March 2, 2022

Early Startups Meet Industry 4.0

Early Startups Meet Industry 4.0

This week on Augmented Podcast, Laila Partridge (@techstarsLaila), Managing Director of STANLEY + Techstars Accelerator (@StanleyBlkDeckr) (@Techstars) joins us for episode 59. The topic is: Early Startups Meet Industry 4.0. Augmented reveals the stories behind the new era of industrial operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. Technology is changing rapidly. What’s next in the digital factory? Who is leading the change? What are the key skills to learn? How to stay up to date on manufacturing and industry 4.0? Augmented is a podcast for industrial leaders, process engineers and shop floor operators, hosted by futurist Trond Arne Undheim (@trondau), presented by Tulip, the frontline operations platform.

The Augmented podcast is created in association with Tulip, the connected frontline operations platform that connects the people, machines, devices, and the systems used in a production or logistics process in a physical location. Tulip is democratizing technology and empowering those closest to operations to solve problems. Tulip is also hiring. You can find more information at

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Trond Undheim: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of the Augmented podcast. Augmented reveals the stories behind the new era of industrial operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. Technology is changing rapidly. What's next in the digital factory? Who is leading the change? What are the key skills to learn and how to stay up to date on manufacturing and industry 4.0? Today the topic is: Early Startups Meet Industry 4.0

Our guest is Laila Partridge, Managing Director at Stanley Black and Decker and Techstars Accelerator for AI in advanced #manufacturing. In this conversation, we talk about how Stanley Black and Decker's approach to early innovation by external partnerships has borne fruit and how the program has focused on AI,

Advanced manufacturing eco-friendly sustainable packaging and more. Augmented is a podcast for industrial leaders. For process engineers and for shop-floor operators, hosted by futurist Trond Arne Undheim [00:01:00] presented by Tulip, the frontline operations platform, Augmented the industry 4.0 podcast.

Laila, how are you today?

Laila Partridge: I am well, thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Trond Undheim: Yeah, likewise, I'm excited to be talking about how startups and industry is kind of meeting in this industrial tech moment. Would you agree? Is it a moment?

Laila Partridge: I agree. I think it's a phenomenal opportunity and a transition in many levels, on so many different industrial fronts.

I'm really looking forward to exploring a couple of them in this conversation.

Trond Undheim: Laila back in the days at Wellesley college, when you graduated or, you know, those four years, was it at the back of your mind that you were going to be kind of an industrial powerhouse broker?

Laila Partridge: Not at all. I was actually a studio art major, so not at all, but I did take off a semester and went and worked, interestingly enough, for a tiny little company up in Redmond, Washington with 200 employees.

And most of those [00:02:00] employees retired a couple of years later when Microsoft went public. So, I have startups even in my early days.

Trond Undheim: Well, early days. And then you went to corporate banking and, you know, I think you had some success there you got promoted in various corporate banking jobs.

And then you went to Intel capital, had a successful sort of stint there, but then you turned yourself into a serial entrepreneur and headed up a bunch of different tech companies. And now you are at Techstars, the top accelerator, specifically building a custom program for Stanley Black and Decker, the toolmaker.

Did I butcher your career here or?

Laila Partridge: That’s a really accurate overview and probably faster than I would be able to talk through it. There are definitely lots of nuances and right and left turns. I've always had fun. And I will tell you, being in the startup community is really where I'm at home and working with entrepreneurs. And a really exciting piece that I love, what I'm doing right now, has to do with bridging between [00:03:00] entrepreneurs and these large industrial companies that are really interested in working with startups and innovation and being able to make that work more smoothly.

Because when you combine the resources as some of these big companies like Stanley Black and Decker, really phenomenal things can happen.

Trond Undheim: Yeah, but it's not easy, right?

Laila Partridge: It's not easy. That is absolutely true. And I'd say it's not easy on both sides. I think large corporations optimize for coordination across a lot of different business units and capabilities and resources and timeless startups,

they live and die by the small amount of money they have in the bank. So, they have to move very fast and making the two work together, you know, there's a lot of massaging that happens during those conversations.

Trond Undheim: So, there's a lot to be said about this topic. Let's start just by, in one angle, Stanley Black and Decker, like any company, tries to be innovative and there are various strategies, a big company has to accomplish that maybe it's worth spending a [00:04:00] few seconds. You had a good analysis of the different strategies that Stanley puts into place and where the startups fit into this picture. Because, you know, it's obviously not the only thing that a company like that does to stay on the edge, but it is a linchpin in their strategy.

Can you just map it out?

Laila Partridge: Delighted to do that. I think Stanley is among one of the more sophisticated large companies across the globe who engage with startups and they do it in four ways. The first is working with me, with Techstars. And so they work with us because they like our global reach, you know, we're in accelerators in over 22 countries and we're in 1800 cities where we run programming.

So, we really touch a lot of seed stage early-stage innovation globally. And so that's why they work with us on that. And we run an accelerator as you know, the second piece that I think is really interesting is Stanley ax, which is a program [00:05:00] run internally in California in Silicon Valley. And that is a studio model where they're really looking to incubate and find different business models, both to spin out as well as to internally bring in.

And that group loves to work with early-stage startups. So, they often will reach out to me and ask about a specific startup in an area. And we introduced a lot of Techstars companies to them, and I'm more than happy to introduce companies outside of Techstars to them because I think it's a win-win for everyone.

The corporate venture arm is very embedded within the business units and they're really tightly aligned. They stand everyone there and focus very much on helping to drive top-line profit. One of the things that I think is really cool about some of the things they do is that if it's a hardware company, they might even help the startup in some of the costs for their supply chain.

So they really dig in and roll up their sleeves and help the stump companies. And the last piece, the fourth piece, is just the traditional large company, internal business unit innovation arm. And those are folks that are constantly looking at their existing products. [00:06:00] How can they make them better? How can they improve them?

And they're, because of these other three initiatives, open to talking to startups as well. It’s a really terrific company to work with because they understand the different aspects of how you can interact with the startup.

Trond Undheim: That's very cool. I mean, we'll get back to Stanley in a second, but briefly about Techstars,

so has Techstars now, for the most part, moved to corporate programs or this is just still one leg of Techstars and they continue their own broad-based model? And in any case, I'm curious about how these kinds of corporate models kind of come about. Is that generated by tech stars, internal outreach, who says, you know, Stanley or somewhere else, you really should do this, or is it typically the other way around, or is it a little bit of both?

Laila Partridge: I think it's a little bit of both. One of my counterparts, Marty, has often talked to others about what we do and because of those conversations, we get approached we also are very much interested in sometimes putting more than one company together in a group around a similar topic. [00:07:00] We in Hollywood, have a content program that deals with a lot of similar large names that you'd recognize like Sony and others.

And those are companies that work together because they have a similar theme that they want to address. Stanley likes to have just one Techstars MD like myself because then they can switch from one very specific topic to another. So, the first three years they focused on manufacturing, but when it was additive manufacturing, then some was the packaging, sustainable packaging.

The third-year was AI and manufacturing very much on the factory floor. And now they're focusing on electrification. They're all relatively related in that they're very much tied to industrial engineering products and businesses. They definitely do refocus a little bit every year to something that might be particularly relevant to them or strategic or in response to what's happening in the marketplace.

Trond Undheim: And how do you run this accelerator? What is the process? How does a startup connect with you and how do you and Stanley interact with these startups? [00:08:00]

Laila Partridge: So, when I'm looking and talking to as many startups as I can, I often do a speaker series in whatever the theme is. So, last year it was on AI and manufacturing.

This year it's on electrification where I try to pull some of the leaders in the marketplace, as well as my self-monitoring is from Techstar's perspective and Stanley. And we're very much covering topics that we think are relevant and really explaining what's happening, sometimes, in those dark corners of the factory that no one on the outside gets to see in.

And at the same time being very open about where each of these individuals--what was Manufacturing, it was ANSYS and Rockwell and Stanley talking about: where are the opportunities where should startups be building solutions? And if they're building them, come talk to us. You know, we're just about to announce the electrification series and I'm sure we'll have something next year as well.

A lot of that interaction is really about helping and this is really my main theme; that connection between a startup and a large company. So, I want to have the [00:09:00] startups I work with, not just have the ability to tap deeply into the domain expertise that Stanley, but I surround the organization with others like Caterpillar and Moog and Northrop Grumman, and John Deere.

You know, a lot of our mentors are coming from manufacturing. And so you'll see very similar types of mentors coming in from, for the electrification, you know, national grid. Some of them are venture arms. Some of them are actual innovation areas and some of the largest domain experts, but the notion is very much this bridge between startups in the industrial space, wanting to really connect with corporations because that is where a lot of really interesting innovation is happening.

It's not always funded by the venture community. I think that is a little bit on traditionally, and I think it's an opportunity to help the startups accelerate. Not just the traditional programming that Techstars is so wonderful at which covers everything operationally. But to also extend it into this, what I think is one of the interesting challenges, is how do you bridge between small companies and larger ones. [00:10:00]

Trond Undheim: I noted that and I'm sure the statistics have changed a little bit, but in the second cohort you'd actually had something like, half female founders? And you had some other interesting metrics. Female founders in manufacturing and AI at the second quarter, I don't know what that was at the manufacturing one. Either way, it's interesting.

Laila Partridge: It is a great statistic and one we're very proud of. I think also one that we very much want to extend. We have some very aggressive goals for ourselves internally to have CEOs that we fund who are women and underrepresented minorities. I like to think of them as underestimated communities because a lot of times that's not been traditionally supported and we have a woman CEO actually at top of Techstars, who particularly feels passionately about that.

And we'll be really focusing on that. One thing I would add to that is the effort that we're currently doing this year. We are in Baltimore this year for this accelerator. In the past, we've been in Hartford or virtual for the pandemic, obviously. And in [00:11:00] Baltimore we work with an organization called Upsurge Baltimore, and they are phenomenal.

They're just, you know, kicking off their efforts, but they are really trying to use things like accelerators and apply them with the notion of, you know, technology to reach and broaden every communities access to what we are seeing now, is this amazing, phenomenal growth in the economy based on technology.

Equality and tech meanings, that's really where their focus is and that's really what Upsurge Baltimore is focused on. I encourage you all to go look at their website because they're doing some really cool work.

Trond Undheim: Other than that, what kind of impact are you expecting? I noticed another statistic, probably a little outdated, but the alumni of your program had raised something like 10 million in follow-on investment?

I mean, that's an easy metric to measure. There are probably other impacts and certainly, we'll get into the Stanley connection in and of itself. These are not always easy things to measure, like the kind of collaborations that have spurred or the inspiration the senior [00:12:00] leaders and Stanley have felt around the startups.

That's not exactly something you can clock in.

Laila Partridge: The way I think about it is really about making and enabling change in a lot of different ways. Certainly, we can help startups raise money. I think texturize has always been relatively good at that. My view on that is when it comes to industrial, it starts with the kind of pilots from the kind of mentors we have. Definitely within Stanley, but also extending well beyond Stanley.

And in those instances, what we're really trying to do is connect opportunities to learn about what's happening on the factory floor or in the field of electrification. And with that knowledge, enable them to have better-refined product offerings for what the market's looking for. So, when I look at what we can do, broadly speaking, we can expose the entrepreneurs to domain expertise. We can expose those entrepreneurs to mentors. We can expose them to opportunities for pilots and within all those processes, if the [00:13:00] focus remains on encouraging diversity and pulling in people who normally may not consider careers in these industries, those are great ways to do it.

I recruited a lot of women mentors last year out of my Rolodex from my industrial days, both as banker and also with my intel capital days. And now with Baltimore, or getting real excited about pulling in mentors from that community. Particularly with an eco-tech focus, we'll get some really interesting support.

I suspect that I'll be quite helpful in terms of just showcasing some of the leaders in these markets who are doing interesting things and helping entrepreneurs put themselves on track to become the next generational leaders.

Trond Undheim: So, if you think about it from the Stanley angle, again, it's a little bit surprising, but Stanley has been pretty vocal about, not just their support for startups, but generally their support for the ecosystem.

And they have been out there with an ecosystem strategy. Why is it that a company like Stanley, which is already quite innovative, why do they need to bring in the ecosystem to [00:14:00] such an extensive degree and bring them along? Why is that?

Laila Partridge: I think there are two pieces to that. One is just the leadership, Jim Laurie, in particular, his view is that companies are part of their environment.

They are a responsible citizen. They should, as responsible citizens, give back to the community. That includes not just their employees but the cities that they're in. And I think that's why the accelerator was in Hartford and also in Baltimore. Those are cities where he really wants to be involved in that development.

I think the other way to think about it is industrial. We are at a time in industry 4.0 or big companies like Stanley, are relatively far along that track. Some factories more than others, but they're really pushing towards automation, increased productivity, increased throughput. And now, interestingly enough, the bottleneck is their supply chain.

A lot of those are very small companies. This past March, Stanley Black, and Decker announced with the [00:15:00] National Association of Manufacturers, an initiative in Connecticut, where they were actually going in and acting as consultants to 10 small and medium-enterprise manufacturers, supply-chain, I think, and helping them figure out how and what they would need to do to upgrade to industry 4.0.

And this is really this notion that, if there's a bottleneck, you're not going to speed up or be productive if you're caught in your supply chain. And this also very much ties into a third trend, which is this notion of the circular economy. Why build locally? We know with this pandemic, we've certainly had our challenges there.

There's a lot of things going on as you said earlier, and this is just the tip of the iceberg, I think, and change is running industry 4.0.

Trond Undheim: Yeah. I mean, I guess it doesn't help Stanley if they have a very advanced shopfloor if their suppliers are sitting there with an old type of equipment or even worse, have bought some new equipment and can't use it.

Right. So that doesn't help anybody. Let's talk a little bit concretely about some startups that you've worked with that [00:16:00] are relevant to the industry. Let's take that as an example. I know, for example, in the robotics area you have worked with at least one particular startup.

Laila Partridge: I think you're thinking about Pure Robotics.

I love that entrepreneur. I think so highly of that whole team, there's a woman CTO there. They're in India and they're about to open up their first location in the United States, in the Connecticut area. What's really cool about what they're doing is they are part of that process of making industry 4.0 accessible to small-medium enterprises.

Their initial customers and pilots are with very large companies, but the founder there, Rashad's father used to run a very small manufacturing plant and he was constantly involved with a lot of those challenges. One of which was that they couldn't afford automation. Why? Because they were small, and the systems integration costs were too much.

And what Rashab and his team have done is to build an [00:17:00] AMR, an autonomous mobile robot. These are things that can move materials around and they've done it so that it's like your I-robot. You take it out of the box, you push a button, and it works. You don't have to go and hire an inexpensive systems integrator.

In their case, they take it out of the box. They push a button, and you push it around like a shopping cart and then you push the button and it goes. It's smart enough to know if it should pause, and if it runs into a person or something's moving around it, it'll continue as it should. Based on that shopping cart instead of well, pushing it around, which means you can also reprogram it really easily.

So maybe you need to unload something or a truck, so you push it around and then start that process, and then you need to move materials elsewhere, from maybe one line to another, and you kind of push it around, and there it goes. So those kinds of ways of thinking about movement of products and people in the factory, and being aware of the needs of the small enterprise, I mean, that comes from just being exposed to it.

And I'm really excited about what they're [00:18:00] doing. There's really a lot of interest there.

Trond Undheim: Do you remember exactly how they got connected? Did they just apply to the program or were they fielded in somehow?

Laila Partridge: I'll have to go back and ask him exactly, but they definitely applied to Techstars, knowing a little bit about Techstars, having heard a little bit about what we were doing.

I think he may have heard about it from the speaker series when we were talking about what does AI and manufacturing mean for a company like Stanley or Rockwell and all these others. So, I think a lot of it is paying attention to the discussions that are, I think we tried really hard to explain, where we thought there was an opportunity for new innovation, and he got excited about it, which was awesome.

Trond Undheim: And can you say something about what Stanley actually has done with them? I mean, does it necessarily have to be a formalized collaboration, or can it be as easy as, you know, like a peer and then the story gets around Stanley, and then people get excited from it? Or do you have a much more tangible kind of story here where you feel like, okay, well, we talked to five people, we put them on three different stages and they have influenced a hundred [00:19:00] people and then a thousand people that Stanley and you know... what is the process for a typical company? I mean, this may not be the best example here but...

Laila Partridge: Well, I wish I had another year so that I could tell you, and then I could probably come out with a bunch of things to tell you, I know there's a lot of in the works and it is more than one thing that's in the works, but this is where I would pause and say, particularly startups, things don't happen quickly.

This particular accelerator where peer was part of began in February, the class graduated in April. We're talking about less than nine months and it's pretty uncommon from the first introduction to you know, something coming to the point where you could announce it or officially talk about it happening in less than nine months, not with large companies--there's just a process.

They have their own internal funding and, you know, allocation of resources that just takes time. But I will tell you that during the program, Phil Glick, one of the folks who has been doing cool robotics stuff in industrial settings, since the 1980s. He is really knowledgeable, a great guy, and he spent a lot of time with them and really helped them think through some technical issues. He gave them opportunities to talk to a lot of folks who were actually doing things in the warehouse and in the factory floor, so that, you know, a lot of ideas that they may have been thinking about, and a lot of notions of features: "when do we add this feature or that feature? How important it is that, that we come out with a robot that can carry more weight?"

Those kinds of things, you know, they were able to get, not only that kind of feedback from some of the mentors that come out of manufacturing that we put around them but really from a number of people in different operating roles, within factories and warehouses and that's really valuable. I mean, those people don't have time to talk to a lot of people.

And for a small startup to be able to tap their brain for an hour. That's awesome. And what I'm most excited.

Trond Undheim: Yeah, no, I agree. This was the hardware side. I mean, really the hardware side. Let's go to the software side to track it as an app store that you've also been working with. What was special about that kind of collaboration?

Laila Partridge: 

So it's a Canadian company of two entrepreneurs who have had to do all the pivoting and turning and responding, that unfortunately, we in the startup world, know well. What I really loved about them and I still am very, very excited about them, they're really on the cusp of taking off. Both of them have a background in manufacturing.

They'd worked on the manufacturing floor. They had worked on a bunch of different products, including, you know, supply chain issues and on-floor capabilities. They came to the conclusion that one of the challenges they had in all the interactions was this enormous large engine for approval. And you had to talk to IT guys, and then you had to talk to finance, and you had to talk to this or that.

And they had this insight that, well, what if we could actually make it really easy just to have a simple app that someone could access. And let's make it at a price point where they can try it out inexpensively without having to first convince the 20 or 30 people that typically get involved in any kind of decision, and have that ROI be [00:22:00] three months and have it really fix a problem that's needed at that time for a specific function.

So they started with that notion, and have, as a result, gotten traction with some pretty interesting large companies, who are also then involving them with interactions within their supply chain. Exactly the sort of model that you want in industrial. And it really comes with the notion of, if you have an infrastructure where not only the large company can add their own additional coding if one of the divisions wants to fix that problem or the other, but that, that connectivity isn't onerous and doesn't take a lot of time, but you can get a point solution. The response has been tremendous. You know, people immediately tie a lot of things together that, I'm not going to go to the specifics because I think of it a little bit as a secret sauce right now... But it doesn't have to be a huge forklift with every possible feature brought in, and done by a systems integrator, and customized. Let that shopfloor operator and that shopfloor manager choose what they need in this app store. And do it in a way that they can very quickly get their ROI from that one feature, as opposed to really thinking about a large, huge industrial piece of software with a lot of systems integration.

Trond Undheim: I see a kind of a theme. Types of engagements that you really go with something where the startups add an element that is kind of the opposite of what you typically would do in industrial thinking, which is, you know, let's make it big and broad and generally applicable and have every bell and whistle and, you know, rock-solid and send it to market.

But the two startups you have described have taken the exact opposite approach. Just good enough and quick to solve the problem at hand; just do it well enough and wrap it up and then you're done.

Laila Partridge: And also not expecting huge price points. I mean, one of the challenges I often see when we see some of these really phenomenal solutions coming from Silicon Valley or somewhere else. There's the expectation that these large, big companies want to spend a [00:24:00] lot of money and they're actually really disciplined. They're really looking for a quick ROI and if it has to be something that happens over a roll that or two years, it's really hard for them to get there really hard.

Trond Undheim: What about on the supply chain side?

I know and it's sort of a hybrid model here, Slide tracker is another engagement you have?

Laila Partridge: Yeah, they're really cool. I actually liked Slack tractor more from the perspective of legacy. One of the challenges is that when you get away from automobiles or airplanes, most manufacturers are what I would say, discreet manufacturers.

They have machines. I know Stanley's still has a lead from the 1950s that is still in operation. When you think about these old factories that have been around for a long, long time, you're not looking at a piece of software that you can throw out or add in easily.

Some of the machines are not even connected. They're not, sensorized, there is no loop around them that can automate the improvements. [00:25:00] And so one of the things I was really interested in is finding those people, because they're out there, who know how to connect these devices. Or who has been through the pain of figuring out all the different kinds of things that get connected?

And then at the same time, aren’t just stopping with this notion of centralizing because that doesn't give them a product they can sell, they're actually optimizing. Slack tracker has a series of different products but the one that really got me excited was the tool optimization and CNC machines they work with with the ability to go in, and it is a hardware and software solution.

It does require a warm body touching a piece of machinery in the real world. But once you put it in, you can go at 40% improvement. And you can decide, well, you know, we're going to optimize for this tool and take it out right before it breaks and regrind it and reposition it, to put it back in, and have a longer life for that tool.

And if you're a small mom and pop, that's pretty awesome. I like to think about it from a perspective. [00:26:00] now the mom and pops can buy these old CNC machines for $10,000, add this little bit of capability on top of it and have the functionality that a $300,000 machine would be on the market today.

To me, that's the beginning of how you begin to, again, bring that supply chain, bring that mom and pop, and smaller machine shop, or smaller manufacturing plant, online. Which is what you need. I'm very excited about what they're doing.

Trond Undheim: You know, one of the things that strikes me when I hear you talk about these things is, it does take quite a lot of expertise to be able to work with all these startups.

And you're actually running one cohort and switching to a different topic. So you have to juggle Stanley, Techstars, and different startups, different topics. What sort of advice and help do you really aim to be giving to startups over a few months of intense work? Realistically, what can be achieved? And, you know, when you think about your own role, it's one thing to be an advisor and call them up now and then to pat them on the back and say, "you're doing a good [00:27:00] job."

Or, you know, "I don't like this and change it." It's a pretty hefty responsibility, but how do you really allocate your energies in terms of value-creating activities for these startups? What sort of things have they typically needed?

Laila Partridge: Wow. That's a big question. You covered the program, and what we do after the program.

So let me start with what I get excited about, anyone who's been an entrepreneur, one of the most rewarding and the most encouraging, and the most helpful relationships are the other entrepreneurs that you might tap for advice. They may be your formal mentors, or they may be informal. Maybe they're just peers that you meet in an accelerator or some other program together. Or maybe you both pitch the same pitch day event, and you just like each other and decide to continue that relationship.

But having been an entrepreneur multiple times, those kinds of things, and being able to help someone, is really what I love. And what that means is I try very hard whenever I put a group of companies together for a class [00:28:00] to first step back and think about what does this group, as a whole, needs? I do personal reference checks on all my CEOs, and I typically ask the references: "what, from my program, do you think this individual needs?" And it's funny, sometimes you get really soft answers, like, "they really need some help on, you know, managing people." And sometimes you need some very specific help. But the reality is that you just listen. Then you sort of think who in my Rolodex or our sessions are able to expand LinkedIn connections, and who within the Techstars family...

Because we have this real extended group of large founders and other mentors that we can tap. Who within those circles can we bring to bear? And I also very much look at, okay, so now we've got this cohort in manufacturing, and now this is cohort electrification, which are those people in large companies that love working and mentoring startups as much as I do?

Can I bring them in? Can I get them involved? Because [00:29:00] all you really need is that chemistry to happen between two people, and you know, sometimes you'd say, "okay this is a mentor that I would never put together with this founder," but this chemistry takes off and, you know, beautiful things come out of it.

And it may not even be that the person works for a company that gives a little pilot, but that person used to work with someone who used to work with someone, who by the way, now is doing this cool stuff, and you put them together. You know, something magical happens. So it's that connection; the bridging both with small and large companies, but really through people, and the people who have this passion for this kind of help that I think drives me, first and foremost. It also lends itself to the whole programming.

You know, Techstars has wonderful programming. But the wonderful thing, also about Techstars, is as a managing director, I get to choose whoever is going to do what. And again, I go back to who are the people that I have in this group, who are the people I know that I can help them. If I don't know, but I know that there is a need for some kind of a particular knowledge base, I'll reach out to my MD peers.

I'll reach out to my Rolodex, and I've been around a long [00:30:00] time so I generally know someone who knows someone. And I really think that's how things get done. This is very much a business in the earliest stage where nothing's black and white, nothing's completely clear. The more information and expertise, and perspective any founder can get, through connections, opening up doors, and having them talk to exactly the right person, that's what gets me all jazzed.

And I don't know if I've really answered your question, as much as a kind of, you know, given a bit of a sense of how I think about these things.

Trond Undheim: Well, you caught me. It was a long question with a long possibility of answers, but let's get back to this sort of starting point here, which is, you know, both Stanley and the startups, are at the end of the day, they're looking to get inspired, but they're looking for scale of their efforts. It's a bit of a conundrum, isn't it? With scale, because so much of the activity you've been describing are micro-interactions.

They're like one introduction to another. How do you think about the industrial scale? [00:31:00] Because it seems that, very often, it's created by these non-intuitive small types of activities. How do you know or how do you have an inkling that they're going to actually generate such a scale, that's, you know, eventually needed, for the startups to take takeoff? Or for Stanley to be happy at the end of a long run?

Laila Partridge: I don't think you ever know, and you never will know because these relationships and these connections lead to the unexpected. What I will tell you is that there are some basics then, you know, you can go to business school and find out about who you're selling to, what are you selling them and you know, why are they buying?

And you have all sorts of wonderful structures around that can help you think this stuff through. I think the most interesting piece for me is that when you get into industrial, the customers are always a manufacturer or an enterprise of some scale. And in those instances, the kinds of things that I think are most interesting is, in figuring out how to rise above the noise.

If you have so many startups [00:32:00] knocking on the door; if there are so many solutions at exactly the same space, what is it that's going to differentiate one versus the other? And one of the reasons that you'll never quite know is because we're looking for things that are going to change. We're looking for change agents.

And you're never going to get right a hundred percent of the time. And so I can't tell you there's a formula, but I can tell you that sometimes those of us who look for startups in the space say, "yeah, I know when I see it," and some of it might just be the energy and focus, and experience, of the entrepreneur.

Some of it might simply be this really interesting 10 degrees shift in perspective, like this example that we gave with Track it. In terms of saying, "well, you know, if they need these problems solved, let's solve them for them. Let's not worry about not making IT, and security, and every else happy, let's find a way to sort of give them a solution quickly and easily."

Right. And it sounds really obvious but it's not that easy to figure out how to do it. So when you find someone who kind of has an interesting way of thinking about it, you know, I tend to pay attention and then I tend to put them in front of some Stanley [00:33:00] folks and say, "what do you think?" And they say, "huh, that's kind of interesting. All right. Yeah, let's try that." And it really is experimentation. And if the spirit of experimentation is on both sides of Stanley and founder, that's when great stuff happens.

Trond Undheim: You have an interesting vantage point, Laila, what is the next big thing in industrial tech, where are we headed with this. You agreed with me early on that we are in an interesting kind of industrial moment, where things that have been broken, loose, perhaps, or things that are changing.

What are the things that will change the most, perhaps over the next few years? What are the things you might be excited about?

Laila Partridge: So, the two things that I'm really excited about, one goes back to this notion of supply chain and it's not supply chain in terms of optimizing the best cost for a large company. It's in terms of, having industry 4.0 get into that supply chain in a way that supports circular economies, efficiencies, enabling smaller companies to be more productive.

You know, all of the types of things that, you know, we could make long lists on that. The second thing that I am actually really excited about [00:34:00] is the sustainability angle. And that sustainable angle comes to play in many different ways, both on the factory floor, in the supply chain, but also, in what I would say is this industrial trend in electrification.

The theme of the next etcetera is electrification. And I expect that to be a massive theme for the next couple of years because right now we all think of Tesla and electrifying cars and scooters and things like that. But they're all still in that kind of first or second generation of the implementations.

And they're not quite there yet in a lot of cases. What I'm seeing now is how does electrification get pulled into areas where it makes intuitive sense industrially? And that's not because the government says here's a penalty, and here's an incentive, it's because, obviously, it makes a lot of sense to put electric vehicles into mind so you don't have combustion engine fumes to vent.

It makes sense to try to find things that are safer than these massive hydraulics on construction equipment. It makes sense to think about, well, [00:35:00] Let's takedown noise pollution, as well as, let's not have petroleum products spread all over our yard because we're using this chainsaw, that's, you know, got petroleum products. Let's make them biodegradable. Let's make them electric. Let's make them quieter. And by the way, when you start doing those sorts of things, you know, all sorts of technical challenges come up, and battery life, and the technologies associated with that. But we're moving in that direction.

And electrification is important, as a way in which to, move us to more sustainable ways of living. And I'm very excited about that.

Trond Undheim: Lastly, one thing that's frustrating is this, divide between consumer and industrial or consumer and B2B, you know, historically, I guess for a while, they were very distant and different concerns.

But do you think that in this new stage, especially perhaps in sustainability, are going to see companies that increasingly try to straddle this divide? Is there for you, still in your mind, when you're dealing with kind of an industrial tech that's a very separate issue. And any improvements that are good for the industry, are they very separate from kind of a [00:36:00] consumer logic? Which, you know, traditionally, perhaps was much more short-term, much more fad-oriented, kind of like fitting in with, whims of the consumer.

Are these things in any way meeting in your activities?

Laila Partridge: I think they're meeting around sustainability, depending on what you read or look at, It's hard not to be aware of that discussion about, how are we going to be more sustainable? Whether it comes with all the plastic, that we now know, is it also the landfills.

And guess what, some landfills don't take their stuff anymore, and what are we going to do about it? But I also think the consumers who are asking and buying, and voting with their feet, that’s changing how folks who are making products behave, and the ability for a company like Stanley, which is very aggressive in their sustainability goals.

They want to be out of plastic packaging. That is not good for our environment. By 2025, they have said that they want to be at net carbon neutral in their 150 factories and warehouses by 2030. And given that they [00:37:00] are highly acquisitive, costly buying new factories, many of which are old and around, not quite where they need to be for those reasons, those decisions are not just simply the leadership saying, we want to do this, but there's their reaction to consumers saying this is important to us.

And I'm very excited about this kind of interaction back and forth where, you know, big companies are not only being part of their cities and environments and eco-dev and responsible citizens there but also, responsible in terms of how they're building products, and listening to the consumers who are also paying attention.

I think there is maybe, not a direct business model at this stage yet, but there's certainly influence in terms of what products are being built and how.

Trond Undheim: Well, Laila, this is an interesting discussion. Clearly, there are intersections between a lot of different things that all come together in sustainability, but certainly, you know, early-stage startup and big industrial company, you've started to make those connections very tangible with the accelerator.

I wish you best of luck with your next cohort.

Laila Partridge: Well, [00:38:00] thank you. Thank you very much for having me. It's been a pleasure.

Trond Undheim: The topic was early startups meet industry 4.0, our guest was Laila Partridge, Managing Director at Stanley Black and Decker and Techstars Accelerator for AI in #advanced manufacturing.

In this conversation, we talked about Stanley Black and Decker's approach to innovation. My takeaway is that to get industrial tech right, is to have a fit-for-purpose approach to partnerships between startups of all kinds and corporate divisions. Stanley Black and Decker has a myriad of programs and the early startup effort, where they partner with Rechstars, is a great example.

Success is not only attracting startups. It means treating them well. The results will not typically be visible for years, as it is a long-term effort. Only time will show if this program has the longevity and results that early results are showing. Thanks for listening. If you liked the show, [00:39:00] subscribe it to Augmented or in your preferred podcast player and rate us with five stars.

If you like this episode, you might also like episode 27: "Industry 4.0 Tools and Analytics," where I interviewed Carl March, the director of industry 4.0 at Stanley Black and Decker, episode 45, "The Startup Studio for Manufacturing," or episode 18 "Transforming Foundational Industries." Hopefully you'll find something awesome in these or other episodes.

The Augmented podcast is created in association with, the frontline operations platform that connects the people, machines, devices, and the systems used in a production or logistics process in a physical location. Please share this show with colleagues who care about where industry and especially industrial tech is heading to find us on social media is easy.

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Laila Partridge Profile Photo

Laila Partridge

Entrepreneur / Tech Exec / Seed Investor / Avid Skier

Laila Partridge is an investor, serial entrepreneur, and Fortune 100 trained executive who enjoys working with fast growing technology companies. As a Techstars Managing Director, she works in partnership with Stanley Black & Decker on an accelerator, investing in startups advancing electrification into industrial and consumer DIY tool applications. Ms. Partridge is also a board member of Cambridge Trust [NASDAQ: CATC].

In the 12 years leading up to this role, Ms. Partridge founded and led a range of start-ups from communications technology spin-outs out of Caltech and MIT to innovative mobile and SaaS companies in retail and sustainability. She has strong operational and technology innovation training from her tenure at Intel Capital, Intel’s venture capital arm. Ms. Partridge was an investor and group manager during Intel Capital's formative years, investing in early enabling technologies such as RIM (the first mobile email provider) and in Red Hat and VA Linux (early leaders in the Linux/Open Source market). While at Intel, she was also part of the executive team that launched Itanium® microprocessor family; her formation of the Intel® 64 Fund provided the basis for a Harvard Business School's case study. Ms. Partridge has a BA with Honors from Wellesley College.