44 minutes | Aug 26, 2021

Breaking Boundaries to Fund A Better Future with Calibrate Ventures’ Kevin Dunlap

Every solution starts with an idea. Consumers needed more home security, so the founders of Ring came up with the smart doorbell. Home owners had trouble finding time to complete recurring tasks like vacuuming, so Roomba automated the vacuum. But despite those great ideas, every founder needs some help along the way. Or more specifically, they often need financial backing to scale a business, and they need someone to believe in them when others won’t. 

“We often joke that our best investments are the ones that nobody else likes. We're investors in Dollar Shave Club and I was told that was stupid. It was acquired for a billion dollars. With Ring, people laughed at me and they're like, ‘You invested in a doorbell business?’ A lot of times the ones that aren't necessarily obvious are really the best opportunities. So it was digging in and understanding if this does work, is it going to be really valuable?”

Kevin Dunlap is Co-founder and Managing Partner of Calibrate Ventures, a VC firm focused on funding early-stage A.I. and automation companies. Every year Kevin and his partners sift through hundreds of companies looking to take the next step in their entrepreneurial journey. But what separates the companies that receive funding from the ones that never make it past the pitch stage? And what trends is he seeing within the automation and A.I. space? On this episode of IT Visionaries, Kevin explains Calibrate process for picking companies to partner with and what questions start-ups should be answering before they step up to pitch to VCs. Enjoy this episode.


Main Takeaways

  • It’s All About Data: Data capturing and data labeling remains the two most important factors to developing functional A.I. solutions. When data is not effectively captured and/or labeled, the algorithm cannot effectively decipher what it needs to in real time. An example of this involves self-driving cars that need to not only be able to recognize the distance of a truck in front of them, but what kind of truck is in front of the vehicle, and all the other road conditions that could impact a drive.
  • Honesty Gets you Far: Everyone wants to impress in their pitch to a VC, after all, the ability for them to fund a business could make or break a company. But one of the leading things that separates good pitches from great ones is the ability to admit where there is a gap in your business and how funding will help you close that gap. Going into a pitch meeting with all the answers is an early red flag and raises more questions than answers.
  • Building a Better Tomorrow: With a growing labor shortage in tough skills and technical skills, companies and government programs must invest in STEM and STEAM programs to ensure that we are funding future generations of innovations, but also opening up more geographical regions as well. This also means that investors want to see how owners recruit talent to an organization, but also their strategy for training and retraining individuals to fit the needs of the business.


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