Allegion, the $2.4 billion company that makes Schlage branded locks, has created a $50 million fund to invest in the internet of things. This is Allegion’s first foray into corporate investing as a formal fund, although it has made investments prior to the fund’s creation.
Rob Martens, a futurist at Allegion and president of Allegion Ventures, will lead the three-member investment team. He says the goal of the fund is to find and assist startups trying to develop technology for access and for security and safety. This could be in the home or in office and industrial settings. He’s not exactly excited for startups trying to enter the consumer IoT space at the moment given the pressures they face to support their products over a long period of time and the pressures that can put on profitability.
However, he says many cool technologies aimed at the consumer market might be suited for industrial or enterprise environments. In those cases Allegion could be the right partner to help a startup break into those new markets. “The lion’s share of our business is not on the residential side, it’s on the commercial side,” Martens says. “With our assistance and our experience in the space we might help [a startup] accelerate their product into those commercial markets.”
Historically, corporate venture firms invest at later stages once a product and strategy is fairly clear for a startup. Allegion plans to invest earlier. Martens is interested in seed, A and perhaps B stages of funding. Martens says he expects to stay involved in investments for five to seven years, noting that Allegion may also choose to expand the fund at such time if it’s needed. Like many corporate venture funds, Allegion is treating this as way to advance technology it’s interested in seeing, as opposed to focusing solely on returns.
So far the internet of things has proved fertile for corporate-backed venture funds, with Amazon investing in nine companies through its Alexa Fund and insurer American Family Ventures putting money in five startups as of the middle of 2017. Corporate venture firms are also active on the industrial side. Back in 2016, CB Insights noted that five of the top 12 IoT investors were corporate venture funds, including Intel Capital, Qualcomm Ventures and Cisco Ventures.
Many of those corporate investors become buyers of new industrial or smart home technology. So it’s possible that as Allegion invests in startups helping secure our world or improve the economics of the internet of things, it will find an idea that’s too good to pass up.
For more, check out Martens’ interview on this week’s Internet of Things Podcast.