Hire for what’s coming next. Hiring the right people is critical and you need to hire for what’s next — your next stage — not for what you immediately need.
Spend more time on product development upfront. You cannot cut corners on this.
Be very thoughtful on how you capitalize your business. In general, you will need more money than you think to get your business going and keep it going.
The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?
In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Forgan, cofounder and CEO of Hologram, a global connectivity platform for IoT. Forgan leads the team’s strategy and business development with nearly 10 years in the evolving industry. Prior to Hologram, Forgan was cofounder and managing director of Foodpanda in Singapore, which was then acquired by Delivery Hero. At Foodpanda, Forgan noticed there were no options or resources to easily manage SIM cards to power point-of-sale cellular connectivity. That’s in part how he was inspired to launch Hologram.
Forgan got his start in tech at Groupon, where he helped launch their Groupon Goods business unit as part of their intrapreneurship efforts. Forgan graduated from George Washington University with a bachelors in economics and international affairs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It’s hard to say the most interesting story however my time at Groupon when it was in its earlier stages was truly unique. In my early 20s, I was hired to work at Groupon during the time they were preparing for their IPO. I only worked there for a little over a year but it felt like I had done a lifetime of work and had gained years of experience in that time. Within weeks, I was doing high-level activities such as helping launch Groupon Goods and contributing to the preparations of their IPO. The organization itself was undergoing rapid growth and organizational changes. It was an extraordinary pace of growth that I was witnessing but also gaining for myself. It was a wild time!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” — George Bernard Shaw
I believe this quote really lends itself to a start-up mentality. It’s unreasonable to think you should start a company to change the world. A founder’s progress depends on the people taking the actions — the solutions you create, the team you hire, and more.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My grandfather has a profound impact on my life and my work ethic. He was an entrepreneur himself, and one of the lessons he frequently said was that “people want to do business with people.” Even while I’m growing a fast-paced technology business, that still resonates with me. It’s always the people who matter the most, whether they are employees, customers, or partners.
Another one of the quotes he always said was “Keep on punching,” which is all about persistence and humility to some extent and very relatable to a tech founder.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At Hologram, it’s very important to me to create a workplace culture where we focus on working healthier. I’ve worked in environments where they were really intense and hostile towards mental health so it was a top priority for me to re-write the conventional management strategies many of us know all too well. Our company places great value in transparency and mindfulness. We want our team to want to come to work and feel like they can do the best work because of the supportive, positive team around them.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
We are working on creating a way for people to instantly connect any device to any network, anywhere. This technology is meant to help people and organizations build applications that can have a variety of uses.
From healthcare to smart farming, our customers are helping shape the future of connectivity with us. For example, our customer Luminostics is doing rapid Covid-19 testing which is paramount during this pandemic. Another customer is innovating transportation through micromobility, which is a huge trend during the pandemic. We’re striving to help improve the quality of life for everyone. It’s because of this technology that we’re able to open the door to our customers to build applications that we couldn’t build in the past.
How do you think this might change the world?
When people think about data consumption, we think about our smartphones and the amount of data that’s been used on the cellular network which is generally driven around people. The amount of data used will only increase with time. A part of the proportion of data that is used by IoT devices will increase much faster than humans to a point that a majority of data that’s being used on the cellular network is by non-humans. At Hologram, we are a big part of powering that. We’re providing an easy way to connect your device and pass data instantaneously, anywhere in the world, across multiple networks. According to Orbis Research, the global IoT connectivity market data consumption is forecasted to increase from 24.43 zettabytes in 2021 to 110.47 zettabytes in 2026. That’s a massive growth and demand in just five years.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
I wouldn’t frame it as what the drawbacks are because it’s coming whether you like it or not. More connectivity is an inevitability and IoT is just a continuation of more things being connected to the internet. More things being connected means a better experience for people and what we’ve seen is that these applications actually improve the world we’re all living in from better healthcare outcomes to environmental and transportation improvement. We believe that the vast majority of these applications will be providing positive solutions.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
When I was working in Singapore, I had to create a POS-type system that worked in multiple countries across multiple networks for our operation at FoodPanda to function. At the time, there wasn’t a strong solution that existed. We had to string together whatever was available at the time and it should have been much easier. That’s where I started to think about how we could build a better connectivity solution for the people using it. That key insight that allowed us to start building Hologram. We developed it from a global perspective to be able to connect any device to any network, anywhere, instantaneously. It’s the ‘IoT everywhere’ concept. For our customers, no one “owns” connectivity. It’s a team effort. And teams need a way to focus on their primary job — not managing SIM cards. We built all of our tools to help teams focus on building their product and not wasting time managing thousands of SIMs around the world. All of these tools are designed to help the modern IoT team work faster and better together.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
We have a significant head start and have gained invaluable experience working with our customers’ to provide solutions to their issues. People are just clamoring for a way to make it simpler and easier for them to connect things to the internet. IoT devices consume the vast majority of bandwidth on the internet — this is the kind of solution that enables that to happen.
The idea of being able to provide ubiquitous connectivity via a single provider or SIM card like our Hologram Hyper SIM card is needed. I think it’s inevitable that if we don’t do it, someone else will. Said simply, if Google wasn’t Google there would be something else called Google. The search engine wasn’t discovered, it was created. This is one of those types of technologies. I see there being a widespread adoption of it.
The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?
A huge part of the way we work has changed and ultimately, it is driving us toward a more connected future. Now more than ever, people are remote but somehow more connected. In order for a world like that to exist, you need to bring the physical world onto the internet because remote work isn’t going away. For example, instead of sending a team member in the back to take inventory, there are sensors that are keeping track for you and your business. The more we can bring the physical world online, the better for our new remote world.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Hire for what’s coming next. Hiring the right people is critical and you need to hire for what’s next — your next stage — not for what you immediately need.
2. Spend more time on product development upfront. You cannot cut corners on this.
3. Be very thoughtful on how you capitalize your business. In general, you will need more money than you think to get your business going and keep it going.
4. People in general are poor estimators of time. You’ll overestimate what you can accomplish in a year but underestimate what you can accomplish in a decade. There’s a natural limit to the amount of work people can do and recognizing that is important. Realistically, your competitive advantage is rarely working harder than the next person.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of research. This includes research about your product and your end user experience. If done correctly, you can save yourself many cycles and ultimately headaches.
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.