We partner every day with innovators who are focused on developing transcending SaaS, Cloud and Data technologies which can transform the way business works.
But my Polaris partners and I are equally immersed in business model and process innovations which can have the same impact.
As a technology investment team, we’ve developed a sharp focus around themes which allow us to apply our operating and entrepreneurial experiences to help our partner companies succeed. Within the last six years, one of these emerging themes has been the transformation of legacy workflows and dormant industries.
Hibernating industries. Tired workflows ripe for re-imagining, re-invention and maybe even disruption.
“Hibernating” speaks to the way business is conducted. And to great potential for creating customer value and building important companies.
Despite tectonic shifts in enabling technologies all around us, these industries have been slow to evolve. Slow to leverage the technology and data revolution going on around them.
They’re stuck in the deep, dark past, unable to apply technology to their business models. These industries still operate the same way as they did decades ago, in desperate need of a wake up call to change the way processes are done.
Here we find huge, open playing fields to run through to build a new generation of compelling businesses aimed at sales, marketing, product delivery, service deliveries – and target the next generation of business consumers.
One of our youngest partners (but an old soul for sure) — Pat Kinsel — has developed a keen sense for identifying these long-sleeping industry opportunities and building businesses around them.
He’s done it three times so far – finding these bear-like opportunities and partnering to re-imagine and re-invent. Three examples:
Hibernator #1: Direct Mail Advertising
The Tired Process: Companies sending direct mail have had to deal with multiple production silos for decades: Developing creative content, transmitting it, printing it, then working with third party mail houses to send out physical materials. This workflow process can take weeks, requires tons of manual coordination, and even more cost, especially if changes need to be made midstream. Once mail is sent, companies have had zero visibility into a journey across the country or around the world.
The Wake Up Call: Lob, headquartered in San Francisco, CA
The Awakening: Lob has developed a proprietary Application Program Interface (API) which allows companies to design and mail advertisements, billing statements and required legal disclosures. In a way that’s as easy as sending an email. They offer Area Mail services which allow companies to easily reach a particular geography. And Lob enables sophisticated mail tracking, giving companies visibility into their mail streams for the very first time. Lob has transformed the mail process. Today, 1 in every 7 households receives mail from the Lob platform.
Hibernator #2: Retail Liquor Distribution
The Tired Process: To buy liquor, consumers have had to visit a brick and mortar building and choose from the limited selection that fits onto a retailer’s shelves. The convenience of online sales was not one that could be enjoyed, and stores have been missing out on huge sales opportunities due to their limited inventory. Brands had no ability to drive direct sales of their products. Nor had they any information much less and direct relationships with those who consumer their products.
The Wake Up Call: Drizly, headquartered in Boston, MA
The Awakening: By applying technology to the entire alcohol advertising, retailing, and customer shopping experience, Drizly allows liquor stores to sell virtually every item and offer convenient delivery. Drizly is now in 21 cities and growing. Brands can understand who they’re selling to and drive sales, wholesalers can more intelligently distribute product, retailers can move product faster off their shelves, and consumers benefit from a huge convenience and an unlimited shelf. And all of this was accomplished within a highly complex regulatory environment.
Hibernator #3: Document Notarization
The Tired Process: Anyone who has ever had to have a document notarized knows what a hassle it is. You’ve got to find a Notary Public, be physically present, and participate in a paper-based process that is not easily tracked or monitored. Hours of productivity are wasted as you move through these steps, hours of our lives as consumers and business owners we’ll never get back.
The Wake Up Call: Notarize, headquartered in VA
The Awakening: Founded by Pat early this year, Notarize moves this entire process online,allowing documents to be notarized by remote, electronic means. Via your mobile phone or desktop, you can connect through a video session to a licensed notary and securely notarize any document in a matter of minutes. Notarize is also now positioned to shakeup a number of other nearby “nappers” – mortgage, title and other document and signature-heavy industries.
So, it’s with a ton of pride in Pat for his hard work that we announce today that Polaris has led Notarize’s Series A, with Founder’s Fund, Ludlow Ventures and others participating, and I’ll be joining their Board. You can read more here about the investment.
We’re super-stoked by opportunities like these ripe for re-imagining.
We love Hibernators.
As long as there are more bears that need jabbing, Pat and our team are going to keep leading more wake-up calls for big, hibernating opportunities.