We had an interesting chat with Ms. “Shahram Rezaei”, Founder Of the California – USA based startup “MyDrivingPal”
Below is the interview we conducted with her:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
We develop advanced IoT (Internet of Things) products that are Hardware-App based and deliver location based services with the focus on security and safety. Our first product is a versatile smart asset monitoring and tracking solution for car, child, bike, drone, and in general any valuable moving asset.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
MDP was founded in 2014. We are in early stage, but have identified our markets. Our product is going to be ready by the end of year 2015. We have developed our prototypes.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
We make Hardware-App based products and sell it directly to consumers (online and in retail stores) and businesses. Some of the businesses that we have in mind are bike shops, amusement parks, and car dealerships.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Core team of MDP consists of three people. We are long time friends. Our backgrounds complement each other and well suites our company. One team member is hardware engineer, another firmware engineer, and the last one is Application and software
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
Our solution comprises both Hardware and App. Very few products are like this. Our hardware is battery-powered, thus non-intrusive and portable. Battery (rechargeable) of our hardware lasts several months, compared to just a few hours to several days in similar products. Our tracking product protects customer’s privacy, by tracking only when needed. This is unique.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
We have developed prototype of our hardware. Our Apps and backend server have been developed. We have a campaign on Kickstarter right now. Our company has raised seed funding.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
Here are a few competitors:
1) LoJack (www.lojack.com)
2) Komodotec (www.komodotec.com)
3) PocketFinder (www.pocketfinder.com)
Our advantages are:
1) Our product protects privacy.
2) Our hardware is self-powered.
3) Our solution detects out of range moving events and issues warning.
4) It’s very inexpensive (about $100), compared to LoJack that is a $1000 product.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Any Startup is full of obstacles and we are no exception and have already faced several technical and business obstacles. One technical example is extending battery life time of our hardware. We developed our proprietary power optimization algorithm in order to meet our goals. On the business side, we realized that making enclosures for our hardware using the conventional injection molding is too expensive for us at this stage, so we switched to the new 3D printing technology.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Our product comprises both Hardware and App, meaning it’s a blend of hardware and software. There are many App developers and similarly many hardware companies, but quite few that do both. Our hardware is equipped with Cellular modem, GNSS receiver, Bluetooth Low Energy chip, and several MEMS sensors. It’s a very capable device that works seamlessly with our App, without being totally dependent on App.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
1) We are passionate about what we are doing.
2) We work very hard.
3) We know our field very well.
4) Have very good advisers and connections
5) Our backgrounds complement each other and well suites our company. One team
member is hardware engineer, another firmware engineer, and the last one is
Application and software engineer.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
Our product can also enable Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) communications. In 2017, some of the new cars (for example GM Cadillac) will have this technology. Our product enables existing cars to communicate with this newly coming cars. V2V and V2I can prevent road crashes by giving warning to drivers.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
We think the IoT and Location Based Services (LBS) markets are very messy right now, somewhat similar to phone and music playing devices before iPhone came out. We want to make a similar breakthrough in the IoT and location based service fields.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Most people love it. There has been tremendous support and positive feedback that we have received. The number one challenge with a consumer product is making aware of your product. Social media, press release, and news channels are great venues.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Fulfilling orders in time. We expect to receive thousands of order and need to deliver them in time. Since our product includes hardware, making it comes with material cost, so requires investment for making thousands of them.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Our product delivers a suite of security and safety features, some listed below:
1) Protects customer’s privacy by only tracking when needed.
2) Locate the moving asset on map in real-time
3) Receive alert if car/bike/child/drone/etc moves out of range
4) Receive alert if car gets too hot with a pet or child left alone in it, hence
preventing vehicular heatstroke that causes 37 children death in US every year
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
We have a campaign on Kickstarter (http://kck.st/1e1LYJE) right now. We also have Facebook and Twitter pages. Our vendors have published press releases about us. We are also going to be covered by local TV channels this summer.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
We don’t have actual customers yet (some beta testers). Target customers are parents, vehicle owners, bike owners, drone lovers, and in general anybody that would like to monitor his/her valuable moving asset.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
They find us online. Our product has several key advantages over existing products in the market. For example, our tracking product protects user’s privacy. To the best of our knowledge, there is no tracking product in the market that does this, while being battery-powered (thus portable) and inexpensive.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
They like it a lot. Our product has several key advantages over existing products in the market. For example, our tracking product protects user’s privacy. To the best of our knowledge, there is no tracking product in the market that does this, while being battery-powered (thus portable) and inexpensive.
20. How are you going to scale?
We are raising fund and going to expand our team in the next 6-12 months. Our market is world-wide. We are going to open an office in India early next year, followed by an office in Europe and then in Latin America.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
None, we think we have it all covered. Some feedback suggest we make our hardware smaller, which we are working on it. Our product has several key advantages over existing products in the market. For example, our tracking product protects user’s privacy. To the best of our knowledge, there is no tracking product in the market that does this, while being battery-powered (thus portable) and inexpensive.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
Yes, certainly. Our product currently works in +90 countries. As soon as we see some significant sales in any country, we will open a dedicates office there to handle customer service and business development.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We will be a multiple billion dollar company in 3 years. We are planning to re-invest our profit into the company to expand and grow.
Our market is world-wide. We want to make our product a household item.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Yes, we are going to hire a couple of software engineers in the next 6 months, also few marketing and business developers. We kindly ask the people that are interested in our work to send resume to: email@example.com
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Yes, we are looking for partnership, both for fund raising and licensing and/or re-selling our product. We kindly ask the investors and businesses that are interested in our company to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
If you believe in what you are doing, then do it, but be patient and tough. There will be obstacles and challenges. Be very selective in choosing your key partners, you will work with them for a long time.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Thanks for giving us this opportunity.