Tomas Turek (CEO Angee): The hardest thing was to put together the right team
11. January 2018
Tomáš, could you introduce Angee for those who have not heard about it yet?
Angee is a new smart home security system – simple to use, yet very intelligent. She protects your home and those you love without you as a user having to think about it. She is smart and gets smarter as she learns more about your security needs. Angee strives to maximise automation, combining cloud intelligence and fog computing to distinguish real danger from false alarms.
You mentioned the notion of “smart home security” – what exactly this rather cool term mean? What specific functionalities can we expect from Angee?
Angee is part of new wave of solutions which have been appearing on the market. They are based on intelligent data management and smart hardware. Angee uses sensors and a combination of other technologies and our goal was to create a cloud-based system that is complete, automated and able to recognise and react to stimuli in real time with the highest level of accuracy. What we offer is one of the most comprehensive solutions available on the market today.
On the market there are currently several “smart” devices which are meant to interact with humans. There is Amazon’s Echo (Alexa), Google has come up with their solution as well and it won’t be long before HomePod is launched. The user experience show that not all devices and their functionalities work the way they are supposed to. Do you see them as competitors?
That’s a great question. While both Amazon and Google have been working on a platform for digital assistance and voice access to a wide range of services and apps, Angee is focused purely on the area of household security. As these “tech giants” are fighting for dominance, Angee has its own strategy, capitalising on this trend.
Your solution is a combination of a hardware platform, a sophisticated software and a cloud system. The demands on technical products, especially those which communicate with humans, are very high today. What was the most challenging thing during the development?
That’s hard to say because there were quite a few difficult moments. However, one stands out to many. To be honest, the hardest thing was to put together the right team, and then organising it efficiently. Of course, our task is to build a beautiful product with great user experience, scalable and upgradable software architecture but the most important thing, and this could be subjective - is to have a team which is passionate about the problem we are solving, wanting to keep learning and dive deeper, and essentially improving and personalising the product to adapt to the real needs of our users. And then of course, wanting to be part of the winning team -this is also a culture, that needs to be nurtured.
A burning question: have you been through the start-up valley of death? If so, how did you get out of it?
Are you talking about the situations when you are running out of money and key projects take more time than you targeted? What helped us was the fact that we learned a lesson from every such situation and we defined a clear path to get out of it. These are the moments when push comes to shove. While a lot of teams fall apart and give up, we got together and grew together, one step at a time – that experience of living and surviving through difficult times is electric - check all black team if you have not already! We are still at the beginning of our journey and there is a plenty of difficult situations yet to come.
Tomas, today there is a team of 35 people behind Angee. These are some of the best experts on artificial intelligence and voice recognition, developers, testers and sales representatives – and the team keeps growing. Do you as the CEO have any recipe for successful management? Is there someone you look up to? What do you see as the key competences of a leader?
This is one of the issues that I have been fascinated with recently. You have likely heard the saying that a it is easy to come up with a good idea but the important and critical part is to be able to put it into practice. There is something to it. If you are responsible for 35 people, have offices in 4 world metropolitan cities covering all time zones, at the same time cooperating with partners from all around the world, and most interestingly striving to be a leader in the largest and most demanding market in the world – then great organisational skills and efficiency are the key and you must be obsessed by it. I’d be lying if I said that I invented the organisational completely by strategy myself – the truth is that it is a result of a close collaboration with my colleague Petr who joined our company 18 months ago. We also discuss the strategy and priorities for the whole team together. At this point it is the executive team that helps us be really efficient, being united and sharing this to and through the whole team. This principle - combining young blood and years of experience (laugh) - we are implementing through out the whole organisation and works well.
You managed to raise almost 3m USD in fundraising. You gained the trust of Credo Ventures and other prominent investors. At the same time, you have experience with Kickstarter (a successful campaign which enabled Angee to pre-sell its product for more than $531,000). What would be your advice for other founders who want to get the most of the fundraising? Did you get any experience and lessons you can use in the following rounds?
Unfortunately, there is no universal advice. Even the best companies often struggle at the beginning. I don’t want to repeat the tips you can read everywhere but one thing I consider key is to meet the investors early and pitch them quickly. You don’t have to follow 100% of their suggestions but it is essential to listen to them, look for patterns and make your own conclusions. No one knows your technology and business better than you. You will however need to learn to explain your start-up in a language the investors understand.
Right now you are getting ready for another crowdfunding campaign at Seedrs. How much do you plan to raise and why did you choose Seedrs in the first place? Can Czech investors join as well?
The reason why we decided to use Seedrs (editor’s note: the largest UK equity crowdfunding platform) is that we want our community to be able to participate in the future growth of our company and to grow and keep enhancing the relation with our community. Today’s trend of fast growing companies is to use multiple sources of funding. Moreover - equity crowdfunding is becoming mainstream – especially in the UK. We will inform you about the details once we have launched the campaign. Czech investors can take part in it as well.
We will have an opportunity to meet members of your team at CES, the largest consumer electronics fair, which takes place in Las Vegas on 9th January, as you’ve chosen it for launching Angee on the American market. Why did you decide to focus on US market and what other plans does Angee have for 2018?
The US represent the world’s largest market, and importantly a relatively uniform one, especially when it comes to the smart home area. This is the the main reason but we also know that if we want to be the best we have to beat the best - this is the most competitive market. In 2018 we will work on further improving Angee’s solution, strengthening our supply chain and, and most importantly, developing a relationship with and understanding of our customers resulting in building a healthy and solid position on the market. We are also looking around for the right partners and preparing company for another round of funding - Series A.
Will potential (angel, VC, corporate) investors who would like to make investments outside the campaign at Seedrs have an opportunity to do so in future investment rounds? When is the Series A planned for?
As series is planned for the second quarter of this year - we are already talking to several interesting investors. At the same time we will be happy to discuss participation with anyone who shares our believes and is interested in supporting Angee’s further development.