Earlier this year, Erik Hallberg was elected new Chairman of the Board. Erik has an extensive experience from leadership positions in the IT and Telecom sector, as well as being Chairman of the Board at several global companies within telecom, IoT and tech. We sat down with Erik to learn more about his background and new role at iotcomms.io.
Erik Hallberg, Chairman of the Board at iotcomms.io
Erik, tell us a bit about yourself
I’ve had the privilege of working with technology my whole life – technology that affects people, behaviours, and societies. From the first microprocessors in the late 70s, the introduction of Unix as an operating system in the early 80s, bringing in database technology from the US to the Nordics, to incorporating this technology in commercial solutions and build companies around it.
One of my early career highlights among others was being the CEO of Diners Club Sweden for 5 years and participating in the launch of SAS Eurobonus, a fantastic customer loyalty project. In 1995 I started working in the telecom industry, in a project that among other experiences led to the founding of Glocalnet, which in turn led me to being contacted by Telia and joining Telia 1999.
I stayed at Telia for 17 years and worked with new businesses, growth strategies, and new technologies. I started as the Vice President of Telia Mobile Sweden followed by numerous executive positions in Sweden, Finland, The Baltics, Spain, followed by Telia International Carrier, and finally Eurasia as EVP. I’ve had the opportunity to serve in direct line executive roles as well board member/chairman in different entities within in the Group. My very last assignment was to establish Telia’s innovation group called Division X.
Today I work full-time with board assignments and investments.
Throughout my career, I’ve been working with innovations and technology adoption. I have seen how technology can create opportunities and change behaviours. How access to mobile technology and Internet have opened for people around the world to acquire knowledge. And how that access to information makes people aware of their own, sometimes less fortunate, circumstances, bringing to light huge societal issues that must be addressed.
What do you see as the role of the board?
The role of the board is to make sure that the company has a structure with people, capital, development, and go-to-market strategies with the potential to increase the company’s value through different stages. Adding value may sound capitalistic, but it is important to all of us. Coming to work and feeling happy is also a value, one of the most important. That said, it’s important to remember that there is only one kind of money in a company, and that is the customer’s money. The customer focus should always be present, also in the board.
Sometimes being on the board means making demands and necessary changes. The interactions between the customers, board, owners, and the management are the fun part! To work towards a common vision and to be an enabler for bringing that vision to life.
Why did you get involved in iotcomms.io?
I have chosen to engage in companies evolved around technology that can change, create, or recreate behaviours and that have a potential of positively affecting the environment. For companies like iotcomms.io, there is a genuine part that has to do with using technology to create new opportunities, either by combining old and new technologies, or by creating new solutions for a sustainable future.
Another important aspect is the founders’ technical and commercial competence and drive to create business. I’ve been following their previous work in the telecom market, from starting new businesses to growing large-scale companies. I was pleased to be elected the chairman of the board by the owners and investors.
In what way will your expertise contribute?
I believe that if you have been involved in developing large and small companies for 40 years, you bring many experiences and learnings. Hopefully I can contribute with my experience of working with tech and growth and finding the customer benefit. If there isn’t a well-defined customer benefit, it doesn’t matter how good your product is. I have seen many projects fail due to this.
I want to act as a sounding board for everything from finding the right audience, to know who to talk to, to conveying the right message.
What customer problems can our platform help solve?
Digitalization is about altering existing processes and make them more efficient with modern tools. That doesn’t mean you can throw away everything you already have. Quite the opposite, your current solution needs to be effectively integrated into the digital end. With iotcomms.io, companies can effectively manage this.
iotcomms.io can be used by security and alarm companies, care and wellness providers, telecom companies or any other company that want critical real-time alarm, voice, or video functionalities.
A common problem for companies like iotcomms.io is that the buying part doesn’t always understand what the new technology can do. Requirements are based on the customer’s existing solution. It will be important that we guide our customers, so that they take advantage of the innovative capabilities of the platform.
What is unique about iotcomms.io?Many things, but what first comes to mind is the technology leadership and all the experienced employees working in the company. The cloud native platform supports multiple industries and use case and now it is up to us to accelerate. Being a subset in large solutions is a great potential for us. Having the knowledge to connect an analogue world with a digital world is just one example of product uniqueness.
What is the next important step for iotcomms.io?
What you have done so far is to establish a proven platform with European customers. The absolute hardest part is finding the first few cases and getting the customers to start scaling. In the production stage everything is put to the test – scalability, redundancy, functionality. Without credibility, we will never succeed over time.
We have entered the scale-up phase. The focus now is our go-to-market strategy and scale up in volume and markets. The platform is built for unlimited scalability.
We focus on domain specific and flexible communication APIs and want to create a financial model for each customer type. Unified Communication (UC) providers for example are usually more complex and take a long time, but the uptake can be huge. Companies that want a quick solution to solve a specific problem is very different. We need to define the growth curve for each customer type and understand the unique characteristics of the companies we want to target. We also need to think about how the company should be staffed from a growth perspective.
We will look for similar companies to those we help today, but also others that would benefit from using our technology. Take the UC area again, today we deliver to Telness Tech who develops a super-modern UC solution, but there are so many global telecom giants that are extremely old-fashioned, and risk being overtaken by competitors. We can help them modernize their legacy.
Are there any technology trends that you find particularly interesting right now?
We talk a lot about IoT and for me there is a big difference between “massive IoT” and “critical IoT” where for example deviations from data stream patterns will trigger certain actions. The interesting part of IoT are the actual processes built around IoT solutions. Let me take an example how iotcomms.io can be part of an IoT process: You have a sensor that measures humidity at a site and data is sent to your platform daily. If there is a change in humidity level your platform will send a notification to iotcomms.io to setup a live video stream from your site to monitor what’s going on. If the humidity level rises even more, it might be necessary to trigger an alarm so required actions can be taken, for example sending staff to the site. We have only seen the beginning of critical IoT implementations, but it’s certainly a trend.
Apart from IoT I think energy optimization and distribution will be the most important area in the coming years. Or maybe for all eternity. I sit on the board at a company called Ferroamp, that uses and optimizes energy from solar cells for properties. I also work for a Finnish IoT company that focus on energy optimization of large offices and localization of medical equipment in hospitals. And now also iotcomms.io. It’s fair to say I have a quite good understanding of what these two technology trends mean for our society.
Where do you see iotcomms.io five years from now?
I believe iotcomms.io has the prerequisites to become an extremely successful company, but I don’t want to get stuck in numbers. The numbers will come, but it must come from us choosing what we want to do for our customers, having the right skills, delivering the right things, and making it work so that customers start spreading the word about us. Gaining customers’ trust is essential, we want our customers to say “I trust iotcomms.io and can recommend them. It is a company that has competence!”
If we focus on our core functionality and let other companies build tailored solutions using our APIs, I believe that we have the potential to become a successful global player. New development and service areas will develop as we go along. Look at Salesforce, they have their core platform, but what made them successful are the many development companies that have embedded their core in tailored customer flows. I see similar potential for iotcomms.io.
It is exciting to get to know you all. Seeing people develop is what fills me with joy!
Erik Hallberg with the founders of iotcomms.io Gunnar Reinholdsen & Jörgen Björkner.
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