INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
COVID-19: Making Lemonade out of Lemons
We talked to Arturo Falck on how Whoo is the Smart Video Intercom for building access and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Arturo Falck: We are all healthy, thank you for asking. We are grateful to the medical personnel and essential workers that make it possible for the rest of us to maintain a relatively normal life. We are doing our part to slow down the virus’s spread by wearing masks and avoiding most social contacts. And we are trying to appreciate the extra family time.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Whoo?
Arturo Falck: I have been a software developer and manager for over 20 years at Goldman Sachs and MIT organizations. I founded Whoo intending to develop practical applications for facial recognition technologies but pivoted into our current market about a year and a half ago when our experiments showed us that there is a huge need for innovation in the space of access control for apartment buildings.
How does Whoo innovate?
Arturo Falck: At Whoo, we make mobile video intercoms for apartment buildings (like Amazon’s Ring® but for Multi-Dwelling Units). Our innovations revolve around simplicity. We focused all of our attention on making our system as intuitive as it can be possible to get. For example, visitors interact with our intercom like they are used to, by pressing a single, clearly labeled button. The residents answer their phones like they are used to and automatically get a one-way video call in the front of their buildings. The building managers can update who has access to the building from an equally intuitive app. And the installers have to mount our device and plug it in. So we made the whole experience easy! Easy to buy. Easy to install. Easy to use and manage.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Arturo Falck: The most apparent effect of the pandemic is that we’ve had to move most of our client interactions to zoom, which, frankly, has made it easier to secure demos. The installations have been more complicated, but we adopted safety guidelines from the CDC and local governments to keep our workers and clients safe.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Arturo Falck: We did have to shut down our sales and installation efforts for a couple of months in the spring, so we used the time to focus on improving our software. We made Lemonade with the lemons! We had to keep our costs down and ride out the tough times.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Whoo in the future?
Arturo Falck: Unknowns cause stress. All you can do to mitigate it is to identify the highest risks and reduce them. Make a plan to get to “default alive” as soon as you can in every stage of your growth. Don’t hope that something happens that will keep your company going. Instead, keep an option in your plans for dealing with the alternative.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Arturo Falck: We have three types of competitors: 1) startups doing similar things are Butterflymx, Latch, Swiftlane. They are all good but are going after the same subset of the market. We plan to say away from their beach-head and focus on ours. 2) established players with older technology are companies like Aiphone, Mircom, DoorKing. 3) the big unknowns are the two giants in the adjacent market for intercoms in homes: Amazon’s Ring® and Google’s Nest®. We plan to grow fast enough to stay relevant once they decide to go after apartment buildings.
Your final thoughts?
Arturo Falck: The pandemic is horrible and changed the way we all do business, but that’s not terrible for startups because the one advantage we have over our competition is our ability to adapt rapidly. At Whoo, we have been making the best of the situation and have been thriving. Sometimes it feels like we should have grown faster, but the truth is that startups are about running experiments to figure out what people want. We’ve used the time of COVID-19 to make the most of the experiments and learn from them. And we have always kept in mind how fortunate we are to do what we love without leaving home. To be healthy when so many of our fellow Americans (and people worldwide) have died or are suffering. To have work when so many are faced with financial insecurity. So we are counting our blessings and being as supportive of others as we can be.
Stay strong. Wear a mask. Stay socially distanced. Donate. Help others.
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