Foto: Knowron

Knowron: AI support for mobile service staff

Knowron wants to counteract the shortage of skilled workers with a digital, AI-controlled assistant for the manufacturing industry. To this end, the three founders Fabian Pelzl, Arturo Buitrago Mendez and Ali Kareem Raja have already received initial funding in 2022. An interview.

Munich Startup: What does your startup do? What problem are you solving? 

Knowron: Our mission is to address the skilled worker shortage and fundamentally change the way service technicians in the manufacturing industry work by increasing their productivity and removing tedious work. We achieve this through an AI-driven personal assistant that fits in anyones pocket. An app that bundles complex machine know-how in one place and eliminates hours of searching through its NLP-powered search function. At the same time, we offer detailed analytics for managers to identify knowledge gaps in the workforce and optimise processes. On the one hand, our solution has the aspect of knowledge management, so that no knowledge is taken by workers into retirement and young workers can be trained more quickly and always have an “experienced colleague” by their side, even for complex tasks. In addition to preventing the loss of knowledge, we also make it much easier to access this knowledge. We have observed an increase in productivity of up to 25% among mobile workers, as solutions to problems can be found quickly and easily via the AI-supported search of the assistant and no time is lost on hours of searching. 

Knowron: AI-Assistant as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in a subscription model 

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

Knowron: Our software is a platform that scales quickly and has been developed in close collaboration with companies such as ASMPT and Voith to ensure a problem-fit and the best possible user experience. We offer the virtual Knowron Assistant as software as a service in a subscription model and can quickly onboard new companies thanks to standardized tutorials and bulk-upload. In addition, data security is a top priority for our customers and therefore also for us. We often work with sensitive data from companies, which require high-end security mechanisms in our software. 

Munich Startup: What is your founding story? 

Knowron: Before we founded Knowron, Ali, Arturo and Fabian worked partly independently, but also together on various projects for well-known mechanical engineering companies such as Kuka, Siemens and BMW. These projects were all about developing solutions to support skilled workers in their work. Through our extensive work on these use cases, as well as our research in NLP, we recognized the excellent connection between the problem and the solution. Especially given the recent advances in NLP with transformers and similar technologies, we realized that there was great potential here for our use case. In 2020, we finally founded our company and initially received support through a funding program from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. We then decided to participate in the Alchemist Accelerator program in Silicon Valley. This support allowed us the financial freedom to implement the first ideas and build an impressive network, including valuable input from other startups. 

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

Knowron: Well, where do we start…? It’s always back and forth – especially when you work with sophisticated AI models. That’s probably in the nature of things here, that you just have to do trial and error. In addition, we have certainly made some other mistakes – for example, developing something too quickly simply because we could and felt like it. But topics like business model, a contract or something similar were not yet there at that time. That’s different today. 

knowron Team

Trial and error are in the nature of things 

Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years? 

Knowron: One Year: Now that we have confirmed our product solution fit with customers from the semiconductor industry, we want to expand our customer base and adapt our software to other industries. For example, we consider the renewable energy industry to be particularly attractive here. Wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric power plants need to be serviced regularly by mobile service staff. The market is growing rapidly and the demand for service workers will continue to increase, which is why high productivity and fast onboarding through central and accessible knowledge management offers a significant competitive advantage. 

Where do we see Knowron in five years? The first goal that we have is to be on the minds of our clients and users. We’re determined to make our startup the go-to solution for knowledge management in the blue-collar sector – we want technicians to love our product so much that they lobby their organizations to adopt Knowron.  

More strategically, we see very clearly that there is a lot of room for innovation to assist deskless workers across the board – the so-called AI revolution has majorly overlooked them. This is especially dire in Europe due to an acute shortage of skilled workers. We see KNOWRON playing a big role in making blue-collar work more accessible for everybody, including particularly the skilled immigrants that will fill these gaps. 

Internally we want to keep that startup spirit alive regardless of the size of our company, attracting and retaining talent due to our combination of opportunities for growth and a positive work culture. 

From Silicon Valley back to Munich 

Munich Startup: How have you experienced Munich as a startup location so far? 

Knowron: Although we initially had the option of founding in Silicon Valley via the Alchemist Accelerator and two of our co-founders have also already conducted research in the US (Stanford and MIT), we deliberately decided against this option. We are convinced that the location in Munich has an excellent talent pool and gives us excellent access to global market leaders in mechanical engineering. Munich is also invaluable to us as a start-up location because of the network around the CDTM, TU Munich and entrepreneurship. The unique supportive ecosystem here allows for a lively exchange among each other and we can learn from other founders who have already successfully gone through certain stages. 

Munich Startup: Hidden champion or shooting star? 

Knowron: Since we are aiming to disrupt the knowledge management market for companies employing service technicians and tackle pressing topics such as scarcity of skilled workers and improving onboarding of foreign workers through multi-language capabilities we would definitely say shooting star.