Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Spark.io Raises $4.9 Million: Lessons For Humboldt County?

Spark Core
Spark.io just raised $4.9 million to hire more employees, increase the usefulness and user base of its cloud-based Spark OS platform, and increase its market presence and penetration. Microcontrollers (MCUs) were a key component of Spark's first product, Spark Core. Spark Core would be useless without the MCU, and knowing how to use and program the MCU was key to the early success of the product.

Can Humboldt County learn anything from the Spark.io story and replicate Spark's success? Yes, it can. Here's why and how.

Humboldt's small town atmosphere, access to a beautiful natural environment, and the isolated, pastoral landscape which inspires creativity combine to provide a quality of life that attracts highly talented people to the area. However, Humboldt doesn't have a national or global reputation as a high-profile innovation community or a thriving high-tech business ecosystem. This means Humboldt MCU developers and entrepreneurs need to focus on the right things to be financially sustainable and have a chance for Spark-like success.

The highly talented people in Humboldt County who focus on the following six principles put themselves in a position to succeed like Spark did.
  1. Engage in emerging technologies and sectors. (While the focus is on long term technologies, be conscious of low entry cost opportunities which take advantage of short term trends. Italics edit on July 20.)
  2. Focus on interesting platforms that have high market potential.
  3. Build a core network of people, both in and outside of Humboldt County, who are passionate and highly skilled and are focusing those passionate skills on developing disruptive innovations in emerging technologies and sectors.
  4. Have a physical presence both in Humboldt and in a leading US location for the subject technology or sector.
  5. Use Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Tindie and other appropriate high-profile sites to launch products, determine mass appeal, gain funding, gain visibility.
  6. Build a network of support resources that allows long term serious product and platform development and insightful pivoting.
Only a small percentage of independent developers and startups who build and launch products and
companies will create a sustainable revenue stream, and even fewer will be as successful as Spark has been so far. However, talented people who successfully focus on the above six principles have a much greater chance of success than those who don't leverage those principles.

If you're interested in the Spark story and want more background, check out the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), TechCrunch (TC) and BusinessInsider (BI). According to the WSJ, "Spark.io “empowers engineers” by letting them create and improve products without relying on technology, features and access afforded to them by large companies...Having recently moved his
Spark Core breadboard circuit
business from Minneapolis to San Francisco, Mr. Supalla plans to use Spark.io’s freshly-raised capital on hiring, community-building and outreach to developers, and to manufacture and sell its Spark kits and operating system
." TC says, "Today, the company has announced a third product called Spark OS, which allows developers to integrate their projects with an open-source OS, compatible with iOS and Android...The project shifted from the Spark Socket...to the Spark Core and the Spark Cloud...“Our greatest challenge is the shifting landscape,” said Supalla. “The IoT is a big deal, and companies around the world are trying to figure out how they play in it. The market changes every week when someone launches an initiative, but luckily we move quick." Spark's team is currently 12 people, but will, BI says, "...grow to about 20-25 people within the next few months." Per BI, the Spark CEO had "targeted makers and the growing hobbyist community centered on building things with technology, but...was surprised to discover that customers wanted to use Spark to deploy across thousands of devices for work and enterprise purposes...The time and energy it takes to build a product from scratch, we can potentially cut off 6-9 months off development time and millions of dollars from R&D so you’re not starting from zero."

I'm going to write a weekly blog post that follows up on opportunities for Humboldt County microcontroller users. The posts will focus first on the above six principles, then will explore emerging products and technologies, MCU-relevant entrepreneurial success news, and other topics that may help Humboldt microcontroller users achieve high-profile success, or at least long term sustainable profit.

If you have comments about Spark-like opportunities in Humboldt County, or if you are interested in expanding or strengthening the community of Humboldt microcontrollers users, send an email to me at arcatabob (at) gmail {dott} com.


No comments:

Post a Comment