KONUX – Heading for Silicon Valley with smart sensor solutions
KONUX develops and produces custom-made sensor solutions based on its patented optoelectronic measuring technology. To date, the company has applied its measuring principle in nine different types of sensors to measure all kinds of mechanical and geometric parameters such as torque, pressure, force and angle.
What began as an interdisciplinary team of founders – just Husam Ghanem, Andreas Kunze, Vlad Lata and Dennis Humhal – has now grown to a company of nearly 30 people.
At the still tender age of 24, Chief Executive Officer Andreas spearheads the international business activities of KONUX, Inc. After earning a degree in business information technology and completing the “Manage & More” entrepreneurship program at the Technische Universität München (TUM) and Stanford University, he initially worked in strategy and technology consulting. Andreas has not yet got round to completing his master’s degree: “I chose the company over my studies,” he says with a mischievous grin, adding that: “I should have put my studies on ice earlier. That is not a general recommendation, of course, but it would have helped me to devote my full attention to KONUX at an earlier stage.”
Growing fast – and bursting at the seams
To say it is “cozy” in the company’s cramped premises on Munich’s Nymphenburgerstrasse would be putting it mildly. Staffing figures grew from four to 30 in a year, so it is understandable that space is gradually getting tight. The KONUX team has thus been working hard to find new offices – and has finally found what it was looking for: On September 1, the company will move into a new building that, together with the production space, has ten times as much room as the current office. Between now and then, everyone is keen to make things as comfortable as possible – even if that means wearing slippers!
Asked about the secret of the firm’s success, Andreas Kunze doesn’t bat an eyelid: “That’s an easy one: A team that works well together is crucial. I couldn’t wish for better people. Everyone is behind the project 100 percent.” The native of Lindau used to earn a few euros teaching people to surf at his uncle’s surfing school on Lake Constance. He now willingly expands on his views: “Everyone who works here is 1,000 times better at what they do than I could ever be.” To strengthen the sense of bonding in the team, lunch together at a nearby Italian restaurant is a regular event. “You’ve got to do that,” Andreas explains. “The team is everything. If you get that wrong, you can forget your Startup.”
The youthful CEO also stresses how important it is for the group to listen to everyone’s ideas: “Just continuing to do something one way because that is how it has always been done is about the worst thing I can imagine,” he notes. “Innovation is always about change. That’s why we try to hear everyone’s opinion in the team. My job is then to make the decisions, which I usually do based on a simple for-and-against list.”
KONUX has now found a big-name investor in the shape of Michael Baum, himself a successful Silicon Valley Startup entrepreneur on several counts and initiator of Founder.org. Andreas Kunze admits that investors in the USA are generally more willing to take risks and tend to be “a bit faster about everything”. Even so, he doesn’t see the United States as “the pot of gold at the end of everybody’s rainbow”.
As an experienced entrepreneur, Baum naturally put Andreas and his team to the test before committing to an investment: “You’re out mountain biking and, at the steepest point on the ascent, you suddenly have to explain and defend your business model. That takes some doing – especially when you are not all that sporty,” Andreas recalls with a laugh. Yet he successfully mastered this challenge to. It is obvious that he loves his work. For someone so young, he makes a very seasoned impression and is fully aware both of what he is saying and how he wants to get it across.
“Very grateful to Munich”
Although he is glad to cooperate with a US investor, Andreas stresses that he is very grateful to Munich and has a deep appreciation for this business location: “I completed some of my education here, our offices are here and we all enjoy living here. Munich is a great place with lots of valuable contacts and established players. Okay, so everything is a bit more expensive. But that just spurred us on to work better and more effectively so that we could reach our goals as quickly as possible. The KONUX boss is clear about another thing: “We come from here, we work here, so we naturally also pay our taxes here and will continue to do so – as well as creating more jobs here.” At the same time, the company will also have operations on the ground in the USA in the future. That, he explains, is because “the Americans are not so familiar with and have difficulty understanding Germany’s bureaucratic legal system. If they are going to invest in a German company, they feel happier doing so under their own rules and regulations. Apart from which the USA has an even bigger market for our products. German technology is very popular and is much in demand in the States.”
Hints on customer acquisition from KONUX founder Andreas Kunze
- Arrange appointments with as many people as you can
- Know what your customers want and, above all, what they need – offer a solution to their problem
- Take away the customer’s fear of risk and show them the benefits of working together
- The product must fit the customer’s needs: Conduct extensive research ahead of every contact with customers
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