We caught up with the Founder of award winning IoT innovators EVRYTHING, Andy Hobsbawm, for a Q&A to hear more about his journey and the journey of the company
Tell us how EVRYTHNG formed?
EVRYTHNG was formed after a coffee shop conversation a few years ago with a friend Niall Murphy, now fellow Founder and CEO. We talked through his idea of giving every object in the world an addressable, dynamic online existence.
We both agreed that the web would evolve to incorporate billions of networked objects sharing dynamic information about themselves in real-time – sharing data with apps, devices, information services, enterprise systems, and other connected things. It seemed equally inevitable that a transactional economy would emerge around this flow of object data and that a new layer of software infrastructure was needed to manage the digital identity of physical things. Also, making it easy for apps to access the real-time data and provide new kinds of services and experiences seemed pivotal.
We incorporated EVRYTHNG in 2011, raised early stage funding and were joined by two other co-founders Dom Guinard, CTO and Vlad Triffa, EVP R&D, enlisted from ETH in Zurich and Massachusetts’s MIT. EVRYTHNG is now based in London, New York and San Francisco.
‘IoT’ is referenced a lot in the media but with little breakdown of what exactly it is and what it means for the digital sector. How would you define the Internet of Things?
At the simplest level it’s about physical things becoming part of the Web. Originally we had information available as hypertext links, then sooner after information services like databases and e-commerce, then social networks let individuals and their digital identities become embedded into the Web (yes this had always been the case in some ways but a change in degree is a change in kind). Now physical things and environments can be connected to the network to bridge the boundary between digital and physical, we have a physical web of things as well as people and data information and information services.
EVRYTHNG’s take on IoT is our Smart Products Platform-as-a-Service. This helps consumer manufacturers connect their products to the Web and manage all the real-time product data to unlock value for their customers and business. For example, brands can operate products as an owned digital media channel and service delivery interface. This means they can connect directly with consumers and deliver real-time interactive product experiences or support services. They can also track products through the supply chain as they are made, sold and used, and tackle counterfeiting to protect their brands and revenue.
What is the one piece of wisdom you would impart to entrepreneurs who are at the beginnings of their digital business journey?
Stay super focused on executing against priorities, especially when there’s no shortage of tempting opportunities and conversations that can lead you in different directions.
What are the three biggest challenges you faced on your startup journey?
Working across different geographies is something we’re always trying to improve in terms of Web tools and internal processes. Raising capital can be a challenge in terms of the time it takes away from executing on the business itself. But the biggest and most exhilarating challenge has always been realising our ambitious vision of connecting every physical thing to the Web with its own unique digital identity.
If you could change one thing about the UK’s entrepreneurial culture what would it be and why?
If our experience is anything to go by, it would be making it easy and fast to get good quality bandwidth. It was insane, and somewhat ironic, how difficult and time-consuming it was to get fibre into our office in Tech City. If I told you how long it took from start to finish you might not believe me.
What are the skills deficits you face when hiring in the UK and what would be your recommendation for tackling them head on?
It’s not the most original observation, but the shortage of great software engineering talent is a real barrier to growth, both from the point of view of a skills scarcity, and by constantly driving up hiring costs. The only viable long-term answer is education.
What’s been the most challenging thing about starting your business so far?
We were very early into the space and it’s the pioneers, as they say, who get the arrows in their backs. It was challenging to stay true to our original vision for the company while educating the market, and packaging and delivering our offer in a way that early stage buyers could adopt. Now the Internet of Things is a bona fide thing and the market is exploding, it’s gratifying to see the core role we envisioned for EVRYTHNG getting validated more every day.