Putting Lean Principles into Practice with Wia
This week, we held our 5th Idea 2 Scale meetup, this time focusing on IoT. We were joined by guest speaker Conall Laverty of Wia at Glandore’s fabulous new location at Fitzwilliam Court. Wia is a cloud-based platform that allows developers to build IoT applications without any code of the awkward integrations between different technologies. The event was a great opportunity for audience members to learn from a VC backed company in the middle of scaling their platform to meet their ambitious goal of becoming the “the universal language of things” within the IoT space.
“I love coding but it’s much nicer to build something people actually want.” Conall came to this realization having been a coder from a young age and having built multiple applications for clients in his professional career. It’s clear from his talk that staying lean and taking a customer-first approach to product design is at the core of Wia’s success to date. Despite having raised almost €1 million in funding, they have a relatively small team of 7 people.
Not only do the team of 7 have their day roles but they’re all members of Wia’s 24-hour customer service team dealing with their community of 100,000+ developers via live chat. Conall sets an example by hooking up his phone to his speakers when he’s asleep so he can wake up to respond immediately! Conall points out that live chat is a perfect chance to rapidly iterate on their product and learn from their customers. In addition, “if something is too complicated it’s our fault and they have a right to get it fixed asap” – Wia now test their new tools with kids to ensure simplicity before releasing them to the community.
Fundraising in Ireland
As a solo founder, Conall is part of an exclusive club who have managed to raise substantial investment without any co-founders. Investors typically prefer a diverse team who all have skin in the game – three founders are the benchmark. The Hacker (Coder) The Hipster (Designer who likes fancy coffee) and the Hustler (Sales & Business savvy type). Conall has proven the ability to wear all three hats but it wasn’t always the case. While going through the NDRC’s accelerator, he remembers how he had to shift from a product to company mindset as he was spending too much time on the code and design rather than building a business model. He did this by color coding his calendar to see where he was spending his time.
Wia raised their seed round of €750k last year led by Suir Valley Ventures. When deciding how much they were going to raise, Wia started with an end goal in mind saying; “In 18 months’ time, where do we want to be and what resources do we need to get there? because that’s how much we need to raise.” In general, Conall feels it’s getting harder to raise seed money in Ireland. Investors are becoming more risk averse preferring to invest in Series A rounds where there is clearer market demand.
Future of IoT
Looking to the future, IoT appears to be at the post-hype phase following popularization of the cloud, a cheaper cost-centre which drove interest in the space. Having endured the initial excitement, today there are many useful applications being built on the likes of AWS driving sustainable businesses. Every 24 hours, 8.6 million new devices are connected to the internet. In particular this is down to narrow band IoT - small devices that send simple signals and have long battery life of 7 years or so. Cheaper devices like these from are helping places like Shenzhen emerge as IoT hubs. In Europe and the US, the hardware costs are holding the industry back
A member of the audience questioned Conall on the threat of new entrants such as Amazon - who own the AWS cloud infrastructure. Conall has an interesting response saying “IP & code is only one piece of the puzzle, someone else can copy us but we are building a strong community and brand which isn’t easily replicated.” Wia have been quite deliberate about creating a sustainable brand to support their platform. They produce a lot of content and have built strong ties to the develop community.
Come along to our next meetup by joining the group here!
5 Takeaways & Recommendations
- The Problem interview – A useful approach to customer validation
- Live chat can be a useful tool to gain rapid feedback and iterate as necessary.
- Investors look for the ‘Triple-H Teams’ – Hacker, Hipster & Hustler
- Cost-centres drive innovation, the cost savings the cloud brought create the industry, hardware holding back future growth
- Building a brand to protect your IP. Marketing and sales are a lot less binary and harder to replicate