@Alison Davis Riddell
@January 5, 2023
Partnering to connect the world’s assets to the cloud.
Most people know Ray Ozzie as a serial entrepreneur, strategic leader, founder of Lotus Notes, creator of Azure, and one of the most respected technologists of our time. He is, of course, all of those things. But he’s also an engineer and tinkerer at heart.
I first met Ray when he joined the board of Balena, an IoT infrastructure company, where I was leading product at the time. I distinctly remember visiting Ray and seeing microcontrollers, breadboards, soldering irons, and modems strewn across his desk. This was pre-Blues, the company he founded in 2018, and post-Safecast, the nonprofit he helped create for citizens to measure radiation levels in Fukushima. With Safecast, Ray felt firsthand the difficulty in connecting IoT devices and sending data to the cloud. He found himself captivated by hardware design and cellular connectivity, eventually developing what would become Blues’ hardware product, the Notecard.
One of our core tenets at Positive Sum is partnering with founders who are doing their life’s work. I can think of few better examples than what Ray and his team are building at Blues Wireless. They are deeply engaged in solving technical problems while scaling an organization to attack a massive market opportunity to connect the world’s devices. And today, we are thrilled to announce our partnership with Blues Wireless as lead investor of their Series A1.
Enabling developers to create a connected world
Blues’ mission is to accelerate society’s shift towards connected, intelligent operations by making it incredibly simple for developers to communicate with devices. Blues offers the Notecard, a small embeddable hardware module with 500MB of cellular data built in, and the Notehub, a SaaS service to send and receive data from the Notecard.
Many have attempted to address the challenges of connecting devices via cellular and sending data back to the cloud, but the Blues approach is unique. On the hardware side, they have completely abstracted away the pain of interfacing with carriers and interacting with a modem (any developer who has attempted this can tell you how incredibly difficult and time-consuming it is); the Notecard is truly plug-and-play. On the software side, just two lines of JSON code are needed to start pumping data back to the developer’s cloud of choice. Customer development time shrinks from months or years to just weeks. Perpetual pilots break free into real, scaled deployments.
Their business model is also distinct. Rather than charge a per-seat or per-device subscription, Blues follows a consumption-based pricing model, à la Snowflake. Once their Notecard devices are installed, they become pure data pumps, and customers are only charged for events sent to and from the devices. Incentives are completely aligned.
Static to streaming, and beyond
There is immense latent value in capturing data from physical devices, most of which are not yet connected to the cloud. Blues’ products enable customers to seamlessly go from “static to streaming.” They have already seen incredible traction with companies like True Manufacturing, monitoring commercial refrigerators and coolers; Linde, tracking and monitoring mobile gas tanks; Lift AI, monitoring elevator performance; Velvetwire, monitoring supply chain for cold chain vaccines; and Agilix Health, offering remote telehealth for cancer patients. And yet there’s still so much opportunity ahead for Blues as they scale to meet growing demand from developers and enterprises worldwide.
One of the reasons we focus on founders doing their life’s work is that such founders are usually talent magnets. This is certainly true with Ray and Blues. As we got to know the company more deeply, we have been continuously blown away by the level of talent they’ve assembled across the organization. This is exactly the right team to help the world’s leading companies connect their products to the cloud securely, economically, and with unprecedented speed.
We are so excited to be partnering with the entire Blues team at this critical inflection point. Let’s get to work!