Smarter’s founder and CEO, Christian Lane, invited us into his shiny new office in Central London where he shared his vision for the company’s future and advice for young entrepreneurs. Read below to find out what he had to say:
What changes do you see Smarter going through in the next 6 months? What are the key milestones that you are looking to achieve within this time frame?
CL: We have lots of exciting changes coming up starting off with expanding our team, we can’t wait to have new people in the Smarter family. Three new product launches, which takes the connected home to the next level, by not only saving our customers their precious time but also their hard earned money. It’s set to be an exciting 6 months.
What is your long-term vision for Smarter? Where would you like to see the company in 5 years?
CL: In five years, I would like for the connected home industry to be making real contributions to consumer’s lives. I see Smarter being at the heart of that. We’re very privileged that people accept our products into their homes and I see us continuing to use that honour to add positive value to their everyday lives. The excitement around the IoT industry is because the opportunities are endless. In the next five years, we will be continuing to make technology that is affordable, beneficial and easy to use for our customers.
What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
CL: Well we’re going through our series A investment right now, which is important for us to be able to accomplish all of the things we’ve spoken about already. We’ve got this far with no funding, bootstrapping they call it! Which has had so many benefits for us, but the business is now too big for that and we need that next level of support from a suitable investor. It will allow us to realise all of our exciting developments. As any startup will tell you, getting the right investor is a full-time job and one that I’m dedicating a lot of effort to at the moment.
What is the most difficult decision you’ve had to make so far?
CL: At the beginning every decision was difficult! Being a startup, one wrong decision can finish you and that’s the ones you put on every choice you make. It’s become easier over time, and certainly, I have learned from mistakes and my experiences. The hardest decision would have to be who to partner with for investment, it’s a decision that will affect the team, the brand and all of the hard work we’ve done so far. I am yet to make that decision so I will let you know how it works out!
The products that Smarter have developed all come from solutions to issues. Do you believe this is the way to success and what the company will continue to provide for its users?
CL: Yes and no! Someone once said just because there’s a gap in the market doesn’t mean that you have to fill it. I always keep that in mind, not just making a product for the sake of it, the gap in the market may be there for good reason. However, our products are solution focused and driven by the end result of helping customers save time and money. From a business perspective, you need to be able to commercialise the ideas. If the numbers don’t work, stop!
If you could go back in time 10 years what advice would you give yourself?
CL: To enjoy the journey more. I was very hard on myself when I got things wrong and wouldn’t celebrate when things went well as I never felt it was enough…. Although, saying that now, I could probably still use listening to my own advice!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start his or her own company?
CL: Following on from the previous question: do your research on the market and make sure there’s actually an opportunity for the company or idea that you’re starting. So many people have a good idea, but it’s not a commercially viable idea and there’s a massive difference between the two. If you want to be an inventor you can have good ideas. If you want to be an entrepreneur then you need to have commercially viable ideas. And the two are dictated by a market as opposed to something novel. My first company, Foldio, is a good example of that: It was a great idea, but the market had disappeared because I was about 10 years too late.
What does a typical day in the life of Christian Lane look like?
CL: I’m sorry to say that I’m not one of those super entrepreneurs that hit the gym at 6am, is in the office with emails done and a green tea at 8am before the team arrives! I really wish I was! I’m a night owl, I tend to work very late and I’m very rarely the first one in! But my team and associates are used to getting emails from me at 2am!
Do you have any rituals or habits to prepare you for important meetings?
CL: I tend to consider what it is that I need to get out of the meeting and work backward from there writing an agenda. Being prepared calms the nerves!
How many unread messages are in your inbox right now?
CL: About 240.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
CL: The excitement of the business and a Smarter Coffee!
What keeps you up at night?
CL: The excitement of the business and another Smarter Coffee!
What do you look for when you are hiring?
CL: Being a startup we always look to employ people with ability and the right fit of personality over experience. We love giving people a shot to do what they’re truly passionate about.
What is your favourite thing to do when you are not working?
CL: Spending time with my family, my dog, and my drone!
A big thanks to Christian for taking the time to do this interview!
Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions for him, they might be featured in our next interview!