A Q&A with Lima co-founder and CEO Severin Marcombes. The Newark, Delaware-based startup, which has built a small mobile storage device that plugs into any device for use with any OS, announced at the start of June the closing of a $2.5 million funding round from Partech Ventures. It was founded in 2011 by Marcombes and CTO Gawen Arab-Laffon. It initially raised $1.2 million through a successful Kickstarter campaign last year.
SUB: Please describe Lima and your primary innovation.
Marcombes: Lima is an innovative technology that consolidates all of your content, enabling you to see the same files on all of your devices regardless of operating system and device size.
To give you an idea of how it works, Lima is composed of a hardware adapter and a multi-platform app. It changes the OS architecture of your different devices so that they all contain the same files. It means your organization structure is the same across devices and you no longer need to copy and transfer files between devices, or to upload them to the cloud.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Marcombes: Our primary target market is people who own two or more devices, who love technology but are not tech experts. These connected people just want to enjoy their content, and expect to begin one activity on one device, finish it on another, without even thinking about where their data is.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Lima from the competition?
Marcombes: There are three main solutions today when you want to access your data wherever you are:
First, you can get a NAS device—in short, they have great performance and technology, but lack a user-friendly approach and can only be used by experts.
Then, you have cloud solutions like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive—they are user-friendly, but have poor performance and higher costs due to high technological constraints.
In between, you find the private cloud, which has a good point with privacy.
Unlike other solutions, Lima doesn’t create yet another silo for your content; it actually reinvents how your devices store data. Lima transforms Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, and Android operating systems, enabling you to open any device and get all your files on it regardless of your device size. There is no need to move your files into a dedicated and connected folder every time you need to access them from another device. Lima is the first technology that offers you such an integrated and seamless experience.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $2.5 million in venture funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise more outside funding?
Marcombes: Last summer we ran a successful Kickstarter campaign—raising $1.2 million, with nearly 13,000 backers. This first step we unlocked enabled us to launch production. This was also the first proof point that we were working on an innovation that can resonate with thousands of users.
The enthusiasm we received during and after the campaign gave us the opportunity to start discussions with VC funds, and raising more outside funding boosted our international development and our ability to grow the team with top talents.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Marcombes: With this new funding, we aim at accelerating Lima’s development worldwide. It means expanding our engineering, marketing, sales, and distribution efforts, and to build an efficient go-to-market strategy across North America, Europe, and Asia.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional funding in the near future?
Marcombes: We’re open to discussions, yet during the second half of 2014 the focus is much more on testing the product, collecting the feedback from our first clients, and polishing Lima than on seeking new funds.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Lima? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Marcombes: Gawen and I have been working in IoT (Internet of Things) for a few years. As geeks, we were very frustrated that the technology could be so great on one hand, but so complicated to use for normal people on the other hand.
This conviction has driven our thoughts, and we still believe that the technology can better serve people. Talking about Lima specifically, the idea grew a few years ago when it was the beginning of the Internet of Things. At that time we did not understand what the point was of connecting everyday objects when two different computers were still not able to share data and talk to each other.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Marcombes: Gawen and I, Lima’s co-founders, are both embedded systems engineers. We’ve been getting our hands dirty and building connected objects for six years. We combine two strengths that are essential to rebuild entirely a technology: Gawen is fond of improving and challenging state-of-the-art technologies, while I’m obsessed by user experience and tech accessibility.
We have been developing the Lima project for three years—we first designed an app to send big files in three clicks. This part was an important challenge to tackle. After that we built a prototype of Lima. We then wanted to position us on the U.S. market and to validate the product-market fit—Kickstarter was a good candidate for this need.
Before launching Lima, I studied business for one year to learn how to build a company.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Marcombes: The product was initially called ‘Plug,’ but we had to change it during the Kickstarter campaign. ‘Lima’ was in our shortlist and we really like it. I came up with it because my girlfriend is from Ecuador and there is a fruit in her garden called Lima that tastes just like lemonade.
Gawen and I loved the idea of naming our brainchild with this name—it sounds much less techy and can be pronounced by everyone across the world. We’re not only device agnostic, but language agnostic too.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Marcombes: Frankly speaking, eating noodles during two years because we were not making money the first years.
More seriously, challenges are part of the story, and every day we work hard to deliver the best experience possible to the ones who supported us in the first place—yet it also means very little time for yourself and your family.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Marcombes: Lima is a mix of hardware and software; we sell the hardware adapter for an estimated price of $150.
SUB: What are your goals for Lima over the next year or so?
Marcombes: Our first goal is to ship the Lima devices to our Kickstarter backers, then to all the people who pre-ordered the device. We want the Lima experience to be awesome from the very start and pamper our first clients.
The next challenge is to launch the Lima worldwide and let everyone know that we’re the first on something very big, and that your experience with technology will never be the same.