“Perseverance and more perseverance,” mentions Roger Dewey, the CEO and Founder of Able Device, as one of the key aspects for an entrepreneur to foster success. The internationally recognized business leader, Roger Dewey, is known for his unrivaled contributions in the emerging growth areas of Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications. Boasting an extensive portfolio, the inspiring entrepreneur has ably shouldered the responsibilities at Able Device to lead it towards success.
The Start of a Future Entrepreneur
While working at Ericsson and Sony Ericsson back in the late 90s, Roger was fortunate to work in Machine-to-Machine technology, now broadly known as the Internet of Things. He mentions how the culture at both the companies heavily encouraged internal entrepreneurship focused on technological innovation. His stint at both the companies was a great training ground for future entrepreneurs. With the safety net of the company’s financial and support functioning, it facilitated the development of the requisite skill sets and approach needed for a burgeoning entrepreneur.
The Next Phase of the Chapter
After working at Sony Ericsson for five years, Roger left the company in 2006 to explore more opportunities and challenges. He subsequently joined Telit Wireless Solutions, an M2M wireless technology company, and led it into the Americas region as it previously had operations only in the EMEA. He mentions “While Telit’s financial backing provided security, the effort provided an interesting challenge for me as the company had scant support functions and none with any experience in the Americas region.”
After successfully growing Telit’s business the American, Roger’s experience fostered the realization and the vision of launching a new business unit or region for another company. This experience firmly strengthened Roger’s official leap into the entrepreneurial bandwagon. He recalls that “…since I had proven twice that I could succeed in my industry, it gave me the emotional freedom to try something new and potentially fail, as it wouldn’t be a reflection on me or impact my sense of myself.”
The First Step Towards the Vision
While serving at Telit, Roger realized that he had a strong desire to launch, build, and run something unique in his area of expertise i.e., M2M. The first step towards that vision was leaving Telit and starting an M2M/IoT business strategy consulting firm with a partner. A consulting firm named M2MV provided the vehicle to generate income while staying engaged in the cutting-edge developments of the industry.
His non-engineering educational background and his lack of SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) expertise stemmed a curiosity of what Roger perceived to be an underutilization of the standard SIM, embedded in every device connected to the mobile network. “From my understanding, it was a processor that was required to authenticate on the network and thus a sunk cost,” Roger exclaims. He saw the value in reducing components and cost, while driving standardization if the SIM’s capabilities could be extended to act at the device’s embedded M2M/IoT application processor. SIM experts told him over and over again, how it wouldn’t be a possibility because of the SIM standards and the way the SIM fits into the mobile device architecture. Roger couldn’t let go of the idea and recruited some former Sony Ericsson colleagues, who were experts in embedded device connectivity. The team took a systematic view of how the SIM interacted with the rest of the device and quickly determined a method to achieve the objective of extending the SIM’s utility to act as the IoT application processor.
Hurdles Along the Way
Roger immediately began the task of establishing a legal entity with equity allocation across the team members, thus forming the inception of Able Device. Following that, Roger and his team’s main focus was filing patents and developing proof of concept devices and applications. From thereon, the journey was filled with various roadblocks for Roger, wherein each was a learning process. As the idea was so unique and ahead of its time, the company initially experienced very little traction from potential customers or investors.
After establishing Able Device’s foothold in the industry, Roger boldly took a major step in his career. He took the position as the COO of an M2M/IoT startup; for which Roger’s consulting firm developed the business plan and strategy. He took this position to replenish his personal finances and to give the market some time to catch up to with his vision. It was also educational for him to work through ownership and financial structures while gaining experience in pitching ideas to VCs. Though the company ultimately failed, it provided Roger with the ability to move on to the next stage — back to Able Device.
Back into Building the Vision
While away from Able Device, the company was not only ably led by its two co-founders, but also obtained an initial investment and business support from a local technology accelerator, The Startup Factory. This provided the resources as well as the time needed for the patent process to successfully run its course and for the IoT industry to begin to catch up to the vision of the power of the standards based SIM. Roger states that these visions might not have been totally aligned, but they were close enough for the company to modify its offerings and market message to respond to the existing needs of its potential customers.
He concluded with the following advice for emerging entrepreneurs, “You need to be open to continuous failing and learning. You also will need to be willing to take decisive action even when you have scant evidence as to what the best decision will be.”
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