What happens when you mix a venture capitalist with a background in hardware development at Apple with two engineers with Harvard MBAs? Allspice: a Git-style collaboration environment that brings software best practices to hardware design.
In this unique episode of the Moore’s Lobby podcast, we get to hear from not only the technologists and executives behind the company but the investor who is helping them make their dreams a reality.
Allspice repository with visual hardware rendering. Image used courtesy of Allspice
As an electrical engineer, Chrissy Meyer had spent years working in product design on large projects at Apple, including the Apple iPod Nano and Touch. She is all too familiar with the outdated methods of hardware collaboration and design reviews—printed schematics, highlighters, and engineers huddled around a conference room table.
According to Kyle Dumont, a first-time entrepreneur as Allspice CTO, their goal is centered “around making it easy to build a workflow and collaboration process for electronics designs.” In his earlier career working in hardware at both large and small companies, he also “became pretty frustrated with how difficult it was to collaborate on our electronics designs.”
Valentina Ratner, CEO of Allspice, goes on to explain that the industry is “trying to build colonies in Mars, and I don't think we're going to get there with Google Sheets and PDFs and screenshots.”
In her current role as a partner at Root Ventures investing in early-seed tech startups, the engineer inside Meyer had a “visceral” reaction when Ratner and Dumont explained their vision to bring Git-style collaboration software to the hardware world. Meyer explains that “there was never a doubt in my mind that this problem that they were describing was very real. Because the truth is I had lived it for 15 years.”
Meyer said, “I had to take off my engineering hat for a quick second and say, okay, reign in the excitement. Yes, this is a fantastic product for an engineer. Is this a great investment?...the truth is, there are far fewer electrical engineers than there are software developers.”
With the backing of Root Ventures, Ratner and Dumont founded Allspice and quickly got to work. As a first-time entrepreneur and CEO, Ratner admits that she had to learn a lot quickly because “there are just so many unknowns.”
Allspice’s free diff tool. Image used courtesy of Allspice
Reflecting on some early lessons, Ratner shares some interesting advice for fellow tech entrepreneurs:
“It's less about convincing anyone and more about finding the people that already believe in the version of the world that you're trying to build.”
Other highlights of this round-table discussion include:
- Meyer's belief that “'there's this common misconception that in order to approach VCs, you need to have a fully polished pitch deck, and you need a financial model and forecasts and projections.”
- Insights on one of the favorite features of Allspice: the ability to run digital, asynchronous hardware design reviews
- Where Meyer thinks hardware and software companies are going to win in the future
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Meet Our Guests
Valentina Ratner is the CEO and co-founder of AllSpice. She previously worked as a program manager at Amazon, where she managed infrastructure projects and internal productivity software and collaboration tools. Valentina received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University, an M.S. in Engineering (Computer Science) from Harvard University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Kyle Dumont is the CTO and co-founder of Allspice. Over his career, he has held a number of electrical engineering positions at companies such as iRobot, Voxel8, and Parallel Design. Kyle has a B.S. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Northeastern University, an M.S. with a focus on Computer Engineering and Machine Learning from Harvard University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Chrissy Meter is a General Partner at Root Ventures, where she leads investments in early-stage technology companies, including Allspice. She has held engineering and management positions at a number of technology companies, including MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Apple, Square, and Pearl Automation. Chrissy received her B.S. in electrical engineering from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and her M.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford University.