More than two years ago we build a technology that we thought we could turn into a great product. Great products are all about identifying real problems and when it comes to build a great product you have to really understand the problem first. Only then you are able to deliver the best experience in order to solve it. Curiously, iomando was (unintentionally) designed the other way around.
For this reason, our first approach to the market was directed to solve a problem that, turned out, nobody had. But the fact of being wrong wasn’t a defeat by itself. The process helped us become “experts” in the field and that unveiled new opportunities we later could tap on. Opportunities that were not available to us before because of our poor understanding of the market dynamics.
As I see it, the process of market discovery is like visiting a new country. Stepping on small things, little details, that surprise and change you in ways you couldn't expect. They are usually not huge revelations, your naive reaction might sound like “you really do that? I never thought of that”. But that often ignites a chain reaction inside your brain that starts connecting other previous acquired knowledge and it starts forming this new paradigm.
But this is not an isolated process, the more you keep exploring an area, the more it grows on you. And that’s exactly what it has been happening at iomando since the beginning. As we advanced, new opportunities were revealing along the way. Only then we reframed the situation accordingly and started thinking of how to fit in the new environment, until, all of a sudden we realized we were in the right path.
Of course this path is not something certain, is more of an iterative process, a constant refinement. As we advanced we were becoming more self aware of the implications our technology really had in the market. Again, tiny details that we didn’t notice before, but soon articulated really powerful ideas.
iomando provides an access solution based on mobile technologies. The same things you do with keys or remotes (like open doors or fences), but instead, with your smartphone. Is that simple. Since iomando is the first company I’ve founded, I’m not very well suited to answer questions about long term success, nevertheless I’ve strong opinions about the competitive advantage that keeps iomando ahead of our competitors.
When we started, we thought of iomando as a direct replacement for our keys and remotes, it made sense. We saw several problems with them as we noted in the first introduction of our product and we set out to deliver a better solution leveraging mobile technologies. As we saw it, keys had four major flaws.
- You needed one for each door or place you wanted to open / mange.
- If your key got lost, you faced two problems: the replacement was expensive and anybody could use it if it was stolen.
- That implied an additional concern to their security weakness.
- The permissions couldn’t be programmed nor shared with other people, in a way, they weren’t “smart".
The problem was we were targeting a domestic environment where we weren’t actually solving any hard problem. We were just offering a better and more convenient alternative to traditional access systems. But as we started to understand more and more why our service was enabling these opportunities and the foundation of our technology, we placed ourselves in a position to truly unravel the full potential of our vision.
Replacing remotes for smartphones was great, but we discovered some people were facing really hard problems where iomando could really offer a lot more value. We just discovered the access control market. After endless talks with building managers, mobility administrators, people in charge of maintenance in large industrial facilities… we discovered that access management was a mess. It was like the problem I just described for a domestic environment, only a thousand times worse.
There was people exclusively dedicated to the access management. Authentic specialists in the area that were working (as we perceived them) with "sticks and stones". Trying to organize an the access experience for five thousand persons in an industrial area with keys was not a good idea. Keys were not meant to do that. But these managers never asked questions because they had taken the tools for granted, they had always thought “this is how it is”, and when you reach this point, you are hopeless.
Under the hood iomando had two fundamental traits that made the solution unique in a way our competitors couldn’t match:
- Scale: adding additional units of capacity came without an associated cost. This meant that for traditional access systems, if you wanted to provide someone with a key or a remote, you had to actually pay for the key (plastic, metal, manufacturing… whatever). That didn’t happen with iomando. Creating more permissions was free from a "manufacturing" point of view. For us it was the same to provide the service to a little store with three employees or a huge city council with three million users. Our costs of digital goods were (more or less) the same.
- Distribution: with iomando, putting the service in the hands of the people was also free of charge. It was not necessary to actually give it to someone, since we changed the plastic for bits, the permissions were distributed through the air. That was a huge competitive advantage in places where thousands of people were accessing randomly, because you saved a lot of money by not purchasing the actual key, but you were also liberated of the distribution itself.
This realization made us slightly refine our business model. We were placing our efforts capturing small communities and houses because they were far more easy deals and we liked the consumer approach. But our nature, our ability to reap the scale of the internet made us the perfect fit for larger organizations and places where access control was a huge problem.
My point is that as we were advancing in our journey of discovery two things happened almost simultaneously, and that made us rethink our core values and the long term strategy of the business.
- The first thing was that we uncovered a potential market opportunity that was hidden from us at the beginning. We didn’t know that someone had a problem managing the access of thousands of people in entire city blocks. We didn’t know that an industrial harbor had a problem when a cargo was coming in a truck at three in the morning.
- And the second was the self acknowledgment of the true nature of our product. Our technology solved all of those problems out of the box, but we’d never thought of iomando in terms of scale or distribution before.
The more we worked on it, the more we understood the market and the problem we were actually solving. And the direct outcome of this were more blank spaces unraveling and showing us the full potential of what we initially though was only a cool way to open the door