how.fm has closed its first seed funding round of €2.47 million, led by Kindred Capital and Capnamic Ventures. Philipp Moehring’s tiny.vc and angel investors like Trivago founder Rolf Schrömgens and the founders of Blinkist and Just Spices also participated in the round.
The Cologne-based startup, which was founded in 2019 by serial entrepreneur Andreas Kwiatkowski and Farhoud Cheraghi, is aiming to transform manual labour, powering and disseminating knowledge across enterprises with its human process automation platform.
The how.fm digital coach for worker onboarding, training, and performance support can cover off everything from health and safety, and compliance training, to actual work procedures such as packing processes. Its product allows customers to easily create step-by-step videos for their workers, who can then learn on the job.
Most occupational knowledge is highly dynamic, and policies and procedures have to be continuously updated, which is what how.fm’s “sequences” enable quick assembly and instant changes.
This enables how.fm customers – often large logistics, manufacturing as well as retail companies – to do a wide range of things, like standardise returns procedures. Very quickly, any worker can be virtually and interactively trained to remove goods from the package, check the order, inspect the goods and their quality, and, in the majority of cases, process them, fold and bag them for resale – via a “sequence”.
Any content on the how.fm platform also gets automatically translated into every worker’s native language, and workers can interact with it hands-free using a voice interface, making it particularly useful for migrant, elderly and illiterate workers. The how.fm team is particularly excited to be building out their digital coach at a time when smart assistant adoption is happening at a rate faster than any other technology.
Supply chain services provider Ingram Micro handles fulfillment and returns for Asos and Zalando in Europe, under its Docdata brand. As a third-party logistics provider, it uses how.fm to train warehouse staff. The platform is used in Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, and other languages – all of which are out of the box.
Fashion retailer Tommy Hilfiger has rolled out how.fm to support its German retail staff in fulfillment tasks during peak seasons, and Duisport, the world’s largest inland port, is also leveraging the platform to help with training and performance support for warehousing and e-commerce logistics tasks in its contract logistics division.
Other customers include a German car manufacturer, a cosmetics company, a restaurant chain, a physical rehabilitation clinic chain, as well as the European Space Agency.
Despite much talk of automation at scale, many sectors and roles have not been innovated as extensively as many might assume. how.fm is addressing an underserved, multi-billion-dollar market: 2.7 billion employees worldwide – 80% of the global workforce – do not use a desk, yet only an estimated 1 percent of enterprise software funding has gone towards hourly work. Blue-collar worker productivity software is increasingly in demand.
In addition to this, the need for more enhanced health and safety policies training at scale, self-onboarding and developing skills virtually or at distance is growing, as businesses adapt to new ways of doing things, while trying to keep workers and customers safe and satisfied.
Andreas Kwiatkowski, co-founder and CEO of how.fm, commented: “We have a unique opportunity to revolutionise work and productivity for those in manual roles, and for the companies that employ them. We believe in a future where any worker can get the best training, tailored to their individual needs, anywhere and anytime – delivered by a superhuman digital coach. This funding will enable us to continue to improve our product and grow our team – both in Germany, and remotely. We are super happy and excited to have found such amazing partners that believe in us as a team and our vision to democratise practical expertise.”
Chrys Chrysanthou, partner at Kindred, adds: “There is an overestimation on the state and speed of automation across industries. We are passionate about the team at how.fm and their vision of the long-term demand in human hard skills training and performance optimization, from doing the job in the next 10-20 years and maintaining the machines that do the job in the next 20-50 years. We want to support them to position their platform for the evolution of industries during this journey.”