Follow The Leader: Conall Laverty, Wia

Conall Laverty, founder and CEO of Wia, a cloud-based connectivity platform.

In the latest of our series of interviews with business leaders from across the country, we speak to Conall Laverty, founder and CEO of Dublin-based firm Wia, about his business journey.

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Conall Laverty launched Wia – a cloud-based platform that enables any device in the world to communicate with any other – three years ago. His work as a software developer and internet of things innovation consultant had made him aware the world had a connectivity problem that he believed he could solve.

Others believed him, too – Laverty was named as one of the Sunday Business Post’s ‘30 under 30’ entrepreneurs for 2018, and Wia has raised €1m in funding to expand its business. He’s also, by the way, an accomplished pianist.

What’s the elevator pitch for Wia?

“Wia is a cloud platform enabling users to build a scalable and powerful backend to launch their Internet of Things solutions. Any developer who’s building a hardware product that uses sensors or tracks location might typically spend months, and hundreds of thousands of euros, trying to build their own cloud infrastructure.

Or they can use Wia, a plug-and-play solution, which can work on every single device in the world to really quickly create a connected product, a fully fledged, production-ready solution in just minutes without having to worry about server management, data replication and storage.”

Recommended reading: Follow the Leader: Andreea Wade,

What was the key motivation and raison d'être behind Wia?

“Quite simply, we saw a problem in the industry. Developers were frustrated at the time and money that connectivity requires – there’s quite a messy cloud infrastructure. We wanted to expose a globally available cloud API (application program interface) that developers can interact with complex systems to build applications.”

Looking back now at the early stages of Wia, would you do anything differently in terms of leadership?

“If I had those early days again, I’d spend more time validating. I was all about a product mindset – as a developer I wanted to just get on and build – but it took me a while to get into a company mindset, to look at the bigger picture and spend more time validating what we were doing.

As a developer, I could write every line of data anyone required, but now I had the ‘keys to the car’ and could drive anywhere I needed to validate those ideas to make sure they were what were best for the business overall. I had to learn to think bigger, but in micro steps.”

What keeps you engaged and motivated to drive the business on?

“I want to make it possible for anyone to build anything, to be able to take their vision anywhere in the world. In June, we showcased our facial recognition Lego ferris wheel – if you’re smiling, it turns, if you’re not, it stops – to show just what is possible with connectivity and our Wia platform. It’s real blue-sky thinking, giving people the capacity to make anything possible.”

What does achievement and success look like for your business?

“To have created a ‘universal language of things’ that can be used for any service, on any product, in any application. We want to create, if you like, the equivalent of a Google translation service for the internet of things.”

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

“’Make your vision your craft.’ I don’t remember where I heard it, but when you start with an idea you have to define the craft you need to master and then become obsessed with it, to work tirelessly to ensure you become proficient at it.

“I think to succeed you have to be obsessed and work tirelessly to master what you do.”

“If as a founder you act responsibly, enthusiastically and professionally, your team are more likely to follow suit”

Conall Laverty, Founder & CEO, Wia

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

“I’m particularly proud that we raised €750,000 in seed funding last year from [entrepreneur-led venture capital fund] Suir Valley Ventures and Enterprise Ireland. That was a clear message of validation, that they got what we’re doing and have huge faith and confidence that our technology, our ethos and our people can deliver.”

Your approach as leader is best described in which three words?

“’Behaviour of founder.’ I’m aware I set the tone for my company – the way we interact with clients, the ecosystem and the wider world is a reflection of myself, so if as founder you act responsibly, enthusiastically and professionally, your team are more likely to follow suit.”

Recommended Reading: Follow the Leader: Sinead Devlin, Emergenetics

Did you have a role model or mentor in business who helped you establish and grow Wia?

“I know he’s a controversial figure, but I confess I’m a bit of an Elon Musk fanboy! The way he rolls up his sleeves and says: ‘Let’s get it done.’ He sees a problem and gets stuck in to solve it.”

How are you preparing and planning for Brexit in your business?

“We’re based in Dublin in a global internet business and have many international clients, so we won’t be as affected as some companies. That said, it’s bound to have an impact on the Irish economy – but there’s so much uncertainty, it’s hard to prepare for the unknown. On a personal level I’m well prepared because I have both Irish and UK passports.” 

Parting shot: what’s next for Wia?

“We’ve launched the agency side of our business called Wia Studios. Up to now we’ve focused on the software but we’re now moving into hardware with our own development boards. It’s all part of our vision to enable every person to be able to build their ideas on our platforms.”

By Peter Taylor-Whiffen

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