John Frankel, founder and partner at FF Ventures, has a steady hand on the pulse of innovation. He’s invested in companies like 500px, Appy Couple, and Moveline, to name a few, and while he doesn’t see a Series A crunch on the horizon, he does see the pace of innovation rapidly heating up.
After all, his firm as led seven investments in new companies since December 1, most notably in companies who are taking the smartphone and turning it into something truly functional and useful for people.
As our focus begins to shift from pocketable computers to wearable ones, we found it only fitting to see how Mr. Frankel feels about computing headsets and wrist-watches.
“The thing that will make us comfortable with wearables will be the accuracy of the information they provide,” said Frankel. “Letting Siri be not completely accurate is annoying, but since wearables are ever-present, that information needs to be 100 percent correct.”
Quantified self devices and smart wearables are merging into a similar category, and Frankel sees this as part of a larger push “not to electronically measure different things about you, but to understand your DNA.”
He brought up a company called Interaxon which has developed a brain wave-reading headset, called the Muse. Frankel sees huge opportunities with this, as the company has just opened up its API to let developers get a peek into our brains.
“Maybe we can quantify our meditation,” said Frankel. “Or maybe someone will develop a program that tells someone they’re falling asleep at the wheel. I don’t know what people will come up with, and that intrigues me a lot.”
We also took the opportunity to ask Frankel his opinion on Apple pulling 500px (one of his portfolio companies) from the App Store under accusations that it was easy to search for porn within the app. Frankel maintains that the photography on 500px website and app is not pornography, but rather tasteful nudity and that “most people know the difference.”
However, he sees it as a larger move by Apple to tighten the reigns with regards to explicit imagery.
But Frankel is perhaps most interested in companies looking to solve major issues, like what iClearpath is doing with immigration. The company acts a lot like a TurboTax for immigration, allowing people from other companies to have easy, cheaper access to the documents they need in an understandable format.
“These are the kinds of innovations that foster further innovation,” said Frankel. “I wonder how many people from other countries we’ve brought over here, educated, and then sent away.”
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