[Startup Sofa Vlog] From IoT to IoE with Ville Mickelsson

TSS is excited to present the Startup Sofa, a new video blog interview series created for the Taiwan startup ecosystem! In this episode, our guest is Ville Mickelsson, Director at Accenture. A full transcript of the interview can also be found below:

TSS: Have businesses gotten better at learning the importance of IoT? How can startups better educate their clients about IoT?

Ville Mickelsson: I'd say that things have moved to a much better shape at the moment. A couple of years back I'd say that it was all the discussion and even when going to different events throughout the world, it was lots of discussion about technology and protocols and security and these kinds of invisible things, things that are not meaningful for the business people.

As I'm the Co-Chair of Industrial Internet Consortium Energy Group so I've seen a lot of what's happening in the world at the moment and during the past two years. I'd say that already around the end of 2015 to 2016 was the turning point that companies went from pilots and proof of concepts through to a business.

It's not anymore the case that IoT would be sold to technology heads. For example, going to a company a meeting technological guys and selling them that. It's more about selling to the business people.

I'd say that that is a big difference, for example, if you think about telecom operators who are selling companies like mobile phones and the connection. They are still talking with IT departments and those people but the decisions for IoT and utilizing that inside business is made by the business heads and C-level executives.

That's also my recommendation when thinking about any startups, you should go meet those C-level executives who are in charge of business and you have to be able to present your solution in such way that, “What is it? What kind of benefit their business gets from that?” Not about how efficient your radio or these kinds of things.

One thing, for example, when we have an IoT platform, our business models - we are pricing it in a very simple way so it's not about how much data is going in there how many sensors there are or users or how much data is stored somewhere.

We have a fixed license fee which is a monthly fee. It can be also longer or shorter if the customer wants but it's a fixed fee. If we take, for example, district heating network, so the utility pays a certain amount of money every month and they get more benefit out of that and they can predict how much it is in the future and and it’s very simple.

That's a recommendation also - always think about the customer and even further, think about your customers' customers. What can you provide to those end customers of yours?

TSS: What is IoE (Internet of Everything) and should Taiwanese shift their focus from IoT to IoE?

Ville Mickelsson: Yes, when thinking about IoT it's only one part of the whole thing. There are some researchers that say first of all you have to divide industrial Internet and IoT. IoT is more like consumer things and industrial internet is more for businesses or b2b.

When thinking about IoT, you also have Internet of Things like refrigerators and lamps. Then, you have to think about Internet of Humans so what kind of things you have on you that are measuring you, if you are sending yourself something like in social media? That's Internet of humans and then there is Internet of computers which is the oldest like traditional laptops.

So all those combined generate internet of everything. I'd say that again for the recommendation is that yes internet of everything is larger but then depending on what you do, if you are doing industrial internet stuff, then I think that you should be talking about industrial internet

Because at least internationally, if you're talking all about IoT, then it might be understood wrongly and Internet of Everything the term is coming from Cisco Systems and I'd say that that's much wider than the Internet of Things.

TSS: How do Taiwanese startups shift their mindset or thinking from IoT to IoE?

Ville Mickelsson: I'd say it's the same thing as my first answer. So don't think about some kind of app or don't think about the technology, think about what it means in a big picture for everything that they surround and for the benefit of the consumers.

TSS: With millions of IoT products out there, what in your view makes the best IoT companies stand out from the rest?

Ville Mickelsson: A really hard question but I'd say that what startups can do is go international, go into those networks. For example, Industrial Internet Consortium is 280 companies working together. Get yourself known in the industry, get yourself known to your customers or go to the customers, go to the CEO. I go to the CEOs.

Also, you can have some kind of unique way of thinking or unique technology or unique device. If you are thinking about a future acquisition or thinking about acquisition / going IPO, you need to have patents and you need to have a different kind of IP that you can protect. That's a value to have and how you secure your business also for the future.

TSS: After visiting Taiwan and Asia, what are some of the biggest changes you think are needed in IoT (e.g. energy) and how do Taiwanese startups fill that need?

Ville Mickelsson: Asia is not so different from Europe or the US. Maybe there is more hype but when thinking about energy IOT, the big thing for the energy sector as a whole will be the demand response.

Also basically when consumers are also providing electricity by themselves so they have solar panels and they sell back to that network. There are different kind of micro grids so isolated areas - How to get all that functioning? It needs intelligence in many places and of course industrial internet or internet of everything thinking inside there.

TSS: You’ve previously mentioned the importance of 3D models or visualizations. Do you think this is something essential for all IoT companies and startups?

Ville Mickelsson: Yes, I'd say that 3D is not for all applications so some of the applications don't need 3D and even not so much visualization as a whole. But for very complex and large-scale things, nobody can understand if it's only like graphs and numbers. You have to get some kind of familiar environment.

For example, we also generate 3D landscapes, 3D maps and we can embed on top 3D models of the buildings, so it's like a mirror of the real world. When you bring data there or showing something happening in there, it's very easily understandable even though there would be masses of technology behind and masses of numbers.

At least for the end customers and also business people and those who are not experts in that area, it's very vital to have good visualization.

TSS: What are some differences between  European and Asian IoT companies? What can local startups learn from European companies?

Ville Mickelsson: I'd say that companies are as good and I believe that technology is as good here as in Europe or the US. I'd say what US does best also we Europeans have to learn from the US is basically, the commercialization and going to the customer, being positive, these kinds of things.

It's the American style of selling stuff but as hard it is to believe, it really works. That's why most of the global leading companies like Facebook and Google, they come from the US because they basically build the brand, bring the value. They don't have better technology than other companies.

One of the things in the US compared to Asia and compared to Europe also is that I think that VC's or Venture Capitalist culture is different. They are pumping huge amounts of money when they see something that they think “This can now break, this brand can really break.” It's advertised and marketed and speakers all over so those VC's really fund the companies. That's why they can basically take to market with the money.

That's actually a sad situation but it's something that I think that the Venture Capitalists in Asia and in Europe should be educated on. So it doesn't always matter how good your product is It's about how you sell it.

You also have to get to your uncomfortable zone. When I founded CyberLighting and when I was at Sensinode, I went straight to the customers, straight to marketing types of international organizations like the Industrial Internet Consortium.

That was pretty easy for me because I used to sell internet advertising in Finland from - and basically no customers, even that back at that time, they knew or some did but they really didn't know about "What is a banner?" I had done the hard sales already.

But if you're a startup and you are for example a very technological founder in that company and you don't see that that's your area, you can ask and try to find some people inside your company that would do that thing very well.

But be careful also when you hire someone, it must be recommended by someone who has worked with them before. So just taking someone, you know somebody, he's a sales guy and he's a good guy, he's your friend, drinking with him.

Don’t just think that guy would be perfect for my startup, that's not actually the case. It might be the worst decision that you make, you break up your friendship because you have never worked with him or her before. So it has to be recommended by someone who has worked with work with them. Going in, it's not all about selling.

TSS: Can you give any sales advice in terms of going out and meeting clients?

Ville Mickelsson: When you go to the customer meeting, sometimes they just ask you give your presentation right away. Then you tell about your thing but what's the most important thing and it has to be trained, is that think about that you will be speaking 20% of the time and the customer will be speaking 80%.

So ask questions from your customers; try to find such hidden needs that even he or she doesn't know herself. It's like getting the information and when you get the information, then you can find the best angle to your sales pitch. You can even modify your product in your mind that it fits to that need he or she is really needing - so that's a recommendation for the sales.

TSS: What are some major trends in IoT that local startups should keep an eye out for?

Ville Mickelsson: Virtual worlds, so 3D is coming. Also augmented reality, then blockchain is something that will happen and there are multiple purposes for utilizing that, and of course artificial intelligence. Those are some things to follow.

TSS: Do you have any words of encouragement for IoT startups here in Taiwan?

Ville Mickelsson: My recommendation for Taiwanese startups for IOT and IOE, go to customers, be yourself, ask the questions, create relationships and networks and go. Just go, don't be afraid of anything.

Think positively - you can have a vision far away, far ahead where you are going but think all the time, think about this moment what you are doing today to enable that future.

It's a must to make mistakes, make mistakes make lots of mistakes because you are not going forward if you aren't doing that and you are not learning.

Don't look back on those, don't be ashamed or harmed if you make mistakes. For example, you go in front of a big audience and you say something or if you fall down the stage or something like that take the positive out of that.

Think positive and concentrate on the moment and keep your vision very bright and big. So go!

About Startup Sofa

The Startup Sofa is video blog interview series created to provide practical knowledge and valuable know-how to the Taiwan startup ecosystem. We've sat down with successful startup founders, industry experts, mentors, and guest speakers to have honest discussions on overseas sales & marketing, breaking into new markets, differences with Taiwan's startup ecosystem, and more! Please let us know what you think at ask@startupstadium.tw!