Last month’s Tomorrow’s Leaders blog series featured the vegetarian food start-up Not Dogs. This month we’re speaking to Christian Lane about his high-tech start-up, Smarter. Christian told us about his start-up success and how he plans to redefine how we use our everyday appliances and reinvent kitchens with wireless kettles and fridge-cams.
What’s the story of smarter in a nutshell?
We are a connected home company at the forefront of creating convenient, innovative smart products in the everyday home. Our ground-breaking connected kitchen range, like the iKettle, Smarter Coffee and FridgeCam are paving the way for the future home by harnessing the very best in technology to improve our everyday lives.
How do you stand out from the crowd?
Smarter is quite unique in what it does. We’re the fastest-growing connected home company in the UK and we sell our products internationally to the biggest retailers in the world, like Curry’s, Best Buy and Amazon. Smarter develops and brings to market IoT (Internet of Things) products that are used in the home, like being able to brew a coffee from bed using your smartphone or by telling your Amazon Alexa to boil your iKettle.
Tea or coffee?
Tricky one as we make both a Wi-Fi-connected kettle (iKettle) and coffee machine (Smarter Coffee) and are therefore accustomed to both on a daily basis, but would have to go with coffee.
How do you create a good life/work balance?
This is often a difficult one to keep in check, but very essential to keeping focused on the goals of growing the business in the right direction. For me personally, it’s all about managing your time and prioritising what you want to achieve by the day’s end. I’m also a firm believer in working to the hours that suit you.
What is your management style?
Here at Smarter, we tend to have quite high ambitions set in wanting to drive growth for the company to reach its potential. We want those in our team to know that they are all contributing towards those longer-term goals. Running a start-up of any sort, you need to keep an eye on the detail. Know how much you’re spending on everything from office costs to manufacturing. We want the best from our team and give as much freedom as we can to ensure that we all reach those daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals together.
What advice would you give to an aspiring start-up?
Don’t forget to enjoy the ride you are taking, especially during those early start-up days. I wish someone had reminded me to soak up the occasion and enjoy those exciting initial days of creating the business. And remember to always keep the faith in what your vision is for your company.
What is your biggest business challenge so far?
In terms of challenges we have as a start-up that creates innovative products, it’s always difficult to compete with bigger competitors in the industry. There are certainly risks of being out-manoeuvred by larger players and hardware can sometimes be perceived as risky by investors too, which can make scaling difficult in this space. We’ve overcome this by continuing to innovate and build a brand that reflects the pioneering work we have achieved.
What’s your secret to success in one sentence?
Never give up and dare to do something different.
What will the future bring for smarter?
This year is a big one for us, here at Smarter. With the launch of our highly-anticipated new product, the FridgeCam, for us it has the potential to change an entire industry. We are expecting to connect millions of families around the world to their fridges with our innovative retrofit device so that they can see what they need to pick up from the supermarket directly from the smartphone. This will not only save families time and money in the process, but also reduce food waste by cutting down on overbuying.
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