Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye 

Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye 

We ask Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye, a world leader in IoT connectivity solutions, what makes him tick. 

  • What would you describe as your most memorable achievement? 

I was fortunate to be asked by two of Silicon Valley’s top CEOs, HP’s Carly Fiorina, and Cisco’s John Chambers, to build and lead internal disruption incubators. The purpose was to drive cultural and business model change as fast as possible across both of these US$50 billion plus corporations. They were formed with the full empowerment of the CEOs and staffed with in-house radicals determined to change the company that they work for. It wasn’t easy but it was successful as change grew from within and was ultimately embraced. Change is threatening to the status quo, and you learn a lot when you are the CEO’s in-house rebel.  

  • What first made you think of a career in technology? 

When I was 15 years old, my school received a generous gift of a room sized old mainframe computer from Ferranti in Manchester. In hindsight, its computing power was probably on par with that of the first Fitbit. Nonetheless, I eagerly immersed myself in programming using, would you believe, paper tape! Technology captivated me, and I found myself spending countless hours exploring its complexities. This passion eventually led me to pursue a degree in computing and science, where I discovered my love for problem-solving. I’m in my 60s now and still fascinated by all thing’s tech – you never lose your inner geek.  

  • What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position? 

I believe that if you recruit the right people, inspire them with a compelling vision, and treat them fairly and with respect they will achieve great things. It’s a non-micromanagement approach I learned with HP at the start of my career. It worked pretty well for them so who am I to argue? 

  • What do you think has emerged as the technology trend of 2023 and why? 

2023 will be the year when everything changes in the world of IoT. A perfect storm of market conditions – the growing threat from the hyperscalers, greater investment in edge technology, the incremental growth of private networks and 5G – all change the dynamics of connectivity. We are entering a world in which IoT is set free. It will be designed around sophisticated global use cases, unrestricted by the limitations of regional connectivity providers. 

One of the major factors driving this disruption is the emergence of the eSIM – a new breed of SIM on a chip that can be programmed to connect to any network as opposed to our 40-year-old model on network locked plastic SIMs. This will shift the power from the regional mobile network operator (MNO) to the enterprise allowing them to control the connectivity rules via a new breed of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) who are cloud native and MNO agnostic.  

  • What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry? 

I think there are two. Firstly, the business value of eSIMs is that they enable the creation of truly global products which are manufactured and tested in one location but can be deployed anywhere in the world and they just work – first time, every time. To implement this IoT companies need to significantly increase their investment in global platform capabilities that can manage connections to any MNO. I like to think of this as the emergence of an uber platform which stitches together all the existing legacy solutions to create a single source for management, pricing, support and APIs. In many ways this is similar to what SAP did in the ERP space. 

Secondly, device management. The eSIM holds out the promise of not just connecting to any MNO but also any between Radio Access Technology (RAT). For example, to be able to configure a home EV charger on your outside garage wall to use home Wi-Fi if the signal strength is strong enough or if not use, cellular if the signal strength, latency and cost model fits the business case. That’s hard to do and it means that the application rules need to be codified into the device and implemented there as well as in the cloud via technologies such as LWM2M. This is radically different from the model we have been used to where the MNO managed the switching rules (roaming) or the MVNO managed it to optimise their profitability. These applications will be a major area of investment in the industry and will require deep device skills to create and manage as a SaaS based model. Eseye’s SMARTconnect solution is an example of this.  

  • How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office? 

Two things – I exercise a lot (I just completed a Tough Mudder) and I’m a passionate gardener. We’re pretty much self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables during the Summer. You don’t think much about work when you’re digging in manure or pinching out the tomatoes in the greenhouse! 

  • If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be? 

I’ve often been asked that, and I don’t think there is anything. I’m a great believer in Sheryl Sandberg’s career philosophy – that progression is more like climbing a jungle gym than a ladder. Sometimes you have to go sideways or even down to go up. The key is to keep focused on your goals and keep moving! 

  • What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe? 

From a telecom perspective you could argue that implementing IoT is easier in Europe as cross boarder roaming is already in place. Also, telecom is not subject to many of the post-Brexit issues that are hampering many other physical, rather than digital, industries. However, it’s important not to confuse how the consumer market works for cell phones with how IoT works. 

For example, if I go to Turkey for two weeks on holiday, I can use my iPhone throughout my trip with no issues. That’s because short term roaming is approved between operators. But if I stayed for more than three months, I would have to put a local Turkish mobile operator SIM in my phone or I will be cut off.  That model works for cell phones with removeable plastic SIMs but not for IoT devices. If I’m Phillips Medical and want to sell my global heart monitoring device with an embedded iSIM into Turkey, then I don’t have an option to change the SIM and my business case collapses if I have to make Turkish specific devices.  

At Eseye we get around this by doing a local interconnect to a Turkish operator enabling us to dynamically switch the IMSI over-the-air once we can see the device is now in Turkey. This makes us compliant with the local regulator and so the device can stay as long as it wants. We can further optimise the connection by sending the data via a local in-country Point of Presence (PoP) to reduce latency and meet local data sovereignty rules. This is just one example of the ‘below the water line’ issues that need to be addressed and which a lot of customers are not aware of. 

  • What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months? 

At Eseye we’ve transformed our focus from pure data resell to software and services. It’s a value rather than a volume strategy and this necessitates not only significant product training but also represents a big culture change. Change can only come from the top and this has taken a lot of my time and focus as CEO. Going forward it will be important to double down on this change because competing purely on data reselling is a commodity pricing strategy which will result in one or two volume winners and financial stress for many others. We fully intend to be the market’s leading value play, and this is represented in our tagline ‘Nobody does IoT better’. 

  • What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry? 

Read every business book you can get your hands on, practice your communications skills to the point where you don’t need PowerPoint to deliver a complex message in a simple way, treat everybody with respect, act with upmost integrity and focus relentlessly on simplifying the customer experience.  

And don’t be fooled, a C-Suite job is not always as glamorous as it seems. As you climb the ranks, the reality is that the number of problems requiring your attention and resolution increases exponentially. Life as a CEO, especially in a small company, is not like you see on the TV. Yes, I spend a lot of time on strategy and meeting customers but there’s also all the time you have to spend dealing with the problems that flow upwards and stop with you. You soon realise that ultimately you are responsible for everything that happens in the company including the things which you have no visibility of. This environment suits certain individuals who thrive within it, while others may not. If you’re the kind of person who flourishes in this dynamic and aspires to pursue such a path, then by all means, go for it. It can be an immensely rewarding and enjoyable experience but be ready to invest significant time and effort into it. 

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