Less than a week ago an awesomely cool smart button was released. Flic hit the streets amid great fanfare. I was lucky enough to speak with Pranav Kosuri, Co-Founder and CCO of Shortcut Labs, the minds behind Flic.
BS: Before we get to you, might I ask, What is Flic?
PK: Flic is a wireless smart button that can trigger your favorite functions, services and apps with a single push of a button. This means that you no longer need to pull up your phone from your pocket, unlock the screen, find the app, open the app and then trigger that specific function. With Flic its as simple as pushing a button.
BS: How did you personally get started at Shortcut Labs?
PK: I started with molecular biology at Stockholm University and CalTech. And then after that I wanted to venture out and become an entrepreneur. I wanted to gain ground and gain a real-action kind of knowledge. So what I did was move to China.
I started to work for an Indian mining company and then exploring how they would branch out in SE Asia. After I was finished with my mission there, I traveled back to Sweden. I started my first company that was a music company for young students in Sweden. I got picked up by Bonnier [Media Group] where I became a trainee. And then I started my second company which was having pizza boxes.
Have you seen the Swedish pizza boxes? They’re really ugly. (Laughs) I wanted art to be part of our life – not just in museums and galleries. So I thought, “What would be more ordinary than art on pizza boxes?” I took young artists and put their artwork on pizza boxes; on the inside you had things to read. And I sold 33% of the border on the inside to relevant advertisers.
BS: How did you transition from all those experiences to Shortcut Labs?
PK: (Laughs) Yeah, I’ve done everything. But when I was doing [the pizza box art], it got recognized in the newspaper and that’s where I met Joacim [Westlund, Co-Founder & CEO of Shortcut Labs]. He had this idea about a button.
I listened to him and the first time he explained it to me. He said, “I want to do this button,” and I thought, “This is not a good idea.” But then I started reading up on IoT [Internet of Things] and I figured out what a huge potential this would be and how many possibilities this product has – and where IoT is today. Everyone is talking about it.
What most people say when you talk about IoT is that this is the same feeling that there was before the internet bubble. That intrigued me. That, and the potential of the product for having such a global reach from a very early start.
I really have a good working relationship with Joacim and Amir [Sharifat, Co-Founder and COO of Shortcut Labs]. That is really the thing that pulled me into it.
BS: Did Amir come with Joacim to you with the idea?
PK: Amir met Joacim at a fair – at a student fair. Joacim had the idea and Amir was struggling with – he had just installed a home automation system in his parent’s house – and he was struggling with trying to teach his parents how to use it. When he heard about the idea [for Flic], he immediately saw the potential. This product was something that would simplify life for his parents. So that’s more of his story on why he got invovled in IoT.
BS: I assume you have a wonderful working relationship. How is it?
PK: I think it is really great because Joacim is a product and design engineer. Amir is a production engineer. I’ve been doing marketing and sales for a while and building companies. So we were a really great combination actually. That’s one of our key factors to our success because we always come from different angles.
I, who am the least techie person in the team, come with angles of the every day person. I say, “You know, this doesn’t make sense to me, but the safety button makes sense to me. For the visually impaired person, this makes sense to me.” And seeing the market in that sense. Having Joakim and Amir who are really techie – they really understand the trends and the possibilities on pushing the product and products that we are taking out.
Flic is the first product we’re taking to the market. But we have several within Shortcut Labs that are in the pipeline.
BS: Do you envision Flic helping with energy consumption or sustainability in any way?
PK: Actually, I was in NY at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was invited because they were talking about energy waste. The massive waste with everyone always looking at their smart phone and consuming a lot of power and electricity. They were saying that Flic is going to contribute to preserving energy.
Honestly, we haven’t thought too much of it, but our vision is that we don’t want people to always interact with their smartphones. They’re not supposed to do that. These functions are as easily accessible by using a button rather than having to go through this hassle of activating your phone and looking at your phone and swiping through multiple steps. It’s kind of a vision of pulling everyone away from their phone.
BS: Now you’re speaking my language! (Laughs) So what do you do in your free time outside of Shortcut Labs?
PK: This last seven months after we have done the crowdfunding campaign, it’s probably the worst period ever [for free time activities] because we have been working constantly. We’ve gained 10 kilos each, and that’s not a joke. It’s really bad. (Laughs) So now what I do for fun is try to – I started to do yoga. I’m the least flexible person in the world.
We’ve also started to do something in the company – we go to an internet cafe. We’re a very techie company but we still go to internet cafes and we play games together – computer games. It’s really nice getting out from the everyday stress and then having to do something that is completely different. It’s really fun.
It’s everyone from our CFO, Leilei [Tong] to our 16 year old support guy. Everyone at work will go to this internet cafe and play.
BS: That sounds like an amazing way to release frustration and encourage creativity. But most importantly, what games do you play?
PK: (laughs) Some of us have played games before so it’s really a struggle with which game we should agree upon playing because everyone is good at one game. So we decided that because everyone is bad at Age of Empires 2, we play that.
BS: (laughs) Wonderful! That’s very fair of you.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.
If you want to see more of Pranav and Flic, please watch his video from Startup Day 2015.