Pete Wassell started his professional career with IBM, and worked his way up the ladder with the computer giant. While working with IBM, Wassell got a taste for startup technology businesses. After careful thought and planning, Wassell decided to take the jump from his job with IBM and begin his on cutting-edge technology startup. What he created is the Augmate Corporation.
The company’s main product is the Augmate Connect. What does Wassell hope to achieve with the Augmate Connect? Simply put, Wassell wants to merge the digital and physical worlds through eyewear. Wassell and his Augmate Corporation are on the cutting-edge of digital eyewear.
The Clarkson University graduate has come a long way from when he first started at IBM. From a manager in various departments with the computer giant to program director of Digital Media and Content Management Systems in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, Wassell has been on a long journey in the technology industry.
Recently, Wassell sat down with Totalprestige Magazine to explain his amazing new startup, the Augmate Corporation, and the Augmate Connect.
Pete, can you please tell us about Augmate Corporation, and what led you to create the company?
While spending a number of years in Silicon Valley, I caught the entrepreneurial bug and knew that I wanted to run my own technology company. I would consistently meet with entrepreneurs who would solve problems for a market with new technology and that startup would be acquired by a larger corporation. I had been working as a program director at IBM, and IBM had bought a number of these type of companies which provided a great financial exit for the startup founders. Large enterprises struggle with being innovative and often have bureaucracy, red tape, decisions by committee, and over-burdened processes. A startup by definition is lean, nimble, and agile. These attributes were appealing to me.
Pete, please tell us what makes your company stand out from its competitors?
We believe that a distributed ledger technology is the future of connected device security and interoperability. Augmate was the first wearable device management platform and we are now the first in IoT device management using distributed ledgers. The value of our approach may become even more apparent with our consumer IoT offering that will give control of personal data, and the of selling it, to the people it came from. We are soon publishing a thought leadership white paper on Consumer IoT that will reveal how this technology will improve people’s lives. In the future, data will be the real currency and our token unlocks this data. We think that Augmate is perhaps the first company that truly justifies an ICO and token strategy.
Can you explain what Augmate Connect and the MATE™ are exactly?
What is important to understand is that our MATE token is inherent within the utility of our platform. This is more than just a distributed ledger architecture for IoT. There are security, cost, and efficiency reasons for our approach, as well as, internal mechanisms that require a token. Our token acts as both license access, externally, and usage point tracking, internally, for our system.
Blockchain for security provides a distributed immutable ledger where the data is not all in one place, reducing the ability for hackers to swoop in and get it all. We don’t want to use single-sign-in for IoT device communication, so brokering IoT device identity, authentication, and trust with credential keys is imperative. We can actually prevent certain transactions from taking place unless confirmation of firmware updates, or security patches, are done on a device via a smart contract. In addition, our Augmate Connect Platform allows us to offload heavy processing work to our middleware instead of the devices themselves as needed.
Internally, we need to track customer usage, but may want to reduce the price of our software license if the cost of storage goes down. We may also want to increase rewards or discounts to customers for certain transactional elements. With hundreds of billions of IoT devices across many country currencies and eco-system partners, this becomes a logistical challenge without the point tracking nature of our license access token. The brevity of our token description, “a fractional license access token with cryptographic coupon attributes” doesn’t justify all that it does, but we tried to squeeze it into a sound bite.
Can you tell us how your career began and what have been some of the highlights?
I went to an engineering college in upstate New York named Clarkson University, and was hired by IBM before I graduated as a presidential scholar with a 3.9 GPA. I was fortunate to move up quickly at IBM and worked out of many locations and traveled the world. I was promoted to manager within three years at IBM and given significant responsibilities. I created the first widely adopted HR Mentoring Program and had run $100 million programs for the company worldwide. Some of the areas I worked in were: IBM Global Services, Software Group, Server Group, ibm.com operations, and the Business Partner Division. Each area presented unique challenges that made the work worthwhile. Growing up professionally at IBM with phenomenal quality teammates was extremely rewarding.
Pete, what have you learned about yourself by running your own businesses?
I learned that you may know the direction of technology, but market timing is just as important. Early on, we had built amazing applications for smart glasses, but the devices and market need more time to catch up. I learned that it takes numerous iterations and trials to perfect your offering. You can win or learn, but never fail. One just needs to keep trying, so be resilient. I learned that it is important to trust your gut instincts when making decisions and to stick to your guns when you know that you are right. I learned that hardworking, trustworthy, and loyal employees are crucial to your business. I learned that if you really want to invent disruptive technology that you have to be comfortable with breaking things.
How do you find inspiration?
I follow my passion. By doing this, I can spring out of bed in the morning and be motivated to attack my day. I also look for a higher calling to do something bigger than myself. I have been working on a blueprint for a better world and it inspires me to make improvements in the lives of others. After a number of years when I feel that I have achieved enough, I will dedicate the rest of my life to philanthropy and serving the needs of others. I can’t imagine anything better than to make the world a better place. I want to leave a legacy of goodwill and set a great example of a good life for my family.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
To not micromanage and to do more delegation. If you hire great talent, you need to trust that they will do good work, and I am trying to take that to heart. There are so many things that need to be done to run a business and no one person can do it all. It is a team effort at Augmate, and I am fortunate to have a great staff at my company. It is important for me to set the direction and strategy for the business, so as become more comfortable with allowing others to own their area and run with tasks, I can better do my job.
What do you have your sights set on next?
We recently opted to do a Token Offering instead of a Series A capital raise. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, this is very exciting. We had previously raised funding through venture capital firms including: Tim Draper, Rothenberg Ventures, Excell Partners, Funding Post, UPS Ventures, Siemens Venture Capital, and Simon Venture Group. Conducting a blockchain token sale is a fascinating experience and this will be management’s focus in the first half of 2018. On the technical side, we are expanding our wearables platform – a 12 month development initiative – to manage all IoT devices and this is also very exciting.
Pete, were you ever influenced by other entrepreneurs?
There won’t be any surprises here: Steve Jobs for digitally transforming multiple industries through his technology such as MP3 music devices, animated movies, iPhones, and the computer itself. Elon Musk for taking big risks by reinvesting his PayPal payout into Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Elon takes on huge problems and then solves them. Jeff Bezos for growing Amazon into a monster of a company that continues to bring innovative products to market. The attribute across all of these entrepreneurs is that they are not one trick ponies. They continue to amaze us by reinventing their companies with near magical offerings.
What is a day in your life like?
I manage by todo lists. Important items get entered on to my calendar and everything else is prioritised second. I like to have blocks of time allocated for follow-up items, but meetings are inevitable and they are important to keep everyone on the same page. We do war room style meetings for important issues, partner meetings for collaboration, customer meetings for business, and investor meetings for funding. I have point people for every significant area of the business that they are responsible to manage and my main focus is on company growth.
What makes you smile?
Genuine people, superb talent, business wins, my closest friends, and children laughing.
What scares you?
Not much. I live life as a lion. I treasure the people around me and show them care and love. I try to see around corners and have a bias towards action. I give my all every single day, and I don’t worry about the things that I can not change, or that are outside of my control.
What has been your greatest achievement?
I graduated at the top of my class from Clarkson University, I have been a legislator who worked on over a thousand laws in New York. I went through the JFK Special Warfare School which is an elite and demanding part of the military, and I am raising a caring and responsible child who will be a productive member of society. I have been blessed with a wonderful life.
What is your secret talent?
I like to cook and I am happy to spend a few hours preparing a great homemade meal for friends who visit on the weekends.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
I must admit that I am a fan of conquerors like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon. I deplore violence and war, so it’s more about relentless leadership and courage, and going after something that you want.
Pete, do you have any hobbies?
I run a couple of communities. I manage the AR Glasses group on LinkedIn with 7,000-plus members and run the ARNY (Augmented Reality New York) Monthly Meetup (3500-plus members).
What are you never without?
Coffee, especially in the morning.
Can you tell us your two favorite quotes?
“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” – Ray Kroc
“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile.” – Mark Twain
What have you sacrificed for success?
Time. Expert knowledge takes time to acquire and great initiatives take time to implement. These examples of opportunity costs take time away from family. I am not one dimensional, and consider that an important role is one of provider for one’s family; so, these have been careful decisions that I have made knowing the trade-offs and weighing the benefits of each.
What advice would you give to anyone starting a new business?
Be a quick learner. There will be unexpected situations and strategies need constant adjusting. This is a huge part of running an emerging technology business.
For more information on Pete Wassell and Augmate Connect, please visit www.augmate.io.