Very: Champions of IoT

Benjamin Wald, Founder and Head of Client Strategy For many organizations, IoT technology is considered to be one of the key enablers of digital transformation. Data collected from connected devices are used to create efficiencies, enhance product designs, develop new business models, and improve customer experiences.

But, before a company realizes any of these opportunities, they must determine which use cases will deliver the most return on investment for their business scenario and then act upon implementing the desired IoT initiative. However, going by the market estimates, the numbers suggest that as little as only 30 out of 100 businesses can implement an IoT project successfully. The gap between understanding why to use IoT and the real value of putting its innovation into practice is a common reason why enterprises have such low success rates in adopting this technological marvel.

And, once an enterprise effectively crosses the initial threshold, a major issue they encounter is the software and firmware conflicts while incorporating IoT with their existing equipment and systems. Benjamin Wald, founder and head of client strategy of Very—a fully remote IoT solution provider, says, “There’s a lot more that goes into developing a profitable IoT offering than hardware engineering and writing code.” Installing external sensors on devices is just the start; the real challenge lies in determining the priorities of those sensor functions and using those to the fullest potential.

IoT projects, therefore, require an unprecedented level of multidisciplinary collaboration—something that the industry at large has not yet addressed in a meaningful way. “From a business viewpoint, companies need a way to put their products into context within the IoT marketplace in order to inform strategic decision-making,” Wald adds.

Fortunately, this is where Wald’s company, Very, cements its cornerstone. Very not only specializes in employing new disciplines of engineering and design but also combines its business acumen and industry knowledge to make IoT projects successful. “What we bring to the table is a world-class product team that is ready to deliver more speed, efficiency, and scalability to a business with end-to-end IoT solutions,” says Wald. Besides, Very’s partnerships are built on mutual trust, agile workflows, and easy communication, making it possible for Very’s able team to solve even the most pressing challenges for its clients.

At its core, Very’s mission is to help a company transform an IoT opportunity into a competitive advantage. And to make that process easily feasible for clients, Very has created its first IoT Maturity Model. It is a six-stage framework that aims at assessing a smart product’s IoT strategy—and, even more crucially, its potential to provide long-term value—to ensure that the project drives an ongoing revenue stream for a business. “This year, we’ll be working with clients to help them assess where they fall on the IoT Maturity Model and help build strategies to get where they want to go,” informs Wald.

De-Risking IoT Projects

The product teams at Very have unparalleled expertise in all things IoT, including connected device product design, mechanical and electrical engineering, and software, firmware, and mobile app development.


Very not only specializes in employing new disciplines of engineering and design but also combines its business acumen and industry knowledge to make IoT projects successful

On top of that, the company has a unique and agile methodology for handling IoT projects to create the best possible products for their clients.

The process usually involves 10 steps, which starts with a Technical Design Sprint that validates and defines project constraints through research. This also involves collecting client documentation to get more context about the solution the client needs to build. Based on this knowledge, Very collaborates with the client to build a product development roadmap using job stories and user workflow maps. This is followed by an extensive step of de-risking hardware, eliminating unknown factors around each part that may be used. Then, before building a full prototype with the original components, a Very test runs an imitation of the end product to ensure that the project runs in line with the expected outcomes. The timeframe from the initial step to the prototyping phase usually depends on the complexity of the process. In general, it can take six to eight weeks, but if there are complicated systems to deal with, like industrial applications, then it could take four to six months for a prototype.

Once the prototyping phase has been successfully executed, Very’s engineers conduct a microfacturing run to test for errors and optimize enclosures/materials. Soon after that, the first manufacturing run is also initiated, and Very’s team gets a pilot group engaged to finalize the board layout and optimize the software infrastructure. “To be doubly-sure that there is no risk involved in the final execution of the product, we do an additional ‘real’ manufacturing run to perform user testing, product training, and onboarding,” states Wald. Subsequently, when the production phase reaches its final quarter, Very explores the power of digital twins for testing, predicting, and diagnosing its product’s failure, as well as experimenting for the next version of the product.

As elaborate as these stages might sound, Wald mentions, the key to making all of these steps actually work is good communication and cadence. “At Very, we do monthly release planning, weekly sprints, daily standups, and weekly retrospectives where we identify what went right and what didn’t so we can make adjustments. Every single week we are finding newer ways to work better together,” he sums up.

Delivering IoT Projects that Make an Impact

It goes without saying that such an all-embracing product development approach has helped many companies reach the pinnacle points in their IoT journey. In one instance, Very teamed up with Koller Products, the originator of the popular “desktop aquariums,” to design and build the first-ever internet-connected desktop aquarium for the consumer market, along with a cross-platform mobile application.
Koller Products came to Very with a vision—the idea of an IoT fish tank—that was pursued by many, but none had been able to deliver a viable product. Once Very came onboard, Koller Products could already find themselves one step closer to achieving their goal. The engagement began with an in-person Technical Design Sprint at the Koller Products headquarters. The initial wishlist of features for the tank and mobile application was quite extensive, so Very had to work with the Koller team to prioritize features. “We conducted our Needs, Wants, and Desires exercise with the team to shortlist the basic features—which were temperature sensing and dynamic lighting controls—for the minimum marketable product (MMP),” states Wald. In tandem with this, Very’s user experience team designed ‘See | Do’ maps (a hybrid of app architecture and user flows) and wireframes to outline the minimally viable product (MVP). On the other side of the development board, Very’s software engineering team was also busy building out the mobile app’s data structure that would be used to operate the smart tank. After months of hard work, the result was exquisite. They built a smart tank app with which a user can control features like tank temperature and water filtration levels with a click of a button anytime, from anyplace. All they need is a smartphone and an internet connection. Thanks to Koller Products and Very, successful fish-keeping just got easier.

Non-Hierarchical Management Style = Springboard of Organizational Success

Very is of the belief that while hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability, it doesn’t always empower employees to be innovative. As a technology company that is invested in recruiting the most intelligent, innovative, talented people in the country, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value. So, Very’s success mantra lies in its holacracy structure that empowers people throughout the organization to make decisions and drive change. “Instead of operating top-down, power is distributed throughout the organization—giving individuals and teams freedom while staying aligned to the organization’s purpose. This keeps us structured and accountable,” says Wald.

“Very also places a high value on transparency. Every client engagement is highly collaborative, which helps Very create better products.”

Additionally, once Very’s billable employees have hit their hourly quota for the week, they’re invited to invest time in innovation that is organized around researching new technologies, making open source contributions, pursuing technical certifications, and better supporting communication/collaboration within Very. “For example, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Very engineers used a percentage of their company hours to work on the GitLab Medtronic OpenVentilator project, so that ventilators could be more rapidly prototyped, tested, and approved by the FDA in the time of crisis,” shares Wald.

Very also places a high value on transparency. Every client engagement is highly collaborative, which helps Very create better products. The company holds frequent meetings throughout a project and ensures transparency each step of the way. Even if that means connecting virtually through video conferencing, Very doesn’t shy away from keeping their clients updated on all developments. “We’ve been a remote-first company since day one; it is because of our continuous engagement practice with clients, they feel just as involved in the development process as they would if we were on-site,” asserts Wald. Above all, by displaying such collaborative spirit, Very proves that they are not here to nickel and dime the clients but to bring robust outcomes that create value, even after the engagement is complete.

Company
Very

Headquarters
Bozeman, MT

Management
Benjamin Wald, Founder and Head of Client Strategy

Description
Very is a fully-distributed IoT engineering firm, partnering with their clients to build systems for smart manufacturing, smart energy & utilities, consumer electronics, and connected wellness. Very’s clients come to them for answers to their thorniest questions. What the company brings to the table is a world-class product team ready to deliver end-to-end IoT solutions. Focused on speed, efficiency, and scalability, Very’s product teams de-risk IoT projects. Their partnerships are built on mutual trust, agile workflows, and easy communication. This makes it possible to deliver cutting edge tech to meet your most pressing challenges

Very