Contunity: Rapid Prototyping of Digital Control Devices

With their software platform, the Munich startup Contunity makes it possible for companies to perform rapid prototyping to develop control devices without in-depth knowledge of electronics. Founded by brothers Alex and Tobias Pohl along with André Alcalde, the startup just recently made the startup center Gate its home. Our questions were answered by Tobias Pohl.

1. Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourself!

Developing your own electronics is very complex, consumes a great deal of time and money and is prone to error. Contunity is changing that! Our software platform allows any technically skilled individual to develop electronics without specific know-how. It’s also possible to reuse certified circuits that were already developed with our platform.

Users simply describe their requirements using a graphic user interface — similar to a graphic specifications sheet — and our algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) automatically generate everything they need. That takes the customer from the concept stage to a completed schematic, PCB layout and basic software code within just minutes.

The founders behind Contunity are my brother Alex Pohl, André Alcalde and me, Tobias. My brother and I had the idea about four years ago because we could hardly believe how complex and repetitive development work was. André became part of the team in mid-2018 and has a wealth of experience from the electronics industry. We now have an international team of thirteen people from six countries behind us.

Contunity introduces rapid prototyping to a whole new realm

2. But that’s nothing out of the box!

No, in the field of board-level electronic development, our approach is completely new! It is true, however, that our approach has been state-of-the-art for decades in other fields of development.

That also played a very decisive role for the idea behind Contunity. One example is software development, which is an area our entire team has strong ties to. Software developers hardly ever write machine code line for line anymore. For almost all applications, it just doesn’t make sense and is unbelievably time consuming. But that’s actually how things are still done in hardware development. Resistor for resistor, capacitator for capacitator and wire for wire; each one has to be positioned and connected individually. We’re introducing the same advantages that have been common in software development for years to a whole new realm.

Team, technology and network

3. What are the three main ingredients in your recipe for success?

The most important ingredient for our success is our team. That can’t be stressed enough. Technology can be copied, software can be rewritten, you can find new customers and earn more money. But our team is one-of-a-kind and determines who we are.

And while we’re talking about technology and software: A few years ago, Alex and I spoke with some people in the industry, and most of them were very much in agreement: Our idea can’t be implemented. Now we can prove that was wrong. It is possible, and our software does an impressive job demonstrating that. That’s why I would say our technology is definitely the second most important ingredient for our success.

The third most important is our network. We’re active in a very conservative B2B environment. It makes a huge difference if we have to struggle to reach the right person with cold calling (note from editor: contacting individuals who have not previously expressed interest), or if we have a direct way to contact a CTO. Our current investor and organizations like Wissensfabrik, LMU EC and UnternehmerTUM have been of tremendous help.

4. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: How is business going?

Our software works, our team is growing rapidly and the first pilot projects are underway. It’s safe to say that we have made major progress over the last few weeks. The first pilot projects have shown a huge reduction in development time. In all applications across the board, we’re seeing time savings of more than 90%. In one case, we were even able to reduce the development time from 160 hours to three.

“Huge reduction in development time”

5. What does Munich mean to you?

Munich is “the place to be” for high-tech startups. Especially in the field of complex, industrial applications, this is where it all happens. A large portion of our team also went to college here. That’s why it’s no coincidence that Contunity also originated here – from the first idea in business plan seminars at UnternehmerTUM to where we are today. It all happened in Munich.

6. How will your startup become the next unicorn? Or will we be seeing you at an Epic Fail Night soon?

Definitely a unicorn! The electronics industry is unbelievably huge. Even though most people think of smartphones and computers, electronic systems are hidden all over the place. Every coffee maker, every soda machine and even most lamps have these systems in them.

Someone has to develop all of those systems! At the moment, that’s being done by roughly 2.7 million engineers worldwide. Despite their large number, they are often overworked and unable to implement everything. At the same time, demand is increasing sharply and there is a tremendous shortage of skilled workers. Contunity is the solution to that problem, and that makes for massive potential.

7. Hiking or beer garden?

Diversity is very important to us! That’s why we strategically select the right people to have as broad a selection of interests as possible. That obviously also includes beer gardens and hiking. The survey in the team resulted in 50% for a beer garden, 50% for hiking (and one abstention).

All joking aside: That was a total coincidence.

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