Amip joins Comfy from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where he’s worked across a number of areas including data center infrastructure, energy and sustainability, and the Internet of Things. Amip originally started out his career as a thermal engineer and at HPE he stretched the realms of smart technology, so Comfy pretty much had him at “hello.”
Tell me about the path that led you to Comfy.
Sure, I'll start by going way back to my work in graduate school. Like Andrew and Steve, I did my PhD at Berkeley. (Go Cal Bears!) My thesis was on how to make cooling systems more efficient. This was at a time when California had a lot of electricity brown-outs and people were building data centers to power the internet. A lot of my research was on how to keep the data center environments sufficiently cool without wasting energy. Fast forward a couple years and HP wanted to commercialize this research, turning it into something known as "dynamic smart cooling."
Then we thought, why stop at cooling? Why not look at power consumption? What about sensors? What about pulling in data from sensors to make it more efficient? And, that basically gave birth to the Smart Buildings program at HP, which eventually became the Smart Grids program, which eventually became a much larger Internet of Things program. I was leading the Internet of Things R&D group for a number of years, looking across hardware, software, and services.
I was at HP for over 10 years, mostly within HP Labs, whose charter was to find the big, untapped disruptive trends that are going to affect our customers. When we were working on smart buildings, back in 2011, we were amongst the first formal IoT groups to be fully funded and staffed. I was tasked with building out a roadmap that supports it and working with internal and external partners to take that portfolio to market.
As someone who understands the building space, energy systems, and the future of IoT, I'm really excited to be joining Comfy, because it is a perfect opportunity to bring that all together to support an exciting product that is already differentiated and resonating with the customer base.
What are you most excited about in joining Comfy and what will you spend your first 30 days focused on?
The first thing that jumped out at me was the people and the culture. The emphasis that Comfy places on culture, speaks to me quite a bit. I grew my career at Hewlett Packard and people would often talk about Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard and the “HP way”, so I grew up in an environment where company culture matters a lot. At Comfy, the very first email I got was from Alicia talking about the Comfy core values that people aspire to live up to everyday and I really feel that with every single Comfy person I speak to. It’s clear Comfy is a group of people living up to their values.
Beyond that, of course, the product is exciting and the company is at an exciting stage in disrupting the market. The beauty of Comfy is its simplicity. The moment you describe it, people get it. I love creating products that customers love using—and it's clear that people love Comfy!
In terms of priorities, my number one priority on day one is to come in and listen. Comfy is already a very successful team that is already doing wonderful things, so I aim to understand how the team works and how I can add value. The second thing is figuring out exactly where to go next. The challenge leaders often run into when joining an organization is that they see the opportunity to do things differently, but they forget things that the organization has been doing well all along. So striking that balance, and leveraging the team and the product's existing strengths, is going to be the biggest focus. Finally, I’ll focus on identifying key customer needs. This means spending the time to get a handle on what our customers would like to use Comfy for, but aren't able to yet today, why they aren’t able to, and how can we fix that. That would round out my top three priorities for my first 30 days...what, that sounds overly ambitious? Ok maybe my first 90 days.
In your opinion, how is AI changing the way people interact with their workplaces?
From a consumer standpoint, I look at my nephews and nieces who are growing up as digital natives. The other day, my nephew was playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with his Amazon Echo. The idea of walking into a room and adjusting a thermostat is going to be foreign to him. [Instead, in the very near future,] he's going to walk into a room and say, "Hey, I'm hot. You figure it out," and there will be intelligence behind the scenes to automatically address his needs (without him having to physically adjust anything). This is an opportunity, but more importantly will soon be an expectation from the market.
People are already fundamentally connected to their infrastructure. Now, we're moving from being connected to the infrastructure to being immersed in the infrastructure. What I mean by that is the infrastructure is just there, you don’t even notice it. My thermostat will know when I'm coming home and what I will need, based on things like my calendar, my flight details, or when I usually come home. It would also be smart enough to know if my flight is delayed by 45 minutes and adjust accordingly. And it's not just the thermostat anticipating my thermal needs, but it's also the thermostat talking to the lights, the smart windows, the security system, my calendar, and my airline app...you get the idea.
What makes the experience immersive is that all of these different aspects of the infrastructure are integrated and playing off of one another. People will get so immersed in their infrastructure that as a user, they won't ever have to be too hot or uncomfortable nor manually request changes. Everything is already taken care of for them. My example was based on smart homes, but you can imagine how that directly translates to smart buildings and how quickly the world will be transforming within just the next 5-7 years. This is where Comfy is headed, and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.
What do you think are the essentials of building a great "digital workplace"?
First, there's the physical infrastructure itself (for example, it's not easy to concentrate when you're boiling and everyone is sweating), so one aspect of the workplace is the physical comfort in the built environment. Then, there's the collaborative component of the workplace: the reason why offices exist is to create a place where people can work effectively in teams, so there's the idea of how people can interact more seamlessly and efficiently with each other. Lastly, there's the idea that the workplace is not just four walls anymore. It's actually a distributed, virtual workplace.
Just think about the time that people waste trying to just set up a meeting across their teams! Imagine instead that when you need to schedule a conference call, you have a room that is ready for you, tailored to your temperature and lighting preferences, and the right workplace tech solutions are immediately up and running. To me, the opportunity in the digital workplace is how to take all of these things (the physical space, collaboration, and the distributed office) and integrate them together.
What can you geek out about for hours?
When I was at Berkeley, in the international student house, we had a debate club and I absolutely loved getting together with a bunch of friends and talking about the big, existential questions in life. The reason why those are so much fun is because I always learned something new, and learning is my drug.
Also, I really enjoy food: I love living in the Bay area for the diversity of restaurants. At one point, I was on a mission to try every vegetarian restaurant in the Bay area. Then I realized that's a fool's errand because there are so many. Now, I just go to the ones recommended.
Ready to join Comfy's journey in revolutionizing the digital workplace, or have an existential life question to debate with Amip? Well, we're hiring! Check out all open positions at Comfy and apply here.