June 16, 2014 Issue: The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Sensing, Wireless and Low Power Computing Platforms for the Wearables Space
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – June 16, 2014
CEOCFO: Mr. Farzaneh, what is the concept behind Sensoplex?
Mr. Farzaneh: The concept is essentially that the company offers hardware platforms that include three major elements. The first one is sensors — and that can be a variety of them. The second element is low power computing. The third element is wireless connectivity. Currently, our focus is on wearable applications. That is where most of our customers find value from our designs. Later on, we will develop different platforms for the Internet of Things, as well as machine-to-machine.
CEOCFO: Would you give us an example of a customer that you worked with and how the whole engagement worked?
Mr. Farzaneh: Sure. Our customers are typically either small or medium-sized companies in the wearables space. These are companies that have competence in software and also deeply understand their specific market. However, what they find difficult is producing the hardware solution in a way that would enable them to reduce their risk, time to market, and cost. Most of our current customers have virtual applications that are related to either sports or wellness, for example it might be for active sports such as tennis, golf or snowboarding, or for wellness programs for monitoring the elderly. Currently, these are the major applications we serve. In addition, about 10% of our customers pursue industrial embedded applications, such as robotics.
CEOCFO: Was this relationship with health and fitness planned, or was it more opportunistic?
Mr. Farzaneh: It was definitely deliberate because this is an area that would more obviously gain value from working with us. It is a competitive and fast-moving segment, and most of our customers are themselves practicing the sports for which they want to develop that product. They understand what is available on the market and what is missing in the offering so they can define a product that would offer more value to the consumer. They also understand the importance of being first to market. Sensoplex is very effective at helping accelerate product development and, given how critical time to market is in this segment, we deliberately decided to focus on it.
CEOCFO: What is the key to going from concept to finished product?
Mr. Farzaneh: In order to have a good product, there are a number of things that need to happen. First of all, there has to be hardware that can be used to measure or monitor the activity and communicate wirelessly with either a smartphone or a tablet. In addition to hardware, companies have to develop the algorithms that are necessary for their specific application, as well as the application software that provides the user experience. These are very important to the customers because obviously they want to provide good user experience, but also a measure of “stickiness” that would help maintain the loyalty of the consumer. The third thing that is needed is to be able to put in place the channels essential to effective marketing. Using our development kit as a base platform enables customers to immediately start building both the algorithms and the software that they would need for a complete solution. That puts them about halfway towards their goal of turning a concept into reality.
Some of our clients do not want our standard hardware. There are customers who want the platform in a different form-factor, or with a different number or type of sensor. However, they can start with a proven platform with embedded software that ensures that the system as a whole works well, making their task much easier. Once they buy our standard development kit and start working with it, they can decide on the exact functionality the product needs, and if need be, we can rapidly customize the hardware for them.
The last thing, in addition to the electronics, is the enclosure that requires two activities. One is the industrial design which we typically do not get involved with because that has to do with the look and feel that the company wants and is a matter of corporate image and taste. Our customers deal independently with that. Once they have their industrial design, we can help them with the detailed mechanical engineering work necessary for manufacturing the enclosure at the right price, quality, and schedule.
CEOCFO: Are there many companies in your space that specialize in the area that you work in and are able to provide such high-quality tools?
Mr. Farzaneh: Not that I am aware of. There are many companies that provide engineering and design services, but I am not aware of another company that offers a wireless sensor platform that is as complete and as easy to build on as ours. Platforms are always the right way to go because they make life much easier and less risky for the customers. In sum, at this time, we do not have much competition, although I am sure that we will have some in the future.
CEOCFO: How do you reach potential customers?
Mr. Farzaneh: We partner with some of the components makers. For example, we partner with a given manufacturer of components for inertial sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes and so on. These companies are typically semiconductor chip companies, they are well structured to support high volume customers but they do not have the resources to support smaller or medium-sized customers, and they typically refer such customers. We also participate in conferences and in trade shows and that help raise our profile so that more prospective customers will be aware of us. The third way for prospective customers to find us is organically via the web. I am a little surprised by the number of customers that have approached us after having found us on the web — possibly as many as one-third of our customers.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the recognition you received from Gartner?
Mr. Farzaneh: We were certainly surprised when Gartner gave us this coveted recognition. I know that they were aware of us from conferences where I had presented the technology and the concept, but we did not know that we would be on their short list. That came to us as a very pleasant surprise.
CEOCFO: How do you spend your time as CEO? What do you focus on day to day?
Mr. Farzaneh: This is a company that we decided to fund without outside investors. I have three partners and the four of us decided that we would bootstrap the company and not seek additional investment. This makes it different from my previous CEO positions with companies that were venture-funded. We were always limited in the amount of money, but we certainly had more resources than when you bootstrap it. I typically had a personal assistant who served also as office manager and we always had more structure. My current work at the company is quite interesting but also challenging. We have to decide what activities are truly essential and then we must find ways to execute as effectively as possible. We outsource many of these activities in a way that gives us full confidence about the quality of the work while not breaking the bank. In the process, I have learned to use tools that I had never tried before. One example is leveraging Odesk. You can find specific contractors through their network who might reside somewhere else in the world, and the difficulty is in finding the right contractor and testing their work. This takes more time, but it can work very well. Going back to my time management, I would say that I am spending about 30 percent of my time on sales and marketing, and about 30 percent more on managing the company, as we have a small team of just under 10 people working in a small office, which facilitates a great deal of interaction. The last third of my time is spent looking at future technologies, products, strategies and tactics that would enable us to offer better value to our customers.
CEOCFO: What is ahead? How might Sensoplex be different a year or two down the road?
Mr. Farzaneh: One thing that I do not want to change much is keeping the company very lean and very nimble. This will not change. The other thing that will also not change is relying on people by not only empowering them but totally trusting them. To give you an example, we do not have an HR policy, we do not do reviews, and we do not have a vacation policy. People can decide where and when to work, but they are totally responsible for their results. This gives us an edge because we have no bureaucracy and people love what they are doing, otherwise they would not be doing it. The output has been absolutely phenomenal, better than any startup that I have been associated with in the past. Looking down the road, maybe two years down the road, instead of 10 people, we might have 20 or 25 people. We would probably have more systems directed towards helping the customers design more effectively with our platform, but no more bureaucracy. Right now we have one platform, but we are developing a second platform. By then, we will probably have four different platforms targeting a couple of different major markets. We might also have a few larger companies that use our services, although our preference really is with small and medium-sized because they are more nimble and easier to work with and things happen faster and more effectively.
CEOCFO: Why pay attention to Sensoplex?
Mr. Farzaneh: Sensoplex masters the convergence of a low-power wireless capability that does not require a huge battery, the emergence of big data that enabled the acquisition of vast amounts of data from which can be derived information that can be useful to different people on a individual basis, and also the advances that we see in sensors. Inertial sensors have been around for a while but right now we are working with some very innovative components that, for example, could detect the level of smog or ozone, and do that in a very small form-factor using minimal power. While we are currently focused on the wearables market, in the future our platforms will be enabling all sorts of products within the Internet of Things market. Both are projected to grow quickly within the next five to ten years and we intend to be a force that enables customers, both large and small, to provide better products.
About Sensoplex Inc.
Sensoplex is a Silicon Valley company expert in sensing, wireless and low power computing technologies.
We provide leading edge professional services for the definition, development and production of innovative wearables for fitness, wellness and health applications.
Our platforms and development kits enable customers to rapidly test & expand their ideas and applications in their market.
Our proven flexible hardware & software frameworks provide a solid foundation for customers to develop their product in record time.
Working closely with customers, we can reduce their time-to-money by as much 50%.
CEO, Senoplex Inc.
Hamid Farzaneh started Sensoplex in 2012 and is a Silicon Valley veteran CEO and an expert at managing innovative high tech companies. He is a charismatic, high energy and passionate leader who believes that business success and growth fundamentally require the runaway success of customers and their complete satisfaction. His companies and his passionate and multi-cultural teams always put the customer first and thrive to deliver the best possible value.
Hamid has been the CEO of various companies, including Optilux, Varioptic and DisplayLink and a senior executive at global technology companies including SiliconOptix, Motion Sense, Genesis Microchip and ASAT.
In addition to high tech and electronics, Hamid draws his experience from a very diverse background, having worked in diverse industries such as genetic engineering and automotive over three continents.
“There are many companies that provide engineering and design services, but I am not aware of another company that offers a wireless sensor platform that is as complete and as easy to build on as ours.” – Hamid Farzaneh
1735/1755 E. Bayshore Rd, Ste 8-B
Redwood City, CA 94063
Any reproduction or further distribution of this article without the express written consent of EOCFOinterviews.com is prohibited.