The Munich startup Smart Access Solutions dreams of a world in which “every door, drawer and shipping container simply opens for the people they are intended for.” And they should do so without any keys or codes. In our interview, one of the founders told us about the origins of their vision and how they plan to make it a reality.
Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourself!
Tobias Stötter: We are Smart Access Solutions, founded by Toni Epple (48), Martin Schmidt (46) and me, Tobias Stötter (46). We aren’t your classic startup since we all have quite a lot of professional experience. Toni is a full stack developer, IT consultant and coach. Martin has many years of managerial experience in the fields of logistics, procurement and IT. And I’m an experienced product and business developer, strategist and manager.
Martin and I met in the summer of 2018 at Werk1 to have coffee and do some networking. We had already worked as colleagues in the past and no longer felt comfortable being part of the rat race of the gilded corporate world. During our conversation, we ran through various business ideas and formulated them in growing detail in the weeks that followed.
“We started to solve the problem ourselves”
We ran into a technical and procedural problem that didn’t seem to have a ready-made solution that could be purchased on the market. So we started to solve the problem ourselves. While doing so, we received a great deal of positive feedback and encouragement. And many approached us with their ideas for even more potential applications.
That was how the idea for Smart Access Solutions ultimately came to be. Toni, one of Tobias’ old school friends, helped us develop the first prototypes and we were able to quickly get him on board as part of Smart Access Solutions.
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Tobias Stötter: Our idea originally concentrated on the delivery of medical sample materials. We wanted to develop a system in which the samples are stored safely and could only be accessed by the right person. We then quickly realized it could also be useful in many other areas, for example in food delivery or managing access restrictions in security areas.
That was how we ended up developing Smart Access Solutions to offer solutions for the management and operation of electronic locking systems with a focus on storage and logistics in professional domains. Door locking systems are also part of our portfolio now. We combine the latest technologies from the fields of serverless computing, sensors and artificial intelligence to develop simple and secure access and monitoring solutions.
The result of our efforts is our Secure Cloud Core. We use it to implement solutions suitable for mass use for managing and monitoring every kind of door and lock. With our predictive maintenance technology, we offer optimal service at all times.
An alternative to proprietary isolated applications
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Tobias Stötter: But it is. There are of course tons of more or less expensive digital locks. They are, however, mostly proprietary isolated solutions that are very difficult to link with other applications, such as room booking systems or locks from other manufacturers. Moreover, the available locks are usually classic cylinder locks — which means they’re designed for doors. They are completely unsuitable for mobile applications, such as for shipping containers. Furthermore, the solutions mostly only offer central management where the locks are integrated in a local network or are continuously connected to the internet.
Our solutions were designed from the very start so our locks can be managed and monitored centrally even without being connected to the internet. That makes our solution ideally suited for battery powered locks with a long battery life.
We not only manage locks, but can also record sensor data such as humidity, temperature and movement in our devices and send them back to our cloud solution. This makes it possible to centrally determine whether the environmental conditions are right for the stored goods, that the refrigeration chain for food is not interrupted or whether a delivery has been damaged.
And because none of that existed yet, we not only developed it, but have also registered for a patent for our solution.
Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?
Tobias Stötter: An initial obstacle was finding the courage to actually found the company. It was a major step for us since we were all employed or working as freelancers on projects and were used to having a regular, fixed income. Then we started our path to developing a minimum viable product and finding our first customers. Now we’re looking for new employees for customer projects. And because we’re completely self funded, it’s important to us to find a happy medium in terms of growth.
The keyless world of Smart Access Solutions
Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years?
Tobias Stötter: In one year, we will have successfully completed all of our projects with our first customers. We will employ our existing solutions and also develop some highly complex new end-to-end solutions with our customers. In five years, we want to have developed Smart Access Solutions into a stable and innovative SME.
Our vision is a world in which every door, drawer and shipping container simply opens for the people they are intended for. Without mechanical keys, without entering codes or control panels. As if every lock is able to recognize that person and know they are allowed to open it. #UnlockYourWorld.
Munich Startup: How do you view Munich as a startup location?
Tobias Stötter: Munich is a great startup location. Both Bavaria as a federal state and the city of Munich do an excellent job supporting startups. There are also lots of incubators. We were lucky enough to have found a fantastic location in Werk1. The support from networks, coaching and in many other matters really helped us in the beginning and still helps us here on a daily basis.
We see a growing number of both corporates and SMEs tackling digitization in Bavaria. That starts with simple workshops and continues with founding companies or involvement with an incubator. For startups like us, that obviously gives us a whole host of opportunities for getting involved.
Munich Startup: Tea or coffee?
Tobias Stötter: Why “or”? Both are good at the right time.