I founded Lithium Labs in 2011. It was bootstrapped by the proceeds I received after selling Aschmann Media Group (Social Media Startup). The idea was born by recognizing the impact, and potential, mobile apps could have in the enterprise space. The original mission statement was:
“Lithium Labs provides a full suite of services for designing, developing, implementing and maintaining an enterprise mobility solution. We support all major mobile operating systems and hardware including iPad, iPhone Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Symbol and Intermec.”
The product/application portfolio of the company was seeded by a few mobile apps I had already released, and were being used widely in the SAP space. All of them were free from the various App Stores, the primary objective of these apps were for me to personally learn about the technologies and platforms, and the secondary objective, was to draw awareness to Lithium Labs as a company, and provide an example of what was possible. One of the most popular free apps which I developed under the Lithium Labs portfolio was “SAP Note Viewer”, with 12K downloads.
I decided on “Lithium Labs” as a company name which stemmed from two key elements, one was Lithium, as the majority of mobile devices/laptops are powered by Lithium batteries, and the other “Labs”, implying that the work we did was creative, a discovery process, and not just a pre-manufactured product.
Marketing and selling is not my strength, but I spent time pitching at various tech conferences like ASUG events, sharing technical implementation details at SAP Sapphire and I even resorted to creating Business cards to hard out at SAP TechEd. Another element which I was certain that would help was becoming a SAP Partner. It was costly, and probably not particularly worth it. While some of my solutions were listed in a partner catalog and “Partner Finder” on their website, I don’t believe it led to any implementation opportunities or projects. It did provide access to the entire suite of SAP products, which at the time was quite critical to the companies success. It included products like the Sybase Unwired Platform, and SAP Netweaver Gateway, which were both important underlying platform elements for mobile integration. Having access to these, the product support and latest releases let me build apps which were tightly coupled with SAP systems, which was one of the unique selling points of the apps and service offering of the company.
After releasing half a dozen other free apps I managed to get a few contracts for developing some enterprise specific iPhone and iPad apps. I believe one of the more interesting solutions was for FAIST Automotive. I had previously worked at the company and with my knowledge and insights was able to build a compelling dashboard/BI solution for their management team, it was tightly integrated with their SAP system and multiple other data sources to give a dashboard like overview of production data, shipping information and any exceptions that may need to be taken care of. After a few years and the app being retired in house, I subsequently released it with demo data into the App Store as a “Supplier Analytics” showcase, another small advertising/marketing effort.
I used the promotion flyer below to hand out at conferences I attended, and did quite a nice job at summarizing what we did.
In late 2012 I started to turn some of my attention toward SAP HANA, it was a technology platform gaining a lot of steam, and I had some experience and knowledge which could also be applied in that direction. I decided to develop some solutions such as metric2.com and this took some of the focus away from Lithium Labs, during this time metric2.com was also accepted into the “SAP HANA Startup Focus Program”. Bootstrapping and building two small companies in parallel was not the optimal path and inevitably I believe both failed due to the inherit cannibalisation of time from both ends.
At the end of 2014, and agreeing to work for SAP, I decided to stop operating both companies and focus my efforts on building enterprise applications in-house for SAP employees. Building Lithium Labs was a great experience. I had higher expectations of the outcome and of myself in starting the company which did not necessarily come to fruition, but not for a lack of trying.
Building Lithium Labs, and metric2.com taught me a lot about myself and tech startups in general …
- Building a great product without a marketing and sales team, especially in the enterprise space is not wise
- Companies don’t “like” to get things for free. Free is not how companies and specifically large enterprises work. They don’t know how to implement “free”. Everything is a process and facing away somewhere in that space, is actually detrimental.
- I knew very little about strategy, marketing and sales. (And is what later pushed me to get an MBA).