Berlin Startup with U.S. Roots
Berlin startup Relayr has an American founder and backing from the prominent U.S. venture capital fund Kleiner Perkins. The specialized cloud service provider not only wants to make the machines of industrial companies more intelligent, but also to develop their businesses.
In Relayr’s version of the future, mechanical engineers will become software service providers as well. The Berlin startup currently offers a cloud service for industrial and logistics firms that brings data from multiple devices together. This enables machine builders to collect and evaluate daily operational data via sensors on their products, so that they can offer better support to their manufacturing customers.
Not only will this reduce down-time, but it will also highlight the need for new investments or developments. “With our technology, machine builders can cut the running costs of their machines and increase productivity,” says Relayr founder Jackson Bond. “This benefits machine builders and manufacturing companies alike.”
Relayr’s award-winning “Wunder Bar” contains a WiFi master module and six chips that measure sound, temperature and brightness.
© Christian Burkert/laif
U.S.-born Bond and his co-founders launched Relayr in spring 2013, initially as a software tools supplier for IT developers. Their first notable success was a hardware interface called ‘WunderBar’ (Wonderful), which enabled users to collect sensor data from various devices and forward it to networks. “But many of the users were using the interface to try out IoT applications in their companies,” says Bond.
The founders refocused their business development strategy around this discovery and were able to attract new investors, like the current CEO Josef Brunner. Having successfully sold his former company to Cisco in 2015, Brunner brought money and contacts to the venture and opened the door to the VC Kleiner Perkins, known for being a key investor in Google and Amazon. The VC invested a further $11m.
Relayr is growing robustly and employs 200 people at eight locations in four countries. By learning from its customers, Relayr has been able to carve out a unique niche. “In the end, decision-makers in companies are not interested in technology, they just want to optimize their business,” says Bond. The software deepens the relationship between the machine manufacturer and their customers: after-sales support becomes an ongoing operational service to keep them in daily contact.
The insurance group Munich Re was so convinced by this concept that it offered a unique insurance product to Relayr’s customers, which protects them for the life-span of the product which is leased and maintained by the original equipment manufacturer. Sensing a golden opportunity, Munich Re’s investment subsidiary HSB Ventures invested a further $23m in Relayr in 2016.