From nowhere, Krakow has become one of the hubs of the burgeoning "Internet of Things" sector of the tech industry. In Krakow, we have two major beacon providers with Estimote and Kontakt.io. We have a personalized cloud provider in Sher.ly box. We have a sensor provider that will help you manage your car in Cloud your Car. And recently, we have a team who have developed a sensor which will monitor your home electronics and provide data on it like Ecoisme. Students in the various technical universities like AGH are involved in some makers' projects. However, all will be for naught if it wasn't for customers.
One of the firms doing very well in the client acquisition game is Kontakt.io. Recently, I had a chance to visit their office in the Kazimerz district of Krakow. I had a chat with Szymon Niemczura, the CEO and one of the co-founders. We had a chat about fund raising and customer acquisition.
Startup and VC fit
As a startup with a good idea or product, you are going to be approached by many VC's hoping to give you funding in exchange for your equity. It is quite OK to reject some of them. Never worry that there will not be "a next". If you build it and it's good, they will come. Szymon observed that the satisfaction of many startups who have received funding from Polish VC's feel that they are being under-served. These startups feel that the Polish VC's can be a bit unprofessional and shortsighted.
It is understandable that VC's here like to put their bet on the favorite rather than the long shot due to the fact that some of their funding comes from the EU or there aren't enough money to play with. Some of them will not go for the Hail Mary. Instead they will play the short high percentage game. The danger in this method is that you keep the status quo and you will not have the disruption that they talk about so much of. As a result, many of them could suffer from a lack of a Global ambition. Sometimes, you need to make the difficult and unpopular decision.
Sunstone Capital from Denmark courted Kontakt.io and the two parties quickly developed a bond. They had a common understanding and respect as well as similar values in thinking big and quality over quantity. Szymon liked the fact that the firm spent a lot of time to cultivate the relationship and that through the firm, he had access to some of the top experts in the industry. There were always someone to play the devil's advocate in idea developments.
The surprising simple way to Growth Hack and acquire clients
One of the first customers of Kontakt.io was Siemens, the German electronics giant. What made an impression on them is the way Kontakt.io was able to deliver whenever they requested support or hardware. What Szymon value above all else is the trust of the customer. And it is earned through being open, transparent, being reliable and responding quickly to inquiries, a sort of order today-ship tomorrow way of doing things. There were some rather unusual orders such as 5,000 beacons orders and needed to be delivered in 3 days; and sending a package of beacons to a conference in New Zealand in less than a week. Szymon recounts these nonchalantly. They started to be known as the "yes" guys.
To a westerner or a business man from a place like Taiwan, this type of customer service is taken for granted, but here in the CEE region, good customer-oriented service still has to be taught. From their wonderful customer experience, Siemens and others started to spread the word about Kontakt.io. Pretty soon, they started to have customers like MIT, Vodafone, JP Morgan and Nike. Like in social media, all you need sometimes, is one big name to be your advocate.
Along with their customer service, all of their beacons comes ready to use, secure and already operable in a cloud environment. They will ask you prior to shipment to send them some specs so they can pre-configure the beacons for you.
On the Horizon
There are beacons then there are beacons. The second ones are known to Kontakt.io as cloud beacons. (More information here). At the moment, they are working hard to build more and more of them to be released soon. In the future, they are working on having wearable beacons that can be used in industry as well as for medical purposes.
Some people might say that what Kontakt.io did was some sort of Growth Hacking, I call it good customer service and having a bigger vision than your competition.