2015 Fellow Willem Prins works in Miami at AdMobilize, a tech startup that just released their most cutting edge technology yet: the MATRIX, a home-app ecosystem. From now until December 10th, AdMobilize is running a live Kickstarter campaign to help get their revolutionary technology off the ground. Read on to find out how Willem and his team are working to revolutionize the Internet of Things.
Tell us the (abbreviated) story of why you went VFA:
My story is pretty simple. I studied engineering at Columbia University. I like challenges and I like creating things. I could’ve been a typical student and followed the path to the investment banks and consulting groups in NYC. Although I know those opportunities would be challenging, I personally don’t see the value in those careers. I wanted something that made me feel like an impactful part of the company and not just a cog in a corporate machine. My calling was to raise something from the ground up. I wanted to experience the struggle of creating an in-demand product where I was an integral part of its development and success. VFA was perfect for this because it helped me train for startup life, and it provided me with a network of companies. VFA gave me access to vetted partner companies, while also providing the guarantee of a safety net in case anything were to go wrong in the future. In the end, both VFA and my company in Miami, AdMobilize, ended up a perfect fit.
The company you work for, AdMobilize, is working on some cutting edge technology in Miami. Give us the run down in laymen’s terms of what the team is building:
AdMobilize is an early growth software/hardware company creating innovative technology to collect and understand data from the physical world and translate it into usable and actionable data. We have created the AdBeacon, which is the first “plug and play” audience analytics device to make sense of physical spaces. Within the last week we have released the MATRIX on Kickstarter, which is a device designed to turn your life into a “smart life.” All of our technology is founded upon proprietary machine learning techniques that we have tailored and trained to support our tech.
So what exactly does the Matrix do, and why is it a game changer?
In terms of smart devices, the MATRIX is elite. It is for everyone: consumers, businesses, and developers. It’s a smart device hub equipped with a multitude of sensors that work with different apps that you can download from our app store. You can also develop your own apps and push them to others to purchase or for free use. This makes the usage of the MATRIX dependent on user-generated creativity and customization. It has voice recognition and gesture recognition for interaction. It can interface with a multitude of smart devices such as the Nest or August lock and it will act as a central smart device hub to make your life or business smart.
Nothing currently exists that will sit in your home or business, gather all this data, and present you with the option to use it in any way imaginable. The MATRIX will change your life or business, optimizing far more than any other device or app you own.
Where is the Internet of Things (IoT) industry headed in the next 5-10 years, and how is Admobilize well-positioned for the change?
In 2020 Gartner predicts there will be 25 billion connected “things” and by 2025 McKinsey & Co predicts the IoT industry could have an $11 trillion impact. Regardless of whether you believe these numbers, the industry of connected devices will begin to play a large role in everyone’s lives within the next 5-10 years. Machines and devices are only going to get smarter and more powerful. AdMobilize wants to be at the forefront of this revolution, and that’s why we are developing complex machine learning techniques and intricate hardware/software like the MATRIX to position ourselves as one of the main players in this industry.
You’ve been uniquely challenged so far in your role at Admobilize. Tell us a bit about what the transition to full-time work at a startup has been like.
The transition was absolutely BANANAS, but in a positive sense. You will be expected to wear many hats when joining a startup. I came in as a data science engineer expecting to use my knowledge of stats to provide insights on AdMobilize data. But the need was in software development to gather that data, so I immediately had to pivot to learning C++ to work on our facial detection algorithms and also to develop the entire novel gesture recognition platform. I’ve never done anything as difficult, stressful, and ultimately as rewarding.
I had to say goodbye to the idea of clocking in at 9 and leaving at 5 to have a free evening. The pressure is also different from the past internships I’ve had. At a typical company if what you’re working on doesn’t succeed or you’re not performing, you get let go. At a startup, the company potentially goes under. But being an essential part of what is being developed gives an amazing sense of fulfillment, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s one must-read book or blog out there that young, aspiring entrepreneurs should be reading?
Read what interests you. A lot of people have suggested to me that as an entrepreneur I should be reading an endless list of books on building a successful business. I think a lot of these books contain relatively few ideas wrapped up in many pages and they’re just stories of what worked for one person. So I recommend reading a blog called “Melting Asphalt.” It’s updated once every month or two with essays from Kevin Simler, who writes about pretty much anything that interests him. Each post is a great read and thought provoking.
What app or productivity hack can you not live without?
For me, it’s doing something energetic in the morning. Some scientist wrote somewhere that it boosts your energy levels for the next 10-12 hours. This might not work for everyone, but I try and hit the gym in the morning and it works extremely well for me. When I wake up on off days I sit up and throw my hands in the air like superman. Good to go.
What advice do you have for recent college grads entering the startup world?
It’s about the team as much as it is about the work. People always told me that, but it never really clicked until I arrived. I see and interact with the AdMobilize team more than I do with my family, friends, or my roommate. It’s truly a unique crowd. I look forward to work every day because I get to see this motley crew of diverse, intelligent, friendly, and driven coworkers. So make sure you fit in well with the culture, and they will become your friends and family too!
I also think personal growth is of the utmost importance. I found this straightforward – I knew I needed to put myself in a position with people that are smarter than me. At work, on my left is a world-class developer from Cuba, and on my right is a Ph.D. in electrical engineering/machine learning. I feel like the learning I did in school was almost a nursery rhyme after sitting next to these guys for 9-10 hours a day. So as you enter the startup world look for a place where you and the company will mutually grow together.