Digital Keys – inside the innovative world of Klevio
4 March 2019
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and why Klevio was founded?
Klevio was founded through a meeting with my co-founder Demetrios Zoppos. Demetrios had created a keyless entry system called Sherlock back in 2013, and we started talking when he was preparing to exit his previous company, onefinestay – which had just been acquired by AccorHotels. He bought the intellectual property rights for Sherlock, since it had never been commercialised during his time there.
I, on the other hand, was pushing forward with one of my previous startups, CubeSensors. With the development team that I had built, my knowledge of the internet of things (IoT), Demetrios’ I.P. and knowledge of the short term letting space, it quickly became apparent that the two of us should work together. That drive turned into our current project, Klevio.
Prior to CubeSensors, I co-founded two other international startups – DeckReport and Zemanta. Demetrios and I worked well together as he too comes to Klevio with a rich background in startups, having co-founded GF-X and founded GradFutures prior to his time at onefinestay.
What are your grand ambitions for Klevio?
After launching commercially earlier this year, we’ve had some time to see what the uptake is for Klevio, and not surprisingly – our findings have been that Klevio is a success with Property Managers. In the short term, our ambition is to grow the company by building further partnerships in the property management space for short and long-term lets, and in commercial buildings. For large property management firms Klevio can make a big impact, allowing them to save time and money by not having to transport Keys around London.
A little further forward, we’re looking to launch Klevio to the wider UK market – our trials and launch in London have allowed us to take stock of the market and people’s needs – so we’re full speed ahead now. But bigger than that, the key has been around for 4000 years without actually changing much at all – my ambition for Klevio is to make it the standard. These days people don’t talk about getting a taxi, they talk about getting an Uber. They don’t watch TV, they watch Netflix or Prime. There is a rapidly growing number of people that don’t carry bank cards, as their phones will do it for them – so why can’t we add keys to the list of things the next generation won’t remember?
What makes you stand out from your competitors in your sector?
Klevio is the only offering that adds smart-lock functionality to both the front door AND the communal doors in an apartment building without rewiring the whole block.
This won’t change either as we have the patent for this in both Europe and America.
We have a host of other clever additions, like being able to share digital-keys with guests, be they friends coming round, AirBnB guests, or contractors needing access. This can also be limited by time and geolocation for instance. But in a world where living conditions are getting smaller, taller (larger and larger buildings) and cities are getting wider – to be able to run a smart-lock on one’s front door is pointless, if you can’t have the same functionality on a communal door. At Klevio we have fixed that – and I think that that is what really separates us from the others.
What is your view of the Tech ecosystem, especially in London?
London, even in a time of uncertainty, is still leading the way for tech startups in Europe. Within walking distance of the Klevio office for instance, we have FinTech global leaders like Monzo, Curve, Revolut and Starling Bank. It is widely regarded that London is leading the way in the world of property technology (PropTech) too, and for us that is a really good sign. This is a market that we are part of – but it is not our complete segment.
At Klevio, we are as much a lifestyle product as we are a tech solution for property management firms and hospitality providers. But, it is good to be a part of several areas where London leads the way. I think that London has some of the best events in the technology world, the startup scene is booming, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. Great talent here has led to better investment opportunities, which has in turn, led to more unicorns coming from the capital, which then attracts more great talent, and so on. I am as excited being here in London and its tech ecosystem now as I was just over two years ago when we set out on the Klevio journey.
What are some of the most exciting innovations you have come across your sector?
The most exciting thing I’ve seen is that there is so much commercial interest. It’s obvious to us that there’s a real need when large property owners are contacting us about our products. The feedback from the industry has been a big reason and a result of what we’ve built. We’re really proud to be able to serve and solve a need in a way that hasn’t been done well in the past.
What are the biggest challenges that tech start-ups and early stage businesses should prepare themselves for post Brexit?
I think the biggest challenges are yet to be realized. Like everyone else in Britain right now, it’s more of a waiting game for us. Britain, and more specifically London, have a great ecosystem of talent and experience. We’ll see if the access to talent or capital will have a major effect on the ability of startups to serve their customers post brexit. I’m hopeful, but I still need to plan contingencies.
How easy/difficult is it to raise finance in London in 2019?
As the London tech ecosystem has grown over the past decade, so too has the amount of capital and access to it. There is not a shortage of funding in London, in fact there’s more capital flowing in the startup ecosystem than ever before. But the problem of ease of funding will always come down to the same thing – is your idea or startup good enough. As Co-Founders, we have built multiple companies and have successes under our belts, which for an investor, would make us a safer or clearer investment that an untested entrepreneur. But ultimately great ideas, a solid team and a clear market opportunity are always the key decision criteria for an investor. You may have to knock on a fair few doors, but whether it’s easy or difficult will vary from idea to idea.
What advice/lessons learned would you give to new startups in London?
Pilot first, launch later. Before launching Klevio ‘One’, we ran a pilot with a thousand users – we spent months gathering information from the data they produced and actually talking to them. No quick questionnaire can match real use time over weeks and months with real people.
As with many things, that depends – I can only speak from my experience as a founder of a smart-home hardware company. You will see some people that advise to launch fast, things can be patched and reworked. For home security products and hardware devices – you only get one chance to get things right.
As a startup you have to build strong products – word of mouth and social media can be your best friend and your worst enemy. If your early users become your brand ambassadors, you will likely go far. Take care of them.
How do you see the Tech landscape developing over the next 5 years?
I think you’ll see consolidation. Like any maturing market, you’ll see the smaller companies becoming part of the market leaders or dying off. You can already start to see it in the London FinTech scene, where a few of the challenger banks are really emerging as market leaders. As they continue to build protections from smaller competitors, they’ll start innovating from a place of strength. I think IoT solutions will see a similar arch. As adoption in the commercial space becomes common, the individual user will start expecting that tech to be embedded in more places.