying to come up with ideas. If they can go, okay with me all think of different kinds of food to make a list, right? And then you can say, I do give me and you run out of ideas. After while most of us. Do you say give me a list of white and suddenly, you get much better at
coming up with more phones that are white and just general throat. Just the way our imagination works. So you if you limit your imagination, the things that you know will work really well as I look. So you're not going to get stuck and things. You going to find out a whole bunch of ideas? Honestly that you wouldn't otherwise have And you'll see the world in, in, in a way that will help you see ideas. When I found Clara, it was 323 year olds, you know, and they had an idea that I could see was
perfect. Lots of small transactions that had to be accurate and had to work quickly, and yeah. I think that's where, you know, how you use what, you know, and then you look at the world through those glasses and then you listen to people bitching about stuff. Yep. Yep. Okay. So I have another question to hear this one from phone's, probably from a pronunciation perspective. So how do you answer to one Avicii investor funds? Argues the ecosystem of Import. I'm assuming it's a sample of experienced developers around. A line is not as big as all the text. So that I think this is
getting to the question of the gene pool for about being developed as it's not as big as it needs to be. So is this a relevant question that you run into in a hiring talents at the moment? Or is that not a big issue when you've been looking for? Fun. I can answer that one up front. I like to use. So we've got an amazing in here at the Subspace. Charlie had no background in earlier Elixir. And when we first went to go launch in production, he was able to get up to speed with Elixir and write a significant portion of the distributed system that codebase. He wasn't familiar
with the patterns, but being able to do something examples of elixir in your lane Community was able to supervise, but she was around. OTP is able to use those patterns to build systems are larger than anything, you've built previously. And I'd say For folks, we tried to recruit from the early and look at Community. It's not as big as some other communities, but the community has done really, really well to write up examples of how to solve regular types of pattern. Both from the, how to do it. Very, very quickly. How can you solve the pattern like this to prove out the same day?
So you trying to prove, hey, how do we get a platform with some other features? Put into a database and be able to be interactive of it? At least our community has done, well, to be able to show how you can do that exact same day, as well as how you move from that. Then I'll bring it up to a global scale production system and smooth process. I thought you that is one of the superpowers of the early electric communities, is there is both of that. I've only seen that in one of their community and that's how rust Community operates. Interesting that you mention that, okay,
you'll sense. Is that a topic that BC's give you a hard time about skills from any of the Seas? And I think, if I did, I did have that question. I think I would answer from many years of experience, hiring capital M. And of course, continuing it's a geometer, which is, you know, we always want to hire for aptitude and, you know, we are kind of part of how we work, which is a really great way to do high bandwidth knowledge transfer in education. No Celexa and compared with people and and get them up to speed fast. So it's not, it's not can't dismiss it entirely,
but I think part of what we want to do. Continue to expand the community in mentmore Electra developers because one thing I can tell you is that people coming from Ruby or Jabo work go or what have you are generally very, very excited to use and learn Elixir and discover all of these amazing things that the ecosystem can do it. It's generally been very joyous and fun for the people that I've seen. Angina D thoughts on this topic. No, that's this is the problem. This is what this is. The reason of the airline that Eriksson banned the use of
Airline 20, some years ago. There were not enough developers and I did not see if there would be enough developers, so they can actually use it a big scale project and Airline and Williams says, most of all of internet traffic touches that there are a lot of jobs going on the field for airline and elixir Developers. So there are people who the idea is to say to good developers that look, you've got incredibly interested in jobs available. If you learn this new language,
and it's a cool language in, you'll be great. You'll be very productive and there are jobs around it does, require some persuasion. I will, I think that on my impression. Why do know, is a people who are assessing are like Xanax or actually better engineers and it's sort of a bit of a quality staff. Right? If you have a person, then you actually are a better engineer. You probably more productive anyway, and then even the patterns and given me examples and given the power of language. You become quite a
good idea, unless something to do. But it's still a problem because it's been such a success. Yep. Okay, so I have a I have a question here from so I don't know if I can pronounce the name correctly. It's of front Francesco. Somebody to whatever at some guy. He says, Jane's in Sweden, Robinson, Silicon Valley and William moved his company from San Francisco to LA. So we don't like you for that location, especially, now, that remote working has become the norm. So, you guys
got any thoughts about either the location of the company and will then remote working General? Engineers and employees all over the globe because we operate on a global scale. I would say, I look first for strong Engineers, even if they don't know earlier, Elixir, barely know the distributed systems. They know the patterns, no matter where they're located and then, it's usually a later question of where they located and what's easiest way to support. I'm a big fan of remote work. I would say I'm a bit a bit next on that.
The for pivotal, you know, for many years. We we should have expanded around the globe and work in different cities. And for example, when we expanded into Singapore, I met with government officials and academics and Industry people. And they said, well, you can open here but you're never going to find the kind of talent that you found in Silicon Valley night. What's a strange thing to say. When you should have you no recruiting us to come and open an office here, but I appreciate it but I didn't I didn't buy into it.
Might my sense was that we were going to be able to find the kinds of people who are interested in doing the kind of work. We were doing, no matter where we went and that didn't end up being true. Whether it was in Dublin, Ireland, or Singapore, or London, or Atlanta wheat, we always managed to attract people who were really in, Listed in the kinds of things were doing in the way. We were working. Even though we didn't really often use Elixir or laying it at pivotal these days. I would probably say the same thing is true and mentioned, I think the language in the
filter for good engineers and then people who want to be interested in working on the kinds of problems that you would attack. But, but now we have this, this remote situation and we we are now remote even though I think the majority of us still live in the Bay Area, in San Francisco. We do have people working in all sorts of different locations and we make it, we make it work and it's, and it's pretty effective. I'd rather be in person. I'd rather have our teams be co-located when they're working together so I can see
the some hybrid model will we will probably use in the future. I I don't want to give up the amazing people that we've hired a different location. I don't want to give up the opportunity to hire more. But I also would love to see some colocation again someday. So I think we're going to try to make sure a lot of companies that are in that are in that position. Okay. Well, I tried calling to my watch where we're up from a Time perspective. So if you guys are going to need a final observations or
announcements or or want to reiterate the the suggestion to your house earlier on and appreciate it, but then we'll call it dumb that on my zoom background here. I've got a URL in a code that place is going to be opening up for a private beta later this summer. So, if anybody has real-time usages on a global basis, they want to test out the world's, fastest real-time Network. I'll go ahead and sign up. Tell us a little about your eustachian will probably hear from me soon. Good marketing.
That's super exciting Williams. Expect some geometer, folks will sign up for me. Okay. Thank you so much time and effort. You have questions offline systems. Jane say, she can put it in the shop. Thank you.
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