Automation, AI, AR: how these startups went global at the Hannover Fair 2019
Hannover Messe (‘fair’ in German) draws an estimated 200,000 visitors each year, representing over 6,500 companies from around the world. Here are insights from four startups on growth strategies and marketing approaches.
Regarded as the world’s leading industrial tech fair, Hannover Messe captures trends and developments in everything from smart machines to smart factories. The 2019 edition showcased startups with offerings in digital transformation, automation, AR/VR, and AI.
The fair attracted participants from around 75 countries, including India, Singapore, China and Sweden. See our earlier photo essay on some of the leading players, tech giants, and emerging startups from the Young Tech Enterprises pavilion. In this article, we profile some of the exhibiting startups along with insights on growth strategies, partnerships and promotion.
AI and analytics
“Our first product, Automated Predictive Analytics (APA), is focussed on solving AI's implementation complexity with a goal of commoditising the AI. Business analysts and marketing personnel can use it seamlessly for different use cases,” explained Rahul Prajapat, CTO of Tvarit, in a chat with YourStory.
Rahul has B.Tech and M.Tech degrees from IIT Bombay, and has been in the domain of AI and industrial IoT for four years. His startup began by offering AI consultancy for manufacturing firms and industrial IoT in Germany in 2016.
“We have recently started doing R&D for our second product, Transferable Predictive Analytics (TPA). It focusses on transferring pre-trained models from one machine or plant to other similar ones. This saves computes, time and money,” he explains.
The company offers SaaS as well as on-premise deployment. “We are eyeing a few hundred users on our cloud using SaaS and four to five on-premise deployments this year, with many more in the years to follow,” Rahul predicts.
Its ecosystem partners include AWS and NTT Data. “We are in talks with Siemens, Volkswagen, and a few other system integrators who can build services on top of our ‘AI for Manufacturing’ platform,” he adds. Its collaborators are service providers who can bridge the gap between the company’s expert software and the end-customers, who are owners of machinery or plants.
AI and automation
Automation is transforming the reliability and efficiency of industrial processes as well. “We offer AI technology for intelligent automation, such as the neural network model predictive control (MPC) we demonstrated at the Hannover Messe. We are growing towards ever bigger cases in industrial and enterprise control and decision making,” explains Risto Bruun, COO of Curious AI.
Based in Finland, the startup partners with companies that can apply the tech in specific application areas. “IT solution providers and in-house R&D departments are examples of natural collaboration partners,” Risto says.
Point of sale solutions
Another startup exhibiting at Hannover Messe was WineGenie, with Point of Sale (PoS) solutions in wine stores and plug-ins for online stores. “WineGenie is your personal digital sommelier, who recommends to your individual taste and helps in increasing sales figures of wine stores,” explains Regina Kessler, CEO of WineGenie.
The startup also offers customer service solutions for product manufacturers. “Customer Service Genie is our system to digitise incident processes for products in a way that ensures quick incident resolution times and minimal machine breakdowns,” she adds.
The startup’s pilot solution will be rolled out in the second quarter of this year, with a full market rollout in the third quarter. Customers will also be involved in the pilot phase of Customer Service Genie. Its partners include the University of Trier (Umweltcampus Birkenfeld) for research on taste sensors, as well as Technologie-Zentrum Ludwigshafen and its founder ecosystem.
The startup advantage
The exhibitors also shared insights on the opportunities and obstacles in the startup journey. “You get to apply your passion for building something valuable, at a very fast pace and serving your customer persistently,” says Rahul of Tvarit. “You learn a lot by engaging yourself in a range of activities like R&D, web development, customer support, and even sales and marketing,” he adds.
“Being a startup allows us to be agile and have a fresh approach to things,” says Risto of Curious AI. The advantages of being in a startup are flexibility, short decision paths, greater responsibility, and constant learning, according to Regina of WineGenie.
Large industry fairs like the Mobile World Congress and Hannover Messe offer great visibility and networking for startups, but the experience can be overwhelming as well, and calls for systematic planning. “The Hannover Messe was definitely the place for us. Our offerings had good traction, and our demos worked well,” says Risto of Curious AI.
“On the challenge side, we were definitely understaffed to handle all the meetings and action at our stand! Next year we should be out in force,” he adds.
“What worked well at Hannover Messe was feedback on our products and services, networking with investors and customers, and great sales opportunities,” according to Regina of WineGenie. “But we had only a short time to prepare our booth since the Ministry of Economics of Rhineland Palatinate invited us at the end of February,” she adds.
As one of the world’s largest industrial fairs, Hannover Messe is indeed an amazing opportunity to showcase products to big manufacturing firms, according to Rahul of Tvarit. “We saw close to 400 visitors, got many marketing leads, and seven customers gave a go-ahead for a PoC in the Messe itself,” he explains.
The startup also received critical feedback on SaaS and ideas for new products. “There were even many investors coming to our booth and offering investment for further R&D. We are in touch with them and will finalise something soon,” Rahul says.
“As a startup, we were not able to afford big marketing campaigns. Hence, it was quite challenging to attract the right set of people from different industries and set up meetings with them, for which we could have planned better,” he reflects.
“The fair offers many opportunities to present the services to a wide variety of companies and to make new contacts. But many private persons block time without offering real potential,” explains Uwe Ochs, Head of Sales at 3DQR.
The company offers consulting for Augmented Reality (AR) projects. “We are working with publishers in the field of education,” Uwe says. Its partners include industrial and educational institutions.
In addition to staying abreast of tech developments, growing a balanced team, and managing investor relations, the entrepreneurs at Hannover Messe offer a range of tips for aspiring founders. While developing new technology, it is easy to forget the end-user perspective. “However, the end-user value is what ultimately enables business success,” emphasises Risto of Curious AI.
“Believe in your ideas! Verify approaches and business models with tests. Just do it and talk about it,” urges Regina of WineGenie.
Attention also needs to be paid to the broader ecosystem. “Focus on quality, and consistently work on feedback coming from customers. For startups and developers, it is also quite fruitful to attend domain meetups and hackathons to keep in touch with the community and with newer technologies,” Rahul of Tvarit signs off.