David Blumstein, MD of AMIHO

St John’s Innovation Centre, the leading early stage incubator in Cambridge, had the pleasure of interviewing David Blumstein, Managing Director and Co-Founder of AMIHO Technology, on the growing Internet of Things sector and the competitive advantage of providing both hardware and software.

What is unique about your business?

AMIHO Technology provides wireless communication modules to connect devices such as smart meters and Internet of Things gadgets (sensors, security cameras etc). Our unique selling point is that we provide both hardware and software, which is optimized to work together and gives a one-stop-shop for off the shelf connectivity. We have a number of options from basic tiny and cost effective modules up to more versatile high performance and range extended.

How does your business benefit from an Innovation Centre location? 

As a startup we are able to have a well-known office location in Cambridge, with reception and other practical services provided. We are surrounded by other innovative and high-tech companies and can support each other. We are looking forward to moving to a larger office within the Centre shortly.

If you could offer an entrepreneur one piece of business advice, what would it be? 

Build a good team around you, and listen to the advice of more experienced entrepreneurs and business people.

How do you and your team stay on top of industry trends?

We subscribe to appropriate industry journals (including online) and attend industry events.

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

AMIHO is specialises in one communication technology, Wireless Meter-Bus, rather than being a jack-of-all-trades. We provide both hardware and software, while most competitors only offer one or the other. We offer assistance with integrating our technology and can provide custom versions. We also have a very flexible business model, including a licensing option, allowing customers to keep their BOM as low as possible.

How do you see your industry developing in the next 5 years?

Wireless M-Bus is the standard for the Smart Meter market in Europe, and although it has taken some time, the rollouts are starting to happen but will take a few years to complete with high volumes at stake. We expect the Internet of Things market to expand dramatically, in particular the Industrial IoT, as businesses acknowledge the benefits of having a lot more data and sharing it across previously siloed business areas. For countries where WM-Bus has been chosen for the Smart Meter rollout, it will be a no-brainer to use the existing channels for additional IoT services and so we believe the market will continue to expand.

How do you deal with challenges in business?

A challenge is also an opportunity, and is rarely insurmountable.

Have you ever turned down an opportunity/a client?

Of course – sometimes there isn’t a good fit or it would not make sense to spend a lot of time and activity on an inappropriate job.

What are your thoughts on crowd funding? 

Crowd-funding is a great innovation in its own right and gives an opportunity for businesses and ideas that otherwise probably would not get funding, since VCs and so on have very strict (and restrictive) requirements and fairly fixed ideas on what is ‘investible’. It’s important to check what’s available in this space and choose an appropriate platform. It is democratising business start-up and investment too, as people can invest affordably, according to their pocket.

How much importance do you place on mentoring? 

Mentoring has been key for us – having someone to bounce ideas around with is really important, especially for a small startup team.

How much importance do you place on social media?

Social media is now a part of the marketing mix; it’s another channel. The important thing is to contact/engage with your customers and prospects in a way that they are comfortable with. ‘Where are your customers?’ is the key question. Social media is also vital now for SEO, so ignore it at your peril!

What characteristics do you see as important for success?

Tenacity and the ability to listen and learn.

Which leaders do you admire and why?

Richard Branson and Steve Jobs.

What social media platforms do you utilise for the business? 

At the moment we use Twitter and LinkedIn mostly, with G+ and Facebook. We will be using Slideshare and YouTube in future.

What would you say to aspiring entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out their motivations and values?

Think from the customer point of view. Who will buy it and why? Always ask yourself ‘So what?’. Research your market thoroughly and remember no marketing means no one knows who you are or what you do = NO SALES!