Do not start a company alone or with someone you don’t really know or trust. Even if your startup is taking off like a rocket ship, it is an extremely stressful process and you need someone you simply trust to share your fears and dreams with. I founded Deako alone and quickly realized that I needed a partner. I chose one of our early employees (who was incredibly smart, talented, and hardworking). However, because we didn’t have a previous relationship and establishment of trust, our partnership couldn’t withstand the stress and pressure of our startup. Since then, I brought in a lifelong friend of mine where we have that level of trust and it has been game-changing.
I had the pleasure to interview Derek Richardson the CEO of Deako Smart Lighting. He has 18 years of experience with roles throughout his career in Systems Engineering, Tech Sales, Product, and VP of Eng. Prior to founding Deako, Derek started the Largetouch Business Unit inside Cypress which made capacitive multi-touch solutions for tablets, laptops and large screen automotive solutions. Derek was also an early employee at BlackBerry. Derek holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Queen’s University and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I needed to replace light switches at my cabin and found it was a nightmare to wire up each switch. Getting a smart lighting system installed professionally would have cost me a small fortune. I knew there had to be a better way.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Every other smart lighting solution requires that a home builder make a significant upfront investment in smart lighting with added material cost, labor, and complexity. Deako removes all those problems because our modular light switches are either “simple” or “smart”. Builders install regular “simple” switches using their same electricians, and homeowners who value smart lighting just buy it as an upgrade. Clicking them in, without the hassle of calling back an electrician.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share how they made an impact?
I have a few close friends who started companies that have been very helpful. Some of our angel investors have also provided me with guidance. Deako also applied and went through the Y Combinator incubator program, which was a great experience that exponentially changed the trajectory of Deako.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
If you have spent any time reading about startups and founding a company you often read the same stuff, so I don’t think I have any new insights here. But, here are a few examples/stories for me.
- You have to be really really really good at selling. By this, I mean communicating the value of your products. This can’t be overstated. As a founder, you need to sell employees, investors, customers, partners, and even your significant other along the way.
- Do not start a company alone or with someone you don’t really know or trust. Even if your startup is taking off like a rocket ship, it is an extremely stressful process and you need someone you simply trust to share your fears and dreams with. I founded Deako alone and quickly realized that I needed a partner. I chose one of our early employees (who was incredibly smart, talented, and hardworking). However, because we didn’t have a previous relationship and establishment of trust, our partnership couldn’t withstand the stress and pressure of our startup. Since then, I brought in a lifelong friend of mine where we have that level of trust and it has been game-changing.
- Never ever, ever, ever give up. Things can go great and they can go bad. It is a total rollercoaster. Things are never going as good as you think and they are never as bad as you think. There are lots of people that are invested in seeing a positive outcome for your company. If you truly have value and are building something that is 10x better than the competition then you can find a way.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
The Y Combinator Startup Series videos are extremely helpful. I’ve watched each lesson several times. A must watch for anyone in business, not just founders.
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.
I would love to see everyone inside a company or charity realize that they have a voice to bring change. So many people fundamentally believe they can’t influence the outcome of a business, but it simply isn’t true. Great ideas and insights can come from anyone, not just the CEO or Head of Product. Make sure you share your great ideas. It is the great ideas that bring the biggest positive change.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t really have one. I have a terrible memory and would definitely misquote whomever it was. But it would be based around the concept that you only live once so do everything 100 percent. Time goes by so fast and most people look back and have regrets. Don’t be like most people.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me on Twitter @drichardson1976 and Deako @godeako.