Conversation with Hussam Mansour
Ken: [00:00:00] Good day and welcome to episode 150 of our momentum digital thread podcast series today. It's my great pleasure to host who some months or founder and CEO of waste harem, a leading end to end smart waste collection service pull-up provider momentous, a proud investor in waste here, which is based in Denver.
Some is a serial entrepreneur who enjoys challenging the status quo. He graduated at master of sourness from our house university and has published various publications on IOT and AI in waste management. Part of a closed Danish network for level and ministries advising on the future of sustainable waste management and believes that with the increasing rate of urbanization, there's never been a more crucial time to implement efficient and sustainable waste collection.
Husam welcome to our digital thread podcast.
Hassam: [00:00:57] Thank you. Thank you for having me, Ken. It's a very great and [00:01:00] exciting to be.
Ken: [00:01:01] And it's a great and exciting to have you as well. Obviously, we're proud investors in waste hero, but we also see, I'd say the trends in investing and in just general sustainability, really pointing to a lot of the use cases that you guys are doing.
So really looking forward to a timely conversation. I always like to say. These conversations with a bit of your own personal, if you will, digital journey. So what would you consider to be your digital thread per se? In other words, the one or more thematic threads that define your digital industry.
Hassam: [00:01:39] Yeah, absolutely.
And I think that's a super interesting question. And really the digital thread of a founder helps define the, the, which road you take as an entrepreneur. And my journey actually started when I was working at a large pump manufacturer without, before founding waste zero. And my job was to [00:02:00] screen different IOT platforms.
And this was in the early stages of it platforms. I think I've screened roughly around six, seven years. And it wasn't even an exhaustive list. And remember we had, we looked at Microsoft and Amazon back then the leaders of today and this pump manufacturer was actually developing their own it platform.
And that was at the early stages where IOT was much more about collecting data more than building the actual. Application. And as you mentioned yourself, or host university, when founding wastes hero, we were very fortunate to, to sit in the department of digitalization and business development, focusing on IOT, and it had a different professor leading the department and also a great advice which waste hero.
And so it really started with IOT deep IOT and then also study. Publications on IOT and later on also on machine learning and AI. So that's my digital thread. It's deep down into IOT connectivity, IOT [00:03:00] data gathering, and the utilization of data on AI. And then later on specializing on waste management.
Ken: [00:03:08] You're actually in a great ecosystem. One of our prior investments was a company called Thingworks and at the time as part of that investment, I spent time out there with that pump manufacturer in, in near our house, out of Denmark. And, and specifically out there looking at potential use cases for the application of the thing works platform.
They're so well familiar with a lot of those efforts and a well-regarded manufacturer per se is as well. But that our house particularly was interesting because, um, there was a lot of early thought leadership there. In fact, I think they publish who, as I remember it, the IOT comic book, which was a great to actually a piece that describing a lot of the interesting use cases and potential social and, um, and technological, if you will impacts of IOT a good ecosystem to be in.
So I know [00:04:00] you had an early start co right. Several companies. So this isn't necessarily your first entrepreneurial exercise. What, what attracted you to this intersection of digital? Yeah,
Hassam: [00:04:11] absolutely. My, this is a waste. Sirius is definitely is my fifth company and I've always started businesses up. And I think really from my point of view, the passion of starting businesses and solving problems.
That's deep in my heart. And at some point, when you, I think when you have that grit of being a founder of companies, and then you also start learning about different technologies, such as IOT and AI and so on and so forth, but also learn how to combine those into solving actual problems. That kind of caught me.
And I think it. Something that happened with time. As you develop as a founder and learn about these technologies at the same time that you can use them and neutralize them, then it just happened like that.
Ken: [00:04:54] So drilling down into waste. When you founded the company in 2017, [00:05:00] what problem did you set out to solve?
Hassam: [00:05:03] Uh, another interesting question. I think not many know this, but waist here actually was founded as IOT lab in the very beginning set to solve the problems of IOT. Everyone. But actually I was sitting in engineering class at some point and looking outside of the window and then I could see this one trash bin that was always empty, empty or half full.
And I remember, I know it'd be so much that we started developing the sensor for the waistband and it quickly, we could see based on the data that in nine out of 10 incidents that try bin were collected too late or too early. If it was too late, the trash bin was overflowing and you had trash in the streets.
And if it was too early, the bin was empty and you had trash vehicles, Stripe drive out there unnecessarily. And really the problem is for anyone that has a trash bin and anyone that are collecting trash from HTC, which is basically businesses and municipalities. But as we [00:06:00] saw, we started learning that municipalities and businesses could have different pain points.
But really inherently, they could use the same product, but those are the customer segments that we solved pumpkin full.
Ken: [00:06:11] So what have been some of your key use cases and wins at waste hero? We've
Hassam: [00:06:16] been to win projects in our home market from very early on in Danish municipalities first in the city of honing.
And then later on different cities as strategic projects. Would that set on a good back to that in a minute? Why? That was so crucial for us? We've been very, we've had. Customers contact us from over 40, 45 countries. And so that made us really think about how we're going to deploy and scale our solution globally from the get-go.
So with that said, we had to think about how we could ship the sensor globally with global connectivity and different stuff as well. Think about the software in a very modular based approach so that it could still be scalable, but [00:07:00] are customized to the different needs of each country when it comes to waste management.
So not only is Deni cities very adaptable to digitization and ESG goals. They also leading a waste management. And so that allowed us to. Build a product and end to end solution product for those cities. And funnily enough, we started off by looking outside of the window and looking at this one trash bin, and I'm thinking, why do we need white?
Doesn't that have a sensor, but actually interesting. What happened was that when we deployed in the city of Herning, which was our first one in 413 bottle banks, we realized that we could save them a 71% of the annual savings, but this city had around 65,000 bins in total. Um, When we started asking them about, so what we had to ask them about is to run on a silo system.
So wastes your system for dynamic pickups based on it sensors. And they had to run an old legacy system, uh, for the rest of the business. And I remember you started asking the question on why couldn't we just integrate those [00:08:00] 413 sensors in those existing, in the existing system they had, why did they have to have two different separate tools?
And that's when we realized that the existing software systems in waste management, they were built 20 years ago. They couldn't, they didn't know how to handle any type of data integrated with any type of sensor without being customized, or they didn't know how to use it in a routing. It was very hard to integrate with.
So really we started becoming, going away from being an IOT company, to being an end to end waste management solution provider, realizing that at the same time, We had a wealth of census in the IOT space, maturing such as for instance, GPS trackers for fleets USB. They could see how much, how the vehicle was performing, how the driver behavior was different, a Lotus for waiting at the different types of containers and so on and so forth.
And every time the customer had to use any of these new sensors, they couldn't integrate them. They had to use a separate system. So really. Key strategic wins from early on, made us [00:09:00] go away from being an IOT company, to being a solution provider. In the sense that when we start going out to a customer today, we don't tell them, Hey, let's, let's put a thousand IOT sensors in your bins and give you a separate system.
We said, we'll start by saying. Let's digitize all of your assets. Let's put all your 65,000 bins in our system. Let's put all your vehicles in our system. Let's put all your drivers in our system, all your capacity constraints, all your waste stations, everything that's revolved around waste management, and let's create those studies.
Digitize assets. And what we've been very successful with Ken lately is building an ecosystem or a marketplace with these different types of sensors around our software so that the customer can plug and play any different sensor on any of these assets that we pre-approved. For instance, if they want a 50 sensors this month on this vehicle, they can do that.
Or 50 sensors of this type on this spend. They can do it. And. Check the business case and then scale up as they want really [00:10:00] avoiding the POC purgatory because POC purgatory is not just not being mature, but also all these limitations that are with old legacy systems. Not only from a, obviously as I'll discuss later on problems with tender process and so on and so forth and limitations, but also they just think systems just can't handle IOT data.
So really the need was to rethink or redefine the category of modern day waste management software and these key strategic. I thought we had in our home market from early on and this higher adapted tepidity helped us build this visionary product.
Ken: [00:10:32] Yeah, love the journey from single point, really digital, if you will censor to now a full to end solution provider around waste management and in many ways that really does define what, uh, how the IOT, if you will, expansion or network effect really works.
So, and the fact that you've already talked about ecosystem is really critical in that as well. Excellent trajectory. Yeah. Yeah,
Hassam: [00:10:55] absolutely. And just to add on that, interesting enough, we wouldn't be expecting when we build a [00:11:00] sensor to start integrating with different CRM systems, different billing systems, ERP systems.
So really having that, understanding that the data of the collect needs to integrate in a whole wider picture is really crucial. And it's been a great learning.
Ken: [00:11:17] is an impressive growth curve. Given your founding in 2017 in engineering class, staring at the waistband. I love those origin stories.
Cause there's always that spark of innovation that comes from it as we've been active investors in companies that are I'll call it rethinking smart spaces. Including the smart buildings, smart cities, et cetera. That, yeah, it was a lot of early hype in this space, especially around the smart city aspect.
Now we're seeing a resurgence in a lot of those use cases, driving real benefits versus the hype. What's, what's been your experience relative to, uh, smart spaces and, and basically the same kind of hype and reality [00:12:00] trends.
Hassam: [00:12:02] Yeah, absolutely quite interesting. I remember at the university and having conversations with conversations with this professor in IOT, talking about similar use cases that we saw in 17 being deployed in 2002 and 2000, 2006.
And, and merely becoming pilots and nothing more than that. And then now being reignited, I think what's, I think w what we've seen, what we've experienced is a wave of maturity on, on, on these smart spaces. So, first and foremost, the costs of the census have gone down similar to most law since this, the cost go down and the connectivity, the roaming agreements globally, the domestic deployment of flora event, for instance, Done that it's easily to deploy and it's more scalable, but not only that, I think what's more interesting.
Interesting. What we've seen is, so when we talk to smart cities, they usually have an innovation [00:13:00] department. So innovation department are handling everything was connected spaces, but really the real users are the one that gaining the real benefits will be more. The surgical departments, such as the waste management and technical departments.
And there's a long way from going to a smart city innovation hubs down to that, and actually implementing and creating benefits. And what we've seen is that is now maturing more as yeah. Technology has matured and we are now more certain on the benefits and that this, that is definitely driving the market at this moment.
Ken: [00:13:36] I think, as I said earlier, also, I think you've caught an interesting way of that is really propelling. A lot of such companies call it a by-product and some sense of digitalization of industrial infra infrastructure, but you end up with better efficiency, transparency, new business models, all of what the industry is now beginning to call.
Yes, G for environmental sustainability and [00:14:00] governance, if you will, as at the medic, to what degree are you seeing traction coming from? That's say ESG oriented investors, groups, et cetera, in terms of propelling your own traction. That's a great
Hassam: [00:14:11] question. Can I think really. ESGs are really driving demand and driving high level conversations.
We see large traction on all three environmental sustainable and governance based on the different customer segments. And we wasted really delivers on all of it. We see a very strong desire for better governance, transparency, and understanding the data and the opportunities for new business models and a by-product of that is often.
Environmental and sustainable aspects. So we definitely see is GS as a driver for KPIs and conversations, but when implementing projects and working directly with, with customers in driving real benefits,
Ken: [00:14:52] Yeah, I think you guys are definitely in the, in the sweet spot there. And then, and it's interesting.
I, people are often asked is, you know, [00:15:00] momentum, ESG investor. And certainly by thematic, we wouldn't say that we set out to, to achieve some type of ESG goals. IOT has always been an enabler of E S N G depending on the perspectives that you're looking at. And I always say, it's interesting. It's a by-product of it.
It's not the focus of it, but it ends up with very real world benefits. And you probably tend to see those in smart cities or smart spaces, more so than maybe other sectors like energy or manufacturing in terms of that connection. So again, I think you guys are well-placed. What, what has surprised you most about working in the smart city space?
Hassam: [00:15:38] What surprised me the most. Ken is there. There's a great willful for taking initiative and from using these technologies, but not as much, we didn't see so much bravery in the beginning to change the behavior. And that's really, even though sometimes the benefits are obvious, a lot of these smart cities.
By existing contracts [00:16:00] or tender processes and, and so on and so forth. So I think that's really what has surprised me the most during this, here are
Ken: [00:16:07] your predecessors in the first wave of smart cities. I think one of the key reasons they ended up staying in a proof of concept or pilot purgatory was there.
Wasn't a defined by. And a smart city. So you might go and sell in one city and it ends up being a one municipal organization that's responsible for this kind of digital tech tech, if you will, and you go to another city and it's going to be completely different, it's very difficult to have to scale. And we heard that a lot around smart streetlights, particularly in that regard.
I think what's transpired over that time is, as you said, there are now coalescing, chief digital officers or innovation organizations in most of these cities that do support and, and are out scouting for specific technologies and solutions. Like what, what your says. Well, let me [00:17:00] ask when you get an inquiry, how do you know when an organization or potential client is really ready to adopt your solution?
And I guess along the same lines, what are some of the best practice you've seen in those that are truly realizing the potential value?
Hassam: [00:17:18] Yeah, that's the $1 million question. How do you qualify organizations? Right? How do you focus in the right ones? But I think inherently the space that we work, I think when we see there's a top-down support and a burning desire for solving a pain, that's when an organization is the, uh, Adaptable to our solution, but I think that's a long topic that can be discussed, how we, how you evaluate that.
But I think what's more interesting is discussed the best practices that we have seen and we're realizing the potential value. I think the best practices that we have seen from organizations is involving all the relevant stakeholder. From the get-go and when we talk all vertical, we talk about service [00:18:00] employees.
It drive us waste planners, not just the pew climate medicine managers or the innovation office, or the manager that kind of purchase the stuff, but only see a report. So that's really where we've seen organizations realizing the full potential value of this, of the solutions.
Ken: [00:18:21] Yeah, that is a, that is pretty critical.
Not only to qualify, as you said, that actually helps you stay out of pilot purgatory, and not all, all, all sales are of equal value, but also this idea of best practices. We actually did a series of webinars on different areas like anergy and manufacturing, and really focused on those best practices on how people gain the traction, qualified the organizations help to support if you will.
And there's a lot. Really good, good deep ends. And in establishing those best practices and really working with them as well, especially in the smart cities, because you deal with so many stakeholders and constituents in typical [00:19:00] installation in there, I guess, changing topic a little bit, given your own entrepreneurial journey, what would you advise?
Other startup founders?
Hassam: [00:19:08] One of the single most important things that I found out during my entrepreneurial journey. Yeah. How crucial it is to finding great people to your team. But sometimes you can go a long way with challenge, passion, and dedication, but nothing beats seniority in the verticals that you work with, someone that has done it before can really move mountains.
So really number one advice is don't be afraid to find people that have bet on smarter than you with that said underlining recruitment as a really important factor when building a company. And then secondly, obviously also that focusing on the culture, making people work greatly together is the best advice I can give.
Ken: [00:19:44] Yeah, we are firm believers in the value of getting good people. That's not only do we invest, but we, we have a good, strong, exact search arm that literally helps to find that really key talent to scale up the company. So completely aligned with you. I guess, more on the personal side, where do [00:20:00] you find your own inspiration?
I think I find
Hassam: [00:20:02] my inspiration from many places I've been. Deeply drawn to Silicon valley actually followed since I was young. And I think some good books come out of there, which so which I can highly recommend every startup founder to read let's scaling and the rules, but really also I find great inspiration in talking to advisors and founders that have done it before discussing different topics that we are going through and finding inspiration from there.
I also do find a lot of inspiration from people at work. And our employees. So I tend to ask a lot of questions about things that be approaching to find inspiration, and we try to reflect on, on, on different stuff that we see, and he hadn't tried to create kind of our own formula for things. Good. And
Ken: [00:20:46] a good book recommendations.
I have no blitz scaling, particularly as a great book. So some thank you for spending this time with us today.
Hassam: [00:20:56] Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me and have a great day.
[00:21:00] Ken: [00:21:00] Okay. Hey, let me ask if people want to find out more about waste hero, how do they do
Hassam: [00:21:04] if people want to find out more? I think go to our website, but we see it at IO or LinkedIn page and read more about us there.
Ken: [00:21:12] Perfect. So this has been Husan months or founder and CEO of waste hero and a perpetual challenger of the status quo. So thank you for listening and please join us next week for our next momenta digital thread podcast. Thank you and have a great day. You've been listening to the momentum digital thread podcast series.
We hope you've enjoyed the discussion and as always, we welcome your comments and suggestions. Please check our email@example.com for archive versions of podcasts, as well as resources to help with your digital industry attorney. Thank you for listening.