19/8/2019 0 Comments
FOUNDER SPOTLIGHT - INTERVIEW WITH IoT entrepreneur nassia skoulikariti: how i got started & hired my all-star female DEVELOPMENT team
We're excited to announce that this blog post is the first of a new category of interviews focused on showcasing the tech startup talent that Purposeful Products and Tech Startup Academy™ have worked with.
Following our interview with Founders 50 entrepreneur Sheena Shah, we're pleased to have another interview with a female founder in tech, Nassia Skoulikariti, the CEO and founder of the Internet of Things startup Apiro Data Ltd.
Some fast facts - Sheena's tech team is 50% female, and Nassia's tech team is 80% female! Nassia talks about this during the interview, so let's begin!
Welcome to the Purposeful Products Blog Nassia. Can you share your origin story with us?
I have more than 25 years of international experience in Telecoms, Cloud communications and IoT, helping global organisations to develop and grow.
Prior to founding Apiro Data Ltd, I worked for several global companies in countries including the US, UK, The Netherlands, Greece, India and Hong Kong, and managed culturally diverse commercial and technical teams globally. As a result I have developed a “people first” attitude, and I'm on a personal quest to find ways to humanise technology and make it easy to implement and manage.
At Apiro Data we connect people, places and things through our End2End Internet of Things (IoT) platform, Infinity Core and our partner ecosystem. Our modular, flexible solutions allow customers to expedite their connected device plans, chose what fits their needs, KPIs and budget, and grow at their own pace while minimising their investment risk.
We work with businesses to create a proof of concept based on where they are on their digital transformation journey, which they can then pilot, and scale.
An iterative process that gives the client something to work with from a simple starting point... Clients are often nervous about the result they will get, especially with higher-ticket / enterprise software solution. Nassia has a backgroud in this area, but if you're an entrepreneur who's new to enterprise solutions, offering a paid service to clients to provide a tailored poc (proof of concept) is a good way to address concerns.
How has life changed since you started this business?
I'm living a better version of my life.
Since starting Apiro Data I feel more empowered. I went through a deep introspection to understand where I am, what I know, and how I could apply all my previous experience to my start-up. The company is bootstrapped, so I take on many different roles; some I had prior experience in, others I didn’t and had to take classes to gain a better understanding.
I've realised it takes a lot of courage to put your money where your mouth is, and take action while staying true to your beliefs and values.
I enjoy building and creating things, so founding a company that's building enterprise software and utilising IoT and AI is like planting a seed and watching it grow.
What else can you tell us about your app?
Although IoT and M2M (machine-to-machine communication) has been around for some time now, there is still a lack of qualified IoT experts and solutions architects to assist with planning and designing software for clients.
We work with the customer to accelerate their digital transformation and deployment using an agile approach from exploration, and deployment to commercialisation.
With Apiro Data solutions and products, companies can start small and focus on their needs, KPIs and budget.
Our solutions are easy and fast to integrate - it's a model that allows customers to grow at their own pace.
As a result customers are able to reap the significant gains of IoT faster, save money and increase their customer satisfaction and retention.
How did you first come to recognise there was a problem that you could solve?
IoT and IoT services have been around for several years. However, the expertise pool is still limited. There are a lot of people claiming they know IoT but very few do. I saw the need for modular solutions which work well and are easy to use.
The market is crowded, and 80% of the business is run by the Big 3 (Amazon, Google and IBM.)
We're a boutique IoT company, and are very nimble - we help customer stop wasting money on platforms they can’t use due to complexity, or lack of integration.
How did the business develop from this point?
It's key for us to have a strong partner ecosystem, so we've been working on two fronts, building our platform and companion app (Infinity Core) and building our partner network for the elements we don’t cover directly, such as the sensors needed for connected devices, and the connectivity for the communication between the smart devices and the platform.
What stage are you at with your business?
We have the first version of our platform and app developed and we're working on a handful of fascinating projects across different industries, such as logistics, healthcare and utilities.
What’s been the best thing about your journey so far?
Where do I start? There are so many things I can choose, from the way I feel, to the energy it gives me… However, one of the best things is that at Apiro Data we are mainly females, and my development team is all female. I always wished to find a way to share my experience and empower other women and Apiro Data is giving me that chance to give a little bit back.
Achieving gender parity in teams is particularly challenging in tech due to the relatively small percentage of women in the industry. How did you achieve this?!
Actually, we do have a man in the company, Swapnil. He's a great guy, and is our SVP of Product. Out of the 5 people with Apiro Data, four are females. The challenge was to find strong female developers that were willing to work for a start-up and also work remotely. It is not the done thing in India, and I have to give Swapnil the credit for helping me find the right candidates. We used a recruitment agency, and personal referrals.
I'm really curious to hear your answer to this question... Is there a difference in how the genders approach development work?
All my previous technical teams were mainly male, so this is a first for me!
Females are more empathetic in their approach to problem solving. They are not as vocal and require nurturing, time and space to grow and flourish. At the same time, they focus on getting what we need to get done completed on time, and with great attention to detail. Females need to understand what we are building on a deeper level before they start developing.
That sounds great - I strongly believe that developers with a strong drive to understand and clarify what's needed really help themselves and their employer (or client) to succeed!
What's been your biggest challenge so far, Nassia?
Concentrating on one new idea at a time… IoT solutions are wide and varied.
There are so many challenges we can solve with connecting, monitoring, and analysing the world around us. It’s extremely important for a young start up to concentrate on concrete and tested solutions based on customers' needs.
I agree. I think this is a curse of the entrepreneurial mindset - on the flip side, it can actually be crippling, because you may be able to see too many paths that you might take. It's advisable to stay focused in order to get the business off the ground. That doesn't mean not being innovative, but it's about risk reduction and producing a stable, reliable product in the minimum amount of time so you can take your product to market quickly!
What would you do differently if you could go back in time and give yourself some advice now you’re “older and wiser”?
Start sooner / earlier. Always trust your abilities and your determination to get things done!
What’s next for your business?
We have very ambitious plans for the future, the next phase for us is to use AI power our platform.
Impressive. I wish you and Apiro Data all the best, Nassia!
Where can people find you?
People can reach out to us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and via our website:
If you're interested in IoT, you may also be interested in this article about the latest trends for IoT for startups.
Kay Kukoyi (K.N. Kukoyi CSM FITOL).
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