In the early 2000s, Rishi Lodhia shared a small room with his roommate Tijmen Vos. During the second year of their studies, they worked on web applications that were well ahead of their time. It’s 2021 now, and Lodhia still shares a small space with the same guy.
Besides that, everything has changed. After selling and re-buying their own global video surveillance platform from Panasonic, they are now heading Eagle Eye Networks in EMEA and are part of the global leadership team. The company, with a solid base and EMEA, headquartered in Amsterdam, is on its way to becoming a unicorn.
Cloud-based video surveillance
Eagle Eye Networks offers a smart, cloud-based video surveillance solution. Their software works with any connected camera, adding analytics to the recordings and an open API platform for customized applications.
Their use cases range from monitoring retail and hospitality to providing AI-enabled security in banks as well as entire cities. Last year, the scaleup installed more than 13.000 cloud-managed cameras all around Mexico City, to enhance the safety of its inhabitants.
Rishia Lodhia is Managing Director of Eagle Eye Networks in EMEA. His entrepreneurial adventure started long ago in Maastricht. Together with their business partner and roommate Tijmen Vos, he studied at the university. During his second year of International Business Science, Lodhia needed some cash but didn’t like the idea of getting a job. “We thought it was ridiculous to pour someone’s beer”, he recalls. So together with Vos, he started an internet business.
The moment that led them to video
We built web applications and custom-made online business applications and we offered to host"
“We built web applications and custom-made online business applications and we offered to host. We were one of the first ones that built a good WYSIWIG-editor, an extremely intuitive Content Management System to maintain and edit your website. It was a web development company in an end-to-end way.”
Lodhia and Vos built something like WordPress, WooCommerce, or Joomla well before the world would even know these companies would ever exist. “It could’ve been one of the biggest digital companies in Europe, but we saw a market in video surveillance.”
That came after an ‘aha-moment Lodhia clearly remembers. One of his friends had a clothing store in Maastricht. He opened the second one in Groningen, on the other side of the country. That forced him to spend hours traveling back and forth. Lodhia, “We started thinking about what technology could do for him.”
Connected cameras before they were cool
Their solution: zero distance communication. “We installed a connected camera so my friend could see his store remotely. If a customer in Maastricht wanted a shirt in a different print, someone in Groningen could hold it up to the camera. And he could always see if the shelves were full and the store was set up neatly. It allowed him to run a better operation and he did not need to drive to Groningen every week.” A novelty in times before Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime.
Their solution allowed cameras to be used not only for security but in many different ways
Lodhia noticed the surveillance industry slowly moving away from their analog hardware. Their solution allowed cameras to be used not only for security but in many different ways. The knowledge he and Vos gained from their hosting business gave them an advantage when building their next company, CameraManager.
By adding cloud technology, before the cloud was invented, they were two product lifecycles ahead of the industry, says Lodhia, “It was like launching Spotify in the era where only cassettes existed.”
Moving CameraManager to Amsterdam
Building a fast-growing business meant for Lodhia they had to move to the ‘center of the universe. At that time, that was Amsterdam, where CameraManager moved in 2004. The company grew globally, although Lodhia remembers it wasn’t without its struggles. “Sometimes you want to stop, but you keep an eye on the prize. Our prize was disrupting the security camera industry.”
To speed up the company’s growth, Lodhia traveled to Silicon Valley in 2012, looking for capital and expanding to the US.
“In the Netherlands, the whole idea of pouring a ton of money in your business and diluting your shares was not common. But we were open for it; we just wanted to achieve our goal.” In the end, it wasn’t a VC that took a seat at the board; it was Panasonic buying their entire company.
Acquisition by Panasonic
One of them was the world leader, Panasonic. They saw the transition from just hardware to services"
“Quite some camera manufacturers approached us”, says Lodhia. “One of them was the world leader, Panasonic. They saw the transition from just hardware to services. With that synergy, we’d directly have a global network.”
In 2012 Panasonic acquired CameraManager. “For two flatscreens and a waffle iron,” is Lodhia’s way of saying he won’t divulge the purchase price. “It was a significant figure.”
For the first time in his life, Lodhia found himself working for a company. Despite Panasonic wanting them to ‘do their entrepreneurial thing’, even naming him CEO of Panasonic Cloud Management Services, the CameraManager team had to adapt. “The nature of a corporation is that there is a structure with a lot of rules and regulations. Otherwise, you can’t run an organization of 400,000 people. But we came in and started to explain to this 100-year-old company our product and service.”