This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Ken Ehrman. Ken is a technology and safety visionary, who has spent 25+ years pioneering IoT innovations. As the founder of I.D. Systems which is now publicly traded under the symbol PWFL, he has 40+ patents that have revolutionized efficiency and worker safety for the biggest and most demanding companies in the world such as Wal-Mart and others.
Most recently, he has partnered with Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, to create the Halo Collar and leverage his industry relationships and expertise to bring best-in-class safety solutions to dogs and dog lovers.
We use the Halo Collar for both our dogs, Champ and Luna, and I must say it is an awesome invention. We have several acres, and our dogs are both Aussies who love to run. We also spend time at our other properties throughout the year and needed a solution that we could take anywhere that would work to keep them safely in the area we want them to stay in and Halo has worked perfectly.
I’m excited to talk to Ken about his experience, how he has leveraged it to go into completely new industries, and how he’s built partnerships to succeed.
Connect with Ken on LinkedIn
Ken graduated from Stanford with an engineering degree. He went to work at a tech company Silicon Valley that wanted to be “chip” in everything, but computers. The company was founded by one of the founders of Apple. He worked there for 1.5 years and then took the chip and built into smart RFID tags. This created ID Systems in 1995. The company tracked high value assets for corporations and helped with safety.
Specifically, he found a niche in tracking and creating safety and efficiency with Forklifts. In 2016, his son got very sick and stepped down to be there for him. His son eventually recovered, but while he was home, his nieces dog escaped their yard and was hit by a car and killed. This tragedy gave him the idea for Halo to help protect dogs.
At the 6:50 mark, Ken takes us through the steps he went through to make Halo a reality including how he got Cesar Millan to sign on to it. It’s best to just listen.
- Invisible Fence is traditionally wired, not wireless.
- Ken knew wireless was the future and from his work tracking with GPS, knew that there was an opportunity to go wireless by GPS creating your own Fences around house or anywhere as an owner using GPS and an App that connected to a dog collar.
- He called his patent attorney to do research and there was nothing our there patented like he wanted to create in Halo. The patent attorney actually asked if they could invest and Ken knew he had something.
- Ken then used his industry relationships with chip makers and app developers to create the product.
- He used the best of the best in GPS, Wifi, and Bluetooth to make Halo.
- After getting it created, he knew he needed an expert in dogs to help it to succeed. So Ken went to Cesar Millan. Cesar and his group initially said no.
- Ken kept going back to him and kept getting a “no.” So, he looked at who Cesar closest competition was – a woman named Tamara Geller.
- As a last-ditch effort, he went back to Cesar and told his group that if they didn’t sign on, he was taking it to Tamara. That did it. They signed the NDA. Ken didn’t even know Tamara, nor had spoken with her.
Talk to us about shaking up markets…
- You have to do a lot of research and know how people buy.
- If you are going to disrupt, you need to know when people buy, so you can be there at that point.
- There is an advantage to solving a problem you’ve experiences and solved for yourself. Look for those things.
- You also need to be in the position to focus on the idea and business.
At the 25 min mark, Ken talks about the next frontier and markets that are ripe for disruption…
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
- You need advice from people who have done it before.
- There are unlimited number of ways to create and build companies.
- Fundamentally, a great way to grow your business is to get customers to invest in your product helping it to grow instead of raising money.
- Give clients an incentive to take a chance with you and grow with you. Have them fund your R&D.
- For example, Ken gave clients a great deal to buy HALO prior to release raising several million dollars which paid for the product to get done and its initial units.
You’ve had to compete against some of the biggest names in the world and separate yourself to get business. What did you do differently?
- The big guys are more stagnant – they don’t have the ideas and vision smaller, more nimble entrepreneurs have.
- Additionally, building and creating relationships are critical to success.
- The right customer is someone who wants to buy from you at least or as much as you want to sell to them. They are the best partners.
At the 40 min mark, Ken talks about having to step away from the company he built to help his son and how it affected him as an entrepreneur.
- He had no choice.
- ID Systems was his first baby, but his family came first.
- He had put in place a great management team and the company was publicly traded, so he left in good hands.
- He was not sure what he would do next and even consulted for a little while trying to find his way.
- If you stay in an industry long enough, eventually an opportunity will present itself.
Best Quote: There are an unlimited number of ways to create and build companies..
Ken's Misfit 3:
- Sales is not a bad word. In everything you are doing, you are selling. Selling a vision, concept, yourself, etc. Embrace selling and providing great value to others. You must believe.
- Believe in yourself, your abilities, and that you can succeed. It will not be easy, but you will make it.
- Identify the best possible people and partners to achieve success. Seek them out and bring them into your world.
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