Laurent Le Pen

Founder of Omate

Laurent Le Pen is a French Tech entrepreneur, Founder & CEO of Omate – a hardware and software company that designs wearable tech and IoT solutions for people who need protection. Omate offers Wearable-as-a-Service solutions connected through telecom networks targeting three main segments: Kids, Seniors and Enterprise.
Laurent is also the co-founder of Oclean – a next-gen oral care tech startup based in Shenzhen.
Graduated from ISAAP France and a 500 Startups alum, Laurent has been working in the telecom industry since 2005 and lives in Shenzhen, China since 2007. Laurent has in-depth knowledge of advanced wireless technologies, electro-mechanical components and strategic alliances in both enterprise and consumer electronics. On top of that, Laurent also runs a Wearable / IoT professional group on LinkedIn with over 30,000 members.

Where did the idea for Omate come from?

Eight years ago, we unveiled our first product — the Omate TrueSmart. At that time, we had designed what would become one of the World’s first standalone Android smartwatches connected to the telecom network. An incredible piece of technology allowing the wearer to get the full power of a smartphone on its wrist. Everything actually started in late 2012 when I connected an iPod nano display to an Android smartphone motherboard; after a few engineering tricks, I finally turned it on and saw the tiny screen displaying a thumbnail version of an Android user interface. That was the Eureka moment!
At that time, I was involved in the mobile phone design industry for almost a decade so I pitched the concept to several large mobile phone OEMs and distributors; However, none of these brands believed in my “Outdoor Mate” project. That’s the reason why on July 1st, 2013; I set up Omate after getting rejected by these large mobile corporations.
I have set up a team and we have designed our own hardware along with the Omate User Interface (OUI) software on top of Android.
We called that first product the “TrueSmart” because it did not need to be paired to a smartphone to become smart. More than a watch, more than just a Bluetooth accessory, the TrueSmart was a genuine standalone device.
The other smartwatches only worked when they were connected to a smartphone as a Bluetooth companion accessory of our smartphone and became “dumb” as soon as they were disconnected from it.
We launched our Kickstarter campaign on August 21st, 2013. Our goal was to raise $100,000 within a month. We achieved that goal within ½ day and ended the campaign on Sept 20th, 2013 with over a million USD of funding which made the TrueSmart the 5th most funded Kickstarter project of the Design Category in 2013.
The fun fact is that most of the OEMs we previously met backed the TrueSmart on Kickstarter and we were receiving emails from industrial partners and distributors from all over the World.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I get up early at 6am, I eat a nice French style breakfast and pet my cat, then I clean the living room while listening some YouTube podcasts mainly political and economic news and daily programs both in French and English. Then my kids get up and I prepare their breakfast before my wife brings them to school.
That’s my morning routine before going to office where I can focus on the industrial challenges, the market and overall operations.

How do you bring ideas to life?

It’s a lot of brainstorming and talks with friends and colleagues. Ideas are the root of creation. First of all, I read a lot to scout the market. I must know everything about my industry so I have set several business intelligence tools by following the right people and media on Twitter and LinkedIn, setting the right Google Alerts and finally, I have also my own professional group on LinkedIn and that helps me to be always among the first to know what’s going on in my industry.
It’s also important to have a good understanding of the World we live in so I try to get surrounded by people who are open-minded and aware about trends and global visions.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Digital parenting is probably the most exciting one, especially because I have two toddlers at home, the second one is the senior industry with the aging population, the boomers entering the senior category and obviously COVID has changed a lot of things about how we communicate with family members so that’s what keeps me busy these days.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I follow a famous engineering rule for almost everything I undertake, it’s a continuous improvement methodology called PDCA that stands for Plan / Do / Check / Act and then repeat. It’s pretty efficient.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Buy Bitcoins 😊 more seriously, do not be afraid to pivot your business, listen more to your gut feeling, your intuition.
Do not change anything, everything will be fine. Do your best to really achieve your childhood dreams.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Most of the successful people you’ll meet will give you that advice : “You must focus on your idea” ; they will tell you that because they are living proof that they managed to connect the dots from their original idea up to the final destination. The best explanation to being focused on something is when you have a very good idea, you don’t do it because you are focused on something else.
However, I strongly disagree with that “focus” advice for startups because that’s also the main reasons most of them die early.
First of all, you are most likely not the only one to have that idea right now so while it’s good to focus on something and go ahead but you must keep aware of many things in your ecosystem and therefore if you suddenly feel you are not the best suited to build up, to concretize that idea, you should not be afraid to pivot and do something else rather than hitting the wall.
Secondly, you will make mistakes so it’s better to make many small errors rather than a big strategic one that may kill your company so be agile and if the weather is not in your favor, you can sail towards different seas. No one will blame you to try to save your crew members and your ship. You are the only captain on board. You must be aware that you have a responsibility to create a positive atmosphere and a sense of community on board but more importantly you must lead the ship and if you focus on the wrong destination, you may hit a rock therefore adjust your route and overall strategy when needed.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Clean your house in the morning so if you have a bad day, at least when you come back home, you will feel comfortable in a clean house. I think that the same concept behind making your bed when you get up at the army.
It’s also a great way to exercise in the morning while being productive.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Pivot when needed and share your knowledge and your network to anyone who ask for it, that be suppliers, customers, competitors, etc.
At the end of the day, some of them will remember it, not all of them but you just need a few of them to recommend you. On top of that, remember people will change their jobs multiple times in their lives so be kind and loyal to everyone and help as many people as you can during your career, I am 100% sure that will pay off in the long run.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

There are many but that’s usually the things I don’t want to emphasize on, how I overcame it? Well, I survived and the company too, that’s the only thing that matters.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Alright, I believe there is a good opportunity to further develop and innovate projection devices, I am really keen on metaverse through breakthough projectors and holograms rather than wearing AR goggles and VR headsets. Please do it.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Oh definitely, True Wireless Earbuds, I have a pair in office and two pairs at home. I have premium models from Huawei, Xiaomi and Nothing. I love all of them, useful for YouTube, music and online meetings. I love that bubble effect that allows me not being disturbed and not disturb anyone.

Another amazing device in that price range is the Xiaomi Ninebot Mini (Segway), I use it for short trips. It’s way better than an electric scooter, it’s really a device that would deserved more attention mainly because people only remember the bad low end copycats that were sold few years ago but I am confident Xiaomi will make great use of the Segway brand in the future by developing more concepts out of it. It’s a revolutionary electric vehicle.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

WeChat because it’s the Super App in China. It’s something hard to understand anywhere else, it’s my wallet, my metro card, my Uber, my messaging app, in other words, it connects me to every services I use in my daily life.

CapCut, is another app I use a lot, it’s part of TikTok ecosystem and I use it several times a week to make short videos both for work and for family. That’s the kind of thing in which we needed a professional editor to do in the past, now, I just do it myself in seconds with my phone.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Allow me two books 😊 “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel because it’s a great management lesson and “Chronicles from the Future” by Paul Amadeus Dienach as it will give you a sense of a long term vision, what humanity may become, it’s a mix of dystopia and utopia but I believe that people overestimate what they can do in a year but underestimate what they can achieve in a decade. In that book, we wake up about 2000 years later so that brings humility to everything we know and believe today.

What is your favorite quote?

One cannot fish for trout with dry trouser.

Key Learnings:

  • Get up early and clean your house!
  • Be aware of the World you live in
  • Don’t be afraid to pivot
  • Connect people
  • Think long term