The Ocell founders Felix Horvat, Christian Decher and David Dohmen (from the left)
photo: Ocell

Ocell: “Google Maps and Asana Project Management for the Forest”

Ocell supports forestry with analyses that link remote sensing and artificial intelligence. With their ‘Dynamic Forest’ app, the startup gives forest managers a database for making management decisions and improving operations in forest management. The three founders tell us more about their startup in our interview.

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

Ocell: We are Christian Decher, 29, degree in aerospace technology, David Dohmen, 31, degree in electrical engineering and information technology, and Felix Horvat, 31, who studied mechatronics and robotics. Felix and David were colleagues for several years at a different startup (Bragi). Christian and David know each other through a mutual circle of friends. We came together because we wanted to jointly build something that is meaningful, boosts efficiency and allows us to make the best use of the skills that we’ve learned.

“Pen & paper, fax and telephone are the standard tools in forestry”

Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?

Ocell: Forestry has a lot of problems to grapple with. The forest is suffering from climate change, the costs for its management are high and there’s a shortage of new recruits. The existing tools in the sector are outdated, inefficient and undigitized.

That’s why lots of time, energy and money are wasted in daily business in forestry because important information is either not available or it is poor or outdated. Moreover, the information isn’t shared efficiently between forest managers, forest rangers, forest workers, external service providers and wood buyers. Pen & paper, fax and telephone are the standard tools and they are wholly unsuitable for transmitting location-based information, such as inventory parameters, forest damage or planned measures. The Ocell route for digitizing the forest is based on three pillars:

  • The collection and utilization of high-quality data, such as our aerial images and diverse sources of data from the ground/forest.
  • AI-analyses and statistical evaluations to extract key information from a forest. That means every single tree is detected and classified by our computer vision systems. Tree height is measured exactly and the volume of wood and captured CO2 are calculated.
  • The Dynamic Forest app, which makes all information accessible and usable for all stakeholders in the forest in order to make daily business more efficient and more expedient. You can think of the app like a combination of Google Maps for the forest and Asana project management for the forest. Of course, everything is synchronized in the cloud and runs with a strong focus on UX on both Android, iOS and on forest managers’ computer desktops in their offices. Our vision for Dynamic Forest is to become the standard operating system for digital and sustainable forests. We’re currently establishing interfaces that are important for our customers. Inventory management systems, forestry offices and regional tax offices, forest assessors, external companies and, in the future, also CO2 certifiers – everything is integrated to optimize communication.

Ocell wants a “holistic, comprehensive solution” instead of isolated solutions 

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

Ocell: There are isolated solutions for software in the forest, each of which only solves a small part of the problem. The programs are often outdated, were developed by one person and aren’t flexible enough to respond to the diverse needs of customers. What they’re looking for is a holistic, comprehensive solution, which is exactly what we’re building.

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

Ocell: The all-time classic, of course, is German bureaucracy with all of its excessive regulations, intricacy and sluggishness as a never-ending source of delight.

But there are obviously other challenges as well. Looking for a product-market fit was the major challenge for us in our early phase. We’re pleased to have found such an exciting market, where we and our custom-tailored solutions are now being welcomed with open arms and where we also have a major head start with our customers and technology. Because markets are always developing, we’ll obviously make sure to constantly develop and maintain our product-market fit.

And finally, company building is a very important and challenging subject. Establishing the right company culture, creating an effective work atmosphere and finding the right employees and comrades-in-arms have a major impact on the long-term success of our company. That’s why these aspects are extremely important to us.

“We are passionate about what we do”

Munich Startup: How is business going?

Ocell: Many of Germany’s biggest private forest owners are already working with us, but we want Dynamic Forest to become the standard software for as many companies as possible. A super foot-in-the-door option for our SaaS solution is our digital forest inventory, where we cost less than existing solutions but provide more in terms of quality. Because our product has been accepted so well, we’re going all out to work through all of our customer requests. To do that, we’re hiring more team members, who have been successfully automating an increasing number of steps and in turn increasing our throughput.

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

Ocell: We’ve never founded companies in other cities, so we don’t have anything to compare with, but our view of Munich as a startup location is obviously extremely positive. The fact that there are already many other startups in Munich is something that motivates young people to also want to found a company. Support from networks like TUM + UnternehmerTUM, places like Werk1, consulting from Baystartup and several top-ranking universities were and are influential and valuable factors for us.

The city itself is also extremely attractive and it’s simply a pleasure to be able to live and work here!

Munich Startup: Quick exit or staying power?

Ocell: We would like to build something big and sustainable and to transform an entire industry internationally. That requires not only sprinter capabilities, but also long-distance capabilities. We are passionate about what we do and feel no need whatsoever to get rid of our baby quickly. That being said, we are aiming for rapid and aggressive growth to have as much impact as possible in a short period of time. And if that comes along with an IPO, we wouldn’t complain!