Together with E.D.&A., Daikin, 24/7 TailorSteel, Van Hoecke NV and Newtec, Agoria and Sirris spent a full week in Silicon Valley to get a feel on the region's advancements in digitization & manufacturing. Recent evolutions in data generation as well as machine learning - also called Artificial Intelligence for Manufacturing - will transform the manufacturing world radically, enabling Factories of the Future to move to ever more personalized and fully connected manufacturing. These are our learnings from an extremely inspiring Friday afternoon talk with Roel Peeters, CEO of Roost Labs.

Who is Roel Peeters?

After graduating as an electrical engineer at the KU Leuven back in 1996, Roel worked for about 8 years as a Sales & Product manager at the KU Leuven spin-off company ICON Vision Systems (now : KLA Tencor) and Inquira ( nowadays Oracle).

In 2005, Roel co-invented the low-power Wi-Fi Personal Area Networks (PAN) and founded Ozmo, which would become the industry leader in low-power Wi-Fi. Seven years later he sold the company to ATMEL Corporation.

"Selling my first company, there were more Bank of America lawyers around the table than we had people in our company"
Roel Peeters, Founder & CEO Roost Labs

As Roel's continuous drive is about building sustainable businesses along the lines of "get to revenue, get to profit, and good things will happen", in 2014 he founded Roost Labs with the idea of finding something unique around a smart home. To date the company raised 1M seed capital, 5.5M series-A capital as well as 10.5M series-B capital.  

All my business models have been built around PEACE OF MIND and SCALABILITY" 
Roel Peeters, Founder & CEO Roost Labs

All Roost products are extremely easy to install and to use, and use Wi-Fi to make people's home even safer. Whether it's fire, carbon monoxide, natural gas or water damage, Roost makes it easier and more convenient than ever to keep someone's family and home safe. 

Their simple, do-it-yourself, connected solutions are affordable and take just minutes to install, without having to install unnecessary control panels, or bulky hubs to hide.

Roel started by selling the Roost products through the retail channels, but quickly found out that 'retail sucks if you don't have an established brand'. In the mean time he learned that 42bn US$ worth of claims are issued in the US every year, of which 10bn US$ fire claims and 10bn US$ water claims. He decided to make those two claim types his market.

As a result, he came up with the idea to approach insurance companies instead of selling directly. These companies were already for years trying to more directly connect to the end user (in stead of through insurance agents), and Roel found out that they were willing to buy the Roost devices and give them away for free. In return they only ask the contact details of the people that got one or more devices, as it enables enables the insurance company to execute a digitized customer engagement process ("let me take care of your home"). Besides they could start monetizing a new type of data brokerage between the consumer and other companies.

It's all about sales, even if you're an engineer" 
Roel Peeters, Founder & CEO Roost Labs

The company should be cash flow positive by the end of 2018.Selling nowadays for Roel mainly goes through giving keynotes at insurance conferences all over the world.

Twenty investors (4 strategic investors, 3 VC's and 13 angel investors) hold the company's capital, all under the assumption of "we're in this together for a ride of 5 to 10 years". Roel commented that this timeframe nowadays is even expanding in Silicon Valley.

VC capital brings you CREDIBILITY and it KEEPS YOURSELF HONEST; that's why I've never considered putting a lot of my own money into the company" 
Roel Peeters, Founder & CEO Roost Labs

According to Roel, a startup/scaleup) CEO should focus on 5 things:

  1. Never run out of money

  2. Never run out of money (again)

  3. Never run out of money (again 😉 )

  4. Recruit the right people, let them run the operations

  5. Sell

Earlier this year, Roel was able to score another big deal with a large US insurance company. Way to go, Roel and all the best over there in Silicon Valley !

Did you miss our first blog on The Silicon Valley culture? No problem, you can still read it here.