We talked to Ahmed El Zoughby, founder of XIOT, about smart homes, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ahmed El Zoughby: We are in the best of health, thank God! It was and still is very hard to deal with all of this. We hope things get normalized sooner than later.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded XIOT.
Ahmed El Zoughby: I shifted careers from Architecture early on. I was very interested in finding somewhere I could coupe my existing skillsets with another profession, and Industrial Design was on top of this list. I had a very successful start with Voxera, a product introduced on Kickstarter; then, my Co-founder Ahmed Sobhy told me about his dream of a smart building solutions company. He had a great user-centric vision for such a technical solution that he needed a design specialized co-founder; that was me. It was very challenging and fulfilling to work on Industrial design and extend this to digital product designs and branding.
How does XIOT innovate?
Ahmed El Zoughby: We think innovation is the successful execution of new ideas. This execution needs to be at the same pace on all sides of a startup or company, and we try to apply this in Design, Business, and Technology. Our main innovation drive since the beginning is building a lateral integration-ready platform from Hardware, Services, and Software to cater for our users and customers in the best way we can.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Ahmed El Zoughby: As a hardware first company, we had some component suppliers issues from Asia at first. This was way back in the beginning, and then the business side was hit with a couple of future project delays. Working from home in a hardware startup was challenging too. But things are slowly getting back to normal with some major precautions.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Ahmed El Zoughby: Of course, yes, luckily, we had some regard for this from the beginning to keep our team dynamic enough to cope with changes that may occur from sudden demand or shortage of supplies. Up until midway during the crisis, things weren’t looking good when a couple of our clients made a huge demand that drove us in a very great position by the end of the year. You defiantly need to keep an agile workforce with you if you want to move forward, which is very hard to do if we deal with our staff and team members in any way less than family.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Ahmed El Zoughby: It was based on some offline networking in the tech space at first before COVID, but afterward, almost everything we digital pretty much, and the only thing that didn’t go digital fully was the buildings themselves and their utility management, which was a very compelling argument to have in a video call with a client that can’t really control or even check almost anything in the office without being actually there.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Ahmed El Zoughby: In XIOT, we didn’t have any equity-based investments, meaning that we had a couple of governmental and competitions grants/prizes that was the core of our pre-seed funds. Then we had internal self-funding from the founders that now has almost quadrupled our liquidation cash on hand. Hardware development is hard, and investors in the MENA region are hesitant to back a local-based hardware manufacturing startup, sadly.
Your final thoughts?
Ahmed El Zoughby: Maybe for the first time, we have an actual exterior or environmental factor that is pushing for a hardware industry in the MENA region. We in XIOT think that if Egypt at least or the MENA region in total didn’t have a horse in the emerging tech space that is hardware-based and local in manufacturing, at least in the assembly side, we might just give up on it. So we are going to keep on knocking on doors till this happens.
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