Company name: KelTech IoT
Revenue: 150K/ Month
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, Mark Kellett is my name. First and foremost I am a husband to Susan and father to Brandon and Ben, our two sons. My family is my greatest priority and gives me the most joy in life! So now to me, I would at the outset say that I have perhaps too often taken “the path less travelled”, to seek out adventure in life and business.
At age 23 I found myself on Mount Everest, representing my country at the World Triathlon Championships in later years, and then in 2017 swimming from England to France.
In business, I started out life in the Airline Industry in Ireland, training as an accountant and also getting a chance to see the world for free! I then worked in the High street Retail sector in the UK and Europe before moving into Technology with Companies like Sun Microsystems, and Network Appliance. With the growth in the online sector/media, I took up a senior role as CFO EMEA for Yahoo! establishing their base of operations for the region outside of Ireland.
With a broad sectoral background and also having completed an MBA, I was offered a role to lead a relatively young Telcoms firm in Ireland that was at the forefront of the deployment of Fibre Optic/High Speed broadband services to the Consumer and B2B markets. That business was significantly ahead of its time and as such, it afforded me many invaluable lessons in the challenges of large scale, CAPEX, resource and regulatory intensive Network Builds.
In 2019 I founded my company KelTech IoT, a next-generation energy and infrastructure company bridging the energy and telecoms gap by creating more efficient and sustainable solutions as network demands increase in the age of IoT. The company is intent on connecting and powering a sustainable world.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The vision that myself and the team had in 2019 is that there had to be a better way to build advanced Telecoms and Energy Networks. We had been exposed to many of the challenges of designing and deploying networks for some of the world’s largest and most demanding customers such as Amazon and then at Western Europe’s largest urban regeneration project at Wembley in London.
We saw that with the challenges of climate change and the demands for faster and more pervasive connectivity, the existing approaches were leading to a Sustainability Paradox-the growth in connectivity was leading to a growth in energy and resource consumption.
A proud moment for us and a real sense of validation for our technology solution, occurred in Nov ’21 when we came 1st out of 800 entrants in a Global Utility Start-up competition, then in May ’22, we were asked by Amazon to showcase our solution at the finals of their Clean Energy Accelerator in Lisbon. The saying goes, “you’re known by the Company you keep” and so having the Global Utility sector and Amazon endorse our solution is a great validation of our approach.
In terms of revenues and market size, we are just in commercialization mode and would expect to see approx $1M in revenues at the end of 2022. The nature of our product set is that buyers will not buy just 1 of our solutions, if it fits their needs then they will buy 1000’s and so the projections are to see revenue in the > $100M after 5 years. The business vision is to connect and power a sustainable world and to date, I have personally invested over $2 million and we are also now completing our “super-seed” funding round of over $1.5 million.
The most vital old-school marketing approach we have adopted though is Sector-Specific Industry Events, i.e. we go where the target Customers’ key decision makers/influencers go.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
We have developed a family of product solutions that address the modern-day challenges of decarbonizing and connecting the world at the same time. We call this product family our “Dual Distribution Network” or DDN.
We have progressed it from an idea, through to PowerPoint debates and market analysis and on through the Prototyping phase. That prototyping phase saw us using everything you can imagine. From pieces of cardboard and sticky tape to Lego models and ultimately on to advanced 3D CAD design and 3D printing to support our rapid prototyping process.
Now more than ever there is a committed and global demand for energy-efficient ways to build and operate new data and energy networks, that also take into account the use of sustainable resources.
The same need exists globally across 3 distinct verticals: Telco, Utilities, and Construction. Our product family is designed to address those needs.
The 3D printing process has been an invaluable step to allow us to experience product design challenges that are very difficult to experience in the virtual world. As part of the product development phase, we’ve remained very close to our Patent lawyers who have been very very helpful in guiding us on the optimal path for IP protection.
We have also experienced firsthand the attempts to steal our IP at trade events. At one conference we experienced how competitors were pretending to be journalists and looking to take photographs of our work. There is a phrase “only the paranoid survive” and so we are extremely careful about our IP protections. In terms of product development costs; I’d put this at close to $500,000.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The Launch Process has been an exciting experience. April ’22 we were hyper-focused on a soft launch and paid pilot phase of the build to a commercial launch. The paid pilot phase provides invaluable feedback from clients who are hugely supportive of being the “first” beta customer.
The overall approach taken with the business product launch has been to work on the press release first and work backward, i.e. envision that we have solved the specific issue, have proven the technology, and are ready for production and revenue growth….it’s then working back from this process over the last 18 months. As an example, we exhibited at a trade event in London last September, which while early in our product development, provided invaluable feedback from a range of friendly and not-so-friendly visitors to our stand.
The big lessons in our start-up phase would be to plan for the unexpected to happen, which in our case was 6 weeks after my core team joined the business, Covid started! It’s an oft-repeated line that things in the start-up world take twice as long as you expect, now add in Covid and the Ukraine crisis and you are looking at triple the amount of time it takes.
I am thankful for my background in endurance sports and adventures that I have the mental strength to face each new challenge with a positive outlook and a determination to find a way through. Agility, flexibility, and endurance are vital parts of any start-up team’s DNA…mental and physical stamina.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The target customer base is a B2B one and so as a new entrant, we’ve had to focus on building our credibility, which goes back to what I said about being known by the company we keep. We have been working hard on building our portfolio of sectors and using case-specific case studies along with video content showing our solutions deployed on customer sites.
The most vital old-school marketing approach we have adopted though is Sector-Specific Industry Events, i.e. we go where the target Customers’ key decision makers/influencers go. The week of May 23rd see’s the team in Denver at North America’s largest Telecoms industry event, while on June 2nd we exhibit at the finals of Amazon’s Clean Energy Accelerator in Lisbon.
We launched our Website in late 2020 and will as part of our product launches, be rolling out a series of website updates. We are also rolling out a small but important company name change to KelTech IoE…IoE means “Internet of Energy”.
For start-up readers: Your solution set must get industry, peer, and customer recognition and so I would advise readers to be looking out for suitable startup/innovation competitions and also to develop networking skills as a core part of the founding team’s expertise.
If you go into a start-up business, surrounding yourself with easy ways out, you will simply not succeed. There is nothing like the fear of failure to drive you on.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are grateful to be in the position we are in and have conceptualized a strong business model brimming with ambition. We have a lengthy product roadmap to develop in the next 3 years. The development of a layer of software and IoT sensing is already underway and will ultimately lead us into the provision/capability of Infrastructure As A Service, i.e. ongoing annuity revenues v’s once-off product sales. Revenue growth will come via a Partner model and I expect 80%+ of our revenues will derive from the Channel.
Operationally, I’ve previously led a finance and operations team at one of the world’s fastest-growing companies, I know what hypergrowth looks like and so much of my time and energy is now focused on designing a scalable organization team and model to support our growth.
I like to use the McKinsey 7S model to guide my thinking and would suggest to other start-ups that they find a framework or methodology that helps them put structure to their thinking. It is all too easy to be carried away by the pace of a start-up and to allow chaos to prevail.
Other exciting future plans include,
- Manufacturing in Europe, the US, and Asia.
- A highly developed R&D / Engineering Team.
- The incorporation of AI into our product set with a continued drive in support of decarbonization.
- A physical presence/offices in the major markets.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Always prepare for the unexpected. In our case it was Covid..and then the impact of the Ukraine war…was there ever a worse time to start a business? Maybe it was the best time, for we had to work so hard for every inch of progress that I think it proved to be a brilliant training ground to get us fit for our journey. There were no easy steps, but each step was invaluable.
When it comes to customers placing orders, there’s a big difference between a verbal commitment and a PO. You have to remember that while your startup is your #1 priority, I’m afraid it might only be priority #25 in your prospective buyer unless you can drive home the FOMO. Remember though that clients typically do not like to move away from the “way things have always been done”…it’s a risk that they may not need to take…you have to provide compelling reasons.
Patience is an invaluable lesson and skill to have….Endurance, mental and physical are vital…but most of all, don’t forget those closest and most important to you, your family. It can be a very lonely journey for you but also for your family; let them in, let them understand where you are heading, the challenges, the pressures. Remember to laugh..don’t lose your sense of perspective on life…you only get one shot!
Don’t miss opportunities to keep learning and developing. As we have all seen, the world is changing quickly and the skills needed to be a successful business leader are evolving and so I make it a point to enroll myself in challenging courses, most recently a course in AI and MIT.
And finally, the key advice I’d say is that if you’re not prepared to take risks, and I mean big financial risks, then you are not in the right space to lead a start-up. There are 2 phrases I’ve heard and have used in my time as a founder: “To take the Island you have to be ready to burn the boat. Once you decide to start this, the danger is that with a safety net you fail to embrace real risk.” And a “start-up is like jumping off a cliff and assembling the plane on the way down!” In simple terms you cannot plan everything 100%, some things will happen organically, you need to take risks and trust that on the way down that you and your team will build the plane and fly away to success.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Mark McCormack – What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School. It’s a fantastic read and very simple “airport business book” but it contains some brilliant little insights, eg “nothing gets in the way of insight like an Ego”. In my early career, I myself fell victim to this problem, of not stopping to listen and absorb an alternative view. I see this issue now across many business interactions I have, the inability of other people to stand back and consider an alternative, their focus on not challenging for a better way of doing things, of Corporate laziness to change and evolve.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Do not even start on the journey without accepting that, to be a true entrepreneur, you have to be willing to “go all-in” to risk it all. If you go into a start-up business, surrounding yourself with easy ways out, you will simply not succeed. There is nothing like the fear of failure to drive you on. You also have to have the mental strength to prevail when at times all you feel is darkness around you…the night is always darkest before the dawn!
JUMP – If you believe in your idea and have executed the necessary due diligence on market alternatives then JUMP….Just do it! There are times when those around you will doubt you when they will question whether you will be a success, these are the hardest of times and they will test you. I cannot state enough the importance of mental toughness as a start-up.
As a final note, don’t forget that you are on a journey, remember that as you reach those milestones, those moments, those failures, and hard-won successes. I remember while on the way to Everest we were training at altitude in the Nepalese Himalayas and so I and one other of the younger team members treated the training as a race, forgetting to stop and look around, to engage the locals in the villages, to embrace the culture.
It was only after 3 days did one of the older more experienced team members talked to us about what we had seen and experienced simply put, we could remember nothing but the hard effort and sweat, we had no recall of any of the many mountain villages we had raced through and the beautiful Nepalese people we never met! Needless to say, we changed our approach and our experience was so much more as a result of this.