Hello Founders 👋
Welcome to the first edition of Founder Stories from Alt. We’ll break down stories of successful founders to help you build your own startups.
Today’s star is Grandeur, an IoT development platform. Let’s explore how Grandeur evolved from its humble beginnings at UET, Lahore to becoming the AWS for IoTs.
Thanks for reading Alt Vault! Subscribe to receive new issues directly in your inbox.
What is Grandeur?
It is a backend-as-a-service platform to build, scale, and manage IoT products.
For example, Soldrive used Grandeur to manage their electricity-saving air conditioners. Soldrive users now monitor their ACs through a simple app, thanks to Grandeur.
Grandeur reduces the complexities, costs, and time associated with building IoT startups. It’s an angel in tech clothing for IoT developers.
Origin: Falling in love with Jarvis 🤖
In 2010, Moiz became captivated by Jarvis, Tony Stark's AI sidekick in Iron Man. Jarvis became the beginning of his love for IoT and smart devices.
Since then, Moiz knew his purpose was to make magic happen with tech.
Later on, he dreamed of having an Alexa to satiate his geeky nerves. (We feel you, Moiz! 🤗)
"Par Alexa kharidna itna bara problem nahi tha, jitna parents se smart appliances ki demands karna. Kunki unke bagair to possible tha nahi…”
Dorm room trouble-making at UET, Lahore
With passion for IoTs burning strong, Moiz went on to pursue an Electrical Engineering degree at UET Lahore.
He started applying everything he learned to build the things he wanted.
One morning, he decided to build a smart switch to control the appliances around him. Next, he installed a smart socket board that allowed him to control the lights and fans from his laptop. 🤩
How did he do it?
He used Google, Reddit, and other hardware communities as his knowledge base. There he learned to integrate his socket board with the voice feature in Windows accessibility settings.
From that day on…
Moiz was giving voice commands to his laptop to control the lights of his dorm room. It made everybody on the campus go bananas.
Word about the prototype spread like wildfire. People started visiting Moiz’s dorm to see the magic for themselves. "OMG, WTF, and wowww," they jabbered.
You are doing something right when your ugly-looking, wires-hanging prototype generates this kind of buzz. (Congrats, Moiz 🎉)
Birth of a dream: building MVP
Moiz knew this was what he wanted to do. He felt one step closer to getting his own Jarvis.
He wanted to build this thing into a commercial product which led him to develop an MVP.
So he did what most of us do: asked his friend Talha to build a functional mobile app to replace the laptop.
Talha was studying computer science at the time. He built the app using Firebase and later became the co-founder of Grandeur. (Welcome to the party, Talha! ✌)
With the MVP in hand, Moiz and Talha were ready to take their product out in the world.
They presented their first version at Startup Lahore and other venues to get early feedback.
But they soon discovered their backend sucks. It was slow because it was built on Firebase, which was not IoT-friendly.
Despite this setback, Moiz and Talha tackled the challenge head-on. They built their own backend from scratch, a process that took months. Talk about not giving up.
0 Sales for 2 Years… 😶
The tinkering and tailoring went on for around two years with no sales to show for their efforts. At this point, they had no idea what SaaS or venture capital was.
Surviving two years without a sale is no joke. So did Moiz & company have a paison ka darakht?
No. Nobody has a paison ka darakht.
They only have a strong will and passion to bring positive change. The founders of Grandeur funded their venture with their own pocket money.
They invested small amounts like 5 – 7k a month to improve their hardware.
“Zahir hai, hardware to banana tha na.”
A chance encounter. At an accidental presentation. Changed EVERYTHING forever.
Moiz met Nauman Zaffar, then Professor at LUMS, now CTO at BarqBox. He needed someone to build the software and backend for his IoT product.
The team agreed to help him and lo and behold, Grandeur landed their first paying customer.
The journey begins 🥳
The customer paid them (a big, fat cheque) to solve the backend problem for him. This first sale enabled Grandeur to survive and also opened their eyes to a new possibility.
After years of selling the hardware, their first customer purchased the software piece. 🤨
They recognized: there is a need for a software solution for hardware companies who want to build smart devices.
They quickly replaced their IoT hardware builder hats with their new IoT software provider hats and got to work.
Takeaway: Getting paid even before you bake the product is a great sign you’re solving something painful.
It's also better to find your early customers outside your network, which Grandeur did. It saves you from receiving vanilla-coated feedback.
Mastering pivots to find true path
Serving their first customer brought new realizations to light. For example, the client was self-hosting so there were downtimes.
He was about to hire an engineer to keep things up. But Grandeur offered them a hosting solution to which the client agreed.
This made them question themselves again.
Why isn’t there anything to help IoT founders already? 🤔
Why do hardware, when developers struggle to build software? 🐱💻
Why not become the AWS for IoTs? 😈
Finally, Grandeur decided to pivot from hardware to software.
And mind you, this wasn’t plain old intuition. They had observed patterns:
It takes more than a year to build an IoT prototype.
Even if you’re a pro at hardware, you can’t test it without software.
Existing smart products by Haier, Dawlance, and Orient suck at software.
Most IoT startups die at MVP stage for the time it takes to build hardware and software.
A Game-Changing Discovery
This new understanding changed everything for Grandeur.
They decided to become a plug-and-play software + backend for hardware companies.
Another new discovery was not being B2B anymore.
Instead, they were a business-to-developer company much like Twilio or Stripe in their earlier days.
Grandeur's new offering allowed hardware manufacturers to build smart devices quickly and at scale.
It was as simple as creating your hardware product, signing up on Grandeur, and voila!
Your product is connected to the internet 🔌
You have an App that doesn’t suck 😇
It technomagically interacts with your hardware product 🥳
Moiz and Talha realized this was an opportunity to revolutionize IoT.
Meanwhile, Grandeur got incubated at Plan X and launched its public beta.
By this time, the team realized their true calling was not to build their own IoT products. It was to help others who were building them.
So they got to work, speaking with hardware companies in Pakistan and developers around the world.
The goal was to understand their needs and pain points.
Soon, they learned companies with existing IoT products were not their customers, as they had already built their software.
Instead, Grandeur was meant for early-stage companies and future IoT developers who were starting their journey.
But was the journey a cakewalk?
Hardly. The team toiled for an entire year. They honed their business model and improved the product, all with one customer using it.
Moiz, fresh off graduation, was facing some you-know-what kinda questions from his parents. But he held firm, knowing there was a valuable product on the table and he was sure “nokri nahi karni.”
Despite the struggles, the team persisted. They still needed funds to create the infrastructure to offer a SaaS product with cloud hosting. (But did I mention? There's no stopping these guys!)
Back with a bang: SaaS released 🥳
Grandeur made its triumphant return with the launch of its SaaS version in early 2021. The response was overwhelmingly positive, as hardware enthusiasts flocked to the platform. In no time:
Grandeur scaled to serve 400 developers from over 10 countries.
Earned a spot as a featured platform on Hackster, a community of 2m+ hardware developers.
The team felt a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment. Now they knew they were making a real difference.
Testing, learning, more testing, and repeat
The founders understood constant iteration was key to building their IoT platform. They focused on building a community of student developers at universities.
To get immediate feedback, they organized workshops and participated in events.
For instance, Talha observed how confusing and complex their onboarding flow was. As a result, he took swift action to improve it.
It's all about embracing the messiness of the process, iterating, and making your product better each time. That's the name of the game, and the team was all in.
aggressively with clarity
Moiz and the gang decided to harness the power of community.
Did they post everything they wrote everywhere? Nope.
They learned their audience i.e. hardware developers were hanging at Hackster and Reddit. They zeroed in on both platforms.
Here's what they did:
Platform over content: They created tailored content for each platform. Check out this Instructables article by Grandeur for inspiration.
Building in public: Moiz shared his progress and updates on Twitter regularly to build a network.
Newsletter: He started with a small email list of potential angels and investors. This helped him build credibility. Plus, people from this list ended up investing in Grandeur's first round.
Raising a pre-seed round
Grandeur started its fundraising journey in February 2021. They closed a 6-figure pre-seed round in September that year. (Godspeed, Grandeur! 👏)
By this time—eight months since launch—they had organically grown up to 87%.
Engineers from Google and MIT started using Grandeur to build awesome IoT products. 😎
Incubation at Alchemist
Incubating at Alchemist, a B2B accelerator in the US, was a game-changer for Grandeur.
They encountered fresh perspectives. Moiz met creative entrepreneurs from all corners of the world. He was inspired by the diversity of his peers.
For example, Moiz met a founder developing a drone taxi to rival Uber Taxi, a vision that expanded his own horizon.
Future of Grandeur & IoT
Grandeur is on a mission to change the game. Their vision is to simplify the complex barriers in IoT and help more creators turn their ideas into reality.
As the team at Grandeur continues to grow, their next mark is to raise a seed round. This will enable them to make a wider impact on the IoT industry.
Plus, Team Grandeur is not afraid of having fun. In Public. 💃🕺 Can't beat that passion.
Lessons Moiz wants to share with you…
Go work in a startup if you want to do your own someday.
Don’t doubt yourself, kick the imposter syndrome out.
Be blunt. Go to places and sell what you’ve built.
Build your track record in public on Twitter even if you’ve 2 followers.
Don’t act like a company. You will develop an ego. Stay small, stay fun.
The path to funding is not a linear one. There’s no formula.
Raise funds when you want to raise, not when it’s hot to raise.
Educate yourself on fundraising or get into an accelerator.
If you have a global target audience, raise from US investors.
Angel investors are better than VCs.
Wrapping it up…
If you’re an IoT startup, don’t stay stuck in the slow lane of IoT development. There is a better way! There is a Grandeur way to cut to the chase.
In the coming entries, we’ll bring more founder stories to your inbox. Stay tuned and subscribed.
Lastly, big thanks to,,, andfor helping me put this newsletter together. It wasn’t possible without them.
If you enjoyed reading this, share it with your friends (or we’ll call Jarvis to help us spread the word.)
Until next week,