Ryan Chacon is joined by Yana Welinder, CEO and Co-Founder of Kraftful, to discuss a topic we have rarely discussed: UX analytics as it pertains to consumer IoT. Yana starts with a background of herself and her company before getting into specifics about specific use cases and the founding story of Kraftful. They then talk about usability issues in IoT and the importance of analyzing data. Yana also shares insights on the most significant changes she’s seen in this niche of IoT and what her journey of raising capital was like.
Yana is the CEO and Co-Founder of Kraftful, where she’s working to make smart home technology accessible to many more people. Before starting Kraftful, she headed up the product management team at IFTTT, helping people unlock magical experiences by connecting their different products. Previously, Yana worked on disrupting manufacturing with digital production at Carbon and tackled free knowledge creation on Wikipedia. She also co-created CollabMark, an open source and free culture brand guide, which has been adopted by Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap, and Node.js. As a tech policy thought leader, she’s published pieces in the New York Times, the Harvard Journal of Law & Tech, and a chapter in the Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Privacy. Yana holds an LL.M. from Harvard Law School, a J.D. from the University of Southern California, and an LL.B. from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Interested in connecting with Yana? Reach out on Linkedin!
Kraftful is the only analytics solution focused on making connected hardware delightful to use. With a leadership team comprised of Facebook, Slack, and IFTTT alumni, Kraftful is bringing the data approach behind massively adopted software to the world of IoT — and building the future of how people interact with their physical world. As internet connectivity advances to every object around us, Kraftful focuses on UX to make these connected products truly useful for more people. The company is backed by Google, Samsung, Y Combinator, and many exceptional investors. Recently, Kraftful announced an analytics platform for connected hardware, productizing its internal analytics solution so that hardware companies can use it for their own apps. In tandem, the company announced a $2 million seed round from investors, including Samsung, Precursor Ventures, and Leadout Capital, among others. The new analytics solution combats terrible IoT experiences. It improves the few good ones, making it easy to track IoT-specific metrics like how users connect a device, their user journey, and the appropriate session duration & stickiness for a product using industry benchmarks. Under Yana’s leadership, Kraftful Analytics recently won the Best Product Debut award from Products by Women.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(1:20) Introduction to Yana and Kraftful
(2:28) Founding story of Kraftful
(5:06) Usability issues in IoT
(9:00) Can this tech be added after developing the app
(1:13) Who analyzes the data?
(11:15) Specific use cases
(13:00) Biggest changes in this niche of IoT
(18:12) What has been the funding journey been like?
– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast, the number one resource and publication for all things IoT. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. And on today’s episode, we have Yana Welinder, the CEO and Co-Founder of Kraftful. They are an analytics solution company focused on making connected hardware easier to use. If you are watching this on YouTube, please be sure to like the video and subscribe to the channel. If you’re listening to this on a podcast directory, please be sure to subscribe as well to get the latest episodes that’s become available. On this episode, we talk a lot about UX analytics and consumer IoT, usability issues in IoT, how we can use analytics to help IoT companies improve their user experience for the end user and a number of other things along the lines, especially associated with challenges in the IoT journey that end users and customers have faced and other things that Yana has seen in the industry. So a lot of great stuff here, but before we get into this episode, if any of you out there are looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market but don’t know where to start, check out our sponsor, Leverege. Leverege’s IoT solutions development platform. Provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com, that’s iotchangeseverything.com. And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome Yana to the IoT For All Podcast, Thanks for being here this week.
– [Yana] Thanks Ryan, really, really excited to be here and chat with you.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I’m looking forward to the conversation. I wanted to kick it off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself to our audience.
– [Yana] Sure, yeah, so I’m Yana Welinder, CEO, Co-Founder of Kraftful. At Kraftful, we focus on UX analytics for connected hardware to make everything that’s becoming connected usable and I think in my mind, therefore, useful to everyone. I guess and the way we got here is before starting Kraftful, I headed up the product management team at IFTTT. For folks who may not be familiar with IFTTT, it stands for If This Then that. And our claim to fame, other than having all the silent Ts in the name is that we had an integration support, IFTTT has an integrations platform to make various connected devices interoperable. And so that’s essentially where I came across a lot of the usability problems in IoT that inspired Kraftful.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, yeah tell us a little bit more about Kraftful, and kind of what you do, the focus, the role you play in IoT, and then I’d also love it if you could talk about the story kind of behind the founding of it.
– [Yana] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, so yeah, so to the story behind it, it was really, you know, my time at IFTTT, in working with lots and lots of different hardware companies that were all putting connectivity into their products. And what I came to realize is that they were all sort of using, they’re either not using product analytics at all, or they were sort of using it like a gym membership. They would pay lots of money for it, spend time setting it up, sort of like buying extensive gym clothes, but then feel somewhat guilty for not actually using it in product development. And so they didn’t really have a good sense of sort of where users were dropping off and the experience, why they weren’t actually adopting their IoT devices. Which features they were interacting with, and that’s essentially what we do. So we help companies get a better sense of how their users are using the devices after they have actually connected the device and are using it via the app.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, and is it mainly consumer focused or is there also enterprise applications that you work on?
– [Yana] Yeah, most of it is consumer IoT. So and as you say, we demo our product mostly to consumer IoT companies and occasionally, and on purpose, right, like consumer IoT is really where folks have started realizing that usability is a problem and needs to get better. The occasional and in our product is really optimized for consumer IoT, but we do occasionally move into commercial IoT or Industrial IoT where sometimes folks are really excited about that. And so, I think we’re moving in that direction, but I would say that sometimes the conversation is sort of more like, “Well, this is not our “biggest problem yet, right, because people are using “connected devices that, you know, IT has signed up to use.” So it’s their job to use them. They get paid to use them, they get paid to get trained, to use them. But I do think that that change is gonna come to commercial and industrial as well. It’s sort of gonna be like, when folks started demanding that companies start adopting iPhones instead of just the Blackberries, they got from workers sort of like the shadow ITs coming for for IT as well.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, I’d love it if you could take our audience through, I think a lot of people won’t have necessarily the perspective on the usability issues that kind of occur when it comes to IoT devices and the software that’s interacted with. And if you could talk a little bit high level kind of what those usability issues usually relate or are centered around, and then how that user experience and the analytics side of that kind of helps companies do something maybe they weren’t able to do or have insights into something they weren’t able to have insights into before.
– [Yana] Yeah, absolutely. So I think today we’re really only seeing the tip of the iceberg of usability problems because most connected devices for most part are still being used by tech yearly adopters. And even within that early adopter persona, folks are still struggling with their connected devices. And the way you see that is, if you kind of go and read App Store reviews for most products, there’s gonna be folks complaining about not being able to connect the device, not being able to reconnect the device, not finding the features they’re looking for, not being able to sign in to the application. Which is, it’s not that IoT products are worse at app sign in, it’s that users who are gonna be using a physical device that they would normally just be able to interact with physically, will have very little patience if they have to log into an app to actually get something on the device. Right, so the tolerance for poor sign-in experiences, or even just the fact that tokens are expiring and you have to re-log in to the app is very low. So I think it’s a whole range of usability problems. That have to do with these connected devices, that we’re helping shed light onto identify. Where in the user journey are folks dropping off from the experience? Which features are users most interested in interacting with so that we can make sure that those features are discoverable. Less important features are in logical places, but not necessarily on the home screen, right under their thumb. Those sort of problems essentially.
– [Ryan] And how long does that evaluation process usually take? Is it something that maybe is an ongoing problem, or not problem, but an ongoing assessment of the usability of their app? I’m sure with each new release, there is some level of testing that goes on, but how steady state is this to have the analytics available, collected and analyzed by an organization on the app? ‘Cause my guess is it’s gotta be a pretty regular thing, given the requirement of that app to be usable for their business to be able to grow.
– [Yana] Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It is something that’s, you know, an IoT PM should really be looking at the data, ideally on a daily basis. It should be informing all of the product decisions that are being made for the product. And I think a lot of IoT products are shipped kind of like the way traditional hardware products were shipped. They’re shipped once, and then no one’s really looking in to see how are users interacting with it, which is really not the right way to go because you have a piece of hardware and a piece of software. And software, the way, you know, great software products, like Kraftful team came from companies like Slack, Facebook, Apple, all of those companies use data science on a daily basis to make those products usable by as many people as those products are used by it. I think that’s what we need in IoT, that’s what we’re bringing to IoT.
– [Ryan] Now if a company has not necessarily adopted this type of technology to evaluate the user experience within their solution, is that something that can be added in later, or is it something that usually has to be kind of implemented in from the get go?
– [Yana] No, it is something that you can add at any point in time. So the way you use our product is you embed an SDK in the app. We make that process really, really easy. It can be done at any point in time, usually happens after the app has launched, and we have a few folks we’re working with that are prelaunch. And then kind of the, the way our product is different from a lot of other product analytics tools is that it is pre configured for connected the products and for IoT specific metrics. So that after you’ve done that initial integration, you don’t need to do a whole lot of configuring or even figuring out which metrics are relevant for IoT. All of that is pre configured, and then if there’s ever specific pin points, you wanna zoom in on and do more of a drill down until you can set up your own custom charts in the dashboard.
– [Ryan] And is the interaction with the data ] done by the customer, or do you all jump in and kind of analyze the data, provide recommendations and things like that, or how is that split?
– [Yana] There is recommendations directly in the platform that tell you what to do with the data you’re seeing. So if you’re seeing a big drop off at connecting the device, there are usability recommendations in the platform that tell you, “Here’s the top, “different problems we’ve seen “in connected devices that you may wanna make sure “that you’ve optimized all of these specific things “in your experience so that you can make your “device connection better.” Or if this is how you’re seeing your users interact with different features in your app, and those features happen to be located next to each other, here’s what the data indicates and how you may wanna change the experience so that users have an easier time discovering features.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, are there any in particular use cases or customer kind of stories that you could share with us as to what maybe their life was like before they implemented this kind of analytics and the UX kind of tracking side, and then what they were able to discover, learn, and how they were able to improve from there, just to kind of like pull it all full circle basically.
– [Yana] Yeah, absolutely. So we have a handful of customers on the platform right now. Yes, the beta customers we launched with were aware or and Napoleon, and now we have, a few other ones I’m not gonna identify-
– [Ryan] That’s fine.
– [Yana] Case studies specifically. They’re not pertinent to any one of them. or at least as much as I can tell you, publicly, but some of the kind of things that folks have been able to to get out of this is essentially where are folks dropping off in the experience that seems to be the biggest sort of the biggest problem across the consumer IT industry. Just where users moving from being a first time user until they become a repeat user. Where along that journey, they drop off the most, and what can you do about it? That’s something that folks have responded very positively, just getting that data at their fingertips. More specific types of things have been, you know, surprised around geographic distribution of users and seeing that, okay, well actually I have more users than I thought in this particular part of Canada, I should really double down on, you know, French localization. So there’s very specific types of insights like that as well.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, so I wanted to ask you since your time as head of product at IFTTT, what has been kind of the biggest changes that you’ve seen with this side of kind of the industry if you will. ‘Cause I imagine you obviously learned a lot there regarding customer feedback, as far as the struggles and usability they maybe were unaware of. And now we’re at a point with your company now being able to do that. What has that journey kind of been like for customers and what did people do, I’m just outta curiosity, What did people do before this kind of UX analytic tracking was done or available to them? Was it something they did like round table discussions and focus groups? Like how did they kind of figure before this?
– [Yana] I mean, I think there was a major gap before this and what I heard a lot from folks that we were working with at if particularly kind of some of the bigger companies on the platform that had like been around for a very long time and had incredibly recognizable big brands that these consumers were familiar with. So every time someone would update their appliance or their device, they would, of course wanna try out the connected equivalent. Because it’s a brand that they knew. And so for some of those products, they would have, you know, sometimes have sold millions of devices, but only have a few thousand users actually using the product as a connected device through the user experience. And of course a PM, I was always curious to kind of figure out like, where’s the problem there? Like how many people download the app in the first place? How many people sign in? How many people tried to connect the device? What features, you know, out of the thousand people who download it, how many are using, like what features are they using? What do they care about? This is not valuable enough for them to keep connected. And the answer I kept getting is, “We don’t know, “we don’t have this information,” there is no data on this kind of stuff. So I think the answer to your question is, there wasn’t anything like this to answer the question. Yeah, they may have had focus groups, but that would be, you know, a lot of that would be sort of like, well, our CTO really likes this feature you know.
– [Ryan] That’s an interesting point because there are times where the team, the development team, the management team is very married to pieces of something yet the usability or the users are telling them something different. And without understanding that through their interactions, ’cause you obviously can’t communicate directly with every single person using your product. It’s hard to know that, it’s hard to know are we devoting the resources to the right place? Are we spending money in the right area? Are we building out the right feature set that people actually care about and need? And if not, how do we know that? And I think that’s a very interesting problem that has persisted for a really long time.
– [Yana] Absolutely, and I think that’s not unique to IoT right? That’s a big- A lot of different products, but the key with IoT is that you actually, there is an answer, there is a way to figure it out much easier than for traditional non-connected devices. So there’s just so much power in data that you can unlock by just making sure you study the data in the development process.
– [Ryan] Absolutely, and with IoT devices, it’s becoming even more and more important because there’s usually, you know, there’s the hardware side, there’s a software side. So they have the app they’re interacting with. They’re very different, I mean, not very different, but there’s different pieces to it than just like the mobile experience world that we used to, we’ve kind of had for so for so long and still continue to grow. So yeah, it’s interesting, I’m very curious to kind of see and learn maybe not necessarily in this conversation, but as you all grow, how this plays a role on the kind of industrial, the enterprise commercial side of things, because even it’s not consumer focused devices out there all the time, it’s still used by humans and used by people that improve efficiencies within organizations or solve problems. And there’s usability feedback that is incredibly valuable for those organizations.
– [Yana] I think you’re absolutely right. I do think that getting consumer IoT really usable is gonna drive that because ultimately people are gonna be, you know, even if they have been trained on how to use an industrial tool that they have, that they get paid to use and have to use, they will still feel like this is really analogous to this product that I have at home, which is really delightful to use. So why is this tool such a nightmare? Right, and I think there will be some sort of, you know, shadow IT equivalent things to like Dropbox and other things that started cropping up. But in the IT space where folks are gonna start bringing some solutions into work that will ultimately be pushing the whole industry to have to adjust and become more user friendly. It’s my hope at least.
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely. So the last question I wanted ask you, it kind of ties back into the conversation of the founding of the company and what you’ve learned. Because this is actually a point I’ve really, haven’t had the opportunity to talk a lot about, but I think it’s interesting is being a software focused company, but interacting obviously with many pieces of the IoT solution, what has the journey been like to raise money in this space? And it’s kind of a little bit of a pivot from what we were talking about a second ago, but I’m curious because it sounds like from your experience, there’s probably a lot of relevant information that would be worth sharing as to what that experience has been like especially as it relates directly to IoT startups. Which is a very different kind of organization than other types of businesses that go after and raise money. And I think it’s very, probably unique advice or learnings that’ll be worth sharing.
– [Yana] Yeah, absolutely. I think having observed this space for a while and then gone through my own fundraising journey, one thing that was really interesting to see is, you know, there hasn’t been a whole lot of IoT startups, part where IoT startups that have been successful. And I think the reason for that is that it requires a whole lot of capital, right, to be able to do all of these different things. It’s not just the software business where you have incredibly great margins and you can get by with a whole lot, with much less capital. So I think, and there hasn’t been a lot of IoT businesses with great exits in the past. So when I started fundraising for Kraftful, the feedback I got from a lot of investors was, “I don’t invest in the IoT space because I’ve gotten burned “with previous investments.” And so at some point it got to the point where I had to kind of almost start my pitch with, “We’re just a startup, we’re just a software company, “We don’t do hardware,” “I am your traditional SaaS business.” “Don’t worry about all of your previous investments “that haven’t panned out in the hardware space.” I actually think that the investment piece ties back to usability in that the problem with a lot of connected hardware startups is that, they haven’t seen as much as adoption as should have. And so haven’t been able to sell as many devices, and so ultimately they needed to be able to fund a lot of R&D efforts that weren’t really coming to fruition quickly. And so that’s something you can do with like large enterprises where they’re selling a ton of non connected devices, and that is funding the R&D efforts around the connected devices. But with connected hardware startups, they can’t really do that. And so that’s something where I think usability and making sure that products are user friendly from day one and can be used by everyone and not just the techy head of a household, you know, figuring out how to connect all the things in the home. Then we’re gonna see so much more adoption and there will actually be like great returns in the industry that investors are gonna be excited about.
– [Ryan] Definitely, definitely. There’s been a fantastic conversation. This is actually a topic just across the board, we haven’t talked a lot about, we haven’t had the pleasure of having anybody that’s really been on the UX kind of side of things. So this has been pretty cool to chat about. I wanted to ask just for our audience out there that wants to learn more, maybe was curious about what’s going on there and wants to stay in touch. What’s the best way for them to kind of stay in the loop there?
– [Yana] Yeah, absolutely. They can reach out to us via LinkedIn or Twitter, our Twitter handle is just Kraftful, or send us an email at info@Kraftful.com. We’re always excited to hear from folks, so please do reach out.
– [Ryan] Great, and anything new kind of coming out that we should be on the lookout for, just or anything that’s been released recently that you wanna kind of talk about or coming out in a few months that we should keep an eye on for.
– [Yana] Yeah, so we have a few different pieces to our analytics platform. A lot of it is interaction data and the stuff I’ve talked a lot about here on this podcast. One piece of our product is essentially app summaries of App Store reviews, to kind of more tangible insights into what users are talking about in their sentiment, as they’re reflecting on these different things. We’re relying on opening GPT-3, API for this, and so we can get some really powerful insights into feature requests, you know, common complaints that users are discussing that are a little bit more contextual than just the regular kind of statistical keyword analysis that I think have been out there for a while.
– [Ryan] All right, well, that’s great. We’ll be on a lookout and kind of continue to follow along with everything you have going on. I think what you guys are doing is absolutely needed and super exciting. So we appreciate you taking the time to be on here and kinda share all these insights with our audience. And hopefully we’ll have you back at some point in the future. But other than that, thanks so much.
– [Yana] Thanks so much for having me, this is great.
– [Ryan] Yeah, thank you. All right everyone, thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT For All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notifications so you get the latest episodes as soon as they become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.