In five years, Ghent startup Pozyx grew into a scaleup with more than 25 employees, a turnover of 2 million euros and as many as 4,000 customers. Their technology for indoor positioning is so hot that the company was able to raise 2.5 million euros in October this year. With the help of Scaleup Flanders, Pozyx is getting ready for the next steps in its existence.
When the GPS found its way to the general public in the 1990s, life became a tad more pleasant. Henceforth it was no longer necessary to keep a thick book full of road maps in the glove compartment, and a lot of marital disputes were avoided.
A great technology, which unfortunately doesn't work everywhere and is quite inaccurate. When you are driving on the highway it is okay to be a meter off, but when you want to do indoor positioning you need a system that is more precise.
At universities, research into indoor positioning has been going on for years. From one of those studies, at UGent, the spin-off Pozyx was born. 'We work on the basis of ultra-wideband, which is able to tell where people, animals or objects are up to 10 centimeters,' says founder Samuel Van de Velde. 'Until about five years ago hardly anyone knew about it, now the technology is in most high-end smartphones.'
When Samuel and his colleagues realized the potential of UWB, they launched a Kickstarter to raise money. Those who donated 180 euros received two tags that you could use with very high precision to track where something or someone was standing.
'We started with that crowdfunding from our own interest as engineers, because we wanted to develop a product that we would mainly buy ourselves. Something to set up small projects with, like you can do with an Arduino. Soon we saw the most diverse use cases emerging.' The Kickstarter eventually raised more than 50,000 euros. Poxyz was born.
The team learned that the hobby project needed a real company to produce the equipment. 'In the beginning the products we sold were pretty simple boxes you could stick on the wall, now they are made to the highest industrial standards.'
It had to, because Pozyx soon attracted several major players as clients. Colruyt, for example, which uses the technology to track which shopping carts are where. Or large agricultural companies, which use positioning to map the behavior of their cows.
This allows companies and factories to work more efficiently. For example, Pozyx is working with a major beer brewer who now knows perfectly what pallet is where in its 27,000-square-meter Chinese warehouses. In health care, Pozyx is used in corona times to check who is too close together - UWB is up to 10 times more accurate than Bluetooth for this purpose.
'The team also grew to a crew of 25 employees. These remain primarily engineers, although we have recently also been focusing heavily on the commercial side. Our Sales & Marketing team provides a different dynamic and roadmap. Thus, in the future we are going to offer even more of an end-to-end solution for our customers.'
To realize those ambitions, Pozyx organized two rounds of capital in 2018 and 2020. Among others, KBC Focus Fund, which specializes in Internet of Things applications, invested in the company. The team also followed the group coaching program of Scaleup Flanders, where, among other things, they gained the necessary knowledge about financing opportunities.
'The interesting thing about such a course is mainly the conversations with other entrepreneurs. They teach you to focus on things you shouldn't overlook or tip off events you should attend. When you talk to people who are in the same boat, you can be very candid. For example, we talk about potential investors. Because you have to focus not only on the money, but also on their terms and the expertise they bring on board.'
One difficulty for Pozyx is the fact that they not only make software but also hardware. 'That is quite a bit different. It is not an easy industry because you are dependent on the logistics supply chain. Big players can recall production in case of an emergency if a mistake would have happened, but as a small scaleup that would be suicide. It's hard to work agile when you're producing hardware.'
The corona crisis exposed further pain points, as several suppliers were forced to shut down plants. 'As a result, some components don't arrive for another year. That forces you not only to work much more methodically, but also to be perfectionist. 2020 is an uncertain year, but we will still manage to grow. The hardest thing in these times is to combine work and home, but that applies to everyone.'
With the support of Scaleup Flanders and other organizations, Pozyx plans to expand to the United States next year. 'We gain a lot from such initiatives. Agoria, for example, has helped us find entry into the automotive sector, while we often collaborate with imec on research supported by VLAIO. For a company working on new technology, such support is more than welcome!'
Also curious about what Scaleup Flanders can do for your business? Take a look at our calendar! Would you like to follow the group coaching track just like Pozyx? You can ! On the 27th of April a new series.