Bob Witter is CEO and Co-Founder of Device Solutions, which began as an engineering consulting firm in 2003. Over time, the company started developing wireless devices and eventually pivoted into medical devices with multiple wireless components. Recently, Device Solutions launched its newest venture, Cellio, which is a low-cost, easy installed IoT ecosystem. In Bob’s free time, he volunteers as an emergency medical responder, woodworking and spending time with his family and five dogs. Bob is a visionary, a programmer and an altruist and we shared a fascinating conversation about Cellio and what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.
Q: What does Cellio do in a nutshell?
A: In about 2010, we decided it was hard to grow value in our connectivity and consulting services alone and started looking at product opportunities. We’ve always been very good at building devices, but we realized that, in order to scale, we needed to create an entire system, which is how Cellio was born.
We turned what originally was a few devices into an entire ecosystem that transfers and collects data from the edge all the way to a backend application. We’ve partnered with sensor providers on one end all the way to application providers on the back end to create an entire system that is very flexible and easy to use.
Generally, the Cellio system can fit into any vertical very, very quickly. And because of that we’ve been able to work with a variety of products. Because of our connection to the healthcare industry, we’ve been able to work on some incredible projects like ambulatory EKG wearables that communicate heart activity data in near real-time and internal heart pumps designed to extend the life of those who are waiting or ineligible for a transplant.
Q: What inspired you to start this company?
A: I have worked for corporate America for most of my life and in the cellular phone industry. I decided to leave my job after being asked to lay off an entire team of people for the second time in my career. I was so disappointed with how careless they were with peoples’ careers.
I decided to start Device Solutions with my Co-founder, Chris Lamb, so we didn’t have to do that again. We have a people before profits philosophy and we routinely exercise that belief. When our board of directors get together, rather than asking ourselves how we can achieve the highest profit, we ask ourselves how we can keep everyone employed.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: Because we do a lot of work for others in a variety of industries, we get to learn a lot about other businesses. I find that fascinating. After spending my career focusing on just cell phones, being able to look at other businesses and understand how they run is so exciting. We’ve spent days on chicken and hog farms, touring various manufacturing facilities – all kinds of things.
Q: Do you have any mentors or role models who have inspired you while you have been building your business?
A: Tom and Rachael from the RIoT team have been amazing. The RAP workshops have been great. They’ve provided fantastic mentors full of great insights. The ability to go through workshops and put our learnings into practice and then have mentors to follow up and give feedback on our efforts has worked so well. It’s a fabulous program. I can’t think of a better way to run it.
Q: Any advice for entrepreneurs?
A: I started late in my career. If entrepreneurship is something you feel called to do, though not everyone is, then start early.
Another big piece of advice I often share is this: every relationship that you enter into is really a partnership with someone else and you should treat it that way. There becomes a point where you stop selling your product and you start asking those you speak with if they’re worthy of you and the services you provide. The only way the partnership truly works is if both parties are truly worthy of each other. Like marriage.
Another word of advice – we worked a long time to try to develop our Cellio sales process before realizing sales wasn’t our thing and got involved in RAP. Know what your expertise is and what it’s not. Seek the help you need as soon as possible. We learned an awful lot from the mistakes we made, but that’s certainly not the most efficient path to wisdom.