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Meet Yodit Stanton: cofounder of internet of things startup OpenSensors

Charlotte Jee | July 14, 2016
Meet OpenSensors: a startup doing remarkable things with open data and IoT.

yodit stanton vimeo open data institute

Yodit Stanton, cofounder of OpenSensors, previously worked within Lehman Brothers' tech team © Vimeo/Open Data Institute

The internet of things has gone from a much-hyped new area within technology several years ago to a far more routine, mature sector.

For evidence of that, look no further than startups like OpenSensors. It was launched in 2013 by developers Yodit Stanton and Malcom Sparks. Since then it has gone from a two-person operation to a company with 10 staff handling 15 million sensor messages every single day.

Where OpenSensors differs to other IoT companies, which may specialise in consultancy or hardware, is its focus on open data.

"We've seen both the IoT and open data market mature while we mature," says Stanton."It's definitely stuck." 

The idea for the company first spawned from Stanton's care for her oldest child who has asthma, a condition that can be badly aggravated by poor air quality.

At the time, Stanton says, there was plenty of macro-level data about air quality but local information wasn't available.

The company set up an air monitoring project called 'Breathe Heathrow', which promised to 'democratise data' by getting local residents to create sensors around the airport to collect data on air quality and noise impacts. It's a serious issue: air pollution kills 9,500 Londoners every year, according to King's College London.

The scheme provided useful lessons in how to foster bottom-up, open data-driven projects within local authorities and communities and a repeatable data-driven methodology for such initiatives.

"The things you create out of your own frustration can often seem to work the best," says Stanton.

"Now there's worldwide air quality data from various publishers in Europe and North America, and that's starting to turn into content," she explains. "Some local newspapers are even putting that data onto their sites."

Funding

The cofounders initially bootstrapped for the first few months, and have managed to grow reasonably sustainably so far, according to Stanton.

"We took some angel funding, but very little," she says. "We were in a lucky position of having enough revenue to pay salaries. So that kind of organic growth is working well so far. It's early days still obviously so we're still trying to figure out what we're doing, what people want."

Stanton has mixed feelings about whether the company should take venture capital cash; or at least too complex to be reduced to a pithy quote. There are advantages and disadvantages in engaging with VCs and they vary enormously by company or even individual. 

"In the early days, everything you do is unproven. In my opinion the focus for the early days of a startup should be about scaling the learning curve and figuring out what your customers want as quickly as possible before you run out of cash," she says. 

 

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