How my 90-year-old grandma helped build one of the fastest growing IoT startups

Christian Smith and grandma at black tie event

When my co-founder Chris and I first started developing the earliest TrackR prototypes, I was 23-years old, fresh out of college, and working hard to get TrackR off the ground. Chris and I decided to bootstrap and conserve as much cash as possible, so we cut our biggest cost: rent.

Rather than letting me be homeless, my grandmother, 83-years old at the time, took me in as her housemate.

TrackR, like all the greatest startups, had its first headquarters in a garage. Chris and I would stay up late into the night perfecting the latest iteration of our prototype. The next day, delirious, we’d try it out on our friends.

But that was just the first test.

The final test was Grandma.

From the start, we’ve believed that useful technology should be accessible. TrackR is unique because we created a solution that a very broad demographic needs. After all, there are few problems more universally frustrating than misplacing your keys. So since Day One, we’ve been committed to making technology that anyone can use, regardless of age or experience.

That meant that our earliest ideas had to make sense not just to our Engineering buddies, but to a diverse group of people.

Enter the Grandma Test. If my grandmother could intuitively figure out the new feature on her iPhone, it passed the Grandma Test and was ready to show to the world. If not, we went back to the drawing board.

My Grandma, born in the 1920’s, has seen incredible technology changes in her lifetime. This year, when Chris and I won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Grandma was my dinner date! At 90 years young, she’s one of our biggest evangelists. She gets all her friends to use it.

Whenever we talk to customers, we’re always so excited by how much non-digital natives – digital newcomers – have embraced TrackR technology.

Maintaining focus on creating a reliable, easy-to-use product allows us to help everyone from busy high schoolers to aging adults.

We wouldn’t have been able to deliver peace of mind to such a broad audience without my grandmother’s perspective.

Thanks, Grandma!

Christian Johan Smith

Christian Smith is President and Co-Founder of TrackR. He doesn't lose things much anymore, but the last time he did, his bicycle was stolen and it was no fun at all.