We talked to Simon Randall of Pimloc, a world leading company specializing in visual privacy and security, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Simon Randall: It’s been fraught at times, but the family and I are healthy and doing well (we are all still talking to each other) – like many people, my wife and I have both been home-working combined with two children homeschooling, home exercising, and home everything’elsing. It has meant we have had to work out new approaches for balancing all the things we need to get done whilst still making time to try and relax, enjoy ourselves and be a family.
Having breakfast together in the mornings without having to race out on the school run and then catch trains has actually been great. The kids’ independence and digital skills have grown amazingly, as has their growing ability to consume galactic volumes of snacks each day.
Having said that, we are now ready for the sunshine, to get back into the office, meet friends and start re-learning what life used to be like.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Pimloc.
Simon Randall: I’ve worked for a range of creative, strategic marketing, and global tech companies in London, Sydney, and Istanbul. Before Pimloc, I worked for 12 successful years at Nokia in go-to-market, business strategy, channel marketing, global online sales, and product development areas.
With a wealth of consumer tech experience under my belt, I jumped ship to lead OMG Life in 2012, which would directly inspire the creation of the Pimloc business. At OMG Life, we developed and launched Autographer, the world’s first intelligent wearable camera (and subsequent technology licensing) to the market, which gained fantastic attention and review.
Due to the exploits of Autographer, we noticed a growing gap in the market for intelligent image and video classification and privacy services (i.e., how to make sense of and protect all the visual data streaming off a host of new ‘always-on’ imaging devices). As a result, Pimloc was spun out in early 2017 to develop our world-leading visual deep learning platform. Since then, we have used the platform to develop two main products: Pholio for detecting and classifying content in images and video and Secure Redact for protecting and anonymizing personal data in video.
How does Pimloc innovate?
Simon Randall: Pimloc is a UK deep tech business focused on video security and privacy. We have an overarching vision that we are working towards that will bring the worlds of large-scale video security and privacy together into one integrated solution. This drives much of our innovation activities and has led to the creation of patents and new platform capabilities that we are currently working on.
In parallel, we carefully select customer engagements that align with our vision so that we can design and iterate products quickly with real customer feedback and usage. Having a longer-term product vision alongside more near-term engagements allows us to steer our innovation and development activities together so that everything we are doing is building towards the future we want to create.
Our markets are still in an early stage in many sectors, with some larger opportunities that will come online in the future – as the large-scale live video starts to underpin the roll-out of smart cities, transportation, and infrastructure. Prioritization is our single biggest challenge and one that we regularly review as a team.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Simon Randall: From a day-to-day perspective, we had already embraced a flexible working culture, so switching to full-time home-working for the team was pretty seamless. We have definitely missed the informal product discussions around the table in the office, and it’s hard to run detailed reviews and workshops on Zoom, but productivity has been good.
We’ve all missed the contact of not being together as a team and not being able to get out for a team Christmas lunch and occasional beers. We raised venture funding at the end of last year, which has allowed us to build out the team over the last 6 months – we’ve more than doubled the size of the team over this period, with the new recruits all joining virtually. It’s always tricky starting a new job, but doing it all remotely can be extremely challenging.
On the commercial side, we have been building our two products; the pandemic has led to an increase in video capture for a range of market sectors, with knock-on effects for video privacy and security requirements.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Simon Randall: Pimloc has been lucky that we have been able to grow the business and team over the last 6 months. There are some market sectors we have had to pause through this period, but have compensated by focusing on other new areas.
Being small allowed us to refocus our efforts on the new opportunities in front of us.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Simon Randall: Zoom, Slack, GDrive, and a bunch of other cloud services have allowed us to continue operating as a remote team productively. Regular contact has been critical, along with making time for a more informal discussion. Over investing contact with new team members is really important, especially in the first few months.
Regular team meetings and check-ins are really important, as is flexibility around work expectations and empathy for each individual’s circumstances. Everyone is in a different personal situation with their own individual challenges. Lockdown has been pretty binary and affected different groups profoundly. We did run a craft beer tasting on Zoom, which was great, but we should probably have done that (or something similar) every month. Remembering to make space for fun alongside work is a learning curve and something that needs formally planning when everyone is remote – there’s no chance for spontaneity to fill in the gaps.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Simon Randall: We are in a new market area; traditionally, video privacy and security requirements have been managed through large-scale video management platforms and dedicated video editing software. Our platform is a secure alternative that can handle bulk video and is designed to be an automatic, quick, and accurate process for all video privacy and security use cases.
We are selling our products directly to end customers and are also starting to license our software to run on other people’s video platforms directly. This has opened up wider collaboration opportunities that may otherwise be seen as competitive.
We will stay ahead through a tight focus on delivering for our customers whilst building towards our longer-term vision.
Your final thoughts?
Simon Randall: It’s been a pretty exceptional year personally and commercially, peeling back many taken-for-granted assumptions about work and home life. It’s focused us all on the things that really matter and reminded everyone how fragile life could be.
I’m looking forward to the world opening up again and meeting all of the amazing new people I’ve been working with for the last year ‘in real life, for the first time.
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