Theme: Digital Life

As part of our ongoing discussion of the investment themes we focus on at Foundry Group, it is time to discuss digital life. Certainly anyone who is reading this blog post is living a digital life, and among the partners at Foundry Group, we are all gadget-lovers, early adopters of software and online services, part-time IT support staff for our own home networks, and digital media creators, curators and consumers.

Our digital life theme evolved from our own experiences as early-adopter creators and users of digital media, as well as from time spent over the years evaluating dozens of investment opportunities that we categorized as digital home, digital living room or convergence companies. After sifting through the landscape of these digital home companies for several years, we came away with only one investment: Sling Media, makers of the Slingbox.

In fact, we began calling digital home an “anti-theme”, because it seemed to serve more as a filter for companies we knew we wouldn’t invest in, rather than ones we would. Our investment in Sling happened precisely because Sling was quite unique and unlike any of the other digital home companies we looked at over the years. After a great outcome with our Sling Media investment, we decided it was time to take what we learned and refine our thinking behind the digital home theme and recast and refine it into the theme we now call digital life.

So what it is different about what we are calling digital life vs. what we used to call digital home? Some of it is simply a matter of timing – when we first started looking at this area in the 2000/2001 time frame, PVRs were a relatively new concept, home network deployment and broadband penetration were just starting to accelerate and the iPod was only beginning to take over the digital music world, while the cost of processors and storage needed be halved several more times by the (thus far) relentless work of Moore’s Law.

Since then, we’ve seen a massive increase in computing power, huge growth in storage capacity (with estimates that the average household will use nearly four terabytes of space by 2010), deep penetration of broadband, a proliferation of devices capable of playing back digital media and a huge increase in the speeds of wireless LANs. So convergence is finally (sort of) here. All media and all devices have gone digital. Users want access anywhere, anytime. But managing the explosion of media assets, networks and devices remains difficult. Software and services that just work and make our lives easier in this realm are needed to help the average user cope.

Back in the day, there was also a tendency for digital home companies to either attempt to sell gadgets and set-top-boxes or provide a software layer to power said gadgets and STBs. However, both approaches met with challenges: either low-margins from attempting to sell hardware at a consumer price point or tremendously long sales cycles and shallow revenue ramps as a result of trying to sell software to the incumbents who provide devices in the home like Scientific Atlanta, Motorola, DirecTV, Sony, Phillips, D&M, etc — none of whom has a clue when it comes to delivering a good user experience via tight software/device integration. A third approach was to increase the lifetime value of a user by tying a device to a subscription service or revenues from ongoing purchases of content to feed the device (think TiVo and iPod).

When we invested in Sling, we had been looking at companies that fell into the above three basic buckets for several years. Sling had a refreshing approach – sell a gadget and make nice margins, without charging ongoing service fees — a good thing from our point of view since we think the consumer suffers from subscription fatigue. And Sling’s pioneering concept of place-shifting was an elegantly backwards way at looking at looking at the problem: instead of trying to get content off the PC and onto the living room TV and stereo, Sling decided to do the reverse and focus on getting the living room entertainment center onto the PC and smartphone, regardless of the user’s location.

Breaking into the living room continues to be a challenge even for the behemoths. Microsoft has had relatively little luck in this area with their Media Center PC, though clearly the horse they are riding into the living room now is the Xbox, with the folks at Sony and Nintendo also playing here with their respective consoles. Even Apple, the king of digital media devices, has only dipped their toe in the water with the Apple TV, which is clearly a first-gen (and tentative) step into the dangerous waters of the living room.

Our experience with Sling provided us with some guideposts as we refined our thinking around digital life: focusing exclusively on the living room as the center of the digital home was going to be extremely difficult for most startups given the power of the incumbents who control the devices that live there. And it is no picnic for the incumbents either, as mentioned previously.

Another big observation from our work with Sling is that the user experience has to be great from the moment the box is opened: unpacking the product, setting it up, installing the software and day-to-day use has to be brain-dead simple and a pleasure to use, or the thing won’t enjoy widespread adoption. And with the current state of the art in home networking technology, this is very difficult for any vendor to achieve.

Furthermore, in most cases, trying to build a device is a tough road to hoe for a startup, for the reasons mentioned previously. So within this somewhat broad definition of digital life, what are the kinds of things we are interested in at Foundry Group?

In general, we will be intrigued by software and services (and occasionally, but not very often, devices) which work well with the existing entertainment infrastructure in the home and which help a user cope with managing the complexity behind their growing mountain of digital media and menagerie of devices. These solutions should work wherever a user may be and allow them to consume, create and share the media which comprise their digital lives. Finally, these products must be extremely well designed and brain-dead simple to use. The usability bar for digital life products is very high — they should work automagically and be easy for technophobes to embrace, or their adoption will be permanently impaired.

In the Foundry Group portfolio, Memeo is currently the standards-bearer of the digital life theme. We’ve explained in detail in a previous post why we are excited about our investment in Memeo, but put briefly, Memeo deals with the rapidly-growing mountain of digital content each of us must manage by providing content-aware and multi-device capable continuous backup, data synchronization and sharing. These simple but powerful tools might have previously been considered professional grade or enterprise-class solutions, but just like terabyte NAS or real-time encoding and streaming of HD video, they are making their way downstream into the consumer market.

So if you’re building a company focused on improving our digital life, please let us know, we’d enjoy hearing from you. We love playing with new toys and thinking about what the next important company in this ecosystem might be. Worst case scenario, you’ll get some product feedback and perhaps a few new users.

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  • Ryan – you mentioned Microsoft's Xbox in the living room – I must confess that I am jealous of that little box. Back in January on my own blog I wrote that I wished I could have a device like that for the SMB space.!

    My son is a Microsoft X-Box live fan. He takes it for granted that he can fire up the machine, it connects to the Internet in seconds and he is blowing up aliens while instantly talking on headphones to the contacts on his friend list. That list includes someone half way around the world. As an IT manager – I wish I could do that today with voice and video communications! My organization has staff spread across Canada, to get the same functionality that he does with the X-Box, I have to set up a web based meeting tool and then setup (and pay for) a phone conference with an 800 number for the remote team to call. In the time it takes me to do this – my son and his buddy list have reached level 5 of whichever game they are playing. Can we say “collaboration”?

  • Kameir

    One side effect of the digital life is that not only does my real persona get inundated with information delivered by phone, email, radio, television, co-workers etc. but now my digital representations are multiplying information overload by creating dozens of inboxes all over the web that receive messages and requests from other users of the system (i.e. MySpace, LinkedIn, FaceBook, a variety of forums, etc.).

    The OpenID thing does not seem to catch on. People seem content having ‘different online personas’ for different purposes, as they may present themselves different for a date then for – let’s say – a future employer).

    Utilizing Open Social standards, we are attempting in a first step to make all communication systems (and search(es)) available from one portal and in a second step concentrate all of the users online personas in one (congruent) online personality managed through one meta account. So, when you start your browser in the morning you will be logged into all your accounts and all new information in these accounts will be available with one click of a button.

    For now we are a calling it Radiux. Call me if you would like to talk about it. You have my number ūüėČ


  • hdhometheater

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    √ė Manufacturing / Distributors / Exports / Imports

    √ė Digital Display / Magazines / Publishing /
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    √ė HDTV / AV / Network TV / Pay TV – Cable ¬†and Satellite Companies / Social Network /
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    Network,  Panasonic, Samsung,  JVC, News Corporation, Microsoft, Western
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    Delivery Group, Zeitera, Widevine, Ambient, SEN, Yahoo, Elite Marketing, Marantz,
    Pioneer, Mitsubishi, Circuit City, HES,  MoviesonDemand, Viacom, Comcast, NBC
    Universal, Prism Sound,  Magnolia, Best
    Buy, Sonic Solutions, Triad Speakers, Digital Entertainment Group (DEG), Cablevision,
    Amazon Video on Demand, Dish Network, Direct TV, Digital  Home Technologies, DSI Entertainment, Target, Definitive
    Technology, Digital Tech Consulting, Definitive Technology, The Carmel Group, Mediabrands,
    AOL, Control4, Onkyo, Lutron, Starcom, Qualcomm, Baldwin, Integra, Break Media,
    NAPCO, Epix, Nielsen, Sling Media,  Avid
    Technologies, RealD, Criteo,  Custom CE
    Communications, Almo, Insight Media, Cox Communications, Vindico Group, Volicon,
    BBE, Media Post, HD World, Mediacom, Next New Networks, Delano Associates,  National Cable & Telecommunications
    Association (NCTA), Rogers Communications, Rovi, Cable Labs, Insight Media,  CE Pro, EH Publishing, Avail-TVN,  Universal on Demand, Vann’s, Capital Sales, Canton
    Electronics, AudioPlus, AVAD, Bright House Networks, In-Stat Digital  Entertainment  Group,  IMAX,
    Warner Bros., Sharp,  Motorola,   Intel,
    IMAX 3D, ERT Group,  Dealerscope, Napco, Arby
    Partners, New Bay Media, UBM, Windstream Communications, Expo Communications,
    Cox Media, Cox Enterprises, DECE, HTSA, NPD Group, Gome Electrical Appliances
    Holdings, Haymarket Media Group, IFA, BBC, DLP Cinema-Texas Instruments, Providence
    Equity Partners, HBO Home Entertainment, CinemaNow, Fujitsu, Philips, SKY,  ITV, AT&T, Mediacom, Radio Shack,
    Columbia, Taylist Media, Home Media Magazine, XpanD, Cinedigm, IEEE, iamb,
    Loewe, Tiger Direct,  Zipline
    Entertainment, Rentrak, 
    DisplaySearch,  3M, D&H,
    Intel, Roku, WPP Group,  Reliance Media,
    Meyer Sound, Expo Communications, Orion, Sam’s Club, Geek Squad, The Redif
    Group, NBC, CBS,  B&H Electronics,
    Peavy, Audio Technica, Harmon International, 
    Polk Audio, IMAX, Paradigm, Integra, Cineversum, Alpine, Bosch, Bowers
    & Walkins, Krell, Bose, Boston Acoustics, Roland, Audio Research, Meridian,
    Linn, Classe, Altec Lansing, Audio Plus,  Dream Vision, Creative Labs, Cyber Acoutics, Canaccord
    Genuity, Grupo Electra, Telex, Electro Voice, Loewe,  Mackie, QSC, Meyer Sound Laboratories, Loud
    Technologies,  Digi Design, TC
    Electronics, Roland, EAW, Foster Electric, KEF, Runco, Infinity, Aperion
    Intimus,   Integra, Martin Logan,
    hhgregg, Panamax,  A&E Television
    Networks, Akamai, Tivo,  Bresnan Communications,
    Hon Hai, Amazon,  Level 3 Communications,
    Global Liberty, Morgan Stanley.

     (Not to mention hd home theater builders
    &  manufactures).  


    networks, film studios, advertising agencies, consumer electronics,

    Pay TV, online video rentals, cable, digital media, capital
    investors, online video retail sales, hd home theater manufactures &
    builders.  The list is endless.


    ¬ģNames and logos are the
    trademarks and property of their respective

    owners. Not associated
    with any company mentioned.


     *Internet TV Р HBO, Google TV
    & Sony, Yahoo TV & Samsung , Boxee,
    or Apple TV who will win the Internet TV War? Answer: the company that acquires
    these domains.  The convergence of the
    internet, cable, digital media, 3D, high-definition digital TV services, VOD, consumer
    electronics, and the hd home theater  industries is soon to become a digital
    revolution.  Become partners with many
    global corporations.


     * Even if  you don’t  use these products for yourselves, you may use
    in partnerships, resale for a profit, or for the use in leveraging contract
    negotiations with other corporations.  *  Also you may find me a buyer and receive
    the referral commission.  With your  contacts & affiliations, the sky’s the


     *The Bottom line;


    * The implementation of
    these domains may help integrate all the worlds of   home entertainment, and will play a big role
    in the digital convergence.


    * Unlimited potential
    for global marketing and commerce.




    ¬†Acquire all domains as a package.¬† $6,500,000 (US) for all¬† 44 domains. $650,000(US) ¬†referral commission. (by finding me a buyer –
    10% ).  25% over the asking price of $6,500,000.


    have my permission to share this document with any corporation and/or person
    you assume necessary to facilitate this proposal.  You have many business affiliations that may
    be interested. Private seller not a broker.  I own or control all of these domains.


      The price of these domains is a small
    fraction verses the funds they will generate for many years to come.  There is very little, to no down side on the
    acquisition of these domains. 

      If you are interested in acquiring these
    products, or interested in the referral commission, contact me immediately.  I will hold-off on selling these domains to
    another corporation. This will give you time to consider this acquisition.


    Price, and terms of sales are negotiable

    Will Consider All Offers


    you: I hope to hear from you very soon. 
    Please reply with your level of interest a.s.a.p.   Time sensitive proposal.


    Richard Roberts  

    1015 W. William Cannon
    Dr. #306

    Austin, Texas 78745 USA


    Phone: (1)  512- 394-5675       Cell: (1)   512-294-6054  

    Fax:     (1) 
    512-416-8302    Attn.  Richard Roberts  #306  


    Linkedin:  Richard Roberts  (Founder 


    * Terms, &
    Conditions of sale may apply, and are subject to change.

    Will consider all


    P.S.  Free Domains


    Other domains of
    interest –¬† FREE with acquisition of all premium


    Domains that may be used
    in partnerships with respected companies.




    √ė Monies associated with marketing, or the implementation of
    this proposal may be tax deductible.  For
    I live at Garden Terrace in Austin Texas, this is a foundation Communities
    property (Non- Profit).  They help the
    homeless, and very low income.   For more
    info visit   (United
    Way)       “ I may be down but I’m not


    √ė Note:¬† ¬†Generic hd home theater domains would be a
    perfect fit for Yahoo‚Äôs, Best Buy’s, Sony,s & Google’s¬†new global corporate strategy.

  • wel809

    our digital lives aren’t meant to go beyond hi and bye. the conversation is kept in person.

  • Musicgrinder

    Might be a good time to update this theme. From the post:

    “with estimates that the average household will use nearly four terabytes of space by 2010”

    • Yeah – good point.

  • ICE BlackBox

    After reading this theme and several youtube video interviews of Brad Feld, I think I’ve found the right organization I’ve been looking for. Thank you for providing so much information about what your organization and what kinds of companies you are after. I’ll be sending my email shortly since apparently my circles don’t seem to intersect. – Ed Horcasitas, ICE BlackBox, Inc.