“Why Founders Should be Honey Badgers”
All over the planet, companies are trying to reduce their CO2 emissions, if not to help the planet, least to reduce their energy costs. Fortunately, there are startups like Resync that are serving enterprises as an energy management solution using AI. The Singapore-based startup has already made great progress and is now in the process of scaling and expanding to help move companies in different corners of the world to reduce their energy costs and carbon footprints at the same time.
Resync co-founder and CEO Emir Nurov joined startup coach Roland Siebelink on this week’s episode of the Midstage Startup Momentum Podcast to talk about his startup’s purpose, approach, and success.
- How Resync reached the point of relying mostly on inbound sales.
- The approach Resync took in finding its first few partnerships.
- Why Resync considers itself to be agnostic to different markets.
- The importance of having a team that believes in the founder’s vision.
- How Resync is able to operate with a limited sales and business development team.
- The value of founders and startup employees having corporate experience.
Roland Siebelink: Hello and welcome to the Midstage Startup Momentum
Podcast. My name is Roland Siebelink and I’m an advisor and ally to many of the
fastest-growing tech startups around the world. Today, we have in our studio
Emir Nurov, who is the founder and CEO of Resync, dialing out of Singapore.
Hello, Emir. How are you?
Emir Nurov: Hello, Roland. I’m great. Thanks a lot for having me today.
Roland Siebelink: Absolutely. It is our honor. I’ve heard a lot about
Resync. But of course, not everyone has. For those that haven’t heard of your
company yet, could you just introduce Resync in a few sentences? What do you do?
Who do you serve? And what impact do you make in the world?
Emir Nurov: Sure. Resync is a Singapore-based company, started back in 2017.
We specialize in developing intelligent energy management solutions, which are
driven by the artificial intelligence and machine learning models that we
develop in-house. We serve enterprises. In simple words, we help them to save on
their energy usages and reduce their CO2 consumption. We basically help them and
we handhold them toward sustainable operations and we help them to meet their
Roland Siebelink: Very good. Talk to me a little bit more about enterprises.
Is that enterprises in any vertical, in any geography? How are you focusing on
which enterprises to help first?
Emir Nurov: We’re quite market agnostic and we are quite customer agnostic.
We serve different type of clients ranging from single office owner to large
real estate companies with multiple buildings in their portfolio.
Roland Siebelink: And is it focused primarily on the office management or
are you also looking in the core value chain like what they do in their
factories, how they do logistics, and all that stuff.
Emir Nurov: No, we predominantly focus on real estate. We predominantly
focus on buildings and offices.
Roland Siebelink: Okay. That makes sense that you wouldn’t focus on a
particular vertical but more on anyone that has buildings. Absolutely. With that
dependency on buildings, can you talk to me a little bit through how long you’ve
been in business and has the pandemic had a big effect on your client’s base and
all the buildings they occupy?
Emir Nurov: We started Resync back in 2017. That was an early move toward
sustainability and adoption of digital solutions for buildings. I think down the
road, as you mentioned, with the heat of Covid 19, we saw a lot of people moving
from offices to work from home. But despite a lot of people working from home,
the building still continues to consume almost the same amount of energy. And
most of the building operators were surprised, especially considering the fact
that the buildings are utilized to the minimum. But the electricity bills are
still the same, if not higher, because the electricity prices went up as well.
It was a good validation and good push for solutions like ours in order to
showcase to the end user that it doesn’t really matter whether it’s too many
people or whether it’s too few people, sometimes some of the aspects of the
building operations contribute the most. And that’s where a lot of buildings had
to be aware - building operators had to be aware - in terms of how they consume
their energy, what actions need to be taken, and how to become more energy
efficient. That’s exactly what we help them to do. Instead of seeing a lot of
outbound clients, we see a lot of inbound clients where the clients themselves
reach out to us and say, “Hey guys, we are utilizing our buildings to half
capacity but the electricity bill is not changing that much. What can be done?
Roland Siebelink: You must have had a good marketing presence or maybe
public relations or a brand in the market. How did you get to that awareness of
what you do and where you are, how people can reach you so that you can actually
rely on inbound?
Emir Nurov: Me and my co-founder, we both come from an energy background. I
spent the early stage of my career at REC Solar, it’s a Norwegian Solar
Manufacturing company. I did R&D there, I did new market expansion, whereas my
co-founder, she’s a mastermind of our solution. She got her PhD specifically
focusing on developing control.
Both of us already had a certain level of presence in the energy market because
energy space is not that big and people know each other. But then when we
started Resync with a vision in mind, we went to a lot of conferences. We
pitched at a lot of events. We, of course, tried to create as much awareness as
possible. I think when you’re continuously going around and pitching the idea of
digitalization, pitching the idea of smart energy, smart, efficient energy
solutions, people get aware: “Oh, let me check out what this company does and
let me find out a bit more.”
But then at the same time, I would say in the past five years, we managed to
establish really good partnerships with big name companies. We are part of the
SAP app store. We have partnerships with Hitachi, with Boston Consulting Group,
with MacKenzi. That gave us a huge boost for market awareness, market presence,
and establishing Resync as an energy efficient solution provider in the market.
Roland Siebelink: Can you talk a little bit how you even set up those
partnerships? Because that’s something a lot of startups really struggle with.
Emir Nurov: Yes. It’s always a challenge to get the first partnership. As we
used to say, me and my co-founder, we met as part of Entrepreneur First - it’s a
London-based acceleration program. They always push us to be honey badgers. And
as you are probably aware, honey badgers don’t see any obstacles in front of
them. They try to find out the solution immediately. And that’s what we try to
do. We try to honey badger our way toward some of the partnerships. And of
course, once you get the first few clients, first few partnerships, that can
snowball. People talk to the companies we talk to as well. Then they are like,
“Hey, you do partnership with them. Why don’t we explore some solutions with you
and with us as well?”
We were lucky enough to get that exposure to different types of clients and then
different types of partners. Of course, it’s also a matter of how valuable your
product is. All those partners, they see the value proposition in Resync and
some uniqueness in Resync’s product so that they were willing to participate in
this partnership and be part of this partnership and drive this solution into
the market together.
Roland Siebelink: What do you think was that unique value that attracted so
many clients as well as so many partners? They’d all been in that market for
quite a while. What was so unique about your solution that nobody else could
Emir Nurov: I think there are two factors that represent Resync in a very
good and unique position. One is we resolved the biggest challenge that a lot of
energy companies are facing, and that’s scalability. How to make sure that our
solution can be scaled not to tens and hundreds but to thousands and ten
thousands assets and units without any customization. And I think that was
essential for our team to resolve, so we spent the first three years
specifically focusing on developing our product backend in a way that is able to
onboard different types of clients.
And that’s why we are quite agnostic to different market segments. We can serve
office buildings, we can serve industrial facilities, we can serve retail and
offices. It was surprising to a lot of partners and companies that, “Oh, you
don’t need much customization. You can deploy a solution within one day. That’s
interesting. Let me look and let me try it out.”
And the second factor is - of course, it’s always a compromise whether you scale
quickly or whether you customize your solution and add a lot of value to the end
user. And I think what we did at Resync, we found that sweet spot where we can
still add a lot of value to the end user by taking control of their assets by
digitizing their assets and saving on their energy users. But at the same time
being very, very scalable.
Our go-to-market strategy is not going and knocking door by door and trying to
get their assets or their portfolio into our solution. But rather go with
partners, and partners have established market presence, established customer
segments that we can tap in very quickly.
Roland Siebelink: Yes, exactly. Okay, very good. And when you do talk to
partners, one thing many startups have to navigate is demands for exclusivity.
How did you deal with that?
Emir Nurov: Yeah. It’s an interesting question. It depends on how much
bargaining power you have, how interested, and how helpful your solution is. And
at the same time, how many interested parties do you have? I won’t say that we
had a lot of partners lined up to us and then we had to select them. But it’s
always a tactics game as well. Sometimes we had to say no to certain partners,
which were really, really good partners. Unfortunately, due to the demands and
due to the vision that we had in mind, we said, “I’m sorry. We can’t really do
exclusive partners because we foresee that there will be more players in this
market who can help us, who we can partner with, so you can be either an early
mover or we will have to pass on it.” We had to make some of those decisions as
well down the road. But up to today, it worked out well with all the partners
that we have partnered with.
Roland Siebelink: Emir, can you talk a little bit about your team? How big
has it become? Which departments do you have? And how much do you invest in
each? People always want to hear some details about how these teams actually
Emir Nurov: Definitely. First of all, before I even start mentioning how big
we are, I’m the one who does the talking but I think the real job and the real
work is done by our team and team members, and we value them a lot.
Roland Siebelink: Thank you for that. That’s always very nice to say. I
Emir Nurov: That’s the reality. They’re hardworking, and I think the most
important part, they also believe as much as we do into the mission and vision
that Resync has. And that’s really, really important. Because, as every startup,
we might not be the best paying, we might not be the best operating company, but
with that vision, with that mission in mind, I think they compromise a lot, they
work long hours themselves, even without us asking. Sometimes we have to tell
them, “Hey guys, go back home, spend some time with family.”
It’s really pleasant, and at the same time, it’s motivating for us as well to
work harder to grow bigger as well. Five years ago when me and Jay met, it was
just the two of us, two youngsters in their late twenties with a vision and
mission in mind. But five years down the road, we are a team of around 30 people
at the moment. Predominantly located in Singapore but we have offices in India
and in Thailand at the moment. We have a bunch of the software engineers, data
scientists, and energy specialists who try to bring their minds together and
ensure that there is a value proposition on a table for different types of end
users. Roland Siebelink: You said you’re about 30 people. How should I think
of how you’ve divided them up? Are they mostly in sales and marketing? Are they
mostly engineers? How is this set up?
Emir Nurov: At the moment, we are mostly software engineers and data
scientists. As I mentioned earlier, one of the unique selling points of Resync
is that we can scale very easily without market customization. And that’s why
our sales and business development team is not that big. We have only three
people at the moment in our business development team. With the entire portfolio
that we have up to today and to achieve that portfolio with only three BD and
salespeople is impressive. Not to brag, but I think it’s more to highlight the
efforts that I think our tech team put in order to make our solutions scalable.
Roland Siebelink: Will you get 750 buildings online by the end of 2023 with
those three people? That sounds very scalable.
Emir Nurov: So far, we put 150 and we are targeting more than 750 by the end
Roland Siebelink: And do you think it’s enough capacity to get all of those
deals up and running with those three people?
Emir Nurov: Of course, that’s the reason why we are currently expanding our
team, not just locally but to the new markets as well. And I think that’s
something that our investors are demanding as well because if you can do it with
three people, why not hire more people and expand your solution to more
customers. It’s just a matter of economics.
Roland Siebelink: Well, the classical answer would be how fast do you have
to run to beat the competition? How is that market from your perspective? Is it
that you’re so unique that you can go at your own pace or are others trying to
steal your bread or rice and trying to get ahead of you?
Emir Nurov: Of course, in any industry, there will be competition and we
can’t really say that we are so unique that we can take our time and expand. The
competition is always healthy because this is something that is driving us to
achieve more, achieve faster, and deliver more value proposition to the end user
and continuously innovate.
Definitely, there is some competition in the market. There are some competitors.
We do see new players. We do see large energy companies trying to penetrate into
this market and trying to deliver similar solutions. Some of them even made
acquisition offers to us. For us, we try to push to our best and to the limits
of our best what we can, and then see how the market moves. But so far, it
worked out well. And we have the belief of our investors and they’re quite
supportive, so we tell them, “Hey, we need to be quick in this market. There’s a
lot of low hanging fruit.” And they’re quite supportive in that sense. Sometimes
we can be a bit aggressive as well. We say, “Hey, we can also expand to these
markets,” but they say, “Hey, hold your horses.”
In general, not just a startup, but in general, the overall worldwide market is
not doing the best at the moment. Instead of just looking to be a unicorn very
quickly, it’s also the balance between being a camel. Just to sustain, maintain
finances, and maintain the eagerness to grow a bit more.
I just read recently in one article that it was always to be profitable first
and then think about scalability. And I think in the last three to five years,
there was a lot of capital penetrated into startups that investors pushed
everyone to grow, grow, grow quickly, and then start being profitable.
That’s the reason why I think in the last 12 months, we see the market bringing
everyone back to reality. That’s the mindset that we are trying to keep. We are
targeting to be profitable, to have operational stability, and then slowly
expand. Of course, we do have some growth opportunities that we propose to our
investors, and if they’re supportive of that, then we move ahead. But we are
quite aware in terms of the market conditions and how to be cautious about
Roland Siebelink: Do you see differences between investors with more of a
Southeast Asian background versus investors that have more of a Silicon Valley
link to them in terms of how they position and prioritize growth versus
Emir Nurov: Yes. To be honest, yes. We spoke to quite a number of US VCs,
North American VCs and quite a lot of Asian VCs. In Asia, as I said, it’s still
the same mentality. Of course, it depends on how old the firm is, how many years
they operate as well. But the same mentality in terms of: “What is your growth
strategy? What is your profitability strategy? What is your monetization
strategy? How scalable the product is and what is go-to-market fit and
Those are sometimes tough questions but also questions that need to be answered
by the startups. And I think it’s very important to stay aware - sometimes as
founders, we tend to over believe in our own ideas. But I think it’s a good
balance between investors and the founders. They look from the commercial
perspective a lot. And then from founders, we look a lot from the ideation and
the commercial. It’s a good balance to make sure that we are aware of all the
aspects that need to be considered.
I think it’s always a good balance between investor needs and investor vision.
And of course, the founder needs a founder vision.
Roland Siebelink: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned very quickly, Emir, your
founder psychology. As founders, we also over believe in our own ideas. I think
you need that to be crazy enough to start a company. But what have you learned
from your own experience, your personality, new insights, new ways of thinking
in those five years since you first started working on Resync.
Emir Nurov: To be honest, it’s an eye-opening experience. I’m a first time
entrepreneur, so I can’t really compare too much. I can’t talk much about the
things that I’ve learned in my previous companies and et cetera. But I think one
really important thing that I learned for myself is that the sky’s the limit.
There’s a lot of opportunities. There’s a lot of things that need to be done and
can be. We just need the right people. We just need the right mindset. We just
need to put in a bit of effort and we can achieve that. And I think that’s
something that we’ve been doing in the last five years.
When I used to work in a corporation, I used to work there for five years at a
Norwegian company. Everything was in place, everything proper. We follow certain
standards, certain methodologies, and sometimes being out of the box and having
an out-of-the-box mentality is not a good thing because you are an outlier in a
mass movement of the corporate.
In startups, very interestingly, every opinion has value. It doesn’t matter
whether you are an intern, whether you are an engineer, whether you are a leader
or CEO or founder, everyone will listen to your opinion. They will take it into
consideration. And then depending on who’s role, they make a decision. But at
least they will hear you and they will discuss your opinions. That’s a very
important thing because self-expression, as you said, some people are very crazy
with their ideas, with the tech, or even as a personality. But I think that’s
what makes startups really interesting and valuable, that all these ideas come
together and build something that is not present in the market at the moment.
Roland Siebelink: Do you ever secretly miss not being in your well-organized
Norwegian company anymore?
Emir Nurov: I won’t say that it’s not well organized. It’s a well-organized
company, and to be honest, I learned a lot. I can’t say I will be a good founder
without having those prerequisites because I’ve seen how the companies are
operated, how it’s run, who are the different stakeholders, what are the
different responsibilities, what different methodologies we had to take. Because
I used to work in R&D, we used to get ideas from the lab and bring them all the
way to mass manufacturing. And before you bring it to mass manufacturing, you
have to go through so many stages, so many approvals. You need to make sure that
you can see all the factors - economical, technological, operational, logistics,
All these factors shape up your thought process, and at the same time, exposes
you to different processes that need to be considered. And I think bringing that
experience into the startup and working with young, very energetic engineers,
it’s also our responsibility to educate them. It’s not only about the tech. You
write 50 lines of code and things are working, but you need to consider these
other factors because this is important for the project or for the product or
for the company operations.
Roland Siebelink: Would you advise people to always get a bit of both - some
startup experience, some corporate experience - especially when they’re young?
Emir Nurov: Definitely. I think especially when they’re young. I would
suggest at the early stage of their career to go to the large companies,
experience that large corporate life, experience those different techniques
because those companies have been startups at some point of time as well. They
built it up on certain cultures. They built it up on certain experiences. They
built it up on certain techniques, they adopted those techniques. And I think
it’s very important to learn - even if you might not be able to implement those
techniques, at least to be aware of those techniques and understand why they
were adopted, what is the value proposition of those techniques. And then see
whether those techniques can be implemented in your own venture or maybe when
you join startups, this is something that you can propose to implement.
Roland Siebelink: Perfect. Very good. Emir, this has been an amazing
interview. Thank you so much. With people that have made it all the way to the
end of this podcast, how can they find out more about Resync? Where should they
go? What should they download? And how can they help you?
Emir Nurov: They can just type into Google Resync Technologies. That will be
our website. They can reach out to us with either our email or directly our
phone number. Add me on LinkedIn. I’ll be more than happy to speak to everyone
based on time availability. We are quite open. We are more than happy to
support. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a potential collaboration, investor, or
even someone who is interested in working in startups or in the energy space. We
are always happy to look into different profiles and see how they can contribute
to the vision.
Roland Siebelink: Perfect. And where are you hiring people?
Emir Nurov: At the moment, Singapore, Thailand, and India. We are also
expanding in the next six months to the Middle East and Australia.
Roland Siebelink: Perfect. Very good to hear. Well, thank you so much once
again, Emir Nurov, the founder and CEO of Resync Tech. It’s been an honor to
Roland Siebelink talks all things tech startup and bring you interviews with
tech cofounders across the world.