“Follow your passion and success will follow,” seems like good, sound, positive advice but research shows few actually choose that path and stay on it for the long haul. One reason may be that this passion can lead to significant challenges that test a person’s resolve and limitations.
As someone who has been passionate about how technology can improve our lives since the age of 11–when I got my first computer and began programming–I can attest to this. While passion is essential, there is an equal need for mental toughness and the ability to stay focused, even if things aren’t working out perfectly. Airtame, the company I co-founded, is a great example.
The concept of the company was first conceived of during my university studies at the Technical University of Denmark. It was more a hobby, with the initial idea focused on wirelessly streaming computer games from my big desktop gaming computer to a small laptop. I worked on it for a couple of years, got serious about it and created a proof of concept that my co-founding partner and I eventually realized was too niche and probably not sustainable as a business.
So, we thought about how this concept could be applied to help solve real-world problems. That’s when we had the idea for replacing TV display cables (HDMI and VGA) with wireless technology to improve the screen sharing experience. We wanted it to be simple and easy to use across all platforms.
In 2013, we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Within the span of 12 days, the campaign received full funding—12,000 contributions from more than 80 countries. At the time, it was considered Europe’s largest Indiegogo campaign, raising a total of $1.26 million within 60 days, and the third most backed project of all time on the crowd sourcing platform. Once over the funding hurdle, however, we had to deliver on our promise.
Presenting our technology that year at CES for the first time, we not only won Best Start-up Award from Engadget but also had orders for 18,000 devices from customers in 86 countries. But all we had was a small proof-of-concept source code running on a Raspberry Pi. (This is usually the time when “following your passion” starts to sound more like a fairytale, unless you truly believe in what you are creating—which we did.) Like many start-ups, we had our struggles with not only delivering on our promise and fulfilling the orders but also getting our technology where we envisioned it. These challenges, however, served to push us beyond perceived limitation to where we are today: more than one hundred employees around the world and four thousand Airtame devices sold to businesses and educational organizations.
Looking back, Airtame was ahead of its time with a goal to offer the best experience for screen sharing. The long-term vision for the progression of the company was divided into three stages The first being wireless screen sharing because it solves a real pain point in meeting rooms and classrooms. The next was a digital signage solution that took screens that were not actively being shared in a constructive way to a new level, enabling them to be utilized to communicate and inform people within organizations with relevant content, whether as dashboards or a lunch menu or calendar, or whatever people thought could be useful.
The third stage was bridging the gap between local and remote participants in a meeting. This is accomplished with new hardware and a unique approach to conferencing that leans on software as a service to simplify. Of course–while we imagined the day where joining a conference call from a meeting room would be as easy and reliable as turning on the light switch–no one was thinking about the possibility that millions of employees and students would one day be working and learning from home. But when the pandemic began, we were well positioned because we had been working on a solution that could get remote participants together without the need for hardware to connect them.
By recognizing the need to accelerate our research and development, we can launch–at the right time–our newest product, that ensures stable and secure hybrid conference calls while also enabling wireless presentations from any device, digital signage for all screens and all-in-one cloud management. That’s not to say it was an easy path but we believed developing transparent relationships with our customers, taking their feedback to heart and making improvements and providing top-notch customer support would make the biggest impact to the industry long-term. That means listening to everyone, including—and maybe most importantly—customers experiencing problems.
This has been invaluable in the development and evolution of the product and scaling of the business. So, too, has our ability to hire from a large talent pool. Very early on, Airtame saw the advantage of a remote-first model, which allowed us to attract talent from anywhere in the world. While it brought some changes and challenges for our workflow, it was tremendously beneficial, especially during the pandemic. We were well into learning and understanding how people best work and communicate together, as well as how to track progress. We also focused a lot on our hiring, making sure that people were not only a fit from a skills perspective, but also a fit with our corporate culture. It’s one of the main reasons we have such a high-level, rigorous QA process in place. Everyone is focused on the highest standards and quality experience. And I would venture to guess that most everyone is following their passion.
By now, many people are beginning to see the silver lining brought about by the disruptive force of a pandemic, rethinking priorities and career paths and cutting the cords and perceived limitations that no longer serve them. Especially when considering the shift to work from home, or anywhere, there may be no better opportunity to follow one’s passion, and in doing so find personal success.
Written by Attila Sükösd.
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