photo: Actyx

Actyx: Digitization platform for factories

Actyx offers a decentralized software platform for the digitization of the industrial sector. The founders Roland Kuhn, Oliver Stollmann and Maximilian Fischer told us more about the problems their startup solves and the challenges Actyx has faced in our interview.

Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourselves!

Actyx: We are Roland (43), Oli (31) and Max (31), the Actyx founders. We offer a software development platform for the digitization of manufacturing and logistics processes. Our platform runs on an extremely innovative architecture: a fully decentralized edge computing platform. There’s no central server in our system: not in the cloud or onsite. Roland got his doctorate at TU Munich in physics, Oli and Max are both mechanical engineers from ETH Zurich.

Actyx: “Factories are very complex systems”

Oli and Max met during their first day at college in an introductory seminar where they just happened to sit next to each other. Oli specialized in digital production technologies during his studies and worked for a year at Fraunhofer IOSB-INA, a leading institute in Industry 4.0. Max worked in the field of nanotechnology and started his doctoral thesis in applied physical chemistry, but quickly realized that factories and software were much more interesting. During his time at Fraunhofer, Oli presented the latest I4.0 trends to a customer in the manufacturing industry The company owner was immediately interested in working on a project (after first attempting to hire Oli). That formed the nucleus for Actyx; Oli and Max then started looking for an experienced software engineer to take on responsibility for the architecture of the software and management of the development team. Roland was excited about developing software for factories and quit his job as a team leader at the widely known software framework Akka to start Actyx together with Oli and Max.

Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?

Actyx: Factories are very complex systems in which an array of machines and people have to be perfectly coordinated to manufacture the right amount of a product at the right time. Software that digitizes these processes must be able to deal with that complexity and also remain highly flexible in order to meet the individual needs of each factory. Moreover, the software must be extremely reliable, otherwise machine downtime will result, for instance because materials weren’t delivered on time. Our central platform offers precisely these features and makes it possible for developers to build reliable and easily scalable solutions at an amazing pace.

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!

Actyx: Of course there are already many suppliers that offer software in this area. But their solutions are usually based on a centralized architecture (client-server). Thanks to our architecture, we offer significant advantages in terms of the reliability and flexibility of the system. Our platform is also a developer-first product, which means it was designed for software developers and has cutting-edge developer tools deeply integrated into it.

Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?

Actyx: In a startup, you constantly face challenges, but finding the first paying customer was obviously a major challenge. We wanted to develop software that would actually be used in factories. Despite having an interested industrial company in the beginning, it still took a good ten months until we wrote the first line of code. Our first developers wrote project proposals in the beginning and worked on consulting projects with factories to gain a more precise understanding of the challenges factories face.

A second major challenge was expanding the team, finding good people and establishing suitable structures. When you are a team of five or six people in the beginning, you don’t need any structures and it just works. With more than twenty people, you need more structure and better communication, so we have definitely learned a few lessons in that area.

A conscious decision for Munich

Finally, another challenge was shifting our entire focus to marketing our platform just about a year ago. Before that, we had always been developing our platform with the solutions on it at the same time. After learning that the market was extremely interested in our platform, we decided to focus completely on the development and marketing of the platform. The communication with our partners, who are system integrators, service providers and factory IT teams, is much different than talking with a plant manager about operative added value.

Munich Startup: How is business going?

Actyx: We’re pleased with how businesses has started out with the platform. We now have eight partners who use our platform as a building block for their solutions. The platform is running in fifteen factories in Germany, the UK, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Canada and Chile, where it is widely used in manufacturing or logistics.

Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?

Actyx: Munich has a good location in our view. There are lots of skilled professionals already here or interested in moving here. There are also a lot of medium sized and large industrial companies within close proximity. It was a very conscious decision for us to be in Munich as opposed to Berlin, for example.

Munich Startup: Hidden champion or shooting star?

Actyx: At the moment, a hidden champion on its way to becoming a shooting star.