SensorBeat was awarded an Honourable Mention in the 2015 Nordic IoT Challenge. We had a chance to sit down with one of the founders, Anders Hardebring, to discuss the company, its development, and its future.
Björn Svensson: Before we get into Imagimob and SensorBeat, let’s start with what brought you to this point. How did you get here?
Anders Hardebring: Well, I studied in Linköping. I have a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering and Management. I’ve been in the mobile industry since 1994. Between 1993 and 2000, I was, you could say, an Intrapraneur in a Swedish company – where I did the first Powerpoint, I did the first proposal, I did the first deal. And over the years this business grew from basically 0 to 100,000,000 kronor in revenue – and to 100 people, with offices in Stockholm, Hong Kong, Dallas, Rome, and England. And then we sold it for one billion dollars in 2000. If you were around at that time, it was a very hyped period. And we managed to sell the company at the top of, or a couple of weeks after.
BS: Did you go immediately into starting your own business?
AH: No, then I was CEO for a startup for 8 years. It started off very good but then we had a difficult period. We had an exit but a very normal exit. That first one was really spectacular. But when you grow a business from 0 to 100,000,000 you go through so many phases, and you hire people and, you know, it’s not a straight line – it’s a lot of ups and downs, it’s a lot of successes and a lot of problems as well. But that was a fantastic number of years.
BS: It sounds really exciting. So after that last startup, you found yourself at Imagimob. And you guys created SensorBeat. What exactly does it do?
AH: SensorBeat understands the movement of things and people. It takes sensor data and, through algorithms, translates them into movements. For instance, I do a gesture or a walk – quick or slow or upstairs or downstairs – or it can be a movement by an animal like a dog that is sleeping or walking or eating. Or even more interesting, it can be a movement by a thing – basically anything. It can be a door, how it is moving, a machine, or a tool that you use in your garden. It could be a robot, it could be shopping trolley, anything. For instance, we can detect dangerous movements in certain machines or equipment. We can detect deviations. If you have a door, if you have something that is normal and if you have a deviation or inconsistency, SensorBeat can detect it, and that can trigger an alarm that maybe it needs to be oiled or something. The number of applications is basically endless. And we’re just starting this thing.
BS: How did you come up with this?
AH: I’m not the inventor. We have three equal founders. The other two are the inventors and I am more on the business side. They came up on the idea through something that happens in daily life. We can’t really disclose much about what the invention really is, because it’s still patent-pending. You could say the invention came up in an everyday activity. But basically, you know a sensor streams a lot of data, and it’s a smart way of compressing data but still maintaining some of the valuable information.
BS: That secrecy makes it sound more intriguing.
AH: Once you have these patterns, we use artificial intelligence to see that this is a walk or this is a door closed too slow.
BS: Does it have a learning algorithm?
AH: Yes; this is about artificial intelligence – in the area of machine learning.
BS: As you can’t divulge too much information, let me get a little bit more general. With your experience over the years, what do you think some of the challenges for startups are?
AH: The challenges are going to market, of course. I think the big cost for startups is not about developing the product but going to market and selling it. That’s the challenge for us and I think for most startups.
BS: From your experience of an intrepreneur at your old company – how did that help you be an entrepreneur?
AH: It helped at lot. At that old company we had a lot of support; we had a lot of money and a lot of good people around. I learned to become focused on the sales and winning. The first customers are so important – to get their feedback, take that to Research and Development. The first customers are really critical I think.
BS: Your background is industrial engineering and management – so you have both a technical background and a business background. But you moved toward the business side with this.
AH: Actually in my first job, I was working as a programmer but maybe not a very good programmer (laughs). But after a couple of years I moved more into project management, pre-sales, and then more into sales. Since then, I’ve been Head of Sales and CEO for different companies.
BS: What are some of the more exciting things about the Internet of Things and IoT, that you see out there in the industry? What do you find exciting or might have the potential to transform?
AH: The potential is there. It’s so much more than hype. It’s the tip of the iceberg. We’re really starting to move into this area. There are so many opportunities to explore.
BS: What was it like when you were notified you won the Honourable Mention in the Nordic IoT Challenge?
AH: We had a meeting with Telenor and we felt that that meeting was really good. We felt that they kind of understood it. We created some kind of atmosphere, created some rapport. It was a very good, very focused meeting. So we were quite optimistic of coming out high. And we were really happy. For us, we are a really small company and we are kind of unknown. So to come in as an Honourable Mention, we were really happy with that.
Right before this Challenge, we did a financing round before the summer and actually we raised 3 million kronor, which is not too much for Silicon Valley but for us it’s good. We closed that round in 4-5 weeks. But we felt that when we presented it to private investors, we realized people found this really interesting. So when we qualified for the Nordic IoT Challenge, we were not really surprised because we know that the story is becoming quite compelling.
BS: Do you see anything with SensorBeat – I know you can’t talk about the technology –helping out with sustainability in any way, saving energy or promoting more efficient processes?
AH: We haven’t really used that word specifically, but I think we have two areas were we can improve. For instance, if you look at things, we think we can identify the need for maintenance, which can help the company do preventive maintenance instead of waiting until something crashes. It’s an area we talk about that with customers. The second area is in insurance and warranties. For instance, you transport an expensive product from Sweden to Germany, but when it comes to the customer, there is something wrong with it. With our technology we can see that on Tuesday at 8:30 there was something that happened in transportation. This second area is not really about sustainability and we haven’t used the word. But I think we could get there.
BS: What are the next steps for SensorBeat and Imagimob?
AH: Where are we now? We have money in the bank. We are just about to hire the first person out of the founders, which is a sales person. And hopefully we can move on, focusing on sales and then, as the pipeline and everything builds up, employ more people. The challenges, the sales, that’s where we’re going to focus. It’s a very exciting time. From next week onward we’re going to have a new board, and it’s a really strong board. And we feel that our investors are really excited and they’re here to support us.