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Investing in Startups: Going the Extra Mile to the Hardware Store

Early stage investors like myself want to get deeply involved in a startup – often even before finalising an investment. Why? Because in addition to financial resources, the most important success factors for early stage startups is having partners on their side who have an in-depth understanding of the product, the technology and the market, who can provide every bit of assistance the startup needs to reach the next milestone.

We at session.vc take the “smart money” approach very seriously. We do our homework, even if that means going to the hardware store and starting to solder, build and craft ourselves.

Understanding the importance of smart air monitoring through Airica

In 2020, the CEO of Airica, Lukas Limacher, came to us seeking advice on how to accelerate his Go-To-Market strategy and to raise some seed funding. The mission at Airica is to use smart monitoring technology to improve the quality of indoor air and thus, to increase the health, performance and well-being of organisations and companies. The company was about to enter the market when COVID-19 hit Europe.

At that time I knew little about air quality monitoring, but when the pandemic started, we were all taught via the media and health agencies the extent to which indoor air quality impacts the virus’ ability to spread. I knew from the very first moment we spoke to Lukas that smart indoor air quality measuring will be one of those topics that will stay relevant – even in post-pandemic times. Just remember the last time you took a short break during a long meeting and then re-entered the same room, nearly fainting because of the poor air quality.

Building a simplified product to understand the complexity of the topic

But even though I had now realised the importance of the topic, I still didn’t quite understand how the whole measuring process worked. So, I decided to go to the hardware store and build a simplified version of Airica's product to learn and understand the complexity of the topic. I learned a lot during this process. Here are some of the key lessons:

  • No measuring without data: It’s not enough to simply buy a sensor, put it on a table and measure temperature, humidity and pressure. Significantly more data is required to make an informed analysis of the quality of the indoor air environment.
  • Data needs training: All sensors need to be trained. For this to happen successfully, more data is needed. Ideally, thousands of sensors would have to be combined to ensure reliable data is being collected.
  • Audio-visual feedback: By connecting Airica with our Philips Hue Light, my family was able to immediately respond when the bulb turned red due to bad air quality. Connecting smart home devices is a key success factor here.

Without doing such a thorough personal investigation of the product, we at session.vc would have never been able to understand the real challenges which face Airica today and into the future. We also would have never fully understood the huge potential smart indoor air measuring technology has. As an early stage investor, we had to invest first and foremost into building up our knowledge and our skills, in order to become the best possible partner and active supporter of our new portfolio company Airica. This is what we do at session.vc.

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decorative cover image for Investing in Startups: Going the Extra Mile to the Hardware Store

Investing in Startups: Going the Extra Mile to the Hardware Store