Kelvin Sumoogum, founder and CEO of miiCARE
Kelvin Sumoogum is the founder and CEO of miiCARE, a social enterprise set up by a group of professionals who came together with one objective in mind - to give vulnerable people a healthy, safe and happy life by building on emerging IoT (Internet of Things) technologies and advancement in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. He shares his startup advice with BQ.
Let me share what I’ve learned from my experience of the journey from great idea, to launching a product in the market.
Testing the product idea
Is your idea a breakthrough one? Does it have a place in the market? Are there any similar solutions out there? Is it actually possible to create? And, is it truly something people want or need? Research is needed to find out.
My idea stemmed from an industry I was already deeply involved in. This meant that I had a good knowledge of which solutions already existed, which worked effectively, and which didn’t.
I had also been speaking to and learning the needs of older people on a daily basis. It became clear there was a gap between what older people needed and the solutions being produced. That’s what triggered the idea for miiCare and I was already confident it had a clear space in the market.
Meet members of your target market, discuss their needs and challenges. Floating your idea to them is essential to understanding your market viability.
Building and funding your technology
Some entrepreneurs have ideas requiring expensive technical expertise to produce. You'll either have this know-how yourself or will need to find a strong, reliable technical team.
As health tech was already a passionate interest, I started to dabble with the miiCare and the system eventually began to take shape. However, I realised it had to become a business, rather than a hobby, which forced me to set priorities.
Starting from the ground up, you find you need to invest a lot of your own money. Every investment has to be stretched, so you’ll need to learn how to tap into existing resources creatively.
I enrolled in a PhD, which gave me an office, access to information, resources and PhD students eager to get involved. This meant that I was able to bounce ideas off like-minded people and find some future team members and other allies.
It’s worth keeping an eye on existing components that could save you a lot of time. I considered designing miiCare’s sensors from scratch, then realised that mass-produced sensors which perform the same function were already available and cheaper to use in the long run.
Such decisions can minimise your R&D cycle, reducing the time and money needed to get your product to market.
Production and marketing costs can be heavy. Fortunately, there are more funding sources than ever, especially if you have a proven concept and have completed your R&D.
To fund the production of miiCUBE, for example, we’re running an equity crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube, attracting over £300k from a variety of investors.
Testing the product
When building your idea, it’s crucial to keep your end users in mind. Remember to regularly ask yourself, and ideally check with your potential customers, whether they will actually be able to use it.
We encountered software problems almost every day. While our code is written to allow the AI to react to various use cases, testing the product with the elderly introduced new incidents and behaviours that the AI tech couldn’t yet predict, meaning that the model would fail if we didn’t fix them.
This is why we’ve spent years making sure that our AI works in every scenario imaginable, and is able to detect the many different characteristics displayed by our users.
Ultimately, you should constantly remind yourself of your purpose, maintain a strong level of discipline, set key milestones and engage with end users throughout the process.
Launching the product
There comes a time when you have to get the project out there just to get money in. You need to set some very strict disciplines and establish what your MVP needs to achieve and stop when you hit that stage. You’ll then be ready to push the project to the market and with the income generated, roll out updates.
At miiCare, we make sure to involve our users, investors and other non-techie individuals in that process – they see things differently and it is wise to follow their advice.
And finally, when you file your patent application, it’s important to be very careful who you ask for help. You’ll want to ensure that they sign an NDA, in case they’re working with a potential competitor or have the potential to leak ideas – accidentally or not...
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