1. Can you set the stage? How did you first connect with Verizon Ventures and why did you choose Verizon?
When we were first looking into institutional financing, we looked at all of the various options and realized that we most likely would have the biggest success in the strategic area since the technology that we are developing has massive promise for telecommunication companies. We initially began conversations with the Verizon Telematics team who was very interested. They ultimately introduced us to Verizon Ventures who really saw the relevance of our technology for the larger organization.
2. The company recently changed its name from Apio Systems to its cloud-based platform Driversiti. Can you share what the team has been up to since relaunching?
The name change happened primarily for branding purposes. Our platform was named ‘Driversiti,’ thus we wanted the company name to reflect that cohesively. Since that change, we have been refocusing the team from pure research and development into implementation and sales mode to get the platform into customers’ hands as soon as possible.
3. Driversiti leverages machine learning to advance connected driving safety. How will this impact the transportation sector and enable autonomous driving?
Driversiti primarily enables smartphones to replace connected vehicle devices to turn them into Situationally Aware nodes that create an Internet of Moving Things. It eliminates the need to have expensive connected boxes in cars by allowing the devices themselves to form an ad-hoc network, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure. This is possible because modern smartphones are intelligent enough to realize that they are in a car and that they need to act differently while they are interacting with other smart phones and cars. There has been lots of discussion on common communication standards and how all of the OEMs would have to come together to agree on a communication standard to enable autonomous cars to communicate with each other – and that is the absolutely necessary condition for autonomous driving - but so far there hasn’t been much traction.
We are creating the opportunity to roll out vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology before the auto industry, which will take approximately 10 or so years. To have the chance to create a de facto standard that can be bought into will give the OEMs an already existing format to rely on, and not only that but one that has been built by a carrier. It is an amazing partnership.
4. In your experience, what's the best way to work with an investor like Verizon Ventures?
One of Verizon Ventures’ massive advantages over financial investors is that they are strategic. They operate America’s largest and most reliable 4G LTE network and with that they can generate real commercial opportunities for startups within and adjacent to the Verizon family. From that perspective, Verizon is not just bringing money to the table, but also business opportunities which is a massive advantage and something that is so critical for startups to be able to get out of the gate and have the backing of large corporations.
5. What's next for Driversiti in 2016?
In 2016 we’ll see the expansion of Driversiti’s technology to grow into road and environmental sensing so that the devices in vehicles will not only be communicating the state of the vehicles they are in and how the drivers are operating them to the cloud, but also the state of the roads that they are driving on. We also plan on expanding with multiple channels over different continents, which is where we are going to see the first benefits that will come from the network effect to make services like Waze even more powerful.