Startup Interviews / Olisto Co-founder Tom Meijeraan

Fact Sheet

Company: Olisto
Interviewee: Tom Meijeraan (co-founder)
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Financing method: Angel investors
Website, CrunchBase link:
www.olisto.com,
https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/triggi

Product

Olisto provides a platform, which lets connected products, apps, and services work together by means of a cloud-based rule engine.

Product-market evolution

What phase are you in currently with your product?

(Source)

After some iterations and a pivot from a B2C to B2B focus, we have now found a product market fit and we are now searching for channel product fit. There is a clear demand for our ‘Integrations’ product, through which our customers can let their own product, app or service work together with thousands of IoT products and services. Still, we need to optimize the way in bringing our solution under the attention of a wider audience. We are well known in The Netherlands and are gaining traction in the neighboring countries, but our ambition is to become the worldwide number one iPaas (integration platform as a service) company for consumer products and services.

When did you found your company?

We founded our company during the Summer of 2015 when founder Arjen Noorbergen sold his previous company (Quby, the manufacturer of smart thermostats) to the Dutch utility Eneco. At that time, co-founder Tom Meijeraan working with this utility as a freelance product marketer. We both recognized that smart products weren’t that smart, as they couldn’t interact with each other. So, we decided to build that solution.

How long did it take you to make it to the current state?

It took us exactly one year to build an MVP. We had to build a cloud-based rule engine capable of handling millions of requests in real time on the one hand and a very user-friendly app on the other hand. Besides that, we had to connect the first smart devices and web-based services to our platform by means of APIs. During this time, lots of companies were experimenting with providing access to their products and services via APIs, but quite some were not stable and mature yet. When we launched our MVP, we ourselves thought it was more like a BMVP (bare minimal viable product) and we weren’t that proud on our solution yet, but we had to start learning and get real customer feedback. After the launch of our MVP, it took us another year to optimize the user-friendliness of the app and to further scale our rule engine. This effort was, fortunately, being recognized as we received a Red Dot Award for the usability of our (at that time Triggi, now Olisto) app.

What were the biggest lesson learned moments?

You will probably never be satisfied when launching your MVP, but you have to get your product out and start learning from real customer feedback (there are no facts to be found in the office), so don’t wait too long with launching your MVP.

We optimized the usability of our app by inviting end-users at our office and asking them to perform specific predefined tasks as well as ‘play’ with the app. These user tests helped us to find the user interaction flaws which we couldn’t identify ourselves anymore as we were too familiar with our own app

“The chain is as strong as its weakest link”. Although we had put a lot of effort in building a secure, reliable and real-time rule engine, sometimes the rules were not executed in real time or not at all. This was most of the time not due to our platform, but to the non-hardened APIs of some of our partners. We not only had to monitor our own systems, but also the APIs of our partners and help them to improve the stability of these APIs.

How many times did you change direction (“pivoted”) / how similar is your product currently to the original idea?

During the second quarter of 2018, we actively sought to find a good product-market fit. We had numerous interviews with partners and prospects during which we didn’t try to sell our solution but tried to identify the real problems they were facing. We learned that a lot of them felt the need for an iPaas solution as we were providing but didn’t want to refer their end-users to a brand of somebody else. So, they wanted to have our technology in their own app instead of referring their customers to our app. That’s why we pivoted from a B2C to a B2B approach in the Summer of 2018 and introduced our ‘Integrations’ product at the end of 2018. Not all customers want to build their own solution though and for them we still the possibility to integrate their product or service within the Olisto app, which has a steady growing number of end-users.

Founders, team

How many ideas, entrepreneurial attempts did you have before your actual project?

I was working as a freelance product marketer before starting Olisto, but it is quite different to be responsible for paying more than 15 people on the payroll than just being able to pay yourself every month. Before starting Olisto I learned a bit from a failed attempt in setting up a ‘foldable boat’ business. Although I didn’t work on this venture myself, I have been closely monitoring the progress of this venture as I invested a bit of my own money in it. The problem was in this case not the demand, but the supply of the product. The company couldn’t match the supply with the demand and had to disappoint people who wanted to buy a foldable boat.

What was your motivation behind launching your first StartUp?

As a freelance product marketer, I have designed and launched quite a few new services and products. Yet, I had never set up a completely new company, which was something I really wanted to do. So when Arjen asked me to start Triggi/Olisto, it only took me some minutes to say ‘yes’. From the beginning, however, it was not my intention to do this only once. I also wanted to learn from the experiences to come to be able to set up a second venture with all the lessons learned from Olisto, which I am planning to do in due time.

How do you govern your startup, what is your approach for decision making?

We tried to be a flat organization without managers and put as much responsibility as possible with our employees. We hired people that were experts on their own domain as we as founders didn’t want them to tell them what to do, we wanted them to tell us what to do. It is simply impossible to be an expert in every field when you start a new business, so you should hire people that are smarter than you are. With regard the ‘what’ I had a strong say in what we should develop, but with regard, the ‘how’ I trusted the team would (and did) know much better how to build what we needed. To be honest, also with the ‘what’ they sometimes had better arguments ;-).

StartUp world

Do you see any benefits of being a Dutch startup?

Being a Dutch startup clearly has some benefits. As we are used to crossing the border our or small country within less than an hour drive by car, we understand the need for localized solutions. So, we integrate with local products and services and have developed a multi-lingual app, which provides us with some clear benefits compared with the (US) based competition. Also, the fact of being a European company and thus complying to the GDPR (privacy) legislation has advantages in becoming a trusted partner opposed to the less strict US privacy legislation.

Also great about being a Dutch startup is the Dutch startup eco-system. StartupDelta (startupdelta.org) is actively and successfully promoting The Netherlands as the best possible place for starting, growing and internationalizing business and as a gateway to the rest of Europe. They help startups to scale, improve access to markets, capital, knowledge, and talents. W.r.t. the latter, we think it is nowadays easier to get very well talented coders and designers in The Netherlands than in Silicon Valley, where so many ventures are fighting for the same people.

Do you have a book-, website or any other information source recommendation for other startuppers?

There is one book I can really recommend, which is ‘The Four Steps to the Epiphany’ of Steve Blank. I think it is better and more appropriate to startups than all the management books I read during my business studies.

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