2016 CTO of the Year – Davra Networks
Davra Networks is an award winning Global IOT Software AEP Platform with Offices in USA, Europe, and the Middle East. They provide a complete SAAS based IoT Software platform that allows their customers to define, build and bring to market IoT applications in verticals such as Transportation, Connected Vehicle, Manufacturing, Utilities, Healthcare and Precision Farming.
As the technical founder, Joe Quinn took on the role of CTO in 2009, and he has provided reflection on how both he and his role has naturally evolved in line with the company’s growth. This takes him back to before Davra’s inception in 2010.
“After getting my Computer Engineering degree at the University of Limerick, I joined Crannog Software as a software engineer, a start-up in the Network Management space that were really flying; I learned a lot about the industry with them.
“I then got a taste for the multi-national company culture when Fluke networks came in and acquired Crannog. I started researching an emerging technology trend of fog computing in the summer of 2008 with my then-colleague, now co-founder Brian McGlynn. It was a technology area that looked like it had untapped potential.”
“I was accepted into a start-up incubator programme in 2009 with a proposal to build a product leveraging fog computing. Davra Networks was officially founded a year later. We got our seed funding in January 2011, and since then the core objective has been about growing the business steadily. We now have Offices in three continents, and are market leaders in the ‘Internet of Things’.
“Today, I am responsible for managing the innovation process, project delivery and aligning technical and commercial strategy.”
In the time that Joe has been CTO of Davra, he has faced a number of challenges, but having overcome them, has emerged with a clear understanding of his place within a very precisely-targeted industry.
“The hardest lesson I learnt with Davra was to move away from just focussing on the technology. In the early days of Davra, before we even started talking to customers, I wanted to have the perfect product. I put about 2 years work into it and it was perfect at what it was built for but what I found when we started talking to customers is that it didn’t quite fit.
“To me, innovation was all about technology, whereas now I see business model innovation as being a crucial part. You can have the best technology in the world, but without a valid business model, it will invariably fail.
“Because of that, a big part of my job now is finding ways to conduct experiments that will validate a business model before we go through the effort of building something. It can be an interesting challenge in an emerging marketplace as there may not be as much market data to analyse so we need to look to enact the market, to perform experiments that create useful data which can then be analysed. That is probably the greatest shift in how I approach things.”
This does not diminish the fact that it is very important to stay abreast with technological advancements, as Joe readily admits.
“In IoT, there are so many adjacent markets converging with Cloud, Business Intelligence, Big Data, Analytics, sensor protocols, IAAS, et cetera. You have to spot emerging trends to help guide the medium to long term roadmap of your product.
“You can’t get too distracted by technology trends however, it can be like running after the next shiny thing that comes by. It’s important to understand what’s real and what’s not. Understanding what’s going on with technology trends can also help you understand where is ripe for disruption but also where your disruptors could be coming from and how to protect against that.”
One of the greatest assets that Joe has at his disposal is his staff. He prides himself on having a world-class engineering team to help understand the trends in technology and how best to apply them to conducting business.
“First and foremost, I trust them – I trust that for any given task they will do the best they can with the information that they have.
“Another thing that makes it easier is that in the emerging industry of IoT, Davra are selling real solutions across many verticals utilising cutting edge technology, in a company that is rapidly expanding. For example, we have a solution in healthcare that genuinely saves lives. In manufacturing we can monitor the safety of the workers, while also maximising the productivity and quality of the parts produced, plus many more solutions like this that our team can really relate to. The work here is extremely interesting for an engineer.
“I don’t really have to do much to light a fire in the engineers, rather it’s a case of guiding things and in some cases trying to hold them back! The culture for innovation needs to be nurtured; employees should not only feel that it is acceptable to innovate, but that it is expected of them. I try to encourage innovation in the Company to the point where people are expected to try new things. Experiments, even failed ones are all seen as something we can learn from. Of course at the end of the day, what we do deliver must be delivered with quality and be valuable, so keeping everybody focused on the Customer is key. It’s a fine balance between exploitative and explorative innovation.”
While Joe maintains his present focus on ensuring that customer service takes pride of place over unbridled innovation, his future ambitions demonstrate the potential for transcendence into the ever-digital frontier.
“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Davra, the world’s largest provider of sensor data will own no sensors. I believe Davra will become the de facto customer interface for IoT data. I would love to be right where I am when that happens.”
Company: Davra Networks Ltd
Web Address: www.davranetworks.com