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Smart Industry 1/2018

Smart Industry 1/2018 - The IoT Business Magazine - powered by Avnet Silica

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Smart People Behind the scenes Soon after, a US Customs employee rang up and told Petersen Steve Jobs had called – and Apple’s CEO was not pleased. “In fact, he screamed at him,” Petersen says. “Obviously, Jobs didn’t understand how things worked.” Petersen subsequently decided to found Flexport, a company that would be based on all kinds of data available in the world of shipping. “ In the future, we’ll live in a world where machines talk to other machines,” he believes. But the world that he entered still had people calling each other or sending faxes. Something had to change. “We’ve been steadily chipping away at those processes,” Petersen declares. With close to $100m in funding under his belt, Petersen now finds time to advise would-be entrepreneurs. He feels the most important tip is: “Don’t wait for someone else’s permission to do your business. First, make certain that other people see the same problem and will be willing to pay for your solution to it. Talk to users non-stop, and build things based on their feedback. Until you have product–market fit, any time spent doing anything that’s either not talking to users or building something they want is wasted.” Conall Lavery of Wia IoT is going places Sensors are the eyes and ears of IoT but retrofitting existing legacy systems to handle them can be a nightmare, causing many IoT projects to falter or fail. What companies need is a simple toolbox for building Internet of Things solutions – at least, that was the idea that occurred to a young Ulsterman named Conall Lavery. Almost three years later, Lavery’s company Wia is well on its way with almost a million dollars in seed funding under its belt and ambitious plans to expand globally. Its mission: “We want to do for infrastructure what Stripe does for payments.” Stripe is one of the hottest new players in the world of payment processing, and it’s seriously challenging PayPal. “When most people hear IoT, they think smart fridges, self-driving cars, The challenge is to turn a simple piece of hardware into a smart solution Conall Lavery and thermostats,” Lavery explains. “These are just some examples of the wide range of devices that make up this ecosystem. The challenge is to turn a piece of hardware into a smart solution; you need a way to talk to each and every ‘thing’. “To do this, you need a platform,” he continues. “The old way of doing things is to cram a bunch of developers into a room and get them to write hundreds of thousands of lines of code hoping that in a few months’ time they have something that works. You just want to send a bit of data from there to here, keep the lights on, and make sure there are no unwanted visitors at home. “We take away all that hard stuff. With our enterprise-grade platform, you can make anything smart within just a few minutes. We have everything you need to manage, capture, control, and integrate any type of device. You don’t even need to know how to code,” claims Lavery. “At Wia, we’re providing all the tools so customers can focus on the ‘last mile’. So, whether it’s a kid creating something in their bedroom or an enterprise customer building a million devices across the world, they can do it through our platform,” Lavery adds. And others, it seems, are listening: Wia won the Best Startup category at the Irish Internet Association awards ceremony in October and finished as a finalist in Lisbon at the 2016 Web Summit Spark of Genius competition, which was sponsored by ESB, the Irish electricity company. It was also tipped as “one to watch” in 2017 by Silicon Republic’s Europe Startup 100, across fintech, IoT, SaaS, and data and many more fields. Wia has attracted the attention of Suir Valley Ventures, Ireland’s entrepreneurled, venture capitalist fund run from Waterford by Barry Downes, founder of software startup FeedHenry, which was acquired in 2014 by Red Hat for €63.5m. Suir Valley focuses primarily on investments in high-growth, private software startups in the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) spaces, with a secondary focus on fintech and IoT startups. “Wia’s end-to-end platform provides full device and application management, security, data capture and storage, analysis, control, as well as the seamless integration of enterprise systems. We are looking forward to working with Conall and his team to help them rapidly expand the Wia business with developers and enterprises internationally,” says Downes. Lavery, 28, comes from Dungannon in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland originally but has since moved south to Dublin. He studied advanced software design and AI at Queen’s University in Belfast and has previously designed software solutions with Big Motive, Channel 4, BBC, Cambridge Silicon Radio, and Net-a-Porter. A few years ago, he even took a few months out to play piano in a bar in Manhattan! Wia currently employs six people with plans to double its headcount over the coming months. The company operates out of a coworking space and is growing fast. “We intend to use the funding to grow the team out in Dublin and make a big move into the enterprise space,” Lavery said. At startup conferences or around his favorite Dublin pubs, Lavery likes to explain how young companies can be successful. “Go talk to as many people as possiblee,” he says. “Gathering a good network is key to getting up and going and validating your idea.” He also likes to go against the grain of conventional product development wisdom: “You don’t need a product: that comes after you have some customers.” And of course, “work, 8

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