A few weeks ago I caught up with Scott Raney, a partner with Redpoint Ventures focusing on IT and consumer technology. He is knowledgable in cloud computing, on-demand software, enterprise infrastructure and mobile.
Initially, I was reaching out to get Raney’s take on WebRTC, the uber-hyped Web communications standard that recently ran off the rails when the standards committee could not agreed on a way forward. That’s kind of a bummer, because lots of tech companes — and conference organizers — had already set up for the WebRTC revolution.
In addition to some comments on WebRTC, Raney had inputs on some interesting new trends, including Android, Big Data, and mobile. Companies he has invested in that are worth watching include 2U, the online education startup, Cyanogen, an open-source Android spin-off, and Infer, a CRM analytics play.
Raney on the board of directors or has been involved with Redpoint’s investments in adap.tv, BranchOut, Cloud.com (acquired by Citrix), Cyanogen, Expensify, Heroku (acquired by Salesforce), Jumptap, Path, Stripe and Twilio. He’s been pretty active in some consumer mobile plays as well as WebRTC, so I asked him a few questions about these trends.
Rayno Report: What do you think of the recent WebRTC developments — do you think that it’s going to lose momentum now?
Raney: The only thing that’s holding WebRTC back is standardization, and these guys can’t get out of their own way. It seems like it’s going to happen. It makes no sense that you have to download software to do this. There are so many things you can do the browser. But I don’t have a great feel for how they are going to resolve it, but I don’t think it’s going to just die.
One of the things people are looking for is one ubiquitous platform. If it works on Chrome and Firefox but it doesn’t work on IE and Safari, it’s hard to imagine that that would be enough for it to be successful. I don’t know, I don’t know how it’s going to play out. Cisco is going to be aggressive and continue to try to undermine Google.
I can see the issues with H.264 and licensing. The challenge is that Google tech could run into the same licensing issues. H.264 is so widely deployed, there’s a compelling reason that H.264 is something you’d want to see happen. I can see both sides of the argument. Cisco has a vested issue and they’re going to push.
RR: Software Defined Networking (SDN) is another hot area. Are you involved in SDN space?
Rayney: One of my [Redpoint] partners is involved in Big Switch. We are big believers in the software defined data center. It’s early days, there needs to be a set of killer applications that will drive people to adopt the technology. The big issue with the space in general is that if you’ve made a big data-center investment, it’s going to have to be compelling to move off of that.
We’re definitely big believers in the movement as a whole and it’s something that will take time.
RR: Tell me about some of your mobile investments.
Rayney: Cyanogen is the largest of the Android mods (modifications) out there. It’s a fork off of Android. It’s open-source software and we’ve invested. If you buy an Android phone now it’s bloated with software from the vendors and service providers. There’s nobody providing an end-to-end user experience. It feels very Apple-like, with the integration. It’s pretty powerful. It’s difficult to download the software to your phone but there are already six million downloads. But they are going to add a one-click download.
This is a third mobile OS [operating system]. We’re pretty excited about it. Benchmark is likely to raise additional capital soon, it’s a big deal. They announced last week the one-click download. It’s cleaner and customizable with Android devices.
RR: While we’re hitting all the overhyped, obvious themes, lets talk about Big Data.
Raney: The theme we are tracking is applications that will leverage Big Data. One company we are excited about is Infer. It’s a CRM play. It sucks in third-party data and looks at your pipeline, they let you prioritize which accounts are most likely to close. There are a number of companies that have embraced this and said the results are off the charts. It’s pretty powerful.
We did another investment in the security space that collects and aggregates lots of data to identify and isolate [security] threats. It wasn’t too long ago that it was cost prohibitive to do these things. The cost has been reduced in implementing big data that allows you to do these things.
RR: There’s been a nice run of tech companies going public. Anything else with good potential?
Raney: 2U, in the online Ed space. It’s very cool. They’ve identified that higher eduction business models are broken. They help them put graduate programs online. Now I can get my teaching degree from USC [University of Southern California] and get a full degree and do it entirely online. The platform is provided by 2U. USC charges full tuition for this. It allows them to extend their reach.
RR: Thanks Scott.
Raney: Thank you.