Munich Startup: Who are you and what does Onyo do? Please introduce yourselves!
Niao Wu, Onyo: We are Jens Wöhrle, Maximilian Ott and Niao Wu. We bring together life experience from eight countries (Germany, France, USA, Czech Republic, Spain, Mexico, Kenya and China), are fluent in four languages (German, English, Spanish, Chinese) and have experience in computer engineering, architectural planning, marketing and sales, top management consulting, corporate finance and corporate management.
Jens is the “Swiss army knife” of our team. After studying computer science and mathematics at TUM and Stanford, he completed an international MBA at Collège des Ingénieurs. He most recently worked as chief of staff at BNP Paribas. Onyo is the second company he’s founded. His initial entrepreneurial success was building a farm in Kenya for the production and international export of food. At Onyo, he takes care of technical development and finances.
Max spent his childhood in Spain. He studied in Barcelona, Mexico and Prague. At HP, his talent for marketing and sales was discovered and promoted. In the Czech Republic, he quintupled the turnover of a fashion brand. He was most recently in charge of sales for a vertical farming startup and is now pursuing his own entrepreneurial ambitions with Onyo.
Niao grew up in China and managed international work environment projects for BMW for many years. After a stop at BCG, her aim is to now take care of designing mobile workstations for approximately 15 million employees in Germany.
Our vision of making it possible for all employees with a hybrid work model to have a healthy, sustainable work environment is what bonds and motivates us. The future of working is being defined right now.
Home offices as a new challenge
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Niao Wu: The hybrid work model has been firmly established by the pandemic. In Germany, approximately 15 million employees will continue to regularly work from home after the pandemic. While offices are taken care of by a mature industry, home offices are uncharted territory that poses a serious health risk. Two-thirds of all employees work from home under unhealthy conditions, for example from their kitchen tables. According to the Forsa study carried out on behalf of Dekra, roughly 37 percent of employees working from home suffer from back pain, shoulder tension and headaches. And we haven’t even mentioned long-term effects, which are even more critical.
Ensuring occupational safety at a mobile workstation in a domestic environment, however, poses many challenges. Not every employee has room for a standard 160×80 cm desk, which makes it necessary to find an individual solution for each employee and each housing situation. Furthermore, acquisition costs would tie up capital and the inventory would have to be written off over many years.
At Onyo, we offer companies a simple and affordable solution for equipping their employees flexibly and, more particularly, individually to meet their needs. We take care of the entire process as a one-stop solution on our digital platform, which is individually whitelabeled to the employer for their employees. We view our solution as the perfect addition to the constantly evolving hybrid work models in order to increase cost efficiency, promote health and productivity and enhance staff retention.
Onyo offers “Home-office-as-as-Service for your company”
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Niao Wu: Companies like Google gave their employees vouchers and additional payment at the beginning of the pandemic to purchase the equipment necessary for a mobile workstation. But it’s questionable whether the money was really used for an ergonomic mouse, chair or desk instead of a new PlayStation or the next vacation. Other companies bought ergonomic chairs and made them available to their employees. Companies have to write off these purchased items for more than ten years. The employer also has an amount of logistical and administrative work to take care of in terms of maintenance and especially if the employment relationship changes. On the other hand, employees have to make do with a limited selection.
With our solution, we bring together leasing companies, numerous high-quality manufacturers, employers and employees and have more than 3,000 selected products that are verified as healthy in terms of ergonomics.
In addition to the equipment, we will soon be expanding our offer to include virtual audits in order to certify occupational safety at home – which is planned to become the all-in-one package “Home-office-as-a-Service for your company”.
Innovation in a traditional industry
Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?
- It took time for us to put together a strong founding team. Niao had already been working on the problem of inadequate working conditions at mobile workstations since June 2020. She met Max and Jens in 2021. It quickly became clear that we see ourselves as the perfect founding team. Everything was in tune, including the shared vision, complementary strengths and results-oriented approach.
- Being trailblazers. We’re one of the first to offer a solution in a new market, and that requires a lot of courage and especially staying power. When we present our services to our customers, many companies had never even thought of this option. And that means we have to put in a lot of preparatory work to raise awareness and gain acceptance.
- Promoting innovation in a rather traditional industry. Until now, the sale of office furniture was primarily organized by retailers and project planning. Here at Onyo, we organize the supply chain with a platform approach with a high degree of transparency and efficiency, which can take some getting used to for some of the people involved.
Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years?
Niao Wu: In one year, we want to have ergonomically and professionally furnished more than 10,000 mobile workstations in Germany – in five years, more than one million, and we want to continuously support them with our services.
Onyo took part in the LMU EC Accelerator
Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?
Niao Wu: Onyo gained access to the Munich startup ecosystem through the LMU EC Accelerator, which is run by German Entrepreneurship GmbH under the leadership of Felix Schoppa. We not only received valuable support, but also had the chance to discover the many resources available to startups. The startup centers in Munich are closely linked. It’s not uncommon for us to see startups in the pre-seed stage and to then meet up with them again in programs for the seed stage. Thanks to such an active exchange of information, we’re able to mutually benefit from each other and also avoid mistakes.
On top of that, the administration of the City of Munich is extremely open to startups and innovation and provides proactive support. For example, we were able to establish contact with the person responsible for mobile work through Second Deputy Mayor Katrin Habenschaden. Through an interview, we were also able to become familiar with the needs of the administration in terms of occupational safety at mobile workstations. In Munich, business and research institutions work together on future-oriented issues. The major question behind Onyo’s solution is how the current transformation in our working world will impact our lives and our city. Organizations such as the BMW Foundation, Urban Lab and Venture Labs (Spaces and Infrastructure) of TUM and UnternehmerTUM are trying to answer this question together. It is extremely rewarding and inspiring for us to be able to take part in this discourse.
“Anyone who doesn’t have a meeting stays at home and can sleep an extra half an hour”
Munich Startup: Coworking or your own office?
Niao Wu: Own office and home office is great too. We’re establishing a work culture in our organization in which every individual is responsible for finding the optimal workplace for what they do, for themselves and the team. Our ideal vision is to have an office as a hub where we go when we’re looking for social contact with colleagues, want to be inspired by others or want to come up with an idea together. Anyone who doesn’t have a meeting and wants to concentrate on their own can stay home and even sleep for an extra half an hour.