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Jory Schwach of Andium: “You learn more from losing than winning”

“You learn more from losing than winning.” As an entrepreneur, failing often and fast plays to your advantage because you can quickly pivot to market demands. If you actively listen to your customers and team, you can fail while still improving your relationships, products and outcomes. As a part of our series about business leaders […]

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“You learn more from losing than winning.” As an entrepreneur, failing often and fast plays to your advantage because you can quickly pivot to market demands. If you actively listen to your customers and team, you can fail while still improving your relationships, products and outcomes.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jory Schwach, CEO of Andium.com.

Jory brings over a decade of experience in entrepreneurship, flow theory and security technology. Founder & Former CEO of GlobalRim, a solar GPS company and MeshMe, an offline communication platform. Published academic and expert in applied machine vision & network optimization technologies.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

To be honest, I never had a real job short of consulting around my time in graduate school and working the printer aisle at Best Buy as a kid. I knew my passion and I also knew that my best shot at entrepreneurialism was after grad school in 2008 while all of my friends were getting fired during the financial crisis. Meanwhile, here I was on a grad school stipend in a small attic in south Minneapolis, eating ramen noodles and realizing I had no real cost of living.

I spent the better part of two years building a battery-powered tracking solution for long haul trailers so the market could replace brokers with ‘shared assets’. I failed fast and often on the hardware and realized that the real value was in the continually changing product requests that would be much more easily solved with a software change. I decided that building a new kind of operating system for small devices could be big business if I leveraged the OS to customize products based on changing use cases while managing the hardware and infrastructure on behalf of the client.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

It’s tough to upgrade industrial infrastructure outside of perhaps migrating to the cloud. What we do is manage the field infrastructure through modern technology and sensors. We make it easy for numerous stakeholders in a company, from field technicians to ops managers to safety teams, to get the appropriate data without having to manage the IT and hardware themselves. Basically, using cameras and microphones using AI to tell them all what’s going on in real-time. It turns out between the dynamic outdoor environment, spotty reception, and ever-changing customer requirements, Andium is well suited to manage the entire technical stack, from camera to carrier to data security.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

With my first product, I was trying to recharge the batteries with piezoelectric tools (like the way your wristwatch charges from your wrist movement), and I was basing my calculations on a bunch of research papers written back in the 80s about the amount of energy created by the wheels of these trailers. I worked with professors and sensor experts to make this GPS tracker work and tested everything in the lab for countless hours to make sure it functioned properly. I found a customer to pilot with and installed the devices, yet they weren’t charging and I couldn’t figure out why. I attached sensor monitors to the trailers, only to find out that since the 80s, when the research was written, the shock absorbers on trailers had massively improved, and there was no way I was going to harvest enough energy from them. Later, I learned the same hard lesson of testing in a lab vs. the real world when I tried using solar in the frozen tundra that is a Minnesota winter. It turns out, failing fast and often is a great way to iterate. I also learned that pivoting from mistakes is best done in software. It requires far less time and cost.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Credit here goes to my older brother. I was running out of money about a year into my company with very little to show for it and struggling to keep up with my growing credit card debt despite a few side jobs, like refereeing soccer semi-professionally. More and more of my time was going towards managing the losing battle with costs and less into the execution of my company. My brother pulled me out of a tough time with a hard talk about living at home (a short but necessary step) and eventually giving me a bit of help on the debt side. I was able to get my head back on straight, get the initial product out the door and bring in revenue for the first time, propelling me to my first shot at real fundraising. I then closed my first outside capital with who else, but my brother’s friends. Come to think of it, he found me my first executive too. I owe him a lot in every sense of the word.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

It all comes down to efficacy and reliability. Disruption for the sake of disruption isn’t doing anyone any favors, nor is it helpful to provide a disruptive solution if it’s unreliable and doesn’t have its own chance to withstand the test of time. Conversely, disrupting an industry can be incredible when a different approach to that industry’s challenges brings about meaningful change for the better in sometimes unimaginable ways, even if there are some failures and heartache along the way. Even when something has “withstood the test of time” by being a go-to approach for decades or even centuries, there could still be another method out there with the capability to meaningfully change things for the better.

Take Andium’s approach to natural gas flare monitoring for the oil and gas industry. One of the most critical components of managing a flare stack is to ensure that the pilot light is always lit. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that you’re leaking gas like methane into the atmosphere. Rather than iterate on existing monitoring approaches, like creating better gear for personnel that does manual checks or developing better sensors to attach to the flare stack itself, we took an entirely different approach, using cameras and AI to provide 24/7 flare tracking. Now, instead of hoping one catches the issue during a periodic check or relying on a sensor that can easily fail or get tricked by ambient temperatures, we’re able to immediately alert personnel to a pilot light going out so that our customers can address the issue without delay. Between the sustainability, safety and cost-saving benefits, this new approach’s efficacy is undoubtedly there, as is the reliability with our uptime. However, without both of those being true, disrupting the industry’s traditional approach would have just hurt the operations of those that adopted the new way, irrespective of the creativity behind it.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“Talk less, listen more.” I think this is pretty universal, yet it amazes me how I still catch myself in a long monologue, often missing the conversation’s point and value. It can be a hard habit to break, but it’s always steered me well.

“Facts speak louder than words.” I used to pitch investors differently, probably because I had no choice. I would often find myself selling the dream while using different examples to back it up. However, once you have real numbers, it’s much easier to sit back and let them speak for themselves. Everyone might not always see things in the same way that you do, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers.

“You learn more from losing than winning.” As an entrepreneur, failing often and fast plays to your advantage because you can quickly pivot to market demands. If you actively listen to your customers and team, you can fail while still improving your relationships, products and outcomes.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

We’ve had some success with targeted marketing and finding ways to present publicly at gatherings of our target customers. Neither though have been a substitute for the network effect, which has generated good, qualified leads for us in a few different ways. One is that I’ve been lucky enough that through natural curiosity, information sharing, mentorship and just generally liking human beings, I’ve built up a strong network over the years without ever having to ask much of that network. Now, after all these years, it’s a network that has naturally led to some warm introductions to those that stand to benefit from our technology. Another way is through some of those that invested in the company during our start-up days, as we put a particular emphasis on fundraising from those that brought strategic connections to the table, acting as a force multiplier for everyone. Here though is the most gratifying way that the network effect has helped: customer word-of-mouth. We now even get cold calls from the friends and family of personnel from our client base on behalf of the customers that they work for. When trying to generate strong leads, there’s no substitute for the unwavering support of the clients that you already have.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

There is a lot of room to grow in the energy space. The industry is wrapped up in many of the core issues of our time, from renewables to climate change to basic utilities. We have a lot to say and even more to do. I couldn’t be more excited for the months and years ahead.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Anthony Bordain’s Kitchen Confidential. I was amazed how timeless his book is. The stories resonate with the challenges we all face in life, especially when work feels like it’s in the driver’s seat.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Worrying is like a rocking chair, it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere” — Van Wilder. We have run out of money a few times along the way, once without even realizing it because we were so focused on execution. Any time I’ve focused too much on one item, the outcome has always been worse. In the end, you just have to get out there and do it. It will never cease to amaze me what my team can accomplish in very little time with the right attitude and a positive outlook.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Equal opportunity. There is a lot of talent lost in the sheer number of people in this world and so many are left behind for reasons that are no fault of their own. Providing an equal opportunity to more people gives us the best chance to not only better the lives of those individuals, but also better the world as a whole. It’s not rocket science to calculate that the more people we can empower through opportunity, the more people we will ultimately have working on today’s biggest challenges.

How can our readers follow you online? Please note relevant social channels:

I find Linkedin to be the most interesting app these days for connecting with others, so I spend more time on there than I do Twitter or any other social apps. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also see what Andium is up to by following us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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