Bright ideas • Viewpoints

A Conversation with Lior Susan, Founding Partner, Eclipse Ventures – Part I

From the desk of Justine Crosby, Brand Director, Bright Machines
March 20, 2019

I recently sat down with Lior Susan to talk startups, automation and his passion for building companies. In 2015, Lior founded Eclipse Ventures to meet the needs of entrepreneurs building full-stack startups: companies integrating multiple types of technology including hardware with software and data. He’s a member of Bright Machines Board of Directors and previously founded LabIX and co-founded Farm 2050. Before moving to Silicon Valley, Lior was a serial entrepreneur in Tel Aviv, where he helped build Intucell, which was sold to Cisco in 2012. Add to his list of achievements, he’s a member of an elite Special Forces unit in the Israel Defense Force.  I hope you enjoy his insights and perspective as much as I did.

You’ve helped start several companies including Eclipse Ventures, LabIX and Farm 2050. What attracts you to the world of startups?
My passion is building…from a very young age I liked to build! And the world of startups is the best playground to build and try to change the status quo. Now that I’m on the investing side, I’m not building companies firsthand, but helping others build their vision. There is nothing better than seeing a vision become a reality. Building [companies] is definitely in my blood.

How disruptive are these startups to big manufacturing companies? How should big companies partner or invest in these startups?
The manufacturing space and the industrial space in general is changing rapidly due to technology as we move into Industry 4.0. The reality is that we can’t do what we’ve done for the past 30 years, relocating our manufacturing to China and other countries where the cost is lower. The world is consuming more, but there are fewer people available to build products. This is where technology is jumping in, to help bridge this gap… from predictive maintenance to computer vision to machine learning. There is a huge growth opportunity for startups in this space.  When we look at the relationship between startups and incumbents, it’s really all of these things. On one hand many startups are trying to disrupt the incumbents and on the other hand they may be looking to partner or even get them to be a customer. From my point of view, startups should be doing all of this, trying to figure out your growth market in the space. I do believe some of the companies in which Eclipse invests or are aware of will become the next GE or the next Siemens. We have an opportunity to build the next big companies, in the manufacturing sector, of our lifetime. If you can invest in the Google or Facebook of the manufacturing space and see it from day one, to this kind of mammoth growth, that’s very exciting to me!

What’s your current take on the ever-evolving dynamic between humans and machines, in general and in manufacturing?
It’s inaccurate to think that robotics will take all jobs and humans won’t have anywhere to work. But if you look at history, every industrial revolution creates more jobs than taking jobs. Humans will always be in the mix. That’s why I love Bright Machines, what we call a collaborative solution; augmenting the humans in the factories, not replacing them. The reality is, we’re [Eclipse Ventures] much more bullish on these types of companies, because there’s a faster adoption of these kinds of technologies.  We are going to see people on the factory floor moving from assembling parts on a PCB board, something a machine can do better, to designing how the machines will sync, how they’ll interact with the parts, how to set up the test procedures. We’re going to elevate humanity to a higher area within manufacturing and let the machines and automation do the more tedious parts of the process.  This brings about a very interesting relationship between humans and machines.  Companies like Bright Machines can bring manufacturing back onshore, so the reality is you’ll create more jobs within manufacturing than have been created in the last three decades. So, I see a very exciting opportunity to bring manufacturing onshore, leveraging automation.

In your current role as managing partner at Eclipse Ventures, you’re focused on helping bring full-stack companies that integrate software, hardware and data to market. What’s the opportunity Bright Machines creates by bringing these together on the factory floor?
Being inside manufacturing for many years, without doing what we call full-stack it’s really hard to build holistic solutions…because manufacturing is so fragmented. You have so many different machines, so many different jobs, that you truly need to build a connective tissue through everything…from the components, to the machines, to different layers of software, embedded software in the machine, software to connect the data and then the software for machine learning and computer vision. Bright Machines is truly a holistic end-to-end solution and that’s why we were so excited to work with the company. Bright Machines is also taking the long growth approach, which is key to success…if you want to build the next mammoth company as we discussed, you must take this kind of approach.

Come back to the Bright Spot next Wednesday (March 27) to read the rest of my conversation with Lior.  

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