The smartwatch business is a booming industry, with new products coming out every day. Alireza Tahmasebzadeh, an entrepreneur who lived in Iran until end of high school, is the Co-founder of Blocks. Blocks is building the world’s first modular smartwatch in the making. Here is the story of Tahmasebzadeh.
Tahmasebzadeh came up with the idea of Blocks at 20 years of age. Before that, he was studying biomedical engineering at Imperial College in London. He has always been very ardent towards human-computer interaction and how humans interact with their smart phones, tablets, laptops and so on. He started doing a lot of research on different methods of how you can control ‘smart’ devices. He commenced with the brain, more specially brain computer interfaces. He was very idealistic and wanted to control these devices with his thoughts. Thus, he started doing a lot of research, published a couple of papers in that area, and went through the same process in the gesture control field. After doing research on those two areas, he reached to a conclusion that he wants sensors on the wrist in order to understand the motion of the fingers and wrist.
Coming Up With the Idea
He had a friend, Serge, and they started thinking about a smartwatch, which had gesture control inside. They wanted an ideal smartwatch, and thus they started asking friends on what is the ideal smartwatch. At that time, people did not know much about smart watches but they thought it would be cool if it had fitness tracking, similar to Fitbit and Jawbone. Many people had different perceptions on the ideal smartwatch, which lead them to conclude that there is not a smartwatch that would appeal to everyone and people want different things from their ideal wearable device and because of size constraints not all features can be embedded in a smartwatch. After thinking for a long time, they came up with the idea of a modular smartwatch.
Three Things that Tahmasebzadeh Values in Blocks Smartwatches:
- It is truly bespoke to the person that matters the most, YOU
- Upgradability It is the last smartwatch that you will ever need, as you can keep on upgrading the modules
- It is an Open platform and any company can develop modules
Progression of Blocks
The first step that they took was to compete in the entrepreneurship contest in Imperial College. They started working for that competition and making a prototype. They formed a team and started building traction by having techcrunch write an article about them, getting more than 50,000 views in one day. This lead to Blocks being a finalist at the competition. Then, they continued to work on the prototype and the design, and started winning multiple competitions mainly in London. Shortly after, they met Intel. Intel invited Blocks to the ‘make it wearable challenge’ and they became a finalist at that event which was judged by the CEO of Intel. They showed their idea and their vision, which lead them to winning 50 thousand dollars. As a consequence, they succeeded to raise small funds and hire more people. Shortly they went to an event in Las Vegas where they got many partnerships with many different companies. Their main partnership was Qualcomm. The director of technology at Qualcomm liked their product so they started working with them and introduced them to a manufacturing company in Taiwan.
Initially, investment came from friends and friends of friends. Said from Tahmasebzadeh, “I remember at first to get five thousand pounds, I spent two months negotiating with the investor on what are the terms with it and how we should do it. It took us a long time to get the first small money. But after you get some small money, after you get the first prototype, it becomes a bit easier, but getting investment is always hard. At the end of the day there is a five percent conversion of actual investors that you talk to that actually turn up to pay you the money.”
Tahmasebzadeh thinks that Blocks is a provider of a platform that connects people all around the world. He sees the winning point of Blocks in modularity. They see many people who envision the benefits of modularity and are optimistic on competing with their rivals
Benefits and Hardships of Coming From Iran
He thinks that so far, being Persian has been more of an advantage than a disadvantage. The network of Persians has greatly helped Blocks throughout their path. The network has helped them reach investors, mainly Persian, and many partnerships that helped form the company. Obviously, there have been negative aspects, such as getting visas, work permits etc… Though at the end, he managed to overcome these technicalities and problems.
How Iran helped Him Throughout his Career
While he was in high school, he competed in multiple Olympiads, getting into a lot of innovation festivals, and many other events. He thinks that being in Iran while in high school has a competitive environment, which helps you develop good skills. By the time he was at London to start university, he had a wide range of skills from electronics, programming, math, science etc… He is not sure that if he had attended high school in any other country other than Iran, he would have come up with Blocks.
Advice That Tahmasebzadeh Has For the Youth
Quoted from Tahmasebzadeh, “I think just make the most use of your environment, your high school years, your university years, and don’t care that much about grades. Don’t care about what other people do. Find your passion, bring yourself high and become someone that is unique in something you are passionate about.”
Tahmasebzadeh on Iran Startup Scene
He loves the startup scene that is going on in Iran. He sees a lot of talent and passionate people. Although he is aware of the existing barriers of investment, legal, and start-up culture decreasing the speed for some start-ups. Tahmasebzadeh sees that Iran is a great place to work in and is a well-educated and wealthy market and does consider moving in the future to Iran to develop a new business.