Adapting To Change: A chat with Invigilo Technologies’ Vishnu Saran (Part 3)

If you are new to Invigilo Technologies and Vishnu or missed the second part of our interview here, here’s a brief introduction of what they do. 

Invigilo is a deep-tech startup that develops IoT and video analytics platforms to boost worksite productivity and safety.

Their products can predict safety issues and prevent accidents from happening as well as prevent potential delays at construction sites. More than just saving time and money for construction firms, Invigilo aspires to build the next generation smart construction site.

Vishnu is an alumnus of the prestigious NUS Overseas College (NOC) Silicon Valley programme. A material science and engineering graduate, he had previously founded Nucleate, an education startup, during his time in NUS. Upon graduation, he explored the VC space as a business analyst for 4 months before venturing out and starting Invigilo.

Tun Yong (TY): What were some pivots made by Invigilo due to the pandemic? Looking back, do you view it as a blessing in disguise?

Vishnu (V): I might be one of the few to share the opinion that the pandemic was a blessing in disguise. However, it was not perfectly smooth sailing for me. I was placed in quarantine as I was a close contact of a confirmed case. To make matters worse, it was a day after my co-founder left. 

Imagine being cooped up at home for a fortnight, dwelling on the fact that your whole startup journey and effort put in over the past months were put on hold due to your co-founder leaving. It was mentally intense as I could not leave the house for fresh air and clear my thoughts.

Furthermore, Invigilo was in the construction industry. Due to the circuit breaker, all construction activities stopped. We were in the midst of gathering customer feedback and improving the software when all trials and demonstrations were put on hold due to the halt in activities.

The priority then was to get the construction sites cleared and to get the workers into quarantine.

Upon the lifting of the circuit breaker, the mindset of the industry changed to restarting construction activity safely, while adhering to the multitude of new rules and regulations put in place to govern the spread of the virus.

Despite these difficulties, entrepreneurs must adapt and think swiftly to ride the change. Thus, the team developed a video analytics software that enforced safe distancing measures at construction sites, detection of mask-wearing, overcrowding alerts, etc, that were in tune with new demands brought about by the pandemic.

Though it was not a huge hit as many companies were releasing such products, we did get deals and continual engagement from customers. I had shared earlier on the importance of adopting a growth mindset and this was a good example of it being put into action.

Having such a mindset entails making the best of the situation.

Due to the pause in construction activities, we got more time to speak to our customers about our product. There was minimal waiting time for feedback and that helped us in making constant and quick tweaks to our product to suit our customers.

The pandemic also provided us with time to focus on product development. When we launched the product, it was the best iteration of it, as opposed to the conventional “build and test” model. During the break, we had more freedom to work around as the deadlines were less tight too.

However, the pace is starting to pick up again and we have 3 demos lined up in the next week. Looking back, the good thing was that we managed to be nimble and think on our feet and get the new product up and rolling as fast as possible to cater to the new demands brought about by the pandemic. 

An example of Invigilo-Shield harnessing the power of AI to detect workers not wearing masks and not adhering to social distancing measures

Tun Yong (TY): What was your toughest experience as an entrepreneur so far?

Vishnu (V): The toughest part was going into the construction industry with minimal technical knowledge. I was from a material science background. When starting up Invigilo for about 4-5 months, my role encompassed both the responsibilities of a CEO and CTO.

It was tough for me as the learning curve was steep. I had to learn new skills by taking up courses and reaching out to people who were way smarter than me in technical knowledge to join my team. 

Over the course of these few months, I acquired enough technical expertise to hold a good conversation with an accredited AI engineer without being questioned if I had an educational background in AI.

The construction domain is a very tough industry to enter as there are numerous elements to it. In the construction space, relationships matter. There are a lot of stakeholders to consider. Given the nature of the job, they tend to be hardy and tough people to interact with.

They would question my age and experience in bringing something useful to the table. Furthermore, they would remark that I did not understand what safety truly meant as they have seen men die under their watch. It was certainly tough to answer these questions.

Truth be told, the pandemic also opened their eyes up to the importance of tech within the industry. They started being receptive to people like me: young, driven, and utilising tech to provide new solutions to change the status quo.

Tun Yong (TY): What are the key traits an entrepreneur should have?

Vishnu (V): The most important one would be the ability to adapt. As entrepreneurs, we are clueless about the industry when we first enter. We only learn as we do it hence it’s important to stay adaptive.

Secondly, knowing when to give up or fail. This is one trait that people take for granted. Many budding entrepreneurs have the false impression of “trying till you die”. However, that is not the right way as you could lose direction easily and waste your efforts.

Next, the ability to communicate well. Communicating effectively can be trained as you speak to more stakeholders but it is key to maintain the confidence in your product even when others question it.

This would not truly constitute a trait, but luck is important. Personally, I feel luck is partially controllable. I define luck as doing the things to get you what you want and reducing the things that get you what you do not want.

To visualise it better, I view luck as a fraction. The numerator would be the former while the denominator would be the latter. Thus, by increasing beneficial tasks, coupled with a decrease in harmful tasks, you can get lucky.

This ties in with working smart rather than working hard. You must pick the right decisions to get you what you truly want and not be greedy and take on tasks that might not be ultimately beneficial. Entrepreneurs have the tendency to take on everything that is possible. I do not recommend it as you would just get tired and burnt out. 

Lastly, have fun in the process. It is important for an aspiring entrepreneur to see the fun and joy in the journey. You must enjoy doing it, if not it would be easy to get burnt out from it. You must be self-aware and know how to destress through having fun to survive in the long-term.  

Interested in Invigilo Technologies and the work they do? Check them out here.

Check out the first part of the interview series here, as Vishnu shares what inspired him to be an entrepreneur and his takeaways from the NOC Silicon Valley programme.

This interview is part of our “Founders X EDGE” series where we seek to hear the insights of youth entrepreneurs to demystify the scene and empower youths to turn their ideas into reality. Do reach out to us if you are interested in being featured alongside other great, young minds!

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Tun Yong Yap

Passionate about tech start-ups that identify problems, develop ideas and execute solutions to value-add to the community. As the content manager at EDGE, I seek to connect with youth founders to share their story and inspire others to turn their ideas into reality.

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