A Q&A with EVRYTHNG co-founder and CMO Andy Hobsbawm. The London–based company was founded in early 2011 and closed a $1 million Seed funding round in late October from Atomico Ventures.
SUB: Please describe EVRYTHNG and your value proposition.
Hobsbawm: EVRYTHNG is a Web of Things software company and we make products smart by connecting them to the web. We use a combination of intelligent identities for physical products on the web, and smart tags and smartphones to access those identities. This helps manufacturers connect directly with customers and partners through their own products.
The technology at the heart of this is the EVRYTHNG Engine which makes it easy to turn any physical thing into a channel for personalized digital services, one-to-one communications and ongoing relationships, tied to transactions.
The value proposition is that by making products smart, EVRYTHNG’s technology helps world-leading brands get closer to their customers and access real-time data analytics about how their products are being made, sold and used.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Hobsbawm: Our target market for customers is world-leading brands and enterprises—they could be manufacturers or retailers who also make their own brand products. Product categories that can use EVRYTHNG’s software technology range from durables—white goods, furniture, cars and fast-moving consumables—groceries, household products, clothing; to ‘passion products’—musical instruments, sports equipment, consumer electronics; healthcare—medical drugs and consumer devices; and industrial products—factory machinery, medical equipment, infrastructure and utilities.
Our second target market is developers who want to design and develop innovative digital experiences and services built around the relationship between a customer and their product; apply real-time information from and about real-world things and deliver digital services that connect people to their physical products and augment the ownership experience.
We don’t target end-users directly ourselves. We are a B2B software company and work with brands and enterprises, often in partnership with their agencies and integrators, to reach the end consumers they serve.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Hobsbawm: A number of other companies do pieces of what we do, but none that bring all the things we do together in a comparable way—at least not that we’ve found. For instance, some companies are M2M or sensor infrastructure providers like ThingWorx or Cosm. Others like ScanLife and Scandit are in the one or 2D barcode recognition space. There are also image recognition companies like Aurasma, supply chain, security and data collection firms, and also new start-ups like Smart Things who take a very classic Web of Things approach, i.e. putting sensors and CPUs on objects for collecting data and taking informed decisions and computation, and hardware control—turn on lights, AC, etc.
SUB: What differentiates EVRYTHNG from the competition?
Hobsbawm: I think it’s partly our go-to-market focus on making products smart—unconnected, mass market products that we can connect to the web easily and quickly using smart tags and Active Digital Identities. And this in combination with deep Web of Things technology expertise through our co-founders who have been researching this area for the last six years at ETH, MIT and SAP.
There are providers of product information and software services to help, for example, image recognize what a product is. This recognition and product information is important obviously. But what we’re interested in is how products can be augmented and made smarter with digital services and experiences, and how connected products can be controlled and driven from the web.
EVRYTHNG is unique in its role of providing active, smart web identities for individual physical objects, what we call Active Digital Identities—profiles for things, to use a Facebook metaphor.
EVRYTHNG is about people being able to check-in to the products they own and use, and then making possible interactive experiences and services that are unique to that individual product and user relationship. EVRYTHNG’s mission is to put every individual product in the world on the web.
SUB: When was the company founded?
Hobsbawm: The company was founded in January 2011.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for EVRYTHNG? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Hobsbawm: The inspiration was a meeting in a coffee shop several years ago. Niall [co-founder Niall Murphy] had had something on his mind for a while, since he co-founded Wi-Fi company The Cloud in 2003. Namely, what if everything was digitally addressable? Why couldn’t the physical world be online and referenceable, searchable, mashable, just like other forms of digital information?
We both felt strongly that the Internet will inevitably include billions of objects sharing dynamic information about themselves in real-time. And it seemed clear to us that some kind of transactional economy would emerge around this exchange of object information and that there needed to be a new kind of software infrastructure that makes it easy for apps to make use of this information and provide new kinds of services and experiences.
At the time it didn’t seem possible to realize this vision, but fast-forward a couple of years and mobile and web 2.0 tech had become sufficiently widespread and cost-effective to make this scale of information exchange and dynamic service creation possible. And object connectivity tech like NFC chips, RFID and Wi-Fi tags had started to pass key tipping points in terms of cost.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Hobsbawm: The name EVRYTHNG came from our vision of every thing connected—a world where every object has an Active Digital Identity on the web and a transactional economy emerges with data flowing with applications from and about these objects. Another way to think about the Internet of things is as the Internet of every thing—in the sense that it’s a connected web of information, people, and physical objects. In other words, the company is called EVRYTHNG because we want to play a key role in getting every thing connected.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Hobsbawm: It’s always a challenge to stay super focused on executing against our priorities and not get distracted by the many other brilliant possibilities and opportunities and conversations in this exciting emerging space. Working as a small company across different geographies is also something we’re always trying to improve in terms of web tools and internal processes. But generally I’d say it’s simply the rather exhilarating challenge of realizing such an ambitious vision: connecting the world’s products and other objects to the web with an Active Digital Identity for every thing.
SUB: You just raised $1 million in Seed funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Hobsbawm: Well, we raised our first round in November 2011. In total EVRYTHNG raised $1 million from Atomico, and angel and private investors in that first round.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funding?
Hobsbawm: This was our first round so it was the first outside funding. We’re looking to raise a second round next year.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Hobsbawm: We are a B2B software-as-a-service business model. EVRYTHNG operates managed services: managing digital identities for a company’s physical assets, and providing applications based on those digital identities, on a cost-per-thousand subscription basis.
SUB: What are your goals for EVRYTHNG over the next year or so?
Hobsbawm: We’re aiming to manage a billion Active Digital Identities within the next few years.
EVRYTHNG – www.evrythng.com