Paris — “What I learned about being most successful is being most personal, more unexpected. What do you have to lose? Follow your dreams. That is what I like about consumer electronics."
Maybe because he started out as a journalist, or because of his French accent, or that he said it here, in France's capital, but the comment by Henri Seydoux, founder and CEO of Parrot, at the CEA CEO Summit is just about the best formula for success I have ever heard from an executive in this industry.
During a one-on-one interview with Jeff Joseph, communications and strategic relationships senior VP, Seydoux discussed his background and how Parrot has become a successful company.
Seydoux began Parrot years ago with the strategy to develop products "that do something with your cellphone. And the first success we had was connecting it with your car. Now everyone has Bluetooth in the car. We asked, ‘What can we connect next?’ ”
The Parrot founder said when Nokia was the leading phone manufacturer, they focused on that maker, but when Apple's iPhone became dominant, “We said, ‘What can I do for the iPhone?’ Thinking 12 year-olds have smartphones, maybe I can do a video game, but not in front of a video display but on a phone, a new type of game.”
Bluetooth was and is the key, Seydoux said. "I love Bluetooth connections, because you can do anything with it — home, Cloud, Internet — and it costs next to nothing [to include in today's products]. The smartphone is today's most important technology. With phones, you have apps, Internet. Everyone has a cellphone, and Bluetooth is very natural product to the cellphone, [which is] the most important product developed since the PC. With a smartphone, everyone has a computer with them, and it can do a lot of things. It is a fantastic device."
CEA’s Joseph noted Seydoux's father’s work in films and his daughter’s work as an actress, and he asked Seydoux how that background influenced his work. "Initially I did not know how, but show business influenced [my work]. International CES is like show business.” When you bring a product to CES "in four or five days, since CES is the center of the world for CE and technology, you can be a star. You can develop a nice idea in Paris, bring it to CES and if it is something good and unexpected, it can be a success."
The drone that Parrot introduced at this year's CES was one of those “good and unexpected” hits. The product was developed over a two- or three-year period and was not particularly favored internally by some, but when CES crowds deemed it a hit, “finally inside the company, some said, ‘Yes, it is cool.’ ”
Seydoux did not shy away from the subject of drones and privacy concerns. "Like the Internet, there are wide possibilities of problems and it can be dangerous, but it is the future. Like other businesses, it should be regulated at the [level of] the user, like driving a car. Drivers have to follow the rules and if they don't, if bad things happen, that is the responsibility of the driver."
Regulations are being considered in the U.S. and elsewhere regarding drones, and technology companies are, in general, in favor of rules, Seydoux said, but the industry needs to explain the technology in Washington.
He noted that the U.S. government’s response has generally been positive since drones can help other industries. "CE is the key driver of innovation today, most consumer innovation, which is great for the economy,” he remarked.
Drones can also help industries such as farming, for instance, to fly “over fields and take pictures immediately to see where you need to put more fertilizer, more irrigation or other actions. They can create better, more accurate maps for government after a disaster hits an area with floods for rescues. Drones are part of computing and that will be a huge future, for professional and consumer use.”
When asked about innovation and start-ups, Seydoux said small companies can develop “so many things,” and added that while Parrot is not a start-up, “it can be a series of start-ups, with many projects.” He warned the audience: “Most projects will fail, but you have to accept that. The problem is not what will fail, but to do the projects and look for success.”
That is something that many suppliers, retailers and distributors know, and need to remind themselves, today and in the future.