You can do anything you attempt
START-UP SPOTLIGHT from The Invested Investor, published in partnership with AngelNews.
In partnership with AngelNews, this month’s Start-up Spotlight focuses on Iris Barcia the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Keima, an innovative software company delivering disruptive wireless design solutions worldwide. Iris is an innovator and forward-looking technologist working with the executive teams and engineers of international telecommunication operators, vendors and services companies. Iris is also a member of the 5G Wales Advisory Board and the Data Innovation Accelerator Advisory Board. Prior to Keima, Iris has worked on RAN design, optimization and deployment projects at Telefonica and European rural broadband wireless initiatives. She has a BSc and MSc in Telecommunication Engineering from the University of Vigo (Spain) and an MBA from Cardiff Metropolitan University (UK).
1) What does your company do?
Keima is a software engineering company, our product Overture, is used to plan and optimize wireless networks (cellular, IoT, Wi-Fi, public safety, etc.). We focus on developing a tool to design the communications landscape of the future, and that´s becoming more and more complex! So we combine big data analytics, radio propagation algorithms and automation in order to achieve it.
2) How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
We’ve always been driven by innovation and are not afraid to think outside the box. We decided to take the risk of developing a new approach to network planning, it is a niche market, but I think we have transformed it. For example, we were the first company integrating social networks information and planning algorithms, and we were early adopters of Amazon Web Services.
A large percentage of our time is dedicated to R&D: we understand the complexity of modern wireless networks and have spent a lot of time anticipating what the needs would be, of those planning them. As a result, Overture has been designed (not adapted, designed) as a holistic solution that covers, strategy planning to deployment. Everything is integrated to provide optimal performance and cope with scalability and complexity.
3) What are the challenges you face in setting up your company?
The company had already been set up when I joined. Looking back, it could have been easier starting a fresh venture than transforming the previous version of Keima. Today, I think some of the special challenges we face are because we are not a typical company within our industry. We are a self-funded company organised as a small agile team. This approach has many advantages but also downsides. Sometimes we are not understood by the more traditional companies, we are more interested in technology than in marketing. For example, for years our website only had images and not everybody got our “mysterious” site. Now we laugh about it, but the reality is most of our clients reached us because of word of mouth. Probably that wouldn’t work for other companies.
4) What are the great stories of ‘rewards or satisfactions’ that you can share?
Some of my biggest satisfactions have come from client´s feedback. When you hear your clients saying proudly that they are using your product, then you know you´re doing something right
5) How do you characterise success?
I’ve come to believe success mainly comes with hard work, balance and opportunity, but it is a moving target. What I felt as a success 5 years ago is not my next year’s objective.
Hard work is under our control, whilst opportunity may be what controls us. Balance is a difficult one, almost like a perfect recipe: the team, the business side, the product side, the market, etc.
6) How do you view your relationship with your investors?
That is an unexplored area for me. We don´t have any investors.
7) How would you choose your investors?
I wouldn’t choose an investor only based on money. I like people I can learn from. I would choose investors that can contribute, guide and open doors for the company, but if I’m honest I haven’t seen myself in that situation.
8) How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It is extremely difficult. Sometimes you must force yourself to protect that balance, and sometimes you become a bit creative to achieve it. I may not be the right person though to give any advice. I used to take my 3-month-old to the office. I don’t know if it’s ideal or not, I just couldn’t be away from work much longer. I’m very lucky I’m surrounded by a wonderful team, so we had a good laugh about some “situations”.
But that is part of the culture of the company and we are happy to provide flexibility and promote self-management. We trust each other to take responsibility of our work.
9) Who inspires you and why?
I can’t name a single person. I dream about going to space and living in a sustainable, peaceful and equalitarian world, although wouldn’t necessarily say that Elon Musk inspires me.
I like people with a positive attitude who can turn adversity into new energy and I particularly admire strong women that break barriers. For example, I will always remember my first encounter with Soraya Jones, and she’s been a beacon in moments of doubt. So, it would probably be more realistic to say my strength comes from those closer to me, friends and family. If everything fails, I remind myself that my mother raised me saying: “ Tu puedes conseguir todo lo que te propongas” You can do anything you attempt.
10) If you could offer an entrepreneur one piece of business advice, what would it be?
Be yourself. Listen and learn but don’t simply imitate or copy others. You need to be comfortable with what you do 24/7 and trust your intuition. Early in my career I thought I had to behave as another man at the table, wrong idea, I never got the chance to show my real skills.
Evaluate your possibilities but don´t be afraid to take the risk.
Network and talk. It is a constant evolution so maximize the opportunities you get every day, there is no dull moment.