Be Aware Of Your Competitors

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Be Aware Of Your Competitors

Where Are They Now?

Karthik Rau
Devin Miller
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
3/22/2021

Be Aware Of Your Competitors 

I think it is always good for entrepreneurs to keep an eye out as to what the competitors are doing. Not a fear necessarily but, I think you need to be aware of other companies. Being a little bit paranoid about that is actually a good thing. That is one thing we always try to see if our product is differentiated enough and has enough defensibility in the market when we go talk to customers. I would say that is the most important area where we continue to stay focused.

 


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i think it's always good for entrepreneurs to to keep an eye out on what the competitors are doing so not a fear necessarily but i think you need to be aware of where uh other companies are positioning themselves and and to be a little bit paranoid about that is actually a good thing for startup founders so i think that that's that's one thing that we always try to see if a product is differentiated enough and and has enough defensibility in the market when we go talk to customers so i think that's that's probably what i would say is the is the most important area where we continue hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups and seven and eight figure businesses as well as a ceo and founder of miller i p law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents trademarks and other business related things and today we have another great uh guest and it's our one of our where they at now six months after we originally talked with them um and it's uh karithka and i always worry i'm going to say the name right rule row rule sorry it's as good as as good as i could do but uh if you remember so um karithka or karisk is it correct karthik i'm i'm gonna keep i'm just gonna stop saying your name so i don't slaughter anymore but uh was uh with flick and uh was doing that and continues to do it and uh kind of that's where we left off of building that business or that journey led up to where he's at today and now we're going to hear a little bit kind of about the last six months and how you've had to a bit adjust and adjust some equipment and do a bit of rebranding and how you've done some bit of spinoffs and how you've done it now an official launch and had that going and kind of uh what all that journey's been and kind of what the shutdown has meant and cut different customers and pivots and all those good things so with that much is a is an introduction welcome back onto the podcast yeah thanks kevin it's good to talk again it's nice to reconnect and uh and see where we are yeah it's like you said it's been a few months since we last spoke at least on this forum so it's uh nice to be able to see where we are absolutely so now take us back in time to kind of last time we spoke and it's kind of for everybody that's either new the podcast or i'm getting reacquainted so to speak give us kind of where you where you left off about six and months ago where you're at and then kind of tell us a little bit about how the last six months have gone for you yeah i mean just to give a little bit of background i started a company called flick a few years ago and the idea was to work on a technology area called english computing so for those that probably are not that familiar um so we're all used to uh putting stuff in the cloud these days right in our personal life so you know pictures emails etc so we uh just upload everything to the cloud and just magically works somehow it's magic i don't know where it goes or how it works better work so industries are no different i mean they started doing that ten or so years back they started putting all of their operational data in the cloud so that's been going well for for many years but it has its sort of limitations um so edge computing essentially is taking a subset of that storage and processing power and putting that in a local compute sensor in our case but in in sort of in our day-to-day lives just imagine if you had a mobile phone which had all those apps running so you didn't have to actually connect to the internet to do everything that we typically do so that's that's sort of the technology area where we were innovating so the idea is you put a little bit of intelligence into each sensor the sensor attaches itself to a piece of industrial equipment and you don't really have to connect to the internet for it to work so that's basically what we were working on and we'd been selling that solution for a few years but the pandemic really has has been sort of a forcing function for many of us i think so we have to rethink how we do business how we uh make it easy for companies to use our solutions um so it's been an interesting journey over the last six months so now you so and i think that was a perfect ovary kind of where you were at and kind of where things left off and now you kind of hinted at it which is you know last six months or since we last talked you know you've now had covet you've had to pivot and adjust so kind of what were the things that you kind of ran into that caused you to pivot and then how did you react because that's can always be a scary thing right especially if you launch with one thing is going well and then you know where the limo that a lot of companies have been in is well we were had a good model and you know once covet opens back up or one scene's open back up then we'll go back to and then it was kind of the goal post kept moving uh well it's gonna be in two months or six months and now it's a year and now it's two years and so it kind of makes it hard so how did you guys kind of what was the difficulty you guys face and how did you pivot or adjust to it yeah when we spoke in uh in the summer last year we were sort of in the middle of the pandemic even then and we started seeing signs of certain businesses not really picking up as much as we had hoped uh and that's nothing new i think all of us have sort of gone through that phase now and we're seeing certain parts of the customer base starting to come back so what we noticed was the way that we were selling our solution required all of our sales guys and engineers to actually uh participate in sort of a consultative sales approach right where you're trying to work with the customer to figure out what the the issue is and you help them install these sensors in the field and all of that was just not possible because we were just obviously not able to travel and visit these sites so we had to figure out another way to sell our solutions so that really was the the initial impetus for us to start looking inward and trying to figure out how to make it really easy um or as easy as possible for customers to install stuff on their own right so we couldn't travel so we had to actually ship these sensors in a box and the customers had to actually go and install it on their own so the idea was to just simplify the product so we started there and then what followed was setting up all the infrastructure that we need to actually be able to sell this new product um so the old way of selling it just wasn't working and we just had to pivot and try to figure out a better way to sell our solution so that that really was how it got started and then as we you know dug it down maybe there's one quick quick question on that so because you know it's you're saying okay we were doing in-person installations where a lot of it was face-to-face and in person and you know covet kind of makes that much more difficult you're saying we have to adjust and pivot you know how did you i guess one arrive at the conclusion okay we can't you know we simply can't keep doing it was it you know money and sales are drying up and you had to figure out how to survive you know survive it or to adjust or was it more of hey this is an opportunity if we're going to adjust not just you know not just for the short term but let's make this more sustainable for long term so how did you kind of arrive at the conclusion that hey we need to do something different here and let's take this as an opportunity yeah it was both really then i mean we we obviously had sales drying up uh we had a lot of oil and gas and energy customers at the time and gas prices dropped a lot of the r d spend went uh went away so that was the q2 of last year was was a little bit difficult in the in the way that sort of it evolved and wasn't really clear when that phase would end so internally for us we had to figure out other markets to sell into so we started looking at our other opportunities and we're pretty opportunistic in the way that we were going after customers so we were doing okay as a company but still we sort of realized that the the old way of selling it just wasn't working and obviously you know as we all got used to working remotely we're just starting to wonder why it's not possible for companies to monitor these equipment remotely right there should be no technical reason why we can't do that you and i can do business on zoom you know it should be possible for companies to monitor remote assets there's no reason to actually put somebody in a truck and send them once a month to go monitor a pipeline so that that really was the problem that we were trying to solve so what we came up with was a really sleek simple solution um so um just to draw a parallel i mean it's like sort of attaching a fitness tracker to your wrist right it has to be that simple so you just put put a smart sensor that's what it looks like it's basically a tiny box that you attach to a piece of asset and just simple as that 20 seconds to install i want to make it really easy for companies to do that on their own so now how long did it take you to actually implement the changes right so you know you have this hey we've got to make this simple we've got to make it you know so that we're not having to have people on site or otherwise doing that and so you kind of have that as an idea and you know he kind of gave us an idea of what a solution you arrived at but how long did that take you to kind of roll out or implement or figure out how to make that pivot yeah we had the basics of that solution already implemented in the in the past so we knew exactly what to do it was just a question of getting the engineering team to focus on that so we had to create a a prototype that we could go take take to customers and try to validate that in the market so that took about two or three months to come up with something that we could actually show customers then in august we started promoting this to our internal contacts that we had with customers um september was when we first got some revenues from this new product line so we knew that that it had some legs and then q4 started to grow quite quite nicely then that's when we decided on a business level to make that pivot it seemed like it could stand on its own and needed to be launched under a new brand a brand called stoke and we formally launched that about a month ago and now onwards so now so you're kind of running now almost two businesses or two product lines in parallel it sounds like not to put words in your mouth but you still have the original model or hey we'll come out we'll be a bit more invasive or we'll do it for you so to speak and then we also have more simplified model of hey we'll give you we'll give you virtual or digital training as to how to do it make it a simple product and allow you to do it yourself so sounds kind of like based on the pivot you're now kind of running those two different companies in parallel now most of the employees have already moved over to stock so stock is really what's scaling right now and obviously we had to make that decision and it was a tough one to try and figure out where to focus but luckily for us i mean q4 and q1 so far have been really good quarters uh sales seem to be going in the right direction we're scaling nicely so most of the attention now is uh stoke so there's still some some old uh customer relationships that we have with flex so we sort of converting them to still customers and then now we'll continue moving forward so and i think you've now answered the question because the next follow-up question is going to have is kind of now moving over to stoke adjusting the business model pivoting what if you could going back in time and you know not possible but we'll play a game anyway if you could take the the model you have today which was kind of at least necessitated or forced based on coved you made that adjustment versus the original model if you had the option would you go back to the original model do you like the new model better or kind of if you could choose which path you if coveted never come along and you had the options to go either way which way would you go i think what we ended up with at stoke is probably the right thing to do um i think we eventually would have um worked on that on that particular arc and tried to make the product as simple as possible but as i was saying earlier it's sort of a forcing function you had to make decisions quickly and so sort of the pandemic really forced us to to look inward and try to decide what was the best course of action for us so i think in the end i mean regardless of the circumstances i think we ended up with the right result and the sales over the last few months have really really proved that it's it was the right move on our part to do that and so yeah looking back i mean i i think if we had made this decision a few years ago right i suppose i mean that that would have been the right thing to do with that one no and it's interesting because you you know once you get a product especially when you get a product up and running the company's you know profitable you tend to go to continue down the same route whether or not it's the best route or the one that makes the most sense but it's the one that you're comfortable and that's what you've launched and kind of reflect on one of the businesses i ran previously was we were going down one route and it wasn't a bad route but we had what was a frivolous lawsuit that was filed against us that made or took the company in a different direction it was a you know year of my life i wish i could get back and it wasn't a fun experience but at the end of that it also makes amidst all that forced us to step back and said well if we could the route that we were going down regard you know the lawsuit was a little bit of a catalyst kind of like co-bed and it was like if we could go back to the route we were doing would we do that or now that we had to step back we rethought our the business and how we're doing it what was a better path and it actually led to a much more fruitful and better path in the long run even though it's sometimes those painful things that kind of cause you to give pause or have to go through it and not enjoy it but in the end it comes out to be better so exactly i mean my thoughts exactly i think uh once things are going okay and you sort of get used to uh you know working in a certain way and sort of promoting your product in a certain way that there's a lot of inertia in the company right everyone's used to doing things in a way that they're used to and it's just really difficult to to sort of change stack and it's it's a difficult decision no doubt so we had yeah plenty of internal debate on what to do and as i said finally i think we ended up where we they should have been a couple years ago no no makes complete sense so now as we you know looking for the the next kind of six to 12 months kind of with the pivots going on with having to adjust the things where do you see uh that going kind of that six to 12 months uh 12 months out yeah the the plan is to continue scaling our business now so we need to build uh the team around the core team that we already have in place we've got a solid team now of engineers and people doing sales and uh and management so we've got a good core group so the plan is to raise a little bit of funding uh add some more r d and sales and business development and try to scale the business so that's a plan for the rest of the year and hopefully i mean with you know the vaccine roll out and the worst is sort of behind us and things will get better and as uh things get back to normal we hope to scale the business along with them all right no i think that that's a now with the both with things behind you and also with an updated or you know differentiated business model i think both sounds it sounds like a great path forward so well as we wrap up and i always you know normally on a normal podcast i have my last two questions i always switch that up a bit for the where you at now kind of episode um so the question i'll ask you is you know kind of now that you've gone along your journey both the original journey in the last six months and dealing with cove and everything else as an entrepreneur what's your one biggest fear and how do you overcome it i i think it's always good for entrepreneurs to to keep an eye out on what the competitors are doing so not a fear necessarily but i think you need to be aware of where other companies are positioning themselves and and to be a little bit paranoid about that is actually a good thing for startup founders so i think that that's that's one thing that we always try to uh to see if our product is differentiated enough and then has enough defensibility in in the market when we go talk to customers so i think that's uh that's probably what i would say is the is the most important uh area where we continue to stay focused no and i think that is a good point and then and one of the things you know love them hate them or indifferent too mark cuban i always you know he always talks about you should be waking up each day or thinking about how your competitor is going to kick your butt or he says it's some variation of that but you know you should always be worried about what your competitor is doing but not just fear in the sense that it stops you or you don't can't move forward but more of now gives you motivation for hey we need to stay ahead of the competition we need to always be anticipating them and making sure that we're doing things better than them and cheaper or faster or whatever the competitive edge but to always anticipating what they're doing so i think that that's a good uh you know fear quote-unquote to learn from and also how to react to it so well once again as people are now as we're wrapping up but people want to find out more about your business about you know stoke or previously about flick you know what you guys are doing they want to be a customer or client they want to be an investor they want to be an employee they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out and find out more yeah just check out our website i think that that's probably a good place to start so it's stoke dot global um and it's uh it tells you a little bit about what we do uh how to how to order uh some of our equipment and certainly how to get in touch with us all right well i definitely oh go ahead no i was just finishing up saying yeah i'd recommend so the people start there and you can reach me on linkedin as well i'm fairly active there so uh yeah i look forward to hearing from whoever is interested in finding out more about stoke all right well i definitely encourage people to reach out find out more and uh definitely um is a an exciting and a great company that uh is uh going places so to speak um well with that we're going we'll wrap up the podcast thank you again for being on now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell whether it's six months for your six-month journey or the original journey feel free to go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be the on the podcast we'd love to share your journey if you are also a listener one make sure to click subscribe so you get a notifications all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so new people can find us so they can hear the awesome episodes as well last but not least if you ever need help with your patents trademarks or anything else with your business reach out to us at millerip law by going to strategymeeting.com thank you again for coming on is it was is much or more of a pleasure than the first time and wish that next leg of your journey even better than the last yeah thanks tim it was a pleasure pleasure reconnecting and let's do it again all right

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