After last month’s successful launch auf journi’s travel app, it’s time to have a look at another Austrian start-up!
Our July start-up: FLATOUT Technologies
What is FLATOUT?
Flatout Technologies offers a comprehensive solution for the Internet of Things (IOT). The idea was to equip any electronic devices with a chip that connects these devices to the internet and makes them centrally controllable. The mission is to connect things to simplify life. The team of Flatout Technologies put its focus on providing a software for the intelligent house (or office, or hotel, or …). So, in a real life case this would mean that if your heating, lighting, stove, doors etc. are connected with the Flatout system, you could turn off your lights, preheat your oven or lock your door remotely from your smartphone.
The focus is put on three use cases: security, energy efficiency and comfort. Austria as a market demands especially energy efficient solutions, Spain, for example, focuses more on security as a use case.
Flatout established partnerships with the companies providing hardware for IOT related products and started to connect those intelligent devices to their software. The system is cloud based and can be administered centrally. Through this step Flatout created a platform for the Internet of Things. This platform is open for developers and offers interfaces which enables them to develop applications for smart homes, connect their own devices, expand the system and offer their applications to their clients via Flatout’s platform. Flatout targets the B2B market, which means that as a consumer you would rarely get in touch with the brand itself. But maybe your house will soon be upgraded with Flatout’s system.
Who is behind it?
The team of Flatout Technologies already counts 14 people. CEO Daniel Marischka, CTO Manuel Mager and developer Christian Passet founded the start-up in 2013. Nine team members concentrate on developing the Flatout system, the rest is dealing with the business itself. Trust into each other is high, as all of them are friends and know each other from school or university. The team values complete transparency within the team. Everybody knows everything about the strategic decisions or financial issues. And everyone can contribute his/her ideas during strategy workshops that are held regularly. Sharing breakfast in the morning, chilling in front of the PlayStation and joint events strengthen the team spirit.
How did FLATOUT start?
Daniel was annoyed having to get up from his couch to turn off the light. He thought how great it would be, if he could communicate with the electronic devices at home and control them with his smart phone. This was three years ago. He could not stop thinking about it and told his friends Manuel and Christian. They were instantly intrigued. Since then they had been programming, prototyping and testing, camping out in Manuel’s living room.
They did not earn anything during the first year and there was no business plan. After their first investment they had 8 people working towards realizing the idea. And they moved into the next bigger living room.
Originally, the idea they were trying to realize was directed towards end-consumers. This posed the first challenge: How to reach the consumers? A completely new product and no money for effective marketing measures made it difficult to convince potential users to buy their idea. This led to the decision to focus on the B2B market. Flatout targets companies that want to offer a Smart Home solution to their clients and want to enter the IOT market. And the start-up provides the necessary software for that. For Flatout it does not matter which things and devices are connected to their system because essentially they all work with a chip and can be controlled remotely. This makes them very flexible in terms of which companies could be their clients.
“When we started, the term Internet of Things was not even really coined yet. Now that Google and Apple are entering the market, it is one of the hottest markets at the moment.” Daniel explains the challenge for a start-up to maintain itself in the face of these giants. “For us it is imperative to find our niche.” Their cloud-based system allows Flatout to react quickly and serve those niches that companies like Google and Apple forgot. Daniel smiles: “We knew that Apple and Google would come. But we thought that they would come a year earlier. We have finished developing. That gives us an advantage.”
Where does the money come from?
The first funding was provided by friends and family, which financed one year of operations. It was the team’s decision to not approach Business Angels, as they did not want to give away equity at such an early stage to a potentially low price.
Flatout by serving the B2B market is working in the background and is not really known by consumers. This makes finding investors a difficult task. At the moment Flatout is closing a financing round. The plan is to raise about 1 Mio. Euros to finance the next 18 months. The Austria Wirtschaftsservice (AWS, Austrian federal development and financing bank for companies) provided funding and also Business Angels are contributing to reaching Flatout’s financing goal.
Flatout also got support from A1 (Telekom Austria), which provided the start-up with one year rent-free office space at the A1 start-up campus.
And what about the future?
To get in contact with potential clients, the team is travelling through Europe. During the last months they acquired their first pilot projects. The next steps will lead Flatout towards the Silicon Valley to widen their net of potential customers. The most important task for the team will be to find their focus. Right now they receive requests from various business sectors. To focus on the right sector will define the start-up’s future.
But the main goal, as Daniel explains, is actually a very different one: “We want to finance social projects with the money we make with Flatout. The Internet of Things offers a wide range of possibilities to help people in developing countries. But to do that we first of all have to be successful in the already developed countries.”
Want to experience a Smart Home? Try Flatout’s Demo!
For regular updates follow FLATOUT on Twitter: @FlatoutTech