Intelligent objects: Technological dream or real-life 21st century trend? Frédéric Bastien is his company, Mnubo, are betting on the latter and jumping head-first into the Internet of Things and data processing. Here’s a look at an entrepreneur combining innovation and growth.
One of the biggest developments in recent times has been the connection of a range of objects, machines and equipment to the Internet to make them smarter and improve our everyday lives. The Internet of Things (IoT) is already knocking on our door, and many Quebec firms like Mnubo are positioning themselves in this promising market.
Discover also : The Internet of Things: Connected in Quebec
The Internet of Things and Quebec innovation
After completing his studies at the École Polytechnique de Montréal, Frédéric Bastien worked on 3G and 4G networks in the U.S., Europe and Japan as a telecommunications engineer. International experience developed his ability to adapt to new situations and allowed him to discover other business cultures. After a notable stint at Nortel, he put together his first start-up, Blueslice Network, which managed mobile databases for connecting trucks and hydroelectric meters.
Frédéric immediately grasped that UMTS (3G) and LTE (4G) networks offered major business opportunities, especially given that by 2011, two pioneering products had already been launched: the intelligent thermostat Nest, acquired by Google for more than $3 billion, and the FitBit exercise tracking bracelet. Realizing the potential of these connected objects, the Quebec entrepreneur decided to get in on the game and take advantage of the IoT himself. He co-founded Mnubo (“M” stands for “machine” and “nubo” is Esperanto for “cloud”) along with three other people in 2012.
The company collects, analyzes and transforms data using the latest advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence. The service platform transforms raw data into indicators and predictions for its business clients, who are makers of intelligent products ranging from home thermostats to ventilation, heating and air conditioning equipment, as well as connected watches and agricultural irrigation systems.
Success came quickly and growth was exponential. Mnubo conducted its first major hiring initiative and landed its first U.S. contract. The Montreal company exceeded its growth targets with 4G-like speed. Bastien viewed the management of these initial successes as his first challenge as an entrepreneur. “Along with my co-founders, we managed our human resources, finances and business development, which were areas we really didn't have any expertise in. We needed to quickly build a team.”
« A good entrepreneur needs to surround himself with people that are better and smarter than he is. As the company’s director, my first problem was how, and who, to hire. »
Mnubo was self-sustaining on its own profits for three years before completing its first round of financing in April of 2015 to the tune of $6 million. Since then, the company raised an additional $16.5 million in series B financing in 2018, in addition to opening an office in Tokyo.
So what are Frédéric Bastien’s secrets to finding financing? “You have to do your homework. Know your contacts, understand their objectives and needs and what they want. It’s all in the preparation. You need to present your vision for the next three years in a way that’s as exciting as possible. The following nine months need to be dissected in detail—there’s no room for approximation.”
Protecting your formula
Evolving in a very competitive niche, Mnubo needs to be highly competitive and innovative. The company is benefiting from its head start in the sector, having won the IoT Analytics Breakthrough Award for the second consecutive year, while Bastien himself was named “New Performer” by the World Executive Forum for his unwavering support for Quebec innovation.
Nevertheless, the company has kept its intellectual property secret by deciding not to file a patent, a strategy defended by Bastien. “The problem with patents in software and algorithm development is that they are very hard to defend. Once the technology is patented, it's public, and we would risk being copied by players a thousand times bigger than we are. At that point any recourse is often very difficult when you’re faced with armies of lawyers.”
His position on the issue can be better understood with context provided by research firm Gartner, which estimates that more than 25 million objects will be connected to the Internet worldwide by 2020. This is a huge trend that has appeared on the horizon, one that offers a wide range of business opportunities.
Evolving in a highly competitive niche, mnubo needed to be very competitive and innovative. The company benefited from getting a head start, but it kept its intellectual property secret by deciding not to file a patent, a strategy defended by Frédéric. “The problem with patents in software and algorithm development is that they are very difficult to defend. Once the technology is patented, it's public, and we would risk being copied by players a thousand times bigger than we were. At that point any recourse is often very difficult when you’re faced with armies of lawyers.”
mnubo in numbers
4: Number of co-founders
60: Number of Mnubo employees
10: Number of countries in which the company is present
150: Number of products supported by its platform
200%: Growth in revenue for the 2018 fiscal year
Want to learn more?
Visit mnubo's website