Jan 12, 2015
Breathing is a fundamental behavior that most of us don’t think twice about doing. We inhale, exhale and go about our day without wondering what we are putting in our body.
We live in an age of data however, and Startup Open winner BreezoMeter’s founders were not content with not knowing. As it turns out, they were not alone. They created an app that seeks to better inform users of the air they breathe and what it means for them.
The BreezoMeter team beat out over 600 other startups from 38 countries to win Startup Open and will be traveling to Milan in March to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Congress as part of their prize package.
We checked in with Ziv Lautman, BreezoMeter’s co-founder and CMO to learn more about BreezoMeter, the importance of determination, hot chocolate and more.
How is BreezoMeter different from its competitors?
Currently, BreezoMeter is the only company that analyzes real-time air quality data, using dispersion models while making air quality personal and beautiful. Air quality still doesn’t have simple language or design to describe it - and that’s what we are trying to do with BreezoMeter.
Our first version of BreezoMeter was far from perfect. We were lucky to meet Ohad Zadock, BreezoMeter’s product manager, who opened our eyes to the importance of good design. I can still remember our initial arguments on the subject. Ohad claimed, “It’s all about the design! Look at Google Play, apps are well planned – all the way to the last pixel; Web platforms are super attractive. We have to work on the design and UX. Users demand it.” Of course, he was completely right so we have put considerable effort into UX and design of our more recent versions.
Why did you decide to participate in Startup Open this year?
I had actively participated in GEW events in Tel Aviv two years ago and knew Gil Shourka, of GEW Israel, from attending conferences in Israel. When he told me about Startup Open, I immediately understood the uniqueness of it and decided to participate. BreezoMeter did a lot of preparation for the competition so I had a really good feeling going into it.
What has been the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur for you?
Changing people lives, for the better. After presenting the BreezoMeter concept at a GEW event last year, I met a group from China that was interested to see air quality levels in Beijing. They were concerned about air quality in Asia and we ended up chatting until late. Since then, I’ve stayed in touch with one member of the group – in fact he sometimes he finds news articles about BreezoMeter before me!
What is the toughest decision you have had to make in the last few months?
Choosing one product to focus on! Entrepreneurs need to say no 95 percent of the time. When we started, the company was called Svivon. We wanted to take into account not only air quality but also other environmental hazards like: radiation, water quality, etc. It’s still our vision as a company, but we decided to focus on air quality for now and do it the best we can.
What did you learn from participating in GEW?
Beyond just competing in Startup Open, my GEW experience was very special. I was visiting Boston in November and participated in a tremendous conference at Babson College. I was lucky to hear amazing entrepreneurs like Diane Hessan, Wayne Chang (pictured below), Graham Weston, Bettina Hein, David Hoffman, Nancy Frates, the mother of Pete Frates who created the ALS ice bucket challenge, and many more.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Until two years ago I didn't even know the word entrepreneur. I’ve always been an active person who gets very passionate about solving problems and acting for injustices. I discovered the world of entrepreneurship through a course at the Technion, organized by Dan Shechtman, 2011 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry. Every lecture there was a different entrepreneur that came to tell their story and I was quickly hooked. When Ran Korber (a good friend and today BreezoMeter’s CEO) called me two years ago with a problem he had, I just knew that the time has come to take a shot at entrepreneurship.
Ran was looking to buy house for his family in Israel. As an environmental engineer, he knew that air pollution is the leading environmental cause for lung cancer and many respiratory diseases. He was looking for air quality information that could tell him what the air pollution levels were as well as the trends of recent years at the specific address he wanted to buy a house. While he found some information the data was scattered and incomprehensible to the layperson. While discussing the problem, we discovered that people don’t have a clue about what they breathe. We decided to make air quality visible and in the process, solve what we believed to be a global problem.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Night owl. During the day, there are too much phone calls, whatsapps and Facebook distractions. In fact, one of my resolutions for 2015 is to disable auto email sync to my phone during the day. I am trying to take as many “silent hours” as possible. Still, night tends to be my most productive time.
As a night owl, I presume you are a big coffee drinker?
Nope, hot chocolate!
What has building BreezoMeter taught you about entrepreneurship?
It is so important to work on something that you love and enjoy doing, especially in a startup where the early stages are full of ups and downs. I love what I do but if I wasn’t passionate - if it wasn’t in my bones - then it would have been very difficult to survive the journey.