By Niall O’Gorman, #FounderStories a series of conversations with founders.
When was MyOctopus founded? Do you have any co-founders? How did you get the idea?
MyOctopus was founded in April 2015, by my co-founders Larry (Wawrzyniec) Wawro and Sylwester Hyzynski during a hill walk in the Dublin Mountains. Our CEO Larry had an idea about a ‘human’ home, one that responds and learns with you. He wanted to build something that could manage and extend the abilities of smart devices in the home – Emma Dowling CMO & Co-Founder
A little research showed many limitations with smart-home devices: connectivity, lack of flexibility in configuration, server failures and data privacy / transparency, to name a few. These issues caused us to look at the problems from a much wider perspective. We decided to create a device that could solve all of these problems and also be future proof: a multi-tool approach flexible enough to adapt, evolve with the home, and be capable of meeting any kind of smart home need.
What does MyOctopus do?
MyOctopus is creating a complete solution to manage the home ‘Intranet of Things’ – a open source platform and device that will do everything for your smarthome – it will make your home truly smart, connected and responsive, without compromising your data or privacy.
MyOctopus sensor boards which easily connect to a micro-controller board (Arduino, Edison, Beaglebone, Pi etc)
— My Octopus (@MyOctopus_io) January 25, 2016
How does your solution work?
It increases the controllability and monitoring capacity of appliance and devices in the home network, learns your patterns and routines, and save you time and money. The device is packed with onboard sensors, CPU and a self-learning AI. It is able to connect to virtually any device, and to record and store data from ‘dumb’ devices.
The open-source platform allows you to download apps, create apps, build MyOctopus on your own hardware, and see and control everything that happens to your data. All computation and data storage happen on-device. Your data stays safely at home, completely under your control.
MyOctopus Open Source Components – offering you the parts we create as we build our Open Source Smarthome Platform.
No home exists without a community around it, and in today’s increasingly connected world, community is online as well as next door. MyOctopus is building an open-source smart home community to bridge the gap between makers /coders and less technical people; with data security and privacy concerns mounting, online communities are how we can all learn from each other and be wiser and safer in today’s ‘always online’ world.
— My Octopus (@MyOctopus_io) April 15, 2016
Who is your solution geared towards?
Our end user is a person informed and interested in technology, curious to learn / do more with smart devices and their home; people who want control and transparency with their personal data; in short, makers, coders, open source advocates, and the growing numbers of people who are informing themselves as IoT and smart devices transform our lives.
Where is MyOctopus located and how many people work there?
We are located in Dublin, but we live in three different counties! A Dubliner by birth, I’m based in Galway and Larry and Sylwester are based in Dublin. We pull together meetings whenever I am in Dublin, but most of our work happens online.
There are three co-founders, but we do have a lot of volunteers helping us out with code and some design. We work virtually – Slack is our virtual office, and we use online tools such as Trello, Google Drive and Hangouts, Dropbox, Canva, CircuitHub, and GitHub to co-ordinate everything. These online spaces let people from all over the world help us out – thanks to all you volunteers!
— My Octopus (@MyOctopus_io) April 13, 2016
How are you funded today?
MyOctopus is bootstrapping at the moment; we are devoting all of our free time and spare resources to build MyOctopus, like all crazy entrepreneurs do! We are in seed round talks, and have are just finishing up an IoT Accelerator with DCU Ryan Academy and Startup ScaleupEU. We have just started to sell our open-source hardware components on Tindie to share our open source platform with the open source maker community.
Working in a distributed team can be tough, how does it work?
We have a strong team with MyOctopus – I like to think we function like the ancient game ‘ Paper – Rock – Scissors’. When one of us is flagging, another team member picks it up,or pulls it back together.
What’s the biggest challenge your startup faces today?
Our biggest challenge today is really that there are not enough hours in the day! We have so much to do! We would love to have more people involved – all contributions are welcome! We are especially looking for input into the areas of electronics, web design and community interaction. We are creating our online open source community.
What has been your progress to date commercially?
We have had approaches from businesses & potential partners through the WebSummit, Dublin Beta, the New Frontiers Iot Summit and other events we have attended. Everyone seems to be interested in MyOctopus. We get a lot of interest and approaches online also.
Who helped you along the way any notable people, mentors?
Oh there are too many to name them all! Through Ryan Academy, I have met 3 women who particularly inspire me: Siobhann at Mint-Tek, Siofra Flood and Diedre Smith. Turlough Rafferty at GMIT Innovation Hubs has been really helpful and supportive to me also.
What’s your background and what brought you to a life in startups?
My background is Archaeology; Landscape Archaeology to be more specific! I have always been interested in open-source, Linux, and personal data freedom. Over the past few years,as my children have become teenagers, I have been converting into the IT sector (currently I am studying a hDip in Software Dev at GMIT).
How did you get involved in MyOctopus?
Early last summer Sylwi mentioned to me that he was working on this device – I found it fascinating, and I think I plagued him with questions about it! He asked me to test the Slack channel and join in the conversation. I found myself drawn in more and more; MyOctopus dovetails a lot of my interests.
So what’s next for MyOctopus?
Every day, we build, build, build, step back, review, and then build some more! We are working to get our open source community up and active; we are also exploring a few accelerator options. Later in the year we will launch our crowdfunding campaign, and we intend to have our open source SDK ready before September. We will have MyOctopus devices for all those people waiting by then too.