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Global Entrepreneurship Week- Celebrating Think Big's Entrepreneurs
To celebrate Global Entreprenership Week , 16-22 November, we caught up with Joachim Horn, leader of SAM Labs.
SAM is the world’s most engaging Internet of Things toolset that lets you become the inventor – and it’s founder and CEO Joachim Horn is only 24 years old!
Funded through Think Big level 1 and 2, SAM Labs has transformed the complicated process of creating smart devices by empowering anyone to become an instant innovator.
A mechanical engineering graduate and co-founder of the Imperial College Design Collective, Joachim fused his passion for design and tech to develop SAM Labs.
What started as a University project is now a fully-fledged company, employing over 20 people.
I’m not an entrepreneur, I just like to get involved in a lot of interesting projects and work a lot.
What would you say helped you get SAM Labs to where it is today?
I used to cook for my brother a lot, and my brother would often comment that cooking was easy. He always said “all you need is the right ingredients.” Well I told him that technology should be the same. So I realised that having the right ingredients is the key to inventing. It turns out he (Samuel) was a great inspiration.
We initially struggled to get SAM Labs going, but I knew it was a great idea. We were lucky to find funding from Think Big to develop our first prototypes, but this also showed us that others believed in the idea too – it gave us the confidence to carry on.
I remember getting in the programme and being invited to present my product at the Think Big Hub in London. The team loved it and we received two grants of £300 and £2500 to develop the prototypes further.
The zero-equity Microsoft Ventures Accelerator was and continues to be a great supporter of ours. We joined them shortly after we launched our Kickstarter campaign in 2014. We raised £125,000 in 30 days thanks to the support of over 800 awesome backers who believed in our vision. We’re thankful to anyone who has supported us.
So, to answer your question, it’s a combination of a great idea, determination and belief, and a little help from others.
Were you always going to make it, or did you have a time when you struggled to get it off the ground?
After graduating from university I found there were not many people available to dedicate their full time to developing the product. Many that were initially helping with SAM Labs were still studying. Yet, we were determined to make SAM Labs a reality and spent countless hours building. We had people working from around the world to make SAM Labs a reality, which really helped us grow the business to where it is today.
Do what everyone else in Belgium does, make chocolate or solving nuclear fusion.
No but seriously I would be producing technology regardless; I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. It’s just amazing to see people get excited when they are making their own inventions, when moments before they couldn’t see themselves going near electronics.
How important are digital skills to the success of your business and what ‘other’ skills have been essential?
Digital skills are imperative to our business as without them we wouldn’t exist.
In the early days, developers were key to building the application. It’s really important that people have the right skills and knowledge of hardware and technology. The world is increasingly digital and businesses are desperate for these skilled individuals. It is also part of our mission to help the next generation of 8-25 year-olds to learn digital skills so they can create their own inventions!
(This backs up O2’s research which found that by 2020 2.3 million digital workers will be required to power the UK’s digital economy. http://news.o2.co.uk/?press-release=2-3-million-digital-workers-required-by-2020-to-power-the-uks-digital-economy )
What advice would you give to your 16 year old self?
Always be knocking on doors. Don’t spend all day behind the computer screen. Make sure you spend time getting outside talking to people about your ideas. That’s the way you meet people that want to help you.
Find out more about SAM Labs by visiting samlabs.me
Are you 13-25 or know someone who is? Apply for Think Big to receive funding and support to make your digital social action idea a reality. Click here for more info.