Szymon co-founded and holds the position of CEO of Kontakt.io. As a strong advocate of the Internet of Things idea, he runs the company to be among leaders of the upcoming connected future. He graduated in Business Management & Financial Management from National Louis University. When it comes to business, Szymon always looks for new challenges that bring a fundamental improvement in their space. He has been working on a variety of cutting-edge projects since 2009. Using that experience, he shares his passion for IoT and beacon technology during many conferences and workshops around the world including Mobile Tech Marketing in Munich, NSConference 6 in Leicester, and Mobile Central Europe in Warsaw. His specialities include proximity, mobile marketing and Software as a Service. After work Szymon is a passionate glider pilot.
How did you get into the industry?
Technology was always part of my life. I was exactly 15 when I earned my first paycheck from developing a website for a local company. This allowed me to buy the tools to build a WiFi wireless network. Back then that was a super expensive, magical tool that made me almost a neighborhood hero. That was the foundation.
It was only later, after I had left CodeWise and was actively looking for a new challenge, that I came in contact with beacons. I was approached by one of my bankers who just wanted a bit of advice on a project. He says, “we’re trying to solve this problem for the visually impaired, because in museums and public places there’s no way for them to view the related content.” Existing solutions, he said, were completely inadequate, and that meant visually impaired users were just left to their own devices. That’s when we started looking for new answers.
Any emerging industry trends?
It’s actually an immensely exciting time for the industry right now. We’re seeing huge shifts in how businesses use beacons. There’s no question, asset tracking and RTLS are the next big step for the technology. We’re a little obsessed with it at the moment. We also know that Bluetooth 5 means a lot for asset tracking including more capabilities, greater data capacity. In short, a Bluetooth-based asset tracking system offers the same results as many popular tracking systems at a very small fraction of the cost. Really, everyone from Bluetooth innovators to manufacturers to beacon companies know Bluetooth is coming to RTLS. It might not get the same press as cool retail marketing use cases, but it’s here, and that’s why we’ve developed the Location Engine and Gateway--tools that digitalize the real world with brand new technology and ideology.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
It’s still rather early in the development of the industry as a whole. We know from a popular Zebra study that some 70% of retailers want beacons by 2021. As this transition happens, businesses and solution providers are going to realize just how complex a beacon infrastructure can be. Demos and POCs are small, but larger deployments take time. With deployments becoming larger and more common, we’re seeing how difficult they can be. This is, of course, a challenge for businesses who want cutting edge technology fast, but it’s also an opportunity for us to empower them with our learnings. We’ve seen a lot, and we’ve also learned a lot. That kind of first-hand expertise is going to be deeply valuable in the coming years.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for Kontakt.io?
As I mentioned, we began specifically to help the visually impaired, and that little seed has always stayed with us. Even as we scale and move into larger industries like healthcare and manufacturing, that is still a part of us. That’s why we started Beacon for Good and why we love our Beacon Valley hackathons. We’re not just a community within Kontakt.io but the space as a whole, and we intend to keep it that way.
What's next for Kontakt.io in the near future?
For us, there are no huge changes. We see minor shifts and changes, but our goal of digitializing the world remains the same, and the methods remain the same. What is different is the growing importance of industrial markets. We’re taking a big, and really thrilling, step into a completely new area. We started digitalizing spaces and now we’re moving to people and things. It’s just a different flavor of what we’ve been doing all along. The scale, of course, will be quite different--digitalizing whole factories and healthcare providers. That means revamping our toolkit and methods, which we are very excited to do.
Your key initiatives for the success of Kontakt.io?
Like every startup, we’ve had our fair share of partnerships and we regularly team up with other verticals. But that hasn’t been the driving force behind our success. At Kontakt.io, we always talk about four pillars. The first three, software, hardware, and services are all rather obvious. These are key tools for any tech company. What we like to add is expertise, and this is crucial not just for Kontakt.io the business but for the people who make up the company. We put a lot of emphasis in valuing our colleagues and fostering a sense of ownership where you can feel like you can make a difference. That’s how you make great products.
Your most difficult moment at Kontakt.io? (and what did you learn?)
That’s very easy and also very difficult to answer. You see, when you begin a startup, you have no management skills. You’re, hopefully, good at what you do and work hard to keep everything and everyone together. And once you start growing, it picks up speed fast, and you expect to keep growing. But your lack of management skills and a creeping over-optimism creates a bubble. It creates a barrier that you aren’t going to be able to get through. I’ve always been cautious, but even I’ve been bitten by this bug. That’s why I’ve learned to always stay on your toes when it comes to the market. You must face any and all of your lacking skills head on.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
One reason our customers keep coming back is the service they receive. A company shouldn’t just sell hardware, taking the customer’s money and then being done with it. You have to listen to their needs--especially their complaints--and work with them. Clients should feel both satisfied and heard.
How do you motivate others?
I’ve learned that the greatest success is achieved through teamwork. This is something that must be regularly remembered and embraced especially by leaders. You must understand the people around you and find out how to help them. You have to figure out what tools they need and guide them so they can contribute to the best of their ability. To succeed as a business, the people around you need to feel a sense of ownership and that needs to inspire them.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Focus on solving the problems of your customers and niche. Always. There’s no moving forward without this. Nail it and down and over-deliver. Go vertical, and be great at solving that problem.