Any advice that you might have for home-grown start-ups in Hong Kong that are getting into the IoT space?
Kyle: So, let me give you a few pieces of advice. So, one just for companies in Hong Kong, not in IoT or in IoT. My biggest piece of advice is get out and help each other. One of the things I’ve loved every time I’m in Hong Kong and it absolutely fascinates me is, you walk into a co-working space like the Hive or the WeWork, Paperclip or even Metta and you just see people buzzing, you see people communicating, don’t’ stop that. Push those boundaries. If you’re getting just into this world of being an entrepreneur, go to as many events as you possibly can until you see the same people 10 different times.
If you ever get a chance to work with each other, help each other. I remember the days when Los Angeles was still a very young ecosystem, very similar to Hong Kong and there were about 20-25 that really supported each other, helped to drive and push each other forward and that group still exists today and some of them are very, very, successful whilst others have gone on to make multiple successes but one way or another everyone has continued to progress and grow the community. And so, for those in Hong Kong, do the exact same thing, get out, you’re not the first to have the problem you’re having, guaranteed. Talk to someone about it, learn from them, you know talk to guys like us and others in the community and just simply ask: Hey, what do I do here? How do I get above this certain hurdle? How are you doing? How can I help?
For those in IoT, of course pop in and say hi to myself or Raj or any of the team members always happy to welcome you and be part of Hong Kong IoT family. But, at the same time just as I mentioned in the beginning, look towards the community, look towards what is happening at co-working spaces and look at the type of events they are putting on. A lot of these events are free or cost five or 10 dollars, just go support the community, ask questions and learn.
If it’s your first time and you want to learn everything you can online, shameless plug, readwrite.com. It’s what we all cover and at the same time, look at Tech in Asia, look at E27, look at these websites online to get your first foot into the door. When you get back on the ground, look at Jump Start magazine that’s circulated every couple months on the ground.
But for IoT’s specifically go to some of the IoT events. Look at Cyberport, look at these resources you have locally to support you and anywhere else in the South East Asia region, every country right now has some type of IoT initiative. All the governments around are pushing these things, with a simple search online or a quick notes through the community you can easily find where these projects are going and if not ask the three of us or ask my co-founder who will happily point you guys in the right direction.
Those are some great tips Kyle but at the same time and not to belabour the point of hardware is hard, we looked back a couple years ago and one of the things we found on YouTube was an interview with you in 2013 where literally the biggest things in hardware that you were talking about were the Google Glass and Pebble Watch. Glass has obviously been a parked way and Pebble Watch has been acquired. All of this to say that obviously there's a ton of risk involved with being in hardware startups. How would you advise a new startup entrepreneur to deal with that?
Kyle: Yeah, so first and foremost let’s not glamorize entrepreneurship too much, it’s always hard starting a business. Taking a hobby or an idea or a project and turn it into a company that generates revenue is not an easy path. It is hard, it will be one of the most difficult things you ever do in your life, at the same time it will be the riskiest and it will be the most rewarding, regardless of its turnout and you have to know that going into this business and on the IoT side in hardware side, you’re absolutely right.
This blog has been written based on the interview with Kyle Ellicott foundr at ReadWrite Labs
Hardware is hard, if anyone tells you differently they’re lying to you and feel free to call them out on Twitter.
We'll tell them Kyle sent us.
Kyle: Yes and you can cc me on the tweet and I will happily favorite it and also comment it but it is very hard and very difficult. With software, coming from my technology background, it’s code, you’re putting design on top and it can work.
With hardware, you have to put components together physically and not just once but multiple times over and you have to put layers on top of that, multiple layers of code plus the design, multiple layers of design and then hope you didn’t spend too much money and you can still make a profit off of it. And where it’s difficult is marrying all that together, you know when you create a piece of software, parts boil down to nuts and bolts. Software code is free, it’s just us pressing keys. On hardware, you have to pay for components, components get cheaper at scale, they don’t always start off cheap so your initial prototypes can cost a lot of money. That’s ok. If you are truly invested, you accept the risks, understanding the potential reward. Put a little bit of money into making a real prototype and once you get one, find the components that you need that will make it a little less expensive to make a couple more.
So, that when you go out to talk to press, talk to partners, talk to investors, you can show these things off and not just have the one and only demo. With the companies that you mentioned, Glass and Pebble, it is hard because there’s a new element when it comes to these types of products and that’s us as consumers.
We have a very big opinion as to what we want and what we don’t want physically held in our hands and with something like Google Glass. Part of the reason why that didn’t work at the time and why you're starting to see a little bit of these companies come back now. Is because at the time the entire culture shock, no one was fully ready for that. As tech guys, for us, that’s so cool, let’s put a camera on our face, let’s do all kinds of stuff, that’s awesome. But for the general public, there was just a psychological thing that did not click and we’ve seen it from all the technologies we have in our life.
From, you know the wearables we have on our wrist, to the cell phones we have all of these different pieces of technology have a hurdle to get through and with poor Glass that was one of the biggest. You’ve got a camera that faces someone else directly and you don’t know if they’re recording, not recording, you know if they’re taking a picture, what’s happening? You don’t know what’s going on and unless you have a pair that was hard to understand.
Hardware is hard but understand your costs, understand what you’re getting into and I can tell you the reward is definitely worth the risk and the very last point is focus on the platform you’re building on top of for hardware. Get it to a point where the hardware is not merely the value, it’s software, it’s the data you’re generating that gives something back. So, actionable insights, give something back to the user at the end of the day. That’s what’s going to have people coming back to you.