StartUs Presents: guh

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If your home environment could do anything you want, what would it be? We talked to Simon Hönegger, co-founder of guh, about the smart living device Tune.

Describe guh in 50 words or less.

Tune (made by guh) is an easy-to-use device which allows you to control all your home infrastructure from a single point. It connects to smart devices like TVs, HiFi-Systems, smart lightbulbs, heating systems, shutter blinds and more.

Tune replaces a normal lightswitch and works out of the box!

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

Smart living is still a fragmented market and not well accepted yet – even though we have awesome technologies out there. We clearly see the lack of usability as a reason. Our motivation is to contribute to a paradigm shift towards an awesome and enjoyable user experience with connected things.

Some of us spent a couple of months in South Korea. We saw Koreans who naturally use hightech, and they don’t even fear robots cruising around. It’s just a matter of time until people will start to love these things in western countries as well.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

People from all over the world are using guh technologies when it comes to smart living. They have never experienced an easier way to explain their technological surrounding how to behave – because it is so easy to interact with. There are parents who are using smart gadgets (controlled by a guh product) as a nanny, hobby gardeners who are using their own individual irrigation system, energy-aware people who have been given a clear consumption-overview of their home…

And they all did what they really wanted to do, because they were able to solve their individual problems – without writing a single line of code.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

Our success is measurable in the overall usablity for people who own a lot of technical infrastructure. The more stuff you have, the harder it becomes to overcome technical difficulties. And things are increasing rapidly in everyone’s surroundings!

We focus on human-machine-interaction in the domain Internet of Things. We’re always trying different concepts: software, hardware, and combinations. And we show these concepts to people and ask them how they like it. At the end you’ve made something you had never thought about – but this is the way startups should develop, and it works pretty nicely!

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

The typical day starts around 8 am with a huge cup of coffee. Sometimes I manage to go for a short run. Sometimes. And from then on it is a characteristic startup day. No matter what you have planned for the day – it will be different.

It depends on the profession and your role in the team. My role has become the main “communicator,” so I do the public relations, answering questions, networking, updating our documents, writing applications, rethinking business models and so on. Sometimes I do what I have learned: Industrial Design. But this has become a rare activity.

The downside of the typical (startup) working day: it is waaay to short. Ah, and another thing: I am the “bad” guy who regularly reminds all stakeholders to stay focused!

Already pivoted? Did customers use the product like you imagined it in the beginning?

The pivoting process should never stop. Customer development works. My generation (I’m steadily almost 30) is using things totally differently than teenagers.

To answer the question: of course they didn’t use the product like we expected. We are no clairvoyants, but we know how to talk! Tune, our product, got simpler and simpler – and that’s its benefit.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

We were developing our things within an accelerator (INiTS) and we got funding from a foundation for open internet (Netidee). So we are bootstrapping like hell – but the go-to-market comes closer, so we’ll need investors soon.

In the future we’ll have different revenues. It is pretty unusual for a startup, but we have two products. An open source gateway software, guhIO, and the thing you might already know, Tune. We generate revenues out of both. guhIO is a very lean software which can be used on every router or NAS-system. And Tune is simply an awesome gadget – we are preparing a crowdfunding campaign to kick it off.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

I don’t care about the startup boom. It is good old innovation in a new dress. And it is a bubble. We don’t want to be record-breaking money-collectors. We are not making another web platform nobody really cares about. We are doing solid business by making things people love. And we love it too!

If I cared about this question I would not be bold enough to be an entrepreneur! We have more meaningful concepts in our heads. If we continue our straight business without making too many mistakes, we successfully transform those concepts into the market and increase diversity anyway.

What do you look for in team members?

We all share the same vision, that’s the most important thing. Another most important thing (!) is to stay focused. I’m repeating myself, I know! If a team member is very communicative and visionary, they have to learn how to act and develop based on data. We have made the same mistake first: doing a thing WE love and not EVERYBODY loves.

Why would a talent join your team?

Because my mates (I cannot say this of myself – it would sound arrogant!) are amazing personalities and terrifyingly intelligent. Working with guys like them makes you learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about startups, about your personality as well as other people’s, how to deal with them, how to focus, how to be happy, …

What was your most memorable moment so far?

When we got our first funding from the foundation Netidee. To be honest: we weren’t a startup from the very beginning. It was more a group of techies who saw the problem of the very complex M2M market. We started to change that through guhIO, our software. We didn’t expect that it would have such a massive impact. We would never have thought about becoming an official partner of Ubuntu and becoming one of the first Snappy Apps – that’s kind of historical. Long story short: after a year of developing we suddenly felt like a young company and we did the accelerator programme at INiTS.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

We are technicians. That’s very good and very bad. Good technicians are hard to find – but don’t ever let a technician make business decisions! We struggled to learn the lean, straightforward way of business thinking. It took a very long time for us to make an MVP, and not a multi-feature exaggerated, almost finished product. That wouldn’t have been necessary.

Please take these words seriously: lean, focus, comfort zone, iterative customer development, … If you don’t take them seriously, you will learn it the hard way, like we did!

If your home would be able to do literally ANYTHING – what would be your first desire?

Imagine an “Alice in Wonderland” situation, where your house can grow arms or walls can speak. I don’t want to answer this question by myself, because I don’t want to influence my readers. I would be very happy if I get some response to this question, maybe in the comments below! Take some seconds to think about what “smart” living means to you and what you would do if anyything was possible. Because in the next decade, we will get pretty close to that!


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