What problem are you trying to solve?
The public sector is under growing pressure to operate on tight budgets, which result in vital services – like social care – becoming overstretched and underfunded. As central government aims to transform the UK into a world technology centre, it is our mission to demonstrate to public sector providers exactly what can be achieved by incorporating IoT driven solutions into their existing services, particularly in adult social care.
Our work within the public sector does extends beyond social care and includes smart parking, bins, legionella mitigation, footfall management and emergency lighting, to name a few. Essentially, improving public services with ‘tech for good’ is at the heart of all that we do.
How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own?
According to analyst firm Gartner, there were 8.4 billion devices – or ‘things’ – connected to the internet in 2017. This number has grown dramatically since then, and recent predictions suggest that around 31 billion new IoT devices were installed during 2020. These ‘things’, however, are not general-purpose devices like smartphones and PCs, but are dedicated-function objects. By 2025, the total global worth of IoT technology could be as much as USD 6.2 trillion.
Because IoT encompasses so many different technologies, there isn’t a single, clearly defined market to speak of, so it is better to think about the markets built around specific IoT solutions. In terms of the products we provide, there are around four or five big players delivering IoT-powered smart parking solutions, so we expect to take roughly 25% of this market. With smart bins, on the other hand, there are about 86 companies that I know of offering that technology, like we do, so we would expect to take a smaller share of that market. It is all dependent on the size of the market around individual solutions.
How do you make money?
We charge our clients a small monthly fee in exchange for the data that comes from the IoT solutions we provide.
Who’s on your team that makes you think you can do this?
Everyone in the team shares the same ethos and ambition to achieve company growth. We’re all team players and support one another throughout, and each of us has a unique set of skills that brings something valuable to the business.
Who’s bankrolling you?
We are backed by private equity investment.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?
Don’t be tempted to go down that route too soon. You really need to question whether outside investment will help you to grow and bring people in that you need. For us, we first looked to secure financial support too soon and we should have waited until we were investment ready before reaching out. Thankfully, I had advice on hand to guide our decision and although it was very difficult saying no to money on the table, it provided us with the time to continue to build the company and our IoT assets, so that when we revisited the concept of investment, the company had increased in value and we received a greater sum as a result.
What do you believe the key to growing this business is?
The use of IoT is still very embryonic and not everyone is aware of the benefits that it can bring – not only to adult social care but in other areas of society too. The key, therefore, to growing our business is educating people on what IoT can offer them, whether they are a service provider or someone who relies on public services. There can often be hesitancy around incorporating IoT into existing services, so we see it as our responsibility to dispel misconceptions and help more people believe in the power of tech.
What metrics do you look at every day?
Our primary focus is on the number of devices that we have out in the field at any one time, as this is the best way for us to measure how much of an impact our solutions are having. From my perspective, as CEO of the company, I’m constantly looking at what we have in the pipeline, and this includes any potential opportunities that are out there with local authorities and service providers, as well as new ways that we can engage with our target markets.
What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Probably the most unexpected thing that I’ve learnt is how long it takes to develop products like ours. My background is in sales and business development rather than in hardware, software design and engineering. In the past, I have been used to having a product that was already in existence and ready for market. Having witnessed the development process of our solutions, it has really opened my eyes about how lengthy this can be, so it has been important for me to stay patient and wait for the developers to create the best product possible before I can focus fully on pitching it to potential buyers.
What’s been your biggest mistake so far?
As one of the founders of IoT Solutions Group, I very much see the business as my baby, and I think that this is something that a lot of people in the same position will understand. However, this can make delegating things difficult, and perhaps the biggest mistake I have made so far is thinking that I can do it all on my own. We’re really fortunate to have such a dedicated team in which everyone is genuinely passionate about our products and wants to see the business grow. This has made the task of letting go of certain things easier for me, and I am really pleased with the position we are now in.
What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead?
2020 was an unprecedentedly difficult year for the care sector, and has shone a light on the various ways in which the industry needs to change going forwards. Many councils across the UK were already cash strapped prior to the pandemic, and the events of the past year have only acted to place further financial strain on local authorities and the services they provide. Being able to offer councils technology enabled solutions that can free up valuable time and money within the care sector means there is lots of potential growth for the business at the moment, and we are excited to have the opportunity to bring about real change that could improve the wellbeing of thousands of vulnerable people nationwide.
How has Brexit/COVID affected your business or others within your industry?
For us, COVID has had a much greater impact on our operations than Brexit has so far. This is because of the delays that the pandemic has caused to lead times for components, with these ranging from an average of six weeks to over 60 weeks. We have worked hard to ensure this hasn’t had too much of an impact on our product cost, as we pride ourselves on our ability to deliver such impactful solutions at such affordable rates.
Which London start-up/s are you watching, and why?
AskPorter – they have developed a fantastic digital assistant and modular AI management platform. We are in the early stages of partnership discussions and see the real benefits collaboration could bring to our customer base.
Another start-up we are watching is Urban Data Collective – founded by Alex Gluhak, their mission is to democratise access to urban data so people can use it to create a better world. We have worked with Alex for many years in the IoT world and are sure he is going to achieve great things!
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