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Apps World

Interview with Gavin Teo, Principal at Comcast Ventures

In his role as Principal at Comcast Ventures, Gavin Teo is focussing on understanding where this constantly evolving industry is going. He identifies, evaluates and executes new investments and supports Comcast Ventures portfolio companies on product and growth strategy. Central to this has been investing in the new IOT and Smart Home opportunity; and he will be running a panel at Appsworld entitled ‘Connected Home – What’s your app strategy?’, which will be looking at this topic in more detail.

Can you start by giving us a sense of how Comcast Ventures can help pull together the IOT experience for all the different stakeholders (including the consumer)?

Comcast Ventures is the venture capital investment arm of Comcast NBCUniversal. We are both a source of capital and a potential channel into the home, via our distribution and content businesses. For example, Comcast operates a managed service called Xfinity Home, which is a leading home security platform. Comcast Ventures is an investor in technology startups like iControl Networks and August Smart Lock, which are partnered with Xfinity Home to bring new home automation solutions to our end consumer subscribers.

What are the main implications of an increasingly ‘smart’ living room?

The living room is the room in the home where every member of the household spends his or her time, and I think it is central to any connected home solution. Today the living room is the hub for entertainment in the home. In an IoT enabled home, I believe it will also be the hub for connecting a range of devices that automate use cases like access control, cameras, lighting, thermostats, irrigation and environmental sensors.

What if anything is currently holding this back?

In 2014, more new connectivity standards emerged, adding to an already crowded landscape. Startups need to choose between Wi-Fi, Bluetooth low energy, Bluetooth mesh, Zigbee, Homekit (Apple), Thread (Nest/Samsung), AllJoyn/AllSeen (Qualcomm), InterConnect (Intel/Samsung), sub-Ghz WAN, and others. These are all separate radio protocols and have the potential of inflating bill-of-materials costs and time to market. I would like to see consolidation around a smaller set of robust standards, and connectivity platforms spend more time focusing on data security across devices.

I have a feeling the emergent IOT ecosystem must present some tantalising opportunities for innovation to the consumer. I wonder if you could give us any insight into what these opportunities look like?

Consumers have shown a willingness to adopt connected devices and apps that meet specific and emotional needs, such as protect my home, watch my kids, save me money, save me time. These needs map to a range of vertical applications, like access control, video monitoring, smart lighting, energy management, smart irrigation and environmental sensors. Companies that are able to tap into these motivations have a shot at becoming category leaders. And these will be big categories, able to support more than $20B in annual spend on devices and their apps.

And how do you expect IOT to impact on the ecosystem in general?

I expect IoT to provide new opportunities for app developers to innovate across multiple platforms. Rarely does a day go by without a new IoT startup being announced on a crowdfunding site. Nearly all of these devices are paired with a mobile app – for control and for upselling premium features. IoT and connected home entrepreneurs need to build cross-functional teams that have expertise in hardware: sensors, radios, industrial design as well as software: firmware, cloud connectivity, apps. As the ecosystem matures, I expect that a new class of software developer will emerge – an expert in IoT apps, as we have seen on other platforms like mobile.

Comcast Ventures is central to driving new innovation. On that note I wonder what currently excites you about apps culture? 

I am constantly impressed by how fast app developers are able to innovate, pivot and bring new products to market. I think this “ship, test, re-test” culture is really healthy for innovation. Every one of our portfolio companies needs to have an app strategy to be successful.

What distinguishes Apps World as an event? What makes it such an important date in the diary? 

I am honored to participate in Apps World 2015. This is my second year being part of the event and it is one of the most important conferences on my calendar. Apps World brings together startups, entrepreneurs, industry representatives and venture investors from across the world to discuss innovative trends in technology and apps. I’m looking forward to the content and networking. Thanks for doing a great job organizing!

See Gavin Teo live at Apps World North America this forthcoming May, book your delegate pass today - click here