In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 3 Episode 5, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with Dave Gustafson, Co-founder and VP of Hardware at Rhombus Systems, Omar Khan, co-founder and CTO, and Garrett Larsson, Co-founder and CEO of Rhombus Systems, a Lemnos portfolio company. Rhombus leverages AI and computer vision to offer video security systems unlike anything else.
What compelled you to start your hardware company?
Omar: We were itching to start a company right after our company got acquired by Sophos. It was called Mojave. We were bringing basically firewall to the cloud. Once that got done, in the process we saw that people wanted to bring in more hardware to the cloud. That’s where we saw a few opportunities. We learned there’s a missing opportunity where the camera market is growing a lot in the consumer space, and nothing has been done in the enterprise space. That’s where it started all happening. Garrett and I got together, started discussing out things, and that’s when we saw that we can do a hardware company. Then we found Dave with the hardware expertise to help us do that.
Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?
Dave: I’ve been doing hardware my entire career. I was at Frog Design and the nice thing about that is to bring a design sensibility to an engineering task. After that I was making drones for the commercial sector for mining, construction, agriculture, those kinds of things. That’s definitely a very intense hardware situation, which has to do with safety and reliability, but also imaging. So, taking some of the specialized imaging that happened on drones and moving it to the different kind of specialized imaging that we’re using for security cameras now, has been an interesting process.
Omar: My research background was all embedded systems. But my actual experience after college was all security-related, ranging from web application security to mobile security to cloud firewall. So, it was just a gel of all those things that I think worked out pretty well. Even though I hadn’t worked on a hardware company before, it was intuitive enough to work on embedded systems going forward.
Garrett: I probably echo Omar. Barely touching hardware, maybe doing a little bit of embedded systems. When we were first starting up, just the idea of having hardware was daunting. What I’d say for first time founders out there, even though it was daunting, coming from a technical background, doing some of the embedded stuff before, some of the firmware stuff, it wasn’t as daunting as it seemed. And it probably helped also to get a co-founder right away that had hardware experience to pave the path a little bit.
How did you decide what would be your first product?
Garrett: The first thing was we identified a space that we wanted to be in. Omar and I were doing a lot of enterprise stuff before. That was where we were comfortable. We’re not consumer guys. We’re not trendy like that. So we didn’t know what the next hot hardware item would be in that area, but we had this thesis in enterprise that there was a lot of archaic hardware that needed to be brought to the cloud. And then we got to this physical security space, and we felt like that kind of stuff should start happening on the enterprise. Then we started looking at the different things that go into physical security. We thought cameras