Tag: Nowi

NOWI: A startup story about connecting the future

Twenty-three billion. About this many were the connected devices in the world in 2018, and this number is not here to stay: In less than a decade, it is expected to triple. That is a good 75 billion devices, connected and in need of constant supply of power.

The team of NOWI figured that using cables and changing batteries would soon become overwhelming – to say the least, so they created a solution – a small chip that enables Internet of Things devices to live forever. Instead of needing to continuously bring energy to connected devices in the form of cables and battery changes, NOWI’s technology enables companies to use the energy that is already available around the devices. This can be light, heat, movement or even radio waves.

The power of IoT technology

For co-founders Simon van der Jagt and Omar Link, the idea behind NOWI shaped up gradually while they studied Strategic Product Design at the TU Delft. The program gave them a kickstart: It taught them how to give meaning to technology and use it to solve problems. And so, Simon and Omar decided to apply their knowledge to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Today, technology is getting better, smaller and as energy efficient as ever before, so powering devices requires only a fraction of the energy that was needed decades ago. The question of how to harvest that power is one that Simon and Omar seem to have an answer to: by using the signals that are all around us.

“Energy is all around us. Even the light from lamps in an office, or the temperature difference between our skin and the air can generate enough power to sustain low-power devices. At the moment, frequencies [such as WiFi] are mostly used for communication, but they also send out power,” says Simon.

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Growing with the help of industry experts

After a bit over a year of founding their company in July 2015, Simon and Omar became part of Yes!Delft’s program. At the time, their team consisted of five people, including a professor from TU Delft. Since then, they have won several international innovation awards and completed an investment round. Most recently, the company has secured a 1-million-euro investment from RVO – The Netherlands Enterprise Agency.

“YES!Delft is one of the highest rated incubators in Europe, and especially when it comes to hardware startups. It is really about problem-solving. There’s [also] so much knowledge walking around here, and that has been very valuable to us,” says Simon.

Since August 2015, the company has developed their proof-of-principle to a product-ready chip that has recently been combined with Huawei’s NB-IoT chip at Mobile World Congress in Shanghai.

Finding the right partners to collaborate with

From a startup, NOWI has grown to be a high-tech company with several pilot projects and collaborations established with market-leading companies in smart city applications, smart wearables and NB-IoT sensors.

In the fields of smart wearables, NOWI has caught the attention of Swiss watch manufacturer MMT. The world’s first Plug&ForgetTM smart watch which never requires user-charging can be achieved when the NOWI Power Module is integrated in the MMT smartwatch module.

Recently, NOWI also announced its collaboration with Huawei to create the first energy autonomous NB-IoT solution.

Together with seven patents in energy harvesting, NOWI has won several international innovation awards including the Accenture Innovation Awards, the Semiconductor Innovation Award from Chinese Advanced Semiconductor Association (CASA) and the IoT Innovation World Cup 2019.

A story with the potential to get bigger and better has just only started.

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MILESTONES

  • July 2015: Company founded
  • March 2016: Demo and proof of concept
  • August 2016: Prototype ready
  • November 2016: Won the Accenture Innovation Award
  • May 2017: Won the Smart City Innovation Award
  • August 2017: Smart City Pilot project with DEWA – Dubai
  • October 2017: Smart Road Pilot project with BAM and T-Mobile
  • March 2018: Received €5m Venture Capital investment
  • October 2018: Collaboration with MMT to create the first hybrid smartwatch
  • November 2018: Semiconductor innovation award from Chinese Advanced Semiconductor Association (CASA)
  • January 2019: Raised €1 million from RVO – The Netherlands Enterprise Agency
  • February 2019: Won the 2019 IoT Innovation World Cup Series – Industrial Category.
  • March 2019: First hybrid smartwatch PMIC prototype
  • June 2019: Collaboration with Huawei to create an energy autonomous NB-IoT Solution

The startup mentor with customer perspective

Jan Willem Klerkx – entrepreneur, investor, and startup mentor of a number of YES!Delft startups – is the type of person that helps a company become a success story. With an academic background in Technology Management and early professional experience in IT sales, he quickly discovered that what he was actually meant to do is help businesses grow.

The revelation came early on in his career. He was asked to lead a small IT company that, at the time, was closing the year with a loss, so he made it his goal to turn it around. A few years of hard work later, that company was as profitable as never before. The thing was that, although the team already had a good business strategy before Jan Willem took over, it was simply not successful in executing it.

Strategy without customer-focused execution has little value, Jan Willem learned.  

“As I was helping that business grow by making the company more customer-oriented, I realized that I was sitting on the wrong side of the table at the quarterly shareholders meeting. I was making a lot of money for the shareholders, while taking home the same paycheck every month. That didn’t feel optimal,” Jan Willem recalls.

That was the point where he decided to develop his own approach. “I decided to look for companies with a great vision, excellent tech team, and technology, but with little focus on customers or little experience in sales. Then I’d invest money in exchange for equity, and work with the existing team on making them profitable.”

He told those teams that a great technology by itself does not lead to a great product. And even a great product does not equal a great company. A company should put all efforts and finding the right product-market fit, and once that’s done, turn early customers into ambassadors.

Over the past decade, Jan Willem has invested in and worked for five companies, two of which were acquired by Qualcomm, the world leader in developing 3G and mobile technologies. The first company, Euvision, was a market leader in image classification technology. The second, Scyfer was a leading company in Deep Learning, formed around Deep Learning celebrity Max Welling from the University of Amsterdam. One of the five ventures was focussed at elderly homecare and failed completely. The other two companies, SIG.eu and BONCode, are still in very good shape and growing.

As of four years ago, Jan Willem has also been active as a startup mentor at YES!Delft as well as at a number of other incubators. With a keen interest and expertise in artificial intelligence (AI), he is coaching startups as part of the AI/Blockchain Validation Lab at Delft-based incubator.

 

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His experience is in helping find the best product-market fit. Finding that fit is not that easy, since most startups lack experience in sales or insight in how big corporates operate – and therefore have a hard time to really grasp the relevant part of customers’ feedback. On top of that, some startups tend to be so convinced of their technology or product that it does not help sales either. And in the mind of Jan Willem: “Sales is everything, the rest is cost”.

Nowi, a YES!Delft startup developing climate sensors powered by WiFi, 4G and GSM signals, is one of the tech startups that has taken much of Jan Willem’s advice to heart. And especially so when it comes to their business model. While they used to focus on product sales as a sole revenue stream, they have recently established a second one: working directly with clients on applying their technology to various products.
“We already generate some revenues by applying our knowledge on energy harvesting and by developing the so-called ‘Plug & Forget’ sensors in pilot projects for various customers,” says Simon van der Jagt, CEO of Nowi. “Jan Willem has helped us with anything from business model ideation, to specific advice on how to best deal with a prospective large customer, or simply testing our assumptions with critical questions.”

To this day, Jan Willem remains a startup mentor to the team.

“I help startups get the customer perspective,” Jan Willem says. “Many of them have these huge dreams – and that’s great! But running a business is not a dream. It’s a lot of hard work of really understanding why customers might consider buying your stuff.”

 

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