EIC Coffee Break with Anselm Adams: A pinch of humility in the pursuit of success
Every month, during a Coffee Break, we dive into the stories of EIC innovators and get a glimpse of the persons behind the start-ups. Today’s guest is Anselm Adams – co-Founder and CEO of ALBORA technologies. Anselm has over 20 years of business experience and the company develops next-gen geolocation technologies meant for autonomous navigation, logistics, and industrial IoT applications. Keep reading to find out more about it in this month’s EIC Coffee Break.
Tell us how the idea for your innovation started. Was there a day 0/a stimulus or was it something that was bouncing in the back of your head for a long time?
Initially, we did what all startups do, a pivot. Basically, you can start with an idea and the level of ‘pivotness’ (so to speak) can be 180, 190 or 45 degrees. In ALBORA’s case, it was 180 degrees – it was a dramatic pivot because we thought we could provide high accuracy geolocation to our customers – which is our line of business – completely through hardware. However, after two years we realised that we had to think outside of the box and do a complete paradigm shift, which was using software instead of hardware.
By doing this we ended up having greater flexibility, could approach solutions from different angles and added solutions to different products in a faster way. This also allowed us to do a better price segmentation according to our client’s needs and use cases, which is also when you want to provide high accuracy and you try to do it through hardware you can get many setbacks – the cost, being one of those.
So, my Eureka-moment was a combination of several factors and I believe it was more of a push by the way we assembled the team together – we had expertise from different people and various angles that made us come to this conclusion. The initial idea was mine, but of course, my team’s input afterwards and the refinement of that idea is what made it happen.
How did your family respond to your ideas/innovation?
Well, I’m the only engineer in the family – even though I must say several of my family members are much smarter than me (laughs!). They all have high IQs inherited from my mother’s side. Basically, what they say is that if I’m all about making other people’s lives easier and more comfortable, and not hurting anyone along the way, they’re happy and support me. At the end of the day, that’s all your family wants.
Who or what has shaped where you are?
My life is kind of a patchwork of many different people’s influences that have shaped me throughout several moments of my life. But the one person in particular that I must mention is my grandmother. She was a down to earth person, humble and had an innate common sense. She lived a simple life, and always told me to try to keep it simple and live that way too.
There’s a term called K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple Stupid – and that’s pretty much what our approach at ALBORA is and what we’re trying to do. In terms of our service, the way we want to build products is giving someone who might not necessarily have a degree the chance of being able to use it, so I think that my grandmother helped me shape things that way, and at the end of the day that’s how I want it. That’s our mantra: user-friendliness, plug and play & interoperability.
Can you tell us about a tough moment you had at your company and how you pushed through?
Life’s not easy and it’s not a straight line. But how come I ended up doing what I’m doing? Well, that’s a combination of successes and failures I have had throughout my life that made me steer to the left, right or even forward. There’s not a particularly common thing about all those directions, but what I decided was if I were to get my ‘hands dirty’ again in a start-up it had to be something difficult that very few people could do. Which meant I wanted to try and do something that was not obvious from a technical point of view but on the other hand solved a problem people or users had, and high-accuracy geolocation is one of them.
Nowadays, I could have started this company by hiring two influencers and doing some marketing, and try doing something interesting and appealing, but I didn’t want to do that. The driving force for me has always been working with smart people and solving hard problems.
What advice can you give people who are currently playing with the idea to start a company?
When people say the entrepreneurial life is hard, they’re not lying. When you are young, you’re impatient and want things now and may not have the persistence to continue when there are setbacks. That’s why it’s important to be humble and aware that when those setbacks happen it’s best to learn from them and carry on because there’s really no secret sauce to this.
Another key thing is your personality because giving the same advice to different people doesn’t make sense, in my opinion. It’s the same when you have children and cannot tell them the same advice or input because they’ll have different personalities and take it differently – thus, the same applies to entrepreneurs.
What are you currently reading and what book inspired you the most?
Well, there are two books that I’m currently reading: one is called ‘Sapiens – A brief history of humankind’ by Yuval Harari and another is named ‘The Naked Ape’ by Desmond Morris. It’s quite interesting the connection because the first author is a zoologist and the other one is an historian.
Regarding books that inspired me, I would say two. The first one is ‘Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman’ by Richard Feynman – it’s a very entertaining book and quite humorous. It talks about how a great brain works and has so many great ideas while having fun – which is always good advice for entrepreneurs, which I mentioned before is a very hard life.
The other one is called ‘The man who knew infinity: A life of the genius Ramanujan’ by Robert Kanigel. It’s a story about an Indian mathematician (Srinivasa Ramanujan) brought to the UK by a mathematics professor from Oxford University (Harold Hardy) in the early 20th century. Ramanujan came up with several innovative ideas on number theory without having any proper academic education on the subject. Unfortunately, he died very young, but his legacy lived on as his works were of a genius.
If you could talk business over lunch with a large corporate CEO or global leader, which one would you choose and why?
I’m going to pick two alive ones and one that has already passed away. When it comes to living ones, I’d choose two people whose philanthropic side I admire: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates - and ask to join them on playing bridge also. The one I’d pick that’s no longer with us – and if it was permitted, I’d also include a dinner over wine (laughs!) – would be Richard Feynman. He was an amazingly smart and entertaining human being and I feel it would also be a lot of fun!