At the EIT Digital Challenge 2016, which ended in December of 2016, startups were granted access to EIT Digital’s innovation network and the chance to join the EIT Digital Accelerator. The category winners also had the chance to win a cash prize of up to €50,000. From a total of 234 entries from 25 EU countries, EIT Digital awarded and announced the best 16 companies last month. The Munich-based IoT startup ProGlove was one of the winners of the category “Digital Industry”.
ProGlove develops smart gloves that enhance workers’ most important tools: their hands. Sensors and scanners embedded in the gloves enable manufacturing and logistics staff to work faster and more safely. The system alerts workers immediately to operational errors and allows the automatic recording of workflow and process compliance data.
In 2016, the Internet of Things startup ProGlove successfully closed a Series A funding round of $2.2 million to grow the team and to successfully launch its product. This week we touched base with the ProGlove founder Paul Günther (the guy on the left; picture above) to learn more about the IoT startup and its future plans. Enjoy the interview:
How did you (or your co-founders) come up with the idea for ProGlove and how did it all start?
During my studies I worked as a tour guide in BMW’s Munich plant. By walking everyday through the plant I was able to get a deeper understanding of automotive production. I learned two things: It is all about efficiency, every second saved is a major success. And everyone was wearing gloves for protection. When we later thought about wearables the first thing that came to my mind was the automotive industry. Let’s make a glove smart! It could improve efficiency and everyone is used to gloves already. By improving the daily tasks of thousands on the shopfloor it would prove much more useful than any consumer wearable like fitness trackers.
What were the main stumbling blocks within the first two years and what would you do differently from today’s perspective?
We thought too early that we have a product/market fit and started developing a much too complex product. We then realized that with something much simpler we can solve the same problems of our customers. Another hurdle we had to overcome was the first venture round. Investors in Germany seem to prefer software over hardware startups. In May 2016 we found the perfect mix of German and US investors and closed our first venture round with Intel Capital, Bayern Kapital and Gettylab.
What is ProGlove’s unique value proposition that sets it apart from its competitors?
ProGlove helps the customer to handle work more efficient and with a higher process quality, thanks to new data points. Our customers see ProGlove as a comprehensive solution for the instant start of Industry 4.0.
What are the next steps and future plans for ProGlove?
We think that nevertheless how many automatic processes you put in, workers are still the most crucial part of the industrial process. Our devices can be the connection point between the human workforce and digitized processes. Therefore we are looking into all kind of technology on top of barcode scanning for our next product. A logical step would be a display unit to provide more information for the worker e.g. for tasks in the warehouse.
How is your experience with Munich as a location to start a company?
We had a lot of discussion if we should move part of the team to the US in the beginning. We stayed in Munich and we never regretted it. We got a lot of help from UnternehmerTUM with its Techfounders Accelerator. There is also all the manufacturing for our prototypes and the final product in Munich. This helped us a lot getting the first batch into production – if there is a problem we can be there within 30 minutes. Furthermore we have a lot of talent in Munich and we can learn from other local hardware startups like tado.
What is it like working at ProGlove?
The most important value we have in our team is humor. It makes everything way easier. Once we got complaints from a neighbor because our embedded developer was laughing so loud. We are currently looking for Engineers, Developers, Designers, Sales guys and Interns to join our team.