Meet Connery Lee, founder and CEO of SwitchBot Co. At the tender age of 16 he entered university to study electronic information engineering and participated in numerous robot competitions during his time there. After gaining experience in robot production, he graduated from Nanyang University of Technology in Singapore in 2011 with a master’s degree in the same department. It was then that he would start to work with smart home devices, and in 2012, he invented finger robot SwitchBot Bot and established a company in 2015, launching the SwitchBot brand in 2016. By 2022, the number of users currently using SwitchBot products exceeded the 1.5 million mark worldwide.
After graduation from university, Connery was involved in the smart home business for many years before starting his own business, and has also participated in the development of various robots.
Early smart home products were expensive and complex to operate, and Connery was shocked that automating a switch at the time was quite a complex thing, and so, he decided to take this as an opportunity to start SwitchBot. Starting with the development of a finger robot that can press a switch for you remotely, the brand SwitchBot was launched in 2016. Considering that many competing products needed some form of construction and installation, which is not suitable for renting apartments, and the installation method is complex, which is difficult for those unfamiliar with IoT products, he chose “transformation” rather then a complete change of device as a key solution. We spoke with him recently regarding starting from scratch with three employees, and how he managed to reach 1.5 million users in just five years.

A story of entrepreneurship.
Todays achievements are made by both us and our users.

You've now hit the 1.5 million user mark. How does it feel? What's the secret to good business expansion and continued development?

I am grateful to all our users. We were able to celebrate this wonderful milestone (now 1.5 million home users) which was honestly so impressive and such great news to hear. From the beginning of our founding, the most important thing we’ve tried to do here is develop products from the perspective of users. So our starting point is not “what I can do?” or “what technology do I have?“, but rather what products users need and what they need to be able to make life more convenient. Only then, do we start to develop what is necessary.
Firstly, we want to consider what users want, formulate strategies to achieve it, and prepare the necessary technical and human resources in order to achieve it. In the product branding stage, we will present specific usage scenarios to let testers envisage what their life would be like if they bought this product. The notion of a high-quality, simple, intelligent life is also my own personal dream, I mean, who likes wasting time doing tedious tasks? Not me.
The needs of our users are consistent with the direction of my dream, so all we need to do is create a product that matches them, and then through feedback from users such as “I hope you can do more of this.” or “I wish we had that.” We can then provide users with an upgraded version of our improvement plan. In this kind of product improvement cycle, I think it is our company and users who repeatedly sympathize with each other, which leads to an overall better, well-rounded product in the end.

CEOs are here to take responsibility.
The beliefs and skills it takes to be a good manager.

Since starting this business, and as CEO, what core beliefs do you hold?

I think my answer would be to focus on the long-term future and create value there. Looking forward to the future allows us to set a target I want to reach, and we can all work towards that goal with a stepping stone of tasks in the present day. The same is true of starting a business or building a company or brand. If you only consider the immediate future and only look at your feet, you may end up going in the wrong direction. First, have a clear impression of your ultimate goal and then solve the problems and challenges at hand. I am often asked, “What is the most difficult thing about running a company?” Of course, there will always be trouble and failure. However, when the current troubles and difficulties are solved, the next problem will emerge. Troubles, to be honest, is just a “to-do” that must be removed on your journey towards your ultimate goal. I don’t think tasks in the present will become an obstacle to one’s final goal, but I will meet challenges with the mentality that “I need to complete this task today”.
I am the kind of person who would think that we should look at problems with a more optimistic attitude. There’s an old ancient eastern proverb, that talks about “grinding a sword for life“, I love this saying so much. But for me? My whole life is not enough. The next up-and-coming generation must continue to sharpen. And we will continue to pass the baton and sharpen our swords as we go.
Japan is a great example of this, and has many excellent companies that have operated for more than 100 years – I believe that this is the essence of Japanese enterprises and their manufacturing industry is respected by the world.

It's vital to have an environment where users, sellers, and products can grow together.

What's the happiest memory you have at SwitchBot?

There are many things that make me happy, but the happiest moments I have would probably be the moments when I recieve a stamp of approval by our users. I remember distinctly one time I received a letter of thanks from a user suffering from polio. It read, that in the past, there was no one to take care of them during their everyday life, and things were difficult. But after introducing SwitchBot to them, they could do so much more without the need for a caretaker, and could live their own life. SwitchBot products really help change people’s lives. I’ve never had a day like that, and I thought, “Wow, this is what makes it all worthwhile.”

The unknown future, "I can't participate in the PC revolution or smartphone revolution, but I want to lead the IoT revolution."

What was your childhood like? Did Anything memorable happen?

When I was young, I was a child full of curiosity. I’m a science major, so I often do science and physics experiments in my room. One day, when I was doing a liquid experiment in my room, and all of sudden some green smog like substance starting rising out of one of my test tubes, I wanted to see if it emitted an odor, and after inhaling that smoke, my throat hurt for several days! Haha. I was definitely way too curious for my own good. And there went my summer vacation, I spent the rest of the time ill at home playing computer games in my bedroom.
Then, I think it was around 1998, I had my first contact with what we might call a “consumer computer”, it was a bolt from the blue. I was fascinated by the existence of computers… In retrospect, I thought, well, I can’t be a part of the PC revolution or smartphone revolution, but I want to at least be someone who can lead in the next generation of IoT devices.

We're all dying to know what you do on your day off? Got any hobbies?

I don’t have any special hobbies! I’m not going anywhere on my day off. From the beginning of this interview, I’ve always insisted that I was a kind of lazy person who was quite non-chalant when it came to tedious everyday tasks. I live within 3 minutes’ walk from the office and come to the office almost every day, 365 days a year. Although it probably doesn’t count, I guess it would have to be playing videogames, everything else is a blur. I used to be a huge command & conquer player (memories, hey).

Regarding the future, IoRT will lead the global smart home industry.

So I've heard that your future goal is to become a pioneer of IoRT in the global market. Erm, what is IoRT?

IoRT is the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) and robot technology. In short, various robots can be active in various places, such as homes, workplaces and public facilities. Robots replace and support the daily work that humans have been doing. For example, reach out to pick up a object, or turn a switch on/off. It refers to an epoch-making concept, which helps enrich lives by making things more convenient by including robots that can perform small tedious operations for you.

How will IoRT technology change the global smart home industry?

By using Internet of Things technology and combining it with robot technology, we can replace various human behaviors, and introduce this into everyday scenes we might face during daily life. We are then able to realize a world in which people can immerse themselves in the work that only humans can complete and hand over physical labor to… Well, someone like SwitchBot. This is the goal we’ve all been working towards in the past 20 years, many leading companies in the world have focused on robot research and development, created many cutting-edge robots, and greatly promoted human scientific and technological progress.
It is very difficult to build a robot equipped with such advanced technology, it would be a dream come true to be able to make such things mainstream for the average household family. However, a more simple kind of robot can be developed to reproduce local human motion from things such as fingers, legs and arms. The idea that triggered the birth of SwitchBot is our finger robot “SwitchBot Bot”. SwitchBot has created many products embodying the IoRT concept, such as SwitchBot Bot which helps reproduce finger movements. Then we can see other areas of home life with surveillance cameras that help replace the eyes, and even our Smart Vacuum Cleaner, which replaces hands and feet.
So here we are, and we’ve chosen a path that lets each user easily integrate this technology into their own lives according to different needs. No matter how advanced the technology is, if the bar is high and people hesitate to introduce such products into their home, then it’s meaningless. As a future concept, we plan to develop products covering tasks that cannot be completed by existing products, such as folding clothes and automatic water change in humidifiers. So stay tuned!

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To all of our users, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for putting trust in us, and for using our products. We want to continue to develop products that meet everyone’s expectations, so please continue to provide us with feedback. You are the driving force behind the future of smart homes, and our responsibility is to make your dream come true. We sincerely invite you to participate in our user surveys should you get the chance and help develop SwitchBot with us hand in hand along the way. Thank you for your continued support for SwitchBot. Hope to see you all soon.
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