Kasper has had some very interesting past ventures, and it was great to have him share his experience from the IT sector, lessons learned and his point of views on running startups. But it was also interesting to hear his ambitions, his experience about receiving funding and where he sees his company going.
We get straight to the point:
An short introduction: who are you and what have you done earlier in your life?
I was the first employee in Cybercity back in 1995. Two hundred employees and ten years later in 2005, Cybercity was now owend by Telenor, and I was Director of the technical development team. While at Telenor, an exciting idea started to form in my head. This idea came to be known as Fullrate.
I founded Fullrate in 2005, together with four other partners. Fullrate revolutionised the telecommunications market with our high speed internet solution at a low price, which quickly drew in many customers. It has been four years since Fullrate was successfully sold to TDC for several hundred millions, and in the summer of 2012 I left my job as CTO of Fullrate to start my new venture, Sensorist.
Can you describe what you are doing right now? Why did you start Sensorist and how did you start?
The story of Sensorist starts with my passion for wine. I was visiting my wine cellar one day, and it felt colder than it normally does. I had no way of being sure, as I did not note down the previous temperatures. I began to ponder the old-fashioned, limited abilities of regular measurement instruments and how they lacked the functionality of keeping history. With this problem in mind, I came up with the idea to develop a product that would make it easy to log and monitor sensors from any location.
This idea turned into what is now known as Sensorist. I quit my CTO job at Fullrate, founded Sensorist, and started working full time with the idea. I hired two brilliant guys; a software engineer and hardware engineer, moved into an office and we started working on the hardware and software prototypes. Together, we created the design and platform, and in December I had the opportunity to show off our work to several Danish VC’s, and ended up receiving an investment from Danish Seed Capital.
We have just finished our initial development and produced our first small production batch together with our Chinese manufacturing partner. With this in place, we created an Indiegogo campaign, where potential users can pre-order our solutions for delivery later this year. Our users get the benefit of getting the product first, and it also gives us valuable feedback on product direction, as well as gives us an opportunity for increasing our initial mass-production order.
You mentioned you had received funding, can you tell us a little about that? Can you tell us who the investors are, the amount invested and, if possible, the valuation?
We managed to get venture financing in january of 2013, where we received just above $700.000 from Seed Capital, as well as from two private investors. This was an excellent match for us, as I already had the pleasure of working with Seed Capital, who was one of the biggest VC investors in Fullrate, so I knew how they worked already.
Was it easy for you to raise the funding? $700.000 sounds like something some might have a trouble raising in a first round. Would you have been able to do that without the previous connections to Seed Capital?
Raising money is never easy. You need to have 1) a good idea, and 2) a feasible plan and 3) a team that that can take to project all the way. I am confident that we would have secured funding even if I didn’t have a previous venture relation with the investors. But because they knew me and the skills I represent my guess would be that I mostly need to provide confidence in regards to 1) and 2) and that was probably why it took very short time from initial meeting to an agreement.
Have it been multiple rounds or just one? Do you aim on doing another round?
So far we have only had one round of financing, but as our plans are both big and global, it’s very likely that more rounds will follow down the road as our traction in the market grows.
What is Sensorists growth model – how do you plan on getting costumers, and who are your costumers?
Our customers are ordinary users. Our Sensorist solution is easy to use, has a beautiful design, and targets normal people. Unlike some of the other internet-of-things offerings out there, we want our products to be as easy as traditional thermometers / hygrometers, that do not require the user to be either a hacker or programmer.
We have recently launch a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, and even though it’s a week old, we are getting a lot of very positive feedback. When our campaign ends, we will move into more traditional advertising – still with global sales online only from our webshop, but from there, we start moving into both retail and B2B segments in all of EU and US. We are already working on some very exciting options in the B2B space with our products.
Why did you choose indigogo, and not kickstarter?
Administration. Kickstarter requires a UK or US presence in form of a daughter company, bank account as well a resident in one of those countries. Not impossible but definitely a big administrative task. Indiogogo on the other hand, just works even when located in the rest of the world.
Where are you planning to take the business – where are you in 5 or 10 years?
We have had a global outlook from day one. We want to certify our products for even more territories than the EU and US. And we want to keep adding new and exciting sensors to the systems besides the temperature and humidity sensors, that we have launched with. So in five years, we hope to develop at least 20 different sensors and probes, as well as have a solid global footprint in both households and business all over the world.
Regarding what you have learned, lessons and sharing knowledge: what things do you wish you had known a year ago, that would have saved you a lot of trouble and that is interesting to know for others?
I wish I knew just how much goes into developing and designing a product that is based not only on software, but also hardware. The hardware aspect is a whole new ball game for me, and I have spent a lot of time learning the ropes. Luckily, I’m surrounded by amazing people, but knowing just how much work goes into not just designing, but also manufacturing hardware, would have been nice. When that is said, I also need to say that I would have done it anyway! It’s a really exciting and amazing area for a tech-guy to be involved in, making a real physical device.
Do you have any role models in the startup journey? Whom do you look for for advice or feedback?
I have a lot of people both internationally and in Denmark who think I have done an amazing job. Some of them do startups in a completely different way than me. Guys such as, Thomas Madsen-Mygdal (23, Podio), the guys from Rainmaking (Frokost.dk, Startup bootcamp), Morten Lund and Morten Strunge (Onfone, Mofibo, Stronzo) who are able to juggle multiple projects at the same time, where I’m much more of a one-startup-at-a-time kind of guy.
In the one-project-at-time category, I could mention people like Tommy Ahlers (Zyb, Podio), Jacob Wolff-Petersen (Steelseries) and Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (Mikkeller), who all have put Denmark on the map in the rest of the world.
I think I have a pretty good collaboration – more like sparring – with a lot of good entrepreneurs and get a lot a very nice value from these informal talks.
You have made successful exits – are you active as an business angel as well?
Regarding begin a business angel, I have been using a little bit of time in the past as a business angel, but I have come to the conclusion that I’m probably better of spending most my time, and money, on my own projects.
We thank Kasper Mejlgaard for his time and thorough answers, and hope that he with Sensorist will achieve it’s goals and ambitions – and that it will become a future role model for other hardware startups.