Raises $14M, Passes $5M In Revenue, Helping Usher in IoT Connecting Keurigs to Internet with CEO Zach Supalla

Zach Supalla

In Episode #590, Nathan interviews Zach Supalla. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Particle, a venture-backed startup that’s making it easier to build internet-connected hardware and other things. Particle is the most, widely used IoT platform with a developed community of a hundred thousand users and is listed as one of Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in 2015, of the Internet of Things. Zach has been featured on CNN, The Wall street Journal, TechCrunch, Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, Mashable and more.



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Famous Five:

  • Favorite Book? – The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  • What CEO do you follow? – Jeff Lawson
  • Favorite online tool? — Slack and Asana
  • Do you get 8 hours of sleep?— No
  • If you could let your 20-year old self, know one thing, what would it be? – “You don’t have to be an engineer to be an engineer”


Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 01:35 – Nathan introduces Zach to the show
  • 02:16 – Zach used to be a management consultant
  • 02:45 – While Zach was doing his MBA, he interned in Groupon’s sales operation
  • 03:07 – Zach did engineering
  • 03:21 – Particle is an IoT platform
  • 03:44 – Particle helps manufacturers connect their physical product to the internet
    • 04:11 – Particle does the whole communication stack between the physical device and web
  • 04:40 – Particle has raised $10M
  • 04:50 – Particle generates revenue in 4 ways
    • 04:55 – Particle works with large companies and sells them subscriptions, data plans, hardware, and professional services
    • 05:24 – Main revenue stream is from the hardware
    • 05:54 – Hardware pricing ranges from $5-50
  • 06:09 – For Keurig, they added hardware to plug into the back of the coffee maker
  • 06:45 – The hardware volume for Keurig is in the thousands
  • 07:00 – Particle has customers who will be deploying millions of hardware products by 2018
  • 07:28 – Security is part of Particle’s story
  • 07:37 – Zach shares about the webcam botnet incident
    • 08:09 – The Mirai botnet in Liberia explained
  • 08:32 – Zach shares how Particle works to secure everything from the device to the in between communication
  • 08:50 – Typical, cheap webcams that are in the market and manufactured in China are not secure
  • 09:23 – There are products that people aren’t unplugging and are considered unsecure
  • 09:45 – Particle started in 2012
  • 09:59 – Zach first launched a product in Kickstarter named Spark Socket
    • 10:07 – The product was unsuccessful
    • 10:21 – It was frustrating, but it turned to be a huge benefit
  • 10:51 – Zach relaunched a new product in Kickstarter, in 2013, called Spark Core
  • 11:20 – Zach was inspired by his dad who is deaf to create the first product
  • 12:20 – Zach shares what is important in launching a Kickstarter campaign
    • 12:28 – Zach looks at any Kickstarter campaign as an experiment
    • 12:33 – Zach made sure that they nailed the marketing on their first launch
    • 13:43 – “We’re definitely advocates of the lean startup mentality”
  • 14:13 – 2013 revenue
  • 14:41 – 2014 revenue
  • 15:43 – Zach shares where the scale is coming from
    • 15:58 – When Zach launched the product, they weren’t targeting enterprise stores
    • 16:28 – Zach was originally creating development tools then shifted to management tools
    • 16:43 – The growth started in selling deaf kits
    • 17:00 – They started making modules, then the software platform
    • 17:26 – One of the challenges a hardware startup faces is going from being a product to a company
  • 17:56 – 2017 revenue goal
  • 18:08 – Team size is 35
  • 18:21 – Half of the team is from San Francisco and the other half are all over
  • 18:50 – Particle is not facing a problem yet with their people who work in China
  • 19:03 – Zach created a program while he was in China, where he lived for 4 months
  • 19:22 – Zach has a deep trusting relationship with their people in China
  • 21:14 – The Famous Five

3 Key Points:

  1. Solve your own problems and make the people around you, your inspiration.
  2. See the beauty in a failure – it can be a way for you to create something better.
  3. One of the most difficult challenges a hardware startup faces is going from being a product to a company.

Resources Mentioned:

  • Acuity Scheduling – Nathan uses Acuity to schedule his podcast interviews and appointments
  • Drip – Nathan uses Drip’s email automation platform and visual campaign builder to build his sales funnel
  • Toptal– Nathan found his development team using Toptal for his new business Send Later. He was able to keep 100% equity and didn’t have to hire a co-founder due to the quality of Toptal
  • Host Gator– The site Nathan uses to buy his domain names and hosting for the cheapest price possible.
  • Audible– Nathan uses Audible when he’s driving from Austin to San Antonio (1.5-hour drive) to listen to audio books.
  • The Top Inbox – The site Nathan uses to schedule emails to be sent later, set reminders in inbox, track opens, and follow-up with email sequences
  • Jamf – Jamf helped Nathan keep his Macbook Air 11” secure even when he left it in the airplane’s back seat pocket
  • Freshbooks – Nathan doesn’t waste time so he uses Freshbooks to send out invoices and collect his money. Get your free month NOW
  • Show Notes provided by Mallard Creatives