Leading the commercial development for a growing business with an emerging technology is a big challenge, requiring vision, experience and the ability to build relationships at all levels.
Ben Carter has been doing just this and more since joining B-Secur as CCO in 2014, having worked for major technology players including Nokia, Pace and Sony.
Here, he shares some insight into why he joined a then-unknown startup, what excites him most about B-Secur's technology and gives some fantastic advice for building lasting customer relationships.
Tell us a little more about yourself, Ben.
“I’d say that I see myself as a global citizen, and as such have had the privilege of spending much of my youth and adult life on the move - a principle I’ve taken forward into my life and career today.
“This has given me a unique position on a number of subjects, but I will always feel that business should be thought about globally but conducted locally.
“This approach has helped me develop strong business and partnerships across LATAM, EMEA, APAC and the US.
“I have lived in over six different countries, including a recent move to Northern Ireland in order to support the growth of B-Secur.”
Can you tell us more about your professional background?
“I have spent the majority of my career working within the technology industry, including many of the world’s largest technology companies.
“This journey started with Microsoft where I was one of the first members of Microsoft’s Consumer division in the UK, where my highlights included launching the first ever Xbox and the follow up Xbox 360.
“I then joined Nokia where I helped develop Nokia UK’s commercial growth, including major launches such as the N95 and Nokia Comes with Music.
“I also spent a couple of years with Pace Micro Technologies, in the role of VP of Sales for one of Pace’s Business Units, focusing on IPTV solutions for some the largest global incumbent Telco’s such as BT, SingTel, Bouygues, and AT&T.
“My last corporate role was heading up Sony Corporation’s business with the Vodafone Group. This role comprised ensuring strong Sony solutions were available across all of Vodafone’s markets in over 35 countries.”
You’re one of the original senior team of B-Secur’s current business iteration - what drew you to working for a relatively small and unknown (at the time) startup?
“After almost 20 years in the corporate world, the time had come in my life and career to explore what else was possible.
“The corporate world can provide you with many skills and opportunities, but ultimately within a generally low risk environment, with a fairly concise remit.
“Building a company from the ground up is one of the bigger challenges in the commercial world in my opinion. There is no safety net or second chance. You have to use all your experience, drive and determination, every day, to survive, scale and prosper.
“This mind set, along with the opportunity I saw in next generation biometrics is what allowed me to take the plunge and risk.
"A successful journey in the start-up world is a privilege and teaches you things about yourself you would not normally find in the corporate world.”
B-Secur is exploring some truly revolutionary uses for ECG biometrics, most notably in health and wellness. What’s the most exciting use case for you?
“With such a revolutionary technology, that transcends industry, segments and use cases, this is a tough question.
“From being able to identify a driver, but also know when they may be falling asleep or stressed, to helping professional workers proactively manage their stress levels for a happier healthy life, to next generation gamers getting physiological feedback as they play games making them more effective and successful - these are all inspiring use cases.
“But my favourite is seeing everyday wearable devices turn from sport trackers today to actual medical grade devices, providing ECG health data every day, allowing for home monitoring and saving peoples lives. These people are our loved ones, friends and family.”
My favourite use case is seeing everyday wearable devices turn from sport trackers to actual medical grade devices, providing ECG health data every day, allowing for home monitoring and saving lives. These people are our loved ones, friends and family.”
In your view, what are the biggest developments this year in the global ECG biometric market?
“As an ECG technology company, we have been pushing the genesis of the ECG biometric technology market for five years. We have always had a laser focus on the quality and performance of our algorithms. As the demand grows, we need to ensure we can provide all ECG devices with the gold-standard capability that we do.
“The Apple Watch 4 release last September with Atrial Fibrillation took our technology into the mainstream overnight. Since then we have been working with a number of industry verticals in the development of next generation ECG-enabled devices.
“The demand is now with biosensing semiconductor customers, wearable technology OEMs, Automotive Tier 1s and OEMs and now the big gaming companies.
“ECG is a specialism and a complicated technology, hence it is crucial to work with a partner that understands the full signal chain, with world class performance. This is HeartKey!”
What can you tell us about B-Secur’s growth and commercial strategy for the next 12-18 months?
“We have carefully developed a global push/pull channel model that will take us to market. This model sees us working with channel partners for whom we will build a multi-layered distribution strategy. This could, for example, be embedding in a microchip with a semiconductor partner, licensing into a steering wheel with a Tier 1 partner or being designed into multiple hardware reference designs with an ODM partner.
“The model also drives us to work with direct OEM partners across wearable, automotive and gaming use cases.
“We are also in the early stages of building out our platform strategy that will allow us to build an API business model, driving new data analytics and premium monthly subscription services. We are continuing to work with our partners in the US and EMEA, and are now seeing explosive growth in China, with Japan and ROK following.”
Building a company from the ground up is one of the bigger challenges in the commercial world in my opinion. There is no safety net or second chance. You have to use all your experience, drive and determination, every day to survive, scale and prosper.
You’ve grown the commercial team significantly over the past year in particular. What has it been like to move from startup to scaleup in such a short space of time?
“In a word, crazy! We are working with partners within the Semiconductor, wearable technology, automotive and gaming industries, across four major global
regions. This would be a challenge even for a large company.
“The key is to qualify customers quickly and streamline the engagement model to build your momentum with a customer as effectively as possible. We also work
very closely with the technology team to ensure we are lock in what we can deliver.
"One big step forward has been the development of a cloud-based evaluation kit that customers can sign up to and trial our software technology very quickly and easily.”
B-Secur has great partnerships, working with some of the world’s leading technology companies. What do you think are the key elements of strong customer relationships?
“This is an important area for me personally and professionally and has been throughout my whole career.
“Customer relationships are simple to build, with the right skills and tools, but you have to commit to developing the relationship without cutting corners.
“My simple rules:
- "Understand your customer’s needs and ensure your technology adds value.
- "Ensure you get in front of the right person as not doing will kill any engagement quickly. Take the time to ensure you get this person right.
- "Always have a clear and simple value proposition.
- "Get your solution off slideware and into real life hand-held technology/demos – too many snake oil salespeople.
- "Prioritise face to face – business is done locally, by real people. Build the relationship by doing what you say you will, delivering and being there in person.
- "Never underestimate the power of a bar or restaurant to get to know someone properly, or get the deal done! In my experience, most of the crucial dialogue or deal progress is conducted in these more informal venues, not in the boardroom."