CTO Spotlight: An Exclusive Interview with Location Services Innovator, Eran Shpak, CTO of Deeyook
Updated: Jul 5
(Part 2 of a 2-blog series)
In previous blog, Eran talked about current and future trends in location technology. In this blog, he sheds some light on the role of CTO in a fast-moving location technology startup and some of the opportunities and challenges for CTOs in this developing field.
How did you get interested in location technology?
I’ve worked with wireless and Wi-Fi technologies for most of my professional career. At the same time, I’ve always had a strong personal interest in interferometry. For those who don't know, interferometry is a measurement technique that involves measuring the properties of waves, typically light or radio waves. The technique has been around since the 16th century and is used in many scientific fields, from astronomy to optics and recently gravitational waves. It was used in both World Wars for RADAR and is currently used in radio astronomy to locate stars in the sky using arrays of dish antennas.
At some point in my career, I started to think about how Wi-Fi technologies can be combined with interferometry and applied to a new and practical use case. That’s basically how I arrived at location technology, for which the current solutions are mostly inadequate.
What are some of the most significant challenges you face as CTO of Deeyook?
Our company name, Deeyook, means accuracy in Hebrew, and this is one of our main challenges. In location services, if you're not highly accurate, the data is not useful. Achieving the required level of accuracy requires much effort at the algorithm level, both to locate static items in the warehouse and as they move around.
Additional challenges arise because we are committed to using existing Wi-Fi infrastructure. This is often tricky in practice, especially if a client’s existing transmitters are sufficiently good. The biggest difficulties arise when there are millions of assets stored in a large warehouse and the customer doesn't have the infrastructure to cope with large-scale IoT Wi-Fi infrastructure. In such cases, we try to suggest improvements and upgrades (for example, bringing in 802.11ax OFDMA technology) while doing the best with what we have.
How do you balance the need for rapid innovation with the need to maintain stability and reliability in your product?
We operate two groups within our R&D; one focuses on developing the algorithms, and the other on developing the software. We use a two-stage software development process where the first step is to develop workable algorithms, and the second is to make the solution stable, reliable, and efficient.
We are in a continuous process of creation, revision, and recreation with the goal of introducing the best products to the market.
What qualities do you look for in new hires for your engineering and product teams?
Algorithms developers need to be creative, and should have experience in the worlds of sensing, data analysis, modems, etc. Software developers must have the skills to come up with highly reliable, efficient server-side implementations. Both teams need to work with one another in synergy. So, they need to have very good communication skills to bridge the gap between these two domains.
What would you say are the most challenging aspects of the CTO job?
Meeting customer requirements is one of the most challenging aspects of the job because customers don’t care whether you're small or large, or whether there's a gap between your marketing pitch and your technology and product. Other challenges arise from changes in the global environment, which are not directly related to the job we’re trying to do. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic hit all of us with a bunch of unknowns we could never have prepared for. Being unable to plan ahead for any eventuality makes the job that much harder.
What aspects of the CTO job give you the greatest satisfaction?
Collaborating with people and achieving technical goals as a team is very rewarding as each individual gets to contribute their skills and experience to the mix. It’s very different to working alone. Typically, companies begin with one person working alone but it feels much better when you have a team working to meet goals together.
Another aspect of the job that's very rewarding is the innovation side. Having an opportunity to create solutions that haven’t been found before is exciting. It’s totally different from a regular day job - we get to choose our goals and create solutions that will be appreciated long into the future.
Is there a conflict between creativity and innovation in your work?
Yes, obviously one aspect of the job is spontaneous, while the other is linear. You need the linear part, of course, because you have to work in a methodical way and prove, over time, that the innovation is worthwhile. It can’t be conceptual only - you must validate your innovations in field conditions. This takes a lot of time and effort but there can be no appreciation of our work without proof. So, this is the linear component, and it takes 99% of our time over many years, and oftentimes there are no shortcuts.
On the other hand, the innovation is not structured, and it is difficult to plan the breakthrough. You can only try to innovate by heeding specific needs. You’re not inventing a work of art; In technology you’re trying to invent something in view of very specific needs. Oftentimes, the invention is surprising, non-intuitive, non-trivial. Innovation is the key enabler to deep tech success. You need to do something non-trivial that has not been done before. And hard work must follow the invention.
In the high-tech industry, particularly as a startup, it’s all about innovation. You’re expected to do something nonlinear. The linear things, big companies can do on their own. They have the funding, they have the customers, the momentum, what they lack in internal innovation, they select and acquire instead.
That’s the appeal of working in a startup company. You need funding, you need teamwork, you need sufficient incubation time, but first and foremost you also need innovation. Enthusiasm in itself is not sufficient. There's more to it than hype. Oftentimes, what’s needed is a fusion between two or more seemingly unrelated things - such as software and hardware, something non-technical with something technical, business and technology, or synergy between non-technical people and technology. This is what leads to success. It can be a small thing that changes people’s lives.
Any last words?
I would like to add that providing a solution that addresses a genuine and significant need in the market is very challenging. At Deeyook, we are committed to going the distance in the world of location solutions and refining and upgrading our offerings to meet all current and future use cases.