Henry Uyeme, Founder and CEO of intrida, a tech startup researching and developing a next-generation data integration platform largely for the energy & chemicals/process industries.
He has served in several technical, support, consultancy, business development and management roles in multinational organizations which includes AVEVA Group, and Dassault Systemes - SolidWorks.
Although with a background in aeronautical engineering, he has been responsible for supporting enterprise technologies mostly within the hydrocarbons (process), power and marine industries.
As a member of enterprise product definition/development teams, his domain expertise includes engineering 3D modeling systems, engineering data management systems, engineering drafting and drawing solutions, technical data integration systems, engineering due diligence and quality assurance activities.
His deep interests in data wrangling and the development of data influenced solutions has seen him support major process projects around the world.
Henry has an M.Sc in Mechanical Engineering (Computational Modeling) from Aston University Birmingham UK, and a B.Sc in Mechanical Engineering (Aeronautics) from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.
How did intrida get started?
I sat through many technical meetings, reference groups and retrospectives of complex projects around the world and saw first-hand how a large number of technical challenges could have been easily solved or avoided if teams had easy access to the visuals, variety of data and associated information across entire projects. Information was siloed within projects—even with a wide array of data authoring tools to generate datasets, they usually carry little, if any, context and don’t easily allow for beneficial collaboration.
We found, through several months of research, that many organizations still depended on convoluted ways of interacting with their data and time-consuming methods of validating their data sets, most of which were manual. After organizations lacked the ability to acquire sufficient insights from shared data to power informed decisions throughout their projects, they had to resort to ‘reworking’ the entire project.
We built a technology platform that unified and validated data to allow for seamless collaboration. We worked hard to make the technology intuitive and ‘easy’ to work with while maintaining reliability and robustness.
Can you explain what “intelligent data” is and why it is so important?
The issues I’ve described above, created by the era of big data and digitalization, where there are vast datasets with no context or sharing capabilities, creates what’s called “dumb data,” where the underlying information isn’t useful or just isn’t there.
Intelligent data includes data points that carry relevant contexts that can support the extraction of the best value when generating insights. This helps guide informed decisions.
In an article in Chenected in April, you said intrida was in the seed stage of funding. Can you tell us where it’s at now?
We are currently fundraising for our seed round.
In the beginning, we chose to focus entirely on developing a platform prototype, also known as a Minimum Viable Product.
We faced a few challenges in earlier conversations with angel and institutional investors. They didn’t seem to have a clear understanding of the problems we were trying to solve or the solutions we were providing. Maybe we were speaking to the wrong kinds of investors? (Those who weren’t in the engineering/chemicals/process space) or perhaps because we were too technical in the articulation of our solution’s concepts and its benefits to non-tech civilians?
Because we focused on developing the MVP and demonstrating its capabilities to select enterprises, we’ve been able to confirm agreements for pilot projects within these organizations. We believe locking in some of these key customers for pilots gives us added advantages when we negotiate for our seed raise.
What were the pivotal moves and decisions that contributed to where intrida is today?
In the early days, we ran a customer validation exercise where we spoke to individuals across disciplines in numerous process and chemical organizations. Our findings led us to revamp about 50 percent of our early technology ideas and pivot. We nearly rewrote all of our product definition and development strategies.
Who have been your biggest supporters along the way?
Our technology partners have been our biggest support on this journey. They believed in ideas scribbled on paper and PowerPoint slides, they saw us through initial prototypes and beta builds of our flagship platform. Their support helped increase our credibility and validate our solution concepts and helped us progress out of the planning phase.
Early adopter customers who listened to our suggestions of systems which could dramatically improve how they validate, interact and collaborate on their technical data worked with us by implementing this within their infrastructure, which was a big support.
Our fan base also includes a small but growing number of our global team members, friends and family who battled on with us through the wildly challenging moments.
Are you looking for collaboration? If so, what would be your ideal collaboration?
Yes, we always are.
We are open to ideally collaborating with key energy/chemical industry players…as we believe these relationships will allow us to better understand more of their pain points with regards to collecting valuable insights from their technical data. It will lead us consistently improving and optimising our platform to ensure that their experience with its deployment and implementation stays above expectations.
We are also looking for collaboration from institutes and societies within different technology verticals, as these naturally allows for access to relevant subject matter experts. We are also open to collaboration with engineering technology vendor organisations, as such partnerships can lead to the development of complementary solutions further leading to products and services which will better improve the customer experiences.
What non-technical skills do you believe helped you to become an entrepreneur?
I’ll say my capabilities at product definition and program management with a very keen eye for detail have been instrumental in manage my very diverse and dispersed team, ensuring that individual accountabilities for tasks are retained but the team shares successes and always feel as part of an effective unit.
Additionally, my legendary skill with finding travel alternatives to virtually anywhere at a low cost and with some bonus perks, combined with my superhuman ability of immunity to jet lag from long-haul travel, has helped me cover long distances for critical meetings and be able to move on to the next far-flung destination at a very short moment’s notice.
Can you discuss the challenges you faced in founding a software startup in the UK and then expanding it to North America?
As a startup founder, wearing all hats (product definition, QA, IT, implementation strategies, banking and accounts, customer acquisition, fundraising, building and retaining relations, etc) threatened my romantic idea of building an elegant technology platform and taking over the world. The realities of the million+1 urgent tasks which never seem to have an end are quite daunting, but thanks to my team for being incredibly supportive.
Being at the forefront of a tech startup has had me re-evaluate my attitudes towards others because the wide variety of individuals I’ve had to deal with all have different expectations in terms of my relations, responses and communication. Sometimes I just need to tell things as I see and feel them, and be less inclined to second-guess decisions. This is particularly the case when dealing with American partners, customers and suppliers, who possess a mindset different from classic European conservatism. Grasping this mindset quickly helped us achieve far more with our US partners. Our expansion to the U.S. has come with difficult challenges but has been palatable because of partners such as WSGR (Wilson Sonsini), who have just been fantastic with their guidance and clarity.
How did your experience and the connections that you forged at Chemical Ventures Conference 2019 shape your career journey over the last year?
I was fortunate enough to present our startup and chair a session at the inaugural Chemical Ventures Conference of 2019. The conference served as an eye-opener for all the startups there.
The event strengthened the belief that large chemical enterprises do indeed aim and look out for innovation and innovative entities such as ours, and are very open to engaging with and supporting us. This has been a massive confidence boost for my team during our platform R&D activities.
Innovation Zone with Henry Uyeme has been edited for length and clarity.