Startup Of the Week: Inion
This week we’re glad to present another Lithuanian startup – Inion. This startup creates IoT (Internet of Things) platform that provides monitoring solutions for solar, industry, life sciences, etc. During the interview, Šarūnas Stanaitis, the CEO and Co-Founder of Inion, describes the uniqueness of the platform and shares what kind of ambitious plans we can expect from it in the future.
So what is Inion? How does it work?
In Inion, we believe, that with our current resources we can achieve more. Therefore we have built IoT platform that increases performance in various fields.
Currently, our focus is on solar, where with our solution PV (Photo Voltaic) plants can generate more solar energy. We have a hardware controller, which can connect to many different inverters, and a cloud-based platform, where all information about PV plant generation is analyzed. Our algorithms can predict, whether the electricity generation is maximal in prevailing weather conditions. Also, whenever it is too low and solar panels need to be clean or other errors are detected.
Our solution is used to manage PV plants on the grid, where distribution system operators need to change various generation parameters of solar plants. Also, we have running installations in industry, Biolabs, and hospitals. Those fields are left for the near future development.
What are your competitors and competitive advantages?
Before explaining competitors and competitive advantages, it’s important to mention that solar is a fast-developing field. Therefore there is a lack of solutions to manage PV plants.
Our competitors are not doing the same as we do. Only a few fields are overlapping. Firstly, our solution is a tool for maintenance companies or installers to manage solar plants of different sizes (form residential to MW scale) and with different equipment. Also, our solution is adapted to distribution system operators to control PV plants remotely through SCADA systems.
Secondly, our software is made from different blocks with multiple functions. Some of them are for free, others – paid. Users can build up any functionality of their plants.
What were the reasons behind coming up with this idea and launching this product?
During 2009-2012, the CEO of the company (Sarunas) has made a few monitoring and control projects in the paper production and printing industry. At that time there were only traditional automation tools available – PLC and SCADA. Those tools were pretty expensive and hard to adapt to monitoring and analysis. Since that time the idea of monitoring solutions has been in Sarunas’ head.
In 2018, Sarunas and Robertas, CTO of the company, have discussed monitoring solutions with IoT platforms. Robertas has already had experience in building IoT platforms. In the same year, we have decided to start building the IoT platform.
In 2019, after the first successful project, Sarunas, Robertas, and Mindaugas, the COO of the company, have founded Inion. Since then we started the business and continued the development of hardware and software.
When exactly did you launch, what were the main challenges before launching?
We began the company in 2019.01.02, but the development of the current IoT platform have started half a year before. The most significant challenges for startups, including ours, are sales and products. With limited resources, it’s hard to develop products fastly and with a lack of product, it’s tough to get sales. That’s why investments are so necessary for startups.
Another challenge – a limited amount of time. Dealing with investors takes a lot of time and effort, but at the same time, you still need to do your sales and product development. To wrap up, the most prominent challenges are commercially developed products, sales, funds and time.
Our target customers are PV plant installers, PV plant maintenance companies, and distribution system operators. Currently, we are targeting European countries, but we have plans to expand to other continents as well.
What are the main challenges while working on this product and how are you overcoming them?
Probably, we have pretty typical problems that hardware and software companies are facing. In hardware, it has already built a few generations of controllers, but we have a problem with product casing and packaging. To get plastic casing you need an expensive form for the plastic press and a tremendous number of orders. That’s why we are searching for alternatives: 3D printing and others.
Of course, in software development, there is a need for additional developers to move faster with necessary functionality implementation. As I see now, everything is solvable, it takes time only. If there are some more funds, things could go faster.
How are you funded? Do you seek extra funding?
For funding, first we have used our own savings and later (on 2019.06) we got our first investment 50 000 EUR. Now we are about to sign a contract for the second investment of 450 000 EUR. Also we are planning to get some grants for our product development. But the best investor is customer and here we have already sales running. Next investment round might be next year.
Please introduce your founders, your core team and your broader team?
CEO Šarūnas Stanaitis, Ph.D. – I have experience in sales, sales management, and automation project implementation. I worked in Schneider Electric for 9 years and other companies as well.
CTO Robertas Janickas, Ph.D. – has experience in hardware and software development, also in technical team management. He worked in Dalkia group (Vilniaus energija), Vilnius Gediminas Technical University and other companies;
COO Mindaugas Lubys – has experience in company management and sales. He worked in Schneider Electric, Philips and other companies.
Other team members:
Nerijus Paulauskas, Ph.D. – Software Developer with technical knowledge in AI, lecturer in VGTU;
Matas Udris – Software Developer;
Rytis Laniauskas – Network Engineer.
How has business been so far? Could you share some numbers to illustrate this (users, sales, etc)?
In 2019 we started our company with the development of the IoT platform. Before we managed to get 20 000 EUR sales. This year we plan to expand and to make 200 000 EUR sales. In 2022 we will break even with 3 mln EUR sales.
Future plans, ambitions? Simply speaking – what’s next?
This year our goal is to develop our solution to the level it can be bought off the shelf and then start the real sales race!
Our ambition is to start sales in Poland in Q2. Also, we want to reach Germany or Spain or both in Q4. Parallel to sales race, we have a plan to develop our solutions in the energy sector – AI prediction models, EV (Electrical Vehicle) charging integration, PV plant management solution for distribution system operators, etc.
Our grand plan is to get to as many as possible installations to offer additional services for solar plant owners. In the future – we will introduce an energy app/customer engagement platform, which will be used daily for the end-users to manage their energy tasks. Energy is the currency of the future!
Thank you for the interview!
Find more interviews with Lithuanian startups here.