Pycom, the Internet-of-things start-up working from Strijp-T in Eindhoven and Guildford in the UK, has been shaking up the global IoT landscape since its establishment three years ago. Its suite of hardware and open-source software products provide a flexible toolset for its 250 000 developer clients and are slashing the development time for IoT products. This week Pycom launches a new product, one which it believes could help create a decentralised, global connectivity ecosystem within five years.
Audio interview at the bottom of this text
Bettina Rubek Slater, COO and co-founder of Pycom, says the driving vision behind starting up in November 2015 was to give all connected ideas an opportunity to succeed. “We were responding to a need for developers to have a much quicker way of getting connected products to market. We came from the IoT industry and we knew some of the challenges that were there, with developers starting with Arduino or Raspberry Pi environments, and where they would all have to go back to the drawing board once they had created their proof of concept or pilots. And we thought there is a better way of doing this”.
She and fellow co-founders Fred de Haro, who is CEO, and Daniel Campora, the CTO, rolled out a three-phase strategy of creating a hardware platform which would “take developers right from idea to manufactured product; a suite of tools – software developer environments – that would help them along the way. And then, ultimately, a connected community that strengthens the networks for everybody”. Rubek Slater counts the creation of this extensive developer community, now reaching across 83 countries, as a notable achievement by Pycom, saying that the active, open-source collaboration speeds up the innovation process.
The challenges of the start-up process have been varied, with one aspect being the cash-intensive nature of creating hardware in a European context which is still limited in its support for start-ups, whether through fiscal incentives or through venture capital funding.
“In Europe, we have forgotten how to invest in technology. Only Asian countries are now investing in hardware start-ups.”
“In Europe, we have forgotten how to invest in technology,” de Haro says, reflecting on the comparative ease with which US venture capital funds allocate capital to tech start-ups. Added to that, raising institutional capital for hardware innovation is especially difficult – even in the US. “Only Asian countries are now investing in hardware start-ups. Elsewhere, the expertise within the VC community in analysing hardware deals has gone; these guys have all retrained to analyse software deals”.
Pycom nevertheless is pleased with the $5m in funding which it raised; this, combined with the disciplined use of operating cash flows, and R&D grants from the Dutch government, have enabled the business to advance through the critical early phase of starting up.
Pycom this week goes to market with a consumer product that is also applicable to its community of developers. The product, Pylife, consists of adaptable, wearable hardware, together with a software platform potentially housing multiple apps designed to connect devices and people.
Pylife will run on the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter for one month, targeting €200,000, with product delivery starting by May 2019.
“With Pylife we hope to create a global mesh network within five years – a network of connected people and connected devices. The more people we have within that mesh network, the stronger the force, so to speak,” says Rubek Slater.