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Summary:

Open hardware is getting exciting as big name venture funds team up to create an open hardware accelerator. Austin Ventures, Battery Ventures and a new fund are involved.

Word on the street is that Battery Ventures, The Valley Fund and Austin Ventures are teaming up to create an accelerator dedicated to backing startups that are building so-called open hardware. I heard the accelerator would have $3 million available, according to Cole Crawford, the current COO of the Open Compute Project. Cole is reportedly going to take on an advisory role with the new program hosted at Austin Ventures.

A new fund called The Valley Fund, will also participate in the accelerator. The Valley Fund includes Steve O’Hara as one of two general partners, and is expected to launch next week. O’Hara is an established investor and a co-founder at Nebula, the OpenStack cloud computing firm.

When questioned further about the accelerator, Crawford and Alex Benik, a principal at Battery declined to give more information, saying that they would let me know when the accelerator launched. Austin Ventures didn’t respond to my request for comment. O’Hara declined to comment further.

While details are scarce, the dollar amount seems small for truly backing any hardware-related projects, although the focus could broaden over time to interesting efforts such as the winners of the most recent Open Compute Hackathon. And in general, these sorts of special interest funds and accelerators are generally more about marketing than actually raising a dedicated fund. For the most part, the iPhone funds, the Big Data funds and the Google Glass collectives are a way for venture firms to put their flag in the ground when a new technology comes around.

To that end, Battery and Austin Ventures might be using this as a way to let the world know they are open for business when it comes to doing infrastructure deals. Battery Ventures has been really active in the infrastructure space in the last few years, funding startups such as Cumulus Networks, Fastly and Nutanix.

Austin Ventures has had a history of hardware investments (in part because Austin used to generate a lot of semiconductor and hardware-related startups) but hasn’t been all that active on the hardware front. However, it did invest in Calxeda (so did Battery), the ARM-based server company, and has investments in Caringo, a scale-out object storage company, as well as plenty of enterprise software efforts.

I’m curious to see how this effort plays out, since it’s here in my hometown. In the meantime, if you’re building an open hardware-focused startup, Austin Ventures and Battery Ventures apparently want you thinking of them.

Updated at 2:30pm to add new information.

  1. This is interesting. Ironically I don’t think it will be hardware that will come out of the open compute effort (who wants to build or fund hardware or commodity servers?), but more likely software.

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