23.7.2020 – 4 p.m.
Start-ups of the Year of the IFOY award and how are they going to change the intralogistics of tomorrow
Thilo: Hello and welcome to this webinar from Wiferion in cooperation with the IFOY Award. It’s in the series “Why wireless monthly energy”. And as I said this month, the energy boost comes from Wiferion in cooperation with the IFOY award. Our topic in this webinar here in Freiburg in the showroom of Wiferion is: start-ups of the Year of the IFOY award and how are they going to change the intralogistics of tomorrow. I’m pleased to moderate this webinar. Many thanks to Wiferion for having us here. What can you expect in the next 60 minutes? Of course, we will explain what the IFOY award is, who the finalists were, who the winner is and also, of course, we have a discussion about the products and the solutions we can see from the start-ups, as well as a short panel discussion about how what is going to happen in the future. So our guests here in the showroom, I’m happy to have three really experts in intralogistics and their solutions. Our host here is the co-founder of Wiferion. Together with his team, he set himself the task of revolutionizing the world of charging systems, wireless charging systems, contactless wireless charging systems to be exactly, for industrial electric vehicles and other vehicles as well. He describes himself as a tech evangelist, and while he preached quite a lot in the past about new technologies to stay in the pictures, he’s got a number of believers and not only them, but also the Forbes magazine voted him as Europe’s 30 under 30. That was some years ago. Now it’s over 30. So I want to welcome you, Johannes Meyer.
Johannes: Thank you.
Thilo: OK, now going to the next guest. Making inflexible conveyers as flexible as possible, that was the task and the ideas some people of Bremen based company had in mind in two thousand seventeen. The brilliant idea, by the way, was not found in the warehouse inside, but in a completely different matter. But we come to that point later. And any case, they have managed to make a large number of wheels turn in an omnidirectional way so that parcel’s basically can really turn into every direction you want them to turn. So this product was called the Celluveyor and the company, the company’s business development expert is today with us. She was some years in Uruguay, where she worked for a luxury tour operator, looking after process optimization, product management and sales. Well, she returned back to, to Bremen and then she went to this Cellumation start-up and now she’s working as a team lead business developer. Please welcome from Cellumation, Sonja Gabriel.
Sonja: Thank you.
Thilo: So completely detached. That’s probably not in space, but in the warehouse, that was more or less the motto of some young people in the community of the Fraunhofer IML in Dortmund. Their idea was to develop an AGV, that is connected somehow to a drone. And the idea was to do inventory management with the help of this drone and manage the data and analyze the data, as well as measuring temperature and some damages that might have happened to the goods in the warehouse. Actually, she started doing communications with the company during her studies and then she did not decide to go to a big company finally, but stayed with the start-up. So please welcome Marie Sangmeister.
Marie: Thank you.
Thilo: Unfortunately, ForkOn decided they didn’t have time to come here. So we’d like to talk about the IFOY Award. We talk about this word or this competition as if it was normal, but there is some people who don’t know what it is. So Marie, could you please explain what is the IFOY award and why is this award in the world?
What is the IFOY award and why is this award in the world?
Marie: Sure. So the IFOY is the International intralogistics Forklift Truck of the Year award. Yeah. It’s basically to present the most innovative products and intralogistics. And yeah, for once, it’s set to communicate the innovation strength of the, of the intralogistics and to present and intralogistics in general to the public eye.
Thilo: So what made your company decide to take part in this competition?
Marie: We chose to also take part because there’s an international jury of 19 countries, I guess, and that’s a great chance to to get feedback from an international audience. And that’s why we took part.
Thilo: Sonja, what were your reasons to take part?
Sonja: Similarly to Marie. And then for us, was we really two points very special. One was that, yes, we could present ourselves and get feedback from an international jury of journalists and not only European journalists, but there were people from China, from Australia, where we would normally not get feedback or coverage like this at the German start-up. So that was really interesting. And then the other side was that during the test camp, we would also be…it would also be possible to present ourselves to decision makers of the industry. And that was really interesting for us.
Thilo: What was it like for your company?
Johannes: Yeah, for us, like the price is very special, because you have this test camp and a big international jury, so the products are evaluated not only on paper, but really in, let say, real application. So there’s a big independent jury was testing the products, also giving feedback, which is always important as a start-up to get. And that’s, that’s very helpful in making a leading decision makers. And furthermore, I think this price is a very extensive reach with over 90 million viewers last year, I guess, and over 300 magazines reporting on that. And that’s for all the start-ups, very important to get this reach because you can have a great idea, but if the world doesn’t know about it, you will not be successful. So it’s a great opportunity.
Thilo: So can you say how much work was it to apply for this award and what did you get in return?
What did you get in return?
Johannes: So it was.. It was fairly easy, the application process. So you go on the IFOY.org website and it’s a simple application of describing a product, some pictures. And for start-ups, it’s also affordable, I would say a thousand euros for the application. And in return, as I said, you get a large reach, public reach in public media. And so that’s, that’s definitely worth it. And I can recommend it to other start-ups as well.
Thilo: OK, thank you. So we’ll see what the reach will be like this year. The award was just given some, some days ago, but after the award is before the award. So the companies can already apply on the website wwwifoyaward.org. There will be all the information they need. Anyway. I’m talking quite a lot. Actually, now we want to see what your companies do, what the product and the solution is like. So Marie, is doks.innovation a drone company that has found to use cases in logistics, or is it more a logistics service provider who has found a drone and used it in a special way?
Is doks.innovation a drone company that has found to use cases in logistics, or is it more a logistics service provider who has found a drone and used it in a special way?
Marie: Uh, actually, neither one or the other. We are data driven company, so we collect visual data and in a logistics environment and process them to relevant information. So the drone is only…not necessarily important for what we do. We could also attach or sends us to a hot air balloon, be quite slow. But it work also. Um, yeah, we collect data. We can do it with any kind of camera. And the core of what we do is a software.
Thilo: OK. Anyway. You can see the drone and each time you see the drone, people ask themselves, do they have a permit? What is the legal situation? What I’m going to do? What is it like?
Marie: Since we operate indoors, there are not that much permits you need. Yeah, the employer takes care of security on the workplace. And besides that, there’s not much you need to do. You just plug it in and it works. And our use case is designed to work in idle time, so that makes it a lot easier.
Thilo: Great. And, uh, can you explain us how the implementation of the system works?
Marie: Yeah, basically, we come to the warehouse, drive around with an AGV and map the warehouse and then it’s just pluged and played, so to say. So we can export the results via CSV export or we have interfaces to certain ERP-systems. And it’s not that much effort. Really.
Thilo: Sounds really easy. Thank you. Our next video will be from Cellumation. We’re going to watch it. So, Sonja, can you explain us when the idea came with the celluveyor and what you did?
Can you explain us when the idea came with the cellumation celluveyor and what you did?
Sonja: Yeah, it was really, not a normal warehouse situation …was OK, we need to …here’s the solution. But it was rather that one of the founders, he was working on another project, where one part was to find an omnidirectional conveyor that could do some of the work. He didn’t find any that would fit. And then the project was dismissed, doesn’t work. And then a few weeks later, he was on YouTube, watching robot soccer. And then he thought, well, these robots actually move very precisely in any direction on a flat surface. Why not turn it around? And that was like the magic breakthrough moment. And, OK, let’s not get back to the old project, but rather do a new project out of this. And this is basically, in a nutshell, how the celluveyor was born. It was, OK, let’s take these soccer robots, turn them upside down, grouped them together in the size we need for any application and there we have omnidirectional surface.
Thilo: OK, soccer robots probably more reliable than Bremen in the reality.
Sonja: We hope that changes soon. That they will perform as our celluveyor.
Thilo: Anyway, can you tell us what makes the celluveyor unique?
Sonja: Yes, what makes it unique is, if you start looking from what is now, at the moment, state of the art in the material flow systems. And then you will always find that for each task you have one specific hardware, you have all the conveyers, you have mergers, you have commissioning pick stations, you have everything. But everything looks different. Everything is different hardware. And we basically have one core product, the cell, that is combined like we want, in the size we need. And then software gives it all the functionalities. It can cover almost all material flow tasks. And that is what makes it special, that we do it with the software.
Thilo: Let’s talk about the future of the celluveyor. Are you going to get into deeper development or are you going into mass production?
Sonja: Both. Let say so, the core product cell is ready. It’s ready designed, we don’t need to go into detail there. It’s fine. But we definitely want to keep on improving the software because, as we said, we can cover basically all functionalities, but we have to program all these functionalities. We have some of them ready and the rest will come in the next month, years. And I think nobody of us will stop developing so soon. There will always be work to be done. And that’s also the fun part.
Thilo: Thanks Sonja. Now we come to the video of Wiferion, which we are going to watch. So, Johannes, can you tell us what was the initial spark or the idea of the product?
Can you tell us what was the initial spark or the idea of the Wiferion product?
Johannes: Yeah, so our product is contactless inductive charging of electric vehicles. And the story how we came to start this company was that I met my three co-founders at the Fraunhofer institute and we were looking into renewable energy and photovoltaics, how we can make renewable energy more affordable, which we successfully did basically. So the next step for the global economy will be the question, how can we electrify the whole economy. And an important part of that is all the vehicles out there. A lot of them are electric today already, in the industrial segment. But in automotive, for example, we still rely on fossil fuels. So that was our initial motivation to get rid of that and make the electric car success with contactless easy automated charging. But then we made an important strategic decision. We looked at the market again and saw that already today in the industrial and intralogistic sector, we have a lot of vehicles and there is the trend for automation and robotics. So you also need, like an automated, high, efficient charging solution for that applications. And we managed to build wireless charging system with ninety three percent efficiency, which is way better than anything else that has been there before.
Thilo: Used to be 50 percent in the past.
Johannes: Yes,something like that. And so this was a breakthrough. And we decided to start a company to bring this technology to the market and solve the problems that we have for different customers.
Thilo: When we have a closer look at the topic, we talk about in-process charging versus the opportunity charging. Can you tell us the difference?
Johannes: Yeah. So opportunity charging is the idea that you use short breaks of the vehicle for recharging and in-process charging takes the idea of opportunity charging even further by saying we do this recharging directly in the process so that the vehicle doesn’t need to leave the, let’s say, the operation area. So you can use little breaks in the process to recharge the system. And this is especially interesting, because we have a trend currently to switch from lead acid to lithium batteries. And lithium batteries are well suited for opportunity charging and with the right set up of this combination, wireless charging into process, which is like integrating the floor, so you hardly see it, no pitfalls. And then you can recharged vehicles in the process, so you can reach a 24/7 operation, for example. And this is very interesting for a lot of applications.
Thilo: One, quite a number of awards already. Best of product from LOGIMAT, for example. So what are we going to expect from you in the future?
Johannes: So first of all, we are very happy to have received those awards. Because it shows us that we are on the right way and we are building products that the market actually needs. But nevertheless, we are not at the end yet. So there’s a lot of things we have in mind to improve in the future and bring like different power classes for all kind of vehicles, bigger vehicles, smaller ones. And this is really a dynamic field. So we continue to make our products even better.
Thilo: OK, great. So we come back to the IFOY award and as you know, the Corona crisis gave us all the problems. So we had to make a virtual digital ceremony of the IFOY awards celebration ceremony. And for that purpose, we developed a robot, called I-T20, the intralogistics transformer in the year 2020. So to say and not to be confused with ET. That was the guy that wanted to phone home in the 80s. So let’s now watch the video of the winner of the IFOY award in the category start-up of the year in the year 2020. So congrats, Johannes!
Johannes: Thank you.
Thilo: Great! What was it like after you won the award?
Johannes: I was a great feeling. We are very proud, obviously. Because we worked hard, like the last years to build this company and build the products. And our whole team worked very hard to make this happen. And so we are very happy to receive this award. And it would not be possible without the hard work of our team. And it shows us we are on the right direction and we have to continue our journey. So it’s a really good feeling.
Thilo: Great, thanks. OKidoki. Now we come to the next part of our panel discussion about how start-ups are going to change the future of intralogistics or are they going to change it. Anyway. If you look back at the last weeks, that was all about the Corona or covid-19 pandemic. But start-ups are used to, let’s say, home office using mobile devices. How strong was the change? What did you? What happened?
How strong was the change with the pandemic? What did you? What happened?
Sonja: For us, it was, I think we …it was an adaptation process. First was like, OK, being at home 24/7, that is crazy and no working. And… But I think it took us very few time to adjust. I think that was a big benefit because we had all the technological solutions already sorted out. We already had the telephone digitally. So it was no problem at all to answer on the cell phone from home or from the laptop. And it was a question of two or three days to come up with. OK, let’s meet every day at eleven thirty for a coffee break, so we check in on each other, are we still on the same page, still feel like working together in a team and yeah, that was not that hard as …I think it hit some of the larger companies which weren’t very used to our way of working. We also have our start-up team spirit, which made it quite easy to continue even at home. But on a personal level, I think it was…it was quite disruptive. But considering that we develop hard- and software, the team really adjusted well.
Marie: And also was a chance, I think.
Sonja: Some of us continue to work from home even after Corona.
Johannes: So in general, what we noticed is since not only we are start working from home, but also the other companies, less business travel, less meetings, it’s gave a great opportunity to connect with the customers. We are like via video calls. So I think that’s a new, interesting format. And people had more time to look at new, innovative, innovative stuff. So this was also a benefit of this whole time.
Sonja: We got even more inquiries in April than like in March or February. So LOGIMAT did not take place, but we still had like an increase in requests afterwards due to Corona and people having time to look into innovation.
Marie: It also forces you to be more creative, because you don’t have expos and fairs, where you can present your product. You have to be creative and develop new concepts to get in touch with customers.
Thilo: So you’re all more or less, more or less, into intralogistics, work in that sector. When you talk to other start-ups or other people, is it sexy to work in intralogistics?
Johannes: Yeah, I wouldn’t say sexy is the first word that comes to my mind when I hear intralogistics. But it’s actually quite cool to have hardware product that helps to power like all the moving of goods every day. So and if you, for the broader public, tell the story that that everybody who’s ordering online something at Amazon, for example. At some point will probably get in touch with the product and solutions we built someday soon. So this is actually quite cool.
Sonja: I think we’re sexy at the second look. Like when you get to know us a bit better than on the first side. OK, what is this? This is just a truck driving. Oh, it can charge wirelessly. Whoa, that’s cool.
Thilo: Yeah. So start-ups will probably not start to build new forklifts, because there is established companies, who do that for many, many years and do it also quite well. So what do you think, in which area of intralogistics are start-ups going to change the world?
So what do you think, in which area of intralogistics are start-ups going to change the world?
Marie: I think with processes and the use of data, all the connection of data, start-ups have a rather naive point of view and question existing processes and think, why is it so hard? We can do it better. And I think that’s that’s a good point to really be innovative. Just to say I don’t care what was before, I just do what’s… What’s practical and what makes sense. And that can simplify processes and make them more efficient.
Thilo: Processes, one topic.
Sonja: We are not focused on…like, what components do we have and what solution can we build, but rather what should the solution be able to perform? OK, what process, do we need to think the other way around. I think, this we can operate better than the established companies and their start-ups will make the big difference. And for example, AI is a big topic with us, with all of us. And we really take this step and can do it quicker and more flexible than the established players.
Johannes: And I think, often start-ups have a more unbiased view on the problems because we can start from scratch, from a white sheet of paper without anything traditions or whatsoever. And so that’s very helpful, because we can really look at things and see the problems and then find a solution for it. And if you look in the past, a lot of great innovations have come through start-ups, were founded specifically for that reason to create a solution for an existing problem.
Thilo: You just mentioned unbiased view. What other advantages do start-ups have in comparison to other companies?
Johannes: I would say start-ups have the advantage, that they can make decisions very quickly. And also, you have an idea of an innovation and do you have some some thoughts around that and then you leave your office, you look at reality and you will most probably see, that things are different, than you thought. But that’s not per se a problem. Because a start-up, you are able to pivot very quickly like a basketball player. You can change the direction quickly and do that as often as necessary until you really have the right product market fit and your solution really solves the problem. And I think that’s one of the big strength of start-ups. Probably also decision making.
Sonja: And yes, the short ways like that, that can be a student assembling one of ourselves and then notice, well, this is not the perfect way and go to the CTO and knock on the door. And two days later, we have changed it and not like, we have always done it like this. We have to first get this authorization, that one, that one that doesn’t happen. And that’s really cool. And I think we as start-ups, we feel it. If you are afraid you don’t get into setting up a company and we are just like, OK, let’s go for it and maybe follow over or failed quick start over. And really, we’re not afraid of taking risks or diving into markets, that haven’t been explored, because we don’t really have so much to lose as maybe the big players.
Marie: So we can focus on one topic in the startup and make it accessible for the whole market and not only for one company. And that’s a big advantage.
Sonja: And I think we used to change. We already used to always changing, being in change of processes or anything, and this makes us more agile.
Thilo: Sonja, you just mentioned fearless diving into new topics, but this could also mean that you bump against the wall in during your work. What are actually the challenges that you face in everyday work?
Sonja: Well, first, I think money is a critical issue for all of us. In developing you need some support. We may not have enough staff. So people and money is always lacking, I would say. But then I think our biggest challenge at the moment is to get like get the point …get the product tested and have somebody being then ambassador for us say, OK, here you get your first hours. Are we now got the first hours, but everybody asks, where is your system already running in real life operation? And then we can’t tell, they’re running for ten years, because we exist for three years now. And this like getting to this point that we can say, well, it runs here, here. Here are exactly your applications running there. And we can give you a reference of real, real live business, that is for us at the moment the critical point.
Thilo: How do you do? How do you talk to a testimonial? How do you make him speak about the product and your company?
Sonja: The good thing is that normally, once we have it installed in a running, people are quite if they see it works, they’re quite open to talk about it because they’re proud of, like being able to show we are innovating because we use an innovative product that works quite well. But you need to get there and to get there, you need to find somebody at the beginning of one of the big customers that believes in you, believe in the product and is like an ambassador inside the company and gives you these first chances. That’s important.
Thilo: Money, testimonial. What else?
Johannes: I would say in the start-up, you you have problems all the time. But the type of problem is changing. So at the beginning it most, OK, you need to convince the first investor to get money, get even started. Then next thing you need to develop the first prototype and the product and then convincing customers and then convincing established companies, that you are not a engaged start-up anymore, but professionalized company with processes, quality and safety of supply and all these things. And then to really build the organization to a highly professional level and without losing the start-up spirit. That’s one of the next big growth challenges that we are currently facing. So that makes it interesting because you’re solving problems all the time, but you’re solving new problems all the time.
Sonja: It never gets boring. There’s always something to do.
Marie: But the start-up spirit often often makes that you focus… focus on the wrong aspects of something. You ride the wrong horse, so to say. And that needs to be someone who says, OK, that’s nice, but we have to focus and this is what we do and do so.
Sonja: Look for support from the outside, from somebody in the industry, who knows, when you’re going the wrong way and who will do it without judging “Oh no!” This will work because you run the wrong way, but rather it’s like guiding you. Get back on track.
Johannes: And also, I think the exchange between start-ups is very important, because we realize that we are solving the same problems all the time. So we have different products, we have different markets. Maybe, but the basic problems are to say…
Sonja: We all need a CRM and see like how do you use an ERP, all these structures.
Thilo: OK, so you can exchange your ideas after the webinar as well. Anyway, we you just mentioned finance is one important thing, but the other important thing is also to have really good staff, so that you have really the brightest people. They get attracted also with the big money from big companies. How is your solution? How do you get the personnel?
How do you get the personnel?
Marie: We try to communicate our spirit to the outside, so people see, OK, that seems to be a great team, what they do seems to be creative, so I want to join them. And it’s not that hard really to attract people. We have quite international team in Kassel, which is not common to have such recruitment, but it’s not that hard really.
Thilo: OK, so Mindset’s is important.
Johannes: Yeah. And I see it, it’s…it’s like it’s… start-ups a little bit also like a trend topic, I would say, or twenty years or seven years ago, like the number of people went to consulting, for example. But today, like start-ups are really well seen also by the people finishing university. So, yeah, it’s definitely a challenge because having a great team and smart people is really the key factor to success. It’s more important than anything else or hiring the right people. That’s absolutely essential.
Sonja: I think, what we can also offer is to really say, here you can make a change, make the difference. Here you can really do something like achieve self realisation, to be part of something big, of changing industry, of designing something new and and really, it’s not you have a defined career path, where you will go from eight to five, do your hours, then you know, you can be promoted to team leader, then you can be promoted to regional leader. And you already know that will be my career. Here you come and we say, OK, design your own career, grow with us, grow in the way you want to grow. And if you want to be trained, we support you. And all together we will grow and everybody will be part of this and not only…really be part, not be like an employee, that is part of the company. You are part of the product. And I think it’s really important as well to treat, to not dive into the… into this “We are a start-up. You have to work many hours. We can’t pay you that much.” You have to try from the beginning to really say, OK, people are the most important. As you said for us, we treat you like that. We try to give you the best possible deal. We try to pay you almost as good as in the established companies or better if you can, and really say we do what we can to. Yes.
Thilo: There’s many people on the phone, who try to persuade you about joining an initiative or an accelerator. So can you tell us what is really necessary and useful? And it was just a waste of time.
Johannes: Oh, yeah, I think for every start-up, it’s great to take part in two or three accelerators at the beginning, when you get started, because you get a lot of coaching and training and especially you can connect to other start-ups, which we know have the same problems down the road. So that’s that’s helpful. But it’s not helpful to do accelerators like every couple of month. Because we really need to focus. We have limited resources. So you need to focus on finding the right product market fit, building great products, building the company. But some accelerators at the beginning is definitely helpful.
Sonja: And fine, really take the time to not jump on the first opportunity because at the beginning you’re like excited. Oh my God, an accelerator is writing us, but really say, OK, let’s find the two or three that fit to us, to our product, to our situation. Because obviously an online start-up is different than we doing hard- and software and not try… Yes. Like you said, don’t take part in 10 acceleries at the same time. Focus and… and…but also don’t rely just on accelerators. They can be really helpful, but you really have to keep pushing on your own all the time also to you yourself, try to grow.
Thilo: Yeah, great. Let’s have a look into the future for the final round. Where is your company going to be in, let’s say, five years, Marie maybe?
Where is your company going to be in, let’s say, five years?
Marie: In five years? We we will be the number one provider of data processing, the processing of visual data in the intralagostic environment, maybe not with drones because they’re not that essential for what we do. But, yeah, to be one of the number one providers for the procession of visual data.
Thilo: OK, we will see. Johannes, what happen?
Johannes: Five years is a very long time for a start-up, considering that we have been founded four years ago. But I am looking into the future quite optimisticly, because and I think that also showed different prices and the customer voices that we are on the right way with our products. And our goal is to become a major player in the industry, to supply the vehicles, robots, forklifts with energy, contactless, wireless and building a global standard for the inductive charging, basically. So that’s our vision. That’s our goal. What are we working towards to and I am excited on this to be part of this journey and to continue building this company.
Thilo: This small unicorn. We see. Sonja?
Sonja: And yeah, I think we what we want to achieve is not to be the next big thing, but to be the big thing in the omnidirectional conveyor technology. And this is where we want to be in five years and what we think is a challenging goal. But it’s definitely possible. And now the specific steps will be to say, OK, now we’re available in Europe and in five years we want to be globally available and established. This is what we think is a possible goal. And I think all of us, the three products could be there in five years to be globally established and yeah, change the world of intralogistics.
Thilo: Okidoki. So maybe we’re talking five years again, what’s… what happened. Now our time has come to an end of this webinar. We’ve talked about the finalists and the winner of this year’s IFOY Award in the category Start-up of the Year. Thanks to all of you for coming here to Freiburg and participating here. And of course, thanks to Wiferion for being the host of this webinar. I’m looking forward to the IFOY in the next year, you’ll check out the website and you know what’s going to happen.
Johannes: Thank you.
Marie: Thank you.
Sonja: Thanks for having us over.