[Interview] Tero Aaltonen, Co-Founder and CEO of Augumenta

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2015/04/17 by lingdecklee

 [The following is an interview on Tero Aaltonen, Co-Founder and CEO of Augumenta, with authorization for publishing on the personal blog of Start Jeffrey Up and the FB page of Entrepreneurs Society of Taiwan (EST).]

 

About the startup:

Augumenta_logo

 

1. How would you describe your startup to someone you meet for the first time?

Augumenta develops interaction solutions for smart glasses. Our SDK enables hand gesture control and virtual keypads, turning glasses into a powerful tool for enterprises.

2. Who are your target customers and what is your business model?

Smart glass adoption is happening across various industry verticals, and that’s our target market. Today’s smart glasses come with voice control and different kinds of touchpads, but those control methods often fall short in challenging work environments, such as oil rigs out in the ocean. Our typical customer has a work force that benefits from having smart glasses as a tool that guides them through their daily operations, but need more powerful methods for control and data input than what their glasses provide.

This is B2B business, and we apply different kinds of licensing models to enterprise customers. There’s no one-model-fits-all, because different industry verticals have different revenue generation models, and our business terms need to match with theirs.

3. Who are some of your direct or indirect competitors? How do you seek to differentiate yourselves?

There are some software companies whose product offering overlaps with ours, and that’s natural. Having competition means that there is market demand for all of us. Augumenta’s strength is in the long academic research work carried out by my co-founders prior to founding the company. That accumulated knowledge, together with our strict focus on smart glasses only, has taken us to technology leadership position on the markets, and these are not my words; this is what I hear from customers who have evaluated solutions from us and from our competitors.

Smart glasses are used in many different environments for lots of different purposes. Because of that, there is no “best” way to control your device: hand gestures and virtual keypads excel in many use cases, but there are situations where voice, touch, or e.g. wristbands are more suitable for completing a specific task. We don’t want customers to try our solutions in use cases where we feel another kind of interaction method is superior to ours, and we suggest customers to try something else instead.

4. How are decisions made in your company? The advantages and disadvantages of this process?

All major decisions are discussed in management team meetings, where everyone is free to state their opinions and concerns. We have well-defined roles and typically a decision falls into one’s responsibility area, but the others have an opportunity to explain why they might disagree. This kind of decision making might take a bit of time every now and then, but what’s more important is that everyone is aware of the reasoning behind a decision.

5. What has been your best marketing investment to date?

I would highlight two events: the first one was Wearable Tech Expo 2014 in New York City, where we sponsored the event and exited stealth mode. We got good media coverage and made markets aware of our company and product offering.

The second one was CES 2015 in Las Vegas, where we showcased demos on Epson’s and ChipSiP’s booths. Demonstrating our technology on major device vendors’ booths gave us a huge boost in credibility and brought in lots of new customer leads.

 

About the speaker:

Tero

 

1. Why entrepreneurship?

After working 15 years for others, it was time to try something different. When my previous employer got acquired in 2012, it was a natural time to move from corporate life to startups. I’m the kind of person who always seeks for greater challenges and hates boring life, and that’s what I got

2. What is one great experience you’ve had working on your startup? What is one not-so-great learning experience?

Working in stealth mode was not always easy. We saw the market evolving and we identified potential areas where our products could be utilized, but we were not ready to show anything at that point. Our field is technologically very challenging and development takes a long time, and we didn’t want to announce anything half-baked that could be seen as “just a prototype that will never get to markets”. The first impression had to be perfect.

We are a global company and because of that, the founders – living across the world – don’t often get to work side by side. We gathered in New York City three days before the expo started to fine-tune our demos, walk through key marketing messages, and give some media interviews. The exhibition and our stealth mode exit was a great success. We were able to amaze people by showing something they had never thought of being possible. We got market confirmation that there is demand for our products.

3. What helps you keep going in the face of challenges and obstacles?

Three things: 1. my co-founders. We’re different kinds of personalities, and have our ups and downs for different reasons. If one of us is having a bad day debugging a bug hidden somewhere deep down, someone else is happy because of a great achievement on customer front. Talking with a co-founder helps a lot. 2. our chairman is an experienced entrepreneur himself, and CEO of a start-up in IoT field. He’s able to give advice and encouragement when I feel I’m stuck with something. 3. my fiance, family, and friends are always incredibly supportive and understanding, and I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done.

4. What skill has been most useful to you in your entrepreneurship journey?

Instead of a single skill, it’s the broader experience I’ve gathered on several fields during my career. I’ve had the luxury of taking part in different company functions before starting my startup journey. In a startup, CEO is really a Chief Everything Officer, and thanks to my past, I’m able to take lead on several fronts, from sales and marketing to finance and product management.

5. What do you need to learn or improve to take your startup to the next level?

Managing our growth, hiring the right kind of people for the right roles at the right order, and accelerating our company’s pace of execution and delivery as we grow. We are a very closely-knit team with great transparency and openness, and things need to stay that way. For me personally, it’s a transition from Chief Everything Officer to Chief Energy Officer.

 

[Tero will be a guest speaker at the upcoming EST event on April 17: EST Speaker Night. Join us and listen to his startup stories!]
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