Learn. Build. Launch.
BHI Q&A with Leverege, LLC. Co-Founder & CEO, Eric Conn
Company: Leverege, LLC.
Location: Germantown Innovation Center
Founded: July 2014
Overview: Leverege is an Internet of Things (IoT) software company with a suite of cloud-based products that simplify and accelerate any IoT project.
Goal: Leverege aims to become the #1 destination for all things IoT. Learn. Build. Launch.
Pipeline: Currently working with numerous commercial companies in a number of verticals launching IoT projects for asset tracking, remote monitoring and control, energy management, security, and defense applications. Partner ecosystem is growing nicely and recently became technology partners of Google and AT&T. Anticipate increasing monthly recurring revenue associated with licensing of the cloud-based platform and sales of the accelerated IoT deployment package called Jumpstart.
Funding: A bootstrapped company that has been financed by the founders since inception. Revenues are increasing each month with a projection to be cash-flow positive by the end of 2017. Anticipate raising a Series A in Q1 2018 from a combination of traditional VCs and strategic investors to expand operations, invest in new products, and accelerate growth.
Recent Recognition: Winner of the 2017 Maryland Incubator Company of the Year Award for Best Software Company.
Q&A with Eric Conn, Co-Founder & CEO, Leverege
- First off, congrats on winning the 2017 Maryland Incubator Company of the Year Award for Best Software Company. Can you tell us what this means to you and your team?
Thank you! We are honored to have been selected for the award and really appreciate the recognition from our peers in Maryland’s startup ecosystem. The support we have received from the State, particularly Montgomery County through the Germantown Innovation Center, has helped us immensely and significantly reduced some of the normal financial burdens associated with launching a startup.
- Please share the backstory of Leverege.
Leverege was conceived and started by me and my close friend Steve Lee in the summer of 2014. Steve and I are both software engineers and have worked with each other for over 20 years in previous companies. We had always talked about starting a business together and finally, the time was right. I was wrapping up things with my prior startup Gloto and he was ready to move on from a long career at Raytheon Solipsys, a company I had helped start in the mid-nineties after leaving the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It was just the two of us for the first 6 months so we rented a couple of desks in a friend’s incubator in the Reston Town Center and started crafting our business strategy.
- Why attracted you to the Germantown Innovation Center?
There were several reasons we chose the Germantown Innovation Center. The first was the proximity to each of our homes. I live in western Howard County and Steve lives in Alexandria Virginia so Germantown was approximately in the middle – although I have to admit my commute is much better than Steve’s since he has to cross the American Legion Bridge every day. The second reason was the amenities and support staff. The offices are very modern and the support staff is so friendly and helpful. The building also has excellent infrastructure such as high-speed internet and a computer room for our rack of servers – not to mention the high-tech coffee machine which is pretty vital to our productivity. The third reason was the very reasonable and flexible lease agreement. Expensive, long-term leases for traditional office space don’t’ really make sense for a startup trying to find its way and the per office/per month pricing that the GIC offered us really helped.
- How do you feel about the present startup environment for technology and life sciences companies in Maryland?
I think Maryland has done a great job in supporting early stage startups. There are many high-quality incubators such as the GIC and bwtech@UMBC (where we also have an office) and numerous resources are available if you need them. From a financial angle, there are grants and numerous early stage funding options through TEDCO, Anne Arundel County’s VOLT program, Baltimore County’s BOOST loan program, and the Maryland Venture Fund. Ultimately though it all comes down to making your own breaks and working incredibly hard on your business. There is so much competition out there and you really need to be on top of your game at all times.
- Where do you see your technology having the biggest impact?
The Internet of Things is all about bringing the physical and digital worlds closer together and improving people’s lives through remote sensing, data analytics, and automation. However, implementing an IoT project can be a daunting undertaking since it involves knowledge of sensors, wireless communications, cloud computing, and user interface design. We’re striving to remove some of the complexity from the equation by developing software products that make launching an IoT initiative much simpler, less expensive, and faster.
- What were the main challenges you faced when starting Leverege?
As a serial entrepreneur, I know how hard starting and growing a business can be. No matter how many times I do it, it never really gets easier. Funding is always a challenge and is something that keeps you awake at night no matter how large or small your company is. Knowledge of your market is also very important and finding the right product/market fit before you grow is paramount. Finally something I really stress is corporate culture. Hiring the right people who share your ideals and vision is the ultimate competitive advantage. Too many companies fail because they don’t pay attention to the most important ingredient in any company, the people.
- What makes Leverege different from other IoT companies in the same market space?
We differentiate ourselves from our competition in several ways. We run one of the most popular online educational sites about IoT called “IoT For All.” On iot-for-all.com, we post high-quality, unbiased content on a daily basis about technology trends in IoT as well as detailed explanations of key concepts. Our audience is growing rapidly and that site has helped establish Leverege as a thought leader in the industry and also provides an excellent channel for inbound sales leads. On the technology side, we employ high-fidelity simulation and easy-to-use self-serve tools to build IoT projects with higher quality in less time at a lower cost. Our team and corporate culture is also pretty incredible so our customer service is outstanding. We regularly have large customers and partners such as Cox Communications and Google tell us how impressed they are with our people, technology, and processes.
- What are the near-term milestones for Leverege? When should we next expect to hear about the company?
We’re laser-focused on execution across the board right now. We want to grow our IoT For All publication to 1M page views per month in 2017 and begin monetizing the site by the end of the summer. Our product roadmap is fairly aggressive and we hope to launch a full suite of our self-serve tools to select system integrator partners in Q3. From a revenue perspective, we are onboard several new customers right now and anticipate being cash-flow positive with 15 employees by the end of the year. We are also gathering all of the required diligence materials for our Series A raise in Q1 2018. It’s a very exciting time.
- What specific advice would you offer to a first-time entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur is certainly not easy but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. However, it is not for everyone. The collection of skills required to build a successful business is ever changing and the ride is never smooth. You must be prepared to work harder than you ever have, usually with less pay and certainly with less job security, and nothing will be given to you. That being said, the rewards of success are unmatched on a personal level. Just like with everything in life, the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.