What is your Mnubo elevator pitch?
We’re a seven-year old start-up that recently got acquired. Mnubo sits at the confluence of three relatively recent phenomena: the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning and Analytics. We see that the rise in machines is generating a lot of data, which needs to be transformed into some level of intelligence to drive productivity in quality of life and well-being for consumers, as well as productivity and safety for enterprises.
So the elevator pitch for Mnubo is that we help provide software technology platforms that help harness the intelligence from the data generated by IoT or connected objects.
In our name, M stands for machine and ‘nubo’ is a Latin word for ‘cloud’; so it is a machine cloud. The company was to become a cloud infrastructure for all connected machines out there. Our genesis was based on a problem we identified; we realized enterprises were making enormous investments to get their infrastructure and facilities connected, but they were not extracting the full value of the data that these objects and assets and mission-critical systems were generating.
You realize that data has lead the last three decades of waves of technological revolution. One example would be the web revolution, where web data became the cornerstone of what we know as the Internet today. And there is the mobile data revolution, and there is social data revolution. We felt there is an opportunity and a need to do an IoT revolution, and that we would be the spirit of that revolution.
So we weren’t just a generic big data analytics solution; we were very focused on assets, the data that these assets generate, and how you make them perform more efficiently and help them drive more productivity for your business.
Your July 16th LinkedIn post talks about ecosystems and the importance of teamwork. For you, as you have co-founded this company, what does it mean to be a great team player and what are the best ways of building up your teamwork skills?
When you’re building a start-up, you realize there are three elements that allow you to be successful: People, Process and Product; who you work with (and why you work with them, in some way), how you work with them, and what is the end value. You have to bring all these pieces together.
There is a quote in the book Good to Great, and it is a mission that the co-founders and I live by. It is about putting the right people on the bus and they will tell you where to take the bus. As every start-up grows, there is always this sapling, or seed of culture where, by surrounding yourself with strong individuals, they add to it. There is an organic way the company culture forms. This is why people gravitate towards start-ups; the energy, the culture. The aura and the energy they bring is what forms the engine of a start-up. For me, that part is super important.
Before building Mnubo, had you known that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I think I had known, but I hadn’t put a label on it as an ‘entrepreneur’. Personally, I relished the opportunity of building things, of creating things, fielding, rebuilding, trying and harmonizing and galvanizing teams around that purpose, which is to build and create. I don’t think that wanting ‘to be my own boss’ is an indication of wanting to be an entrepreneur; wanting to be your own boss, for me, is not the litmus test. Wanting to create and build and have an impact in that process is the strongest indication, to me, of someone’s entrepreneurial instincts and abilities.
What were the biggest obstacles to taking that leap of becoming an entrepreneur, either for yourself or the company, and how did you overcome them?
I think the biggest obstacle most people face is getting comfortable with the unknowns. The ability to persevere in ambiguity is one of THE most critical qualities in becoming a successful professional. Because, in a world that is rapidly changing, in decisions that are rapidly moving, even in established companies, your ability to persevere and have purpose and clarity of thought in ambiguity and uncertainty is an essential quality in moving forward.
Now for a specific obstacle: it is easier to learn on an individual basis, but how do you learn on a collective basis? Because everyone’s response to risk is different and this is where the notion of defining a common purpose is important. How do you go from a team of five to a team of 20 and still be comfortable that you are moving in the same direction, when everyone has a different perception of risk? It’s bringing them back to the ‘Why’; why are we doing this? What is our common vision? A constant reminder and reinforcement of the ‘Why’ is important.
I would say the two aspects of risk are aligning internal forces to drive towards a purpose, but also making sure that the ecosystem – from investors to partners to customers to competitors – in a way, they all have to be believers in that purpose too. The risk is not something that is tangible, but is all in the mindset and how you communicate the thought with some degree of confidence and assuredness, despite the unknowns, to make sure that we are all aligning mindsets towards the same cause.
What resources or knowledge did you take from Concordia on your journey?
Pursuing further education, be it an MBA or something else, is a very important decision for one to take because there is an opportunity cost to it. You are investing time, but the biggest bet one can take is on themselves. In a world where people are trying to make quick money and short wins, the MBA is a reinforcement that longer-term vision, investment in yourself, is a much more sustainable path to be successful.
In the earlier days when Mnubo was not profitable yet, it was just an idea on the whiteboard, when the founding team was being put together, I realized we had a gap. Of the four cofounders, two were more business- and product-minded, and the other two were more technology-minded. The gap was in a market- and output-facing vision, so I said “I’m going to make an investment in myself to be the person to bridge that gap.”