by Andrew Fletcher, Manager, Emerging Technology
We’re proud to partner with Cass Business School on a series titled TechTalks@Cass, featuring speakers from successful start-ups in and around London. Here’s a recap and recording of the second talk, featuring Matt Webb, co-founder and CEO of BERG.
The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, is a catch-all term for the phenomenon of more and more everyday objects becoming connected to the internet, and the blurring of the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds which that enables. Matt Webb, co-founder and CEO of BERG, started by explaining that he doesn’t actually like saying BERG is an IoT company at all. He finds it to be too nebulous and vague, like saying he works with plastics or electricity, and instead prefers to focus on connected devices.
So what are connected devices? Well, you don’t really know what one is until you build it. In 2012 BERG built and launched Little Printer, a device which prints out whatever you ask it to: news headlines; crossword puzzles; favorite pictures from your social network; lists and messages. The device has a personality too. It has a face, which is on every strip that it prints, whose hair gets longer every day like a tamagotchi. BERG can also personalize it further at will, for example adding heart-shaped glasses to the face on Valentine’s Day. Has it been successful? They’re selling them as fast as they can make them. 3000 so far, which Matt describes as good but not great. So why was BERG listed in Fast Company’s top 50 most innovative companies in 2012 when it had only just launched a product?
It turns out Little Printer is actually a Trojan Horse. Until recently BERG was a design consultancy, and a successful one, working with global brands and creating products such as the first magazine app for iPad. Time was split between building stuff and consultancy, which Matt described as tearing the company apart. So in 2013 they chose technology, now consider themselves a tech start-up and took $1.3M of investment. The real aim is not making and selling as many Little Printer’s as possible, but focusing on BERG Cloud as the infrastructure of choice for connected devices. The goal is to make it easy to prototype using the BERG Cloud platform. But you can’t just build a platform; you have to to be product-led, getting your hands dirty building things before extracting the platform later on. (more…)