Computers can be considered as one of the greatest inventions of mankind. From massive in-house computers to smartphones, computers have become integral part of our lives. Though we use smartphones for daily transactions, we still rely on desktop computers for work. Desktop computers have revolutionized the way of work by increasing productivity. Taking it further a group of ASU students are redefining the concept of desktop computers. Space- a modern day desktop computer is an all in one solution to messy workstation. The student runned company – M33 Labs- are building the next generation of desktop computers. Space- is a mobile desk with touch screen that removes unnecessary wires.It provides the ultimate work space experience.
We had an interview with the co-founder of the company- Brandon Smith. This interview takes us through the motivation and vision of this young startup located in Mesa, Arizona.
What motivated you to start your company?
I have always been so incredibly amazed at what products can do to enrich our lives. The ways in which they take something that can be complex or taxing and present it in an entirely different dynamic is something really special in the world. This isn’t by accident either, it’s by design. I have always thought of entrepreneurs more like artists than business people. They craft this incredible piece of work that ends up becoming a company, and that company turns out products that are a reflection of that work. Customers then buy these products because those products reflect their own philosophies. One of my favorite examples of this is Braun, a company that has churned out some of the most iconic products of our time such as the SK 2 Radio.
Their mastery of simplicity and function by removing things that were unnecessary are something I feel a lot of companies fail to capture.
When I was about 16 I began a career as an ordinary IT guy. This meant I spent a lot of time in people’s offices, primarily around their desks. Over and over again I have swapped computers, monitors, cables printers you name it. This has slowly but surely brought me to a simple conclusion. Computers and desks aren’t exactly made to go without one another now a days. They are built for one another, and I would say in almost every case in the modern world it is hard to find them without each other. But if you think of it in simpler terms, you can start to notice that one seems to be a little more of an accessory to the other. The desktop computer has for the entirety of its’ life been an accessory to the desk. But why is this? Well it’s simple. It’s not good design.
Like the case with the SK 2 and radios of the 1950’s, desktops have become inflated and and contain so many unnecessary components, when really all people need for a workspace is a simple functional device. How can anyone be expected to create incredible pieces of work if their own workspace setup still looks like something out of an old IBM catalog from the 90’s?
I decided to start my company because I care very deeply about the user experience of our devices in the future. I care about the workspace and improving it. By giving users the ultimate workspace, I believe that I can do my part to enable them to do better work, maybe even work that reflects the values of the SK 2, because they will have a really great example sitting in front of them.
When was your startup founded?
Our startup was founded on April 1st, 2016.
What were you doing before starting this Startup?
Before M33 Labs, I was and still continue to work as an IT guy for a local automotive group.
How did you come up with the idea of your brand name?
When we were trying to determine a name for our incredible workspace we thought long and hard about the message we wanted to send to our customers. We wanted something that reflected our values of simplicity and function, but also something that was familiar and warm. That is how we came up with Space, because it can reflect whichever type of workspace environment you intend for your Space to be used in.
Now M33 Labs is another story…. but that one I’ll save for a later time.
What problem your product, service or concept is going to solve?
As I stated before, the problem really is that you have to buy all of these different devices for a workspace setup, which complicates the design and really the functionality of the device as a whole. If you think about your desktop and your desk, these are two devices work together well, and some desks even do a really good job at simplistic design, as do some desktops such as the iMac. The problem is that you can only squeeze so much functionality out of either product before it no longer can evolve.
Take the power button for example. If you have a traditional desktop setup you can have 3 or 4 power buttons just to power on all of your devices. Each accessory (desktop, monitors, speakers, power brick, etc.) has its own power button. On Space everything is powered off of one button. By combining devices that are unnecessarily set apart it makes it much more functional and a much more simplistic design by default, while eliminating clutter as well.
Why did you choose this particular domain or industry?
Technology is perhaps the biggest industry in which personalization, functionality and innovation all come together to meet one another. It is also an industry plagued by both really great and really not so great design. It is an industry that I believe we can tip the scales in the right direction by bringing more great devices into it. It is also incredible when you see what people do with their devices. I mean you have 12 year olds writing code because of devices like the iPad. No one could have ever imagined that 20 years, hell even 10 years ago.
What are the challenges that you have faced in your niche industry?
There is always challenges when you entering the technology sector. First is the fragmentation, second the cost and third is the sheer volume. But these are all things that if you factor them into your challenges as not necessarily pitfalls but rather possible advantages, they seem to be possibly overcome in the long run.
What does a typical day in your office consists of?
Well we mostly work at night, so a day in the office is mostly spent white boarding or prototyping in the living room of something we affectionately refer to as our “hippie commune.” This also happens to be my dorm at Arizona State University. After I come back from work from my “normal life” job it usually starts with me meeting a member from each team to discuss how the day has progressed so far. We are fortunate that some of us work part time so they can work during the day on things for M33 Labs. We then discuss anything that might need tending too, and then break off on our own individual tasks with each of our teams. Every week we have a meeting with each team (design, marketing, business, mechanical, electrical) and then on weekends we have a “recap” meeting. This is where we all come together for dinner and talk business and give progress reports on each team’s successes and failures for the week. During the week each team operates as its own cell.
What are your future thoughts about your industry?
I think that the technology industry is one we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg for, and that over time if good design prevails we can expect to see a lot more great devices and user experiences in our future.
Your suggestions for budding and upcoming entrepreneurs?
Stay hungry, stay foolish.
Company website link: www.m33labs.com
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