Founder Friday

Founder Friday: Cloudastructure's Rick Bentley

Welcome to Founder Friday, where we learn about the people behind the Highway1 startups.

Today we talk to Cloudastructure co-founder and CEO Rick Bentley.

HWY1: Tell us a little about your background.
RB: My educational background is technical; I have a bachelor’s in physics and a master’s in engineering from Berkeley. I’ve worked at a series of startups throughout Silicon Valley. I was a direct report to Andy Grove, doing connected devices for the healthcare space measuring the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. In 1998, I started a company called Televoke; our tagline was “Connecting people to things” years before the IoT movement. After a merger, we became deCarta and got bought by Uber in 2015. I was also an advisor to Google[x] on their wearable — I’ve done a lot of connected devices, it turns out.

Where did the idea for this business come from?
Looking at the corporate security space back in 2001, we saw that it was pretty backward. Televoke was venture-backed: we were a startup in downtown San Francisco at a loft space in Soma, and we had an access control system, an alarm system, a guy at the front desk, all kinds of things going on. One day around lunchtime, someone walked in off the street, picked up a computer, and walked out. When the guy who owned that computer got back from lunch, he said “Where’s my computer?” and we had no idea. Our first thought was to look at the video from the landlord’s surveillance system, but it had been unplugged so someone could plug in a vacuum cleaner. No one knew it had happened because it was an unmonitored, offline, on-premises siloed system. I thought “This is dumb; after I’m done with Televoke, I know the next company I’m going to start.” 2001 was way too early to do security in the cloud, but fifteen years later, here we are.

How did you find out about Highway1?
Having heard about Y Combinator, we decided to see what else was out there and applied to about a half dozen programs. We got into five, and knew we were going to have to pick one. We’ve got a very unique business and technical architecture in that we’re an enterprise SaaS provider, but we have a hardware component, and SaaS investors typically aren’t comfortable with hardware. We knew that not only could we use some help getting the hardware developed, we also wanted a better understanding of the ecosystem around hardware companies today, and I think Highway1 really delivered on that for us. We closed some venture money a couple of weeks ago, and we give full credit to Highway1 for making a relevant intro that we would not have found on our own that got us our first bit of funding.

What’s your biggest surprise or key learning been thus far at Highway1?
I thought Highway1 would at least be helpful in getting hardware developed, but the staff here have been instrumental, which I did not expect.

What are your goals while you’re at Highway1?
Our primary goal, which is underway, is a new rev of our hardware. Post Demo Day, we’re looking to get that new hardware to market so we can fundamentally change the way people look at access control.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in hardware?
Finding investors with the insight to not be afraid of it.

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