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 6, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with San Gunawardana, co-founder and CEO, and Krassimir Piperkov, COO and co-founder of Enview, a Lemnos portfolio company. Enview uses massively parallel 3D computer vision and wide-area remote sensing to create the best maps in the world.
What compelled you to start your company?
San: A couple of things. I think there’s a really big element here of this chance to create something from nothing in particular. I’ve had the privilege of working for some great cultures and some less than great cultures as well. And the chance to kind of craft that from scratch was fascinating. I think the chance to also really solve some genuine problems, to use some quite fancy advanced technology, and bring it down to earth to solve very practical service problems is a meaningful thing to do. And I love to challenge myself. I feel like I’ve done some difficult things professionally. A start up by far is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, so it’s very much a fulfillment sort of thing for myself.
KP: For me, it was to actually build something out of nothing. As a teenager, I had my own martial arts studio. It was a small little adventure, but I had the chance to actually build something out of nothing. I wanted that feeling back in my life. And it took me only 20 years to get that.
Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?
San: I come from a background of aerospace engineering, working satellites, airplanes.
How did you decide what would be your first product?
San: In some ways when we first started to look at the problem, that solution space included hardware potentially. We knew there was a lot of dollars being spent on inspection of infrastructure and energy assets, largely done from the air. That was something that initially going into it, you would look at the physical hardware of the aircraft. The helicopter is a very natural thing to go and replace, and naturally that’s where we also started looking. When you actually get into it though and spend time understanding what is the pain and the challenge and the opportunity, it turns out that, yes, the hardware is one difficult part that needs to be solved. However, the analytics, like what do you do with the data that comes off the hardware, became a much more interesting and challenging problem. And that’s where we ended up focusing.
How did you decide who would be your mentors?
KP: One of the reasons why I moved to the Valley was to surround myself with people that are closer to the start-up ecosystem and don’t think that starting a company is weird. From day one, we wanted to get some advisors and mentors, and we found that in you at Lemnos. You and Helen and Jeremy have been super helpful with advice, and we also actually interviewed specific people to be advisors, start up advisors for us. We subsequently hired someone who’s been with us for three years now. We meet with him on a weekly basis and that has been super helpful. We needed somebody with a lot of start up experience who could be a voice in the room to short cut some mistakes that founders often make. Someone who has been there, done that, started a few companies, and could also make us better at leading teams.
San: In many ways it’s per