Episode 9: Infineon‘s global startup co-innovation program – Let‘s speed up your market entry
As the world continues to embrace big data, increased connectivity, and automation, the IoT industry does not stop growing and is still booming. An increasing number of IoT startups are joining this trend. New companies founded by ambitious people who want to help shape the Internet of Things of the future – making the IoT what it needs to be: real, secure and easy. In this episode, we discuss with Lamin Ben-Hamdane, Head of Startup Cooperation at Infineon, why startups are so important for the IoT industry's ability to innovate and how we're helping them shape the future of the Internet of Things.
More information about Infineon’s global startup co-innovation program can be found here.
Guest: Lamin Ben-Hamdane
Date of publication: 03 November 2021
The potential of the Internet of Things is well known. But how do we actually implement it? How can people and companies benefit from it? In this podcast, we meet experts from infineon, partners and customers who tell us how it can work and what it takes to Make IoT work. My name is Thomas Reinhardt, I am your host, and I am excited to have this great opportunity sharing this podcast with all of you.
Today's new episode of our MakeIoTwork podcast is for once not about technologies, solutions and products. It is about startups. New companies founded by ambitious people who want to help shape the Internet of Things of the future – making the IoT what it needs to be: real, secure and easy.
Today, I’ll discuss with Lamin Ben-Hamdane, Head of Startup Cooperation at Infineon, why startups are so important for the IoT industry's ability to innovate and how we're helping them shape the future of the Internet of Things.
Hi Lamin, thanks for being my guest today.
The pleasure is mine. Thanks for inviting me.
As the world continues to embrace big data, increased connectivity, and automation, the IoT industry does not stop growing and is still booming. An increasing number of IoT startups are joining this trend. There are for example over 34,000 IoT companies in the IoT startup network Crunchbase, addressing industries such as enterprise and automotive IoT, commercial, manufacturing, retail & wholesale trade, and transportation industries.
Lamin, here’s my first question: In which areas do you perceive a particularly large number of startups being founded? Do you see any focus?
The Internet of Things is a wide-ranging area that affects all industries. Startups in the IoT environment are correspondingly diverse. We can also observe this in startups that are interested in working with Infineon: The fields of activity range from cybersecurity to connectivity, edge intelligence is a big topic, many focus more on the analytics in the cloud, some offer complete solutions for a vertical, e.g. smart home, smart manufacturing. However, one thing is common to almost all of them: they are very ambitious, move very fast and want to outperform currently existing solutions on the market. But to answer your question specifically: No, we can't identify any particular focus.
What drives people to found a startup in the IoT environment? And what are the challenges for startups that they have to overcome to conquer the IoT world?
I would say there are two categories. First, there are startup founders that see an opportunity in the inefficient, sometimes time-consuming methods that still exists to build up IoT solutions. Sometimes the founders have had the pain themselves when they worked at some of those industries before and they experienced the pain to make an IoT solution work. And so they develop an idea and want to create a solution that makes it all much easier and safer and more efficient. And then we have a category of startup that comes more from research and academia. They have developed a certain technology for years during their research phase and now they want to commercialize this patented research by creating a startup.
But in any case, I would say startups need strong partners by their site to accompany them, especially in the early days. What I see is of course nowadays in this special situation that all the hardware startups face the semiconductor supply shortage. That's no question. And often I see that they lack expertise in certain technology areas. To build an IoI solution is a complete stack. You need to master a wide variety of technologies like connectivity, sensors, cloud analytics, HMI topics, security and so on. Another challenge is definitely that young startup lacks credibility - with potential customers also with investors. And then finally I would say market access in general is a challenge. A startup doesn't have a big sales force from the start. So market access is a major challenge.
That sounds really challenging. So, Lamin, how can we as Infineon support startups and how do they benefit from collaborating with Infineon?
First of all, we have a tremendous technology expertise related to our products but as well we have lot of system design know-how. That we can bring to the table. And our products cover basically the whole range to build complete IoT solutions.
Then we provide the startups frequently with samples for prototyping purposes for evaluation boards. So in essence with this we help them to accelerate their own product development.
Then I would say what is also important is that we allow certain startups to officially tell to the world that we support them. And that adds a lot to their credibility towards customers and investors if they can say “Yes, we are backed by Infineon. We are supported by them.” That helps.
And then finally we promote the startup solutions at customer events like the upcoming OktoberTech events all over the world. We take sometimes the solution to trade fairs that we are attending.
And they can become part of of Infineon’s partner ecosystem.
So all this really gives them visibility on the market.
And maybe to complete the picture: I spoke a lot about what the startup can get. But what's in it for us? Yeah, I would say the key point here is that we as Infineon also learn from startups. We get insights into new applications very early. We get feedback on our product. And this is also very important for us in order to be ready to enter new emerging applications faster.
It sounds like Infineon is supporting the startups primarily as an advisor or mentor.
Let me maybe make that a little clearer by saying what we are NOT: We are not an accelerator as we don´t provide coaching or other educational services to the startups. We don´t take equity in the startups we work with.
BUT we provide the biggest value that startups can expect: close connection to Infineon´s business units, a real cooperation project, follow-on focus on generating business for both sides by e.g. involving the startup in our sales and marketing activities. So we support as a strong partner, be it as a supplier, a development or a go-to-market partner.
So we help startups to speed up their product development and market introduction.
That is a great summary. Thank you. But, how does a collaboration with a startup come about?
Most of the times, we actively approach startups that are active in a domain that is of interest to our business. But startups can also get in touch themselves with us. All they have to do is to fill in the application form provided at our website infineon.com/startups. After the application is received, it will be evaluated against our basic criteria. For example, we take a closer look at the scalability of the business model and the subject area in which the startup is active. After that, we confirm the interest with our relevant business stakeholders. This is essential to lay the foundation for successful cooperation. During phase 3 we get in contact with the startup to discuss the scope of the collaboration with the goal to create win-win outcome for both parties. We setup a cooperation agreement to clarify expectations on both sides. Once all framework parameters have been clarified, the cooperation can begin. We provide the startup with product samples, tech advice and mentoring for them to develop their prototype. After having successfully completed the cooperation project, we want to develop a long-term partnership and agree on joint marketing activities.
You earlier said and you know repeated it also that we are providing startups with samples and evaluation kits. What kind of products or solutions do we have to facilitate product development? Can you make a couple of examples here.
So for example we have this so-called connected sensor kit that is basically a fast prototyping platform for our sensors like the CO2 sensor, or our microphones, or whatever is needed or connected to a microcontroller. It is optimized for edge applications and combined with connectivity.
On top of that we offer all the necessary software development kits to bring algorithms to the microcontroller, machine learning algorithms for example, which can be directly ported to this microcontrollers. So all this makes it makes it very fast for the startup to start prototyping.
The second example is Infineon’s makers portfolio. It’s a platform that is optimized for the Arduino world. It provides a solution and evaluation platform startups to help turn innovative ideas into real design blueprints. Here they will find a wide range of information resources, products and easy-to-use tools, including application boards, shields and 2Go kits to rapidly build their own prototype.
Of course what is always very interesting: Can you tell a couple of successful corporation projects to really make it more tangible? Do you have something in mind that you can share with the listeners?
Thanks for that question. Of course it's always good to give examples. So one example is the company Blixt from Sweden. We started to work with them like one till two years ago and they basically develop a new kind of Circuit Breakers: so-called solid state circuit breakers (SSCB) based on Infineon's product portfolio. This new solid State Circuit breaker have the potential to disrupt the USD 38 billion market for circuit breakers by providing superior electrical safety by interrupting currents much faster and they can be monitored remotely. So that's a very nice example where we really work closely together with the company to bring this new smart circuit breaker on the market.
Another example is Ampotech. They are supported by our Co-Innovation Space in Singapore. And they use basically the internet of things and edge computing to help facility managers in buildings to improve the performance. The Ampotech solution basically becomes the brain of the electrical panel. They lock usage data. They detect anomalies in energy consumption of specific equipments like air conditioners or motors. And this data is then transmitted securely to the cloud over a Wi-Fi network and there it can be analyzed further. So this is a solution basically that helps to drastically reduce the energy consumption of buildings.
These are really things that make the IoT work. That's really great. So if one of our listeners has such an idea or a business case at hand, how can they get in contact with you or with us?
One opportunity for startups to get to know Infineon better are our yearly OktoberTech events in Singapore, Japan and USA where we bring together corporate innovators, startups, academics, investors and policy makers from across the ecosystem for this one-day conference.
Additionally we sponsor different events like the HighTech Venture Days where startups and established companies meet to exchange knowhow.
And of course our recently updated website www.infineon.com/startups is a good starting point to learn about our global startup cooperation program. There you can also find our go to persons in the different regions who will be happy to answer any questions about our program.
www.infineon.com/startups - that's the page to go. Thank you very much, Lamin, for your exciting insights. This brings us to the end of this episode.
Dear listeners, for more information, please visit infineon.io. We will publish the next episode soon. Take care and good bye.