Cube26, which received Rs 50 crore seed funding from Tiger Global and Flipkart, wishes to make smart homes a reality in India with innovative devices that provide a seamless, connected experience
If you haven’t noticed, most of the startups mushrooming across the country tend to focus on services and not core technology. A pure play technology start-up is hard to come across. “One of our biggest challenges has been establishing a pure play technology start-up,” says Saurav Kumar, CEO & co-founder of Cube26, a promising venture which is drawing considerable attention in tech circles for its work in niche areas such as Internet of Things, cognitive intelligence, gesture control and around multiple lines of the mobile ecosystems to help users get the best out of their devices.
IOTA Lite is one of its recent innovations; a smart bulb which connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth to let you light your room amazingly. The company has raised capital of Rs 50 crore in the seed round of funding led by Tiger Global Management and Flipkart collectively. Cube26 plans to utilise the funds to leverage its software expertise across devices and expand team across the stack.
Saurav Kumar, Abhilekh Agrawal and Akash Jain started Cube26 in 2012 in Silicon Valley. “We met each other at various Hackathons in the US and connected with the fact that all of us were equally passionate about technology,” says Kumar. The company was formerly named Predict Gaze. The idea of the company started from the basic thought that original equipment manufacturers (OEM) around the world are looking out for new ways to stand out from the crowd as hardware specs are increasingly getting commoditised.
“We believed that we could leverage our expertise in cognitive intelligence—machine learning, natural language processing & artificial intelligence to add gesture control features, to help OEMs market their product with software differentiation. Features like ‘Look Away to Pause’, ‘Blink to Capture’ for Micromax and Panasonic respectively started to ship out and scale. However, we moved to utilities based feature differentiation keeping the larger interest of the smartphone users in mind,” says Kumar.
From the business perspective, Cube26 was getting a lot of traction from India owing to the increasing number of smartphone users and disruption of mobile shipment in the country. “In 2013 we planned to shift base in India to focus on the Indian mobile ecosystem,” he reveals.
Taking the lid off
The journey so far has been very positive and inspiring. “We have witnessed a tremendous response for both sides of our business—Android OS customisation for OEMs as well as our first connected device IOTA Lite. This has been really encouraging for us. In India, the start-up ecosystem is hugely competitive and in order to succeed we have to stand out from the rest,”stresses Kumar.
According to Kumar, finding the right set of passionate technologists and building products that break the clutter in the market has been a huge learning. “In a start-up, we are learning every day at work and it is one of the best aspects of working in such a dynamic set-up. We didn’t want to make just a great product, we wanted to make a great company. We didn’t raise any funds for the first couple of years of operation because the product model we had was self-sustaining. Only when we were confident of our model and decided to scale to the next level, we decided to raise venture funding.”
Cube26, which has built multiple mobile-based technologies and acquired 10 patents to its credit, operates both with businesses and also builds products for mass consumers. On the consumer side of the business, it is focused on software-led connected devices segment as well as native apps. “For this, we are integrating a lot of local services and content in our products. In IOTA Lite users can get notifications for Message, WhatsApp, Facebook, Tinder, Ola, Accuweather etc. We are going to come out with a suite of connected, feature rich smart products this year in our IOTA category, which are within the reach of the large masses in the country,” says Kumar.
In the software segment, the company co-founder informs that focus will be on cognitive intelligence driven features powering native apps which will enhance user engagement in terms of brands, core design and experience. “As a pure play Indian tech start-up, Cube26, with its mission to make devices smarter, is focused on Android OS customisation, connected home automation devices and data science. We have a dedicated data science team and we are hiring a team of data scientists who can not only analyse important data, but also help us devise better products and solutions which will be useful for our consumers.”
The Cube26 co-founder believes that applications and solutions in home automation will dominate the technology trends of 2016. “As we move ahead, one will see varied usage and launch of new products being launched in this segment. The products which can add utility to the daily lives of consumers will be the winners. Connected Devices products and experience has been talked about extensively, but very few products are today available in the market which are easily accessible to the consumers, have a daily utility and are easy to use. If one can change this, it will certainly be a game changer,” he stresses.
In India there are companies that are working specifically in domains such as Android OS, apps and connected devices. However, Kumar believes a holistic approach to service/content discovery has a significant advantage when it comes to overall user experience and customer engagement for brands. “We are trying to fill this gap in the Indian market with our offerings and research.”
In 2016, Cube26 plans to give consumers in India a chance to try connected devices experience with a focus on home automation and make them accustomed to the concept. “For that we are very much focused on problems related to Indian households and how we can solve those using our technologies. We want to make smart products which are easily affordable by Indian consumers and can add value to their everyday lives. We have seen a good response with our IOTA Lite and plan to focus on the home automation segment this year with innovative, utility based products.”