We go for robots
Husarion was incorporated in December 2013, two years after its founders, Dominik Nowak and his university colleague, Radek Jarema, graduated from the AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków. Four years after incorporation, Filip Kramarczyk – a manager with experience gained at global corporations, including Rolls-Royce and Aptiv, and privately a long-term friend of the original founders– joined the managerial team. The potential of the company and its founders was recognised by the KPT Seed Fund, who realised from the start that the daring project spells success.
Good start at the AGH
The young entrepreneurs developed their passion for robotics at the AGH Learned Society, where they realised they could start a joint project. Originally, the company, eager to help people create their own proprietary robots, only offered components for modern devices. A year later, a Kickstarter campaign was launched, and the business idea was presented for the first time.
Time verified the company’s business model, so that in the last three years, rather than only selling components, Husarion also offers ready-made robots. Some have been made to order, others are the extension of the company’s designers’ visions. Such a business model boosted the success of the start-up. Dominik Nowak, company founder, recalls that building robots proved such a multidisciplinary and difficult task that clients preferred to buy custom-made products designed to their specifications, than make them independently.
“Starting our activity, we were an entirely different company, focused on different technologies and clients. Now we opt for the development of the entire ROS (Robert Operating System) ecosystem, and participate in sectoral events connected to the development of the system. We have very good contacts and friends in the robotic circles, and these translate into sales as well.
“We have massive experience with an extensive and accommodating system, which lets clients from all over the world find us”, the CEO added.
Husarion’s offer comprises components for making robots and two types of ready-made products. First, smaller ones are the ROSbot 2.0 units primarily designed for the academic market, to be used in institutions of higher technical education all over the world. Their main buyer are US universities that use such devices for research work and also to teach students. This lets young engineers from the United States learn how to program such solutions. Robots for the academia are sold together with the programming instruction, which has both an educational value and complex use. These robots are also purchased by R&D teams of many tech companies from all over the world as platforms for quick prototyping of solutions in autonomous mobile robots, and testing them on the small scale.
The other product is the Panther platform, offering much larger constructions designed for work in external environments, with carrying capacity up to 80kg. Panther is the base for customised service robots, that is devices that perform specific tasks and can be used for example in logistics, precision agriculture, and industry. As a product, they adjust to client needs, and are precisely fine-tuned to specific needs and purposes of a given company by design.
“Nearly 100% of Husarion clients are people dealing with robotics, so we talk the engineer talk with them, making sure that they receive plentiful documentation and model solutions. This pays off. As we educate our clients and operate in ROS environment, we are perceived at experts in the field”, Dominik Nowak commented.
The team are 16 people with extensive competences: experts in mechanics and automation, but also programmers who know how to connect everything to user interface online, which guarantees client service at all levels.
Sales to the Polish market are still a very small fraction of the company’s revenue. A great majority of the sales goes to the United States. Luckily, the company managed to gain clients’ trust and build a powerful position in the sector. Working in a closed environment means that many clients come from recommendation. Many of them only buy one robot, but return later for more, which only proves the professionalism of Polish entrepreneurs.
“We started a community forum that serves developing problems encountered in everyday work in robotics and automation. Many people from outside our circles come looking for solutions to their current problems. Our team helps them actively, and in this way, we build an expert community ready to assist one another.
We are focused on the people who deal with robotics in their everyday work and create new technologies – they are the ones we really try to reach and answer their needs. It often happens so that these are the staff who persuade their bosses to purchase our solutions”, Husarion’s CEO explains their client relations.
“Six years ago, when we were starting, a mentor at a start-up event told us that he did believe that the market for mobile robots would grow, yet perhaps in five years. I think he was right. We had to weather through those doldrums, and now we’re experiencing a very dynamic development of the robotics market.
“There is plenty of talk about robotics, especially now at the time of a pandemic; people don’t want to be dependent on supplies from the Far East, and bringing production back to Europe and the US is on the table. However, as labour force is still very expensive here, you need to think of alternative solutions. All studies demonstrate that the number of robots will be on the rise, however, they are not likely to stride in our homes and drive in our streets like in science-fiction films (perhaps they will, but not that soon, perhaps with the exception of cheap robotic hoovers and grass mowers), as they will rather first revolutionise production plants and industry. There are quite many new areas of interest to which mobile robots can be adjusted.
“As future world is unforeseeable, you always need to have an A and a B plan as a start-up. Sometimes you need to grit your teeth and don’t let failures discourage you, because, rather than by poor products, many failures are caused by the fact that the market has not yet matured to them.” Nowak thoughtfully adds.
The pandemic only made a small impact on the development of a company that from the start followed a remote working model, with the staff allowed to do their duties from anywhere. As far as sales and orders in the sector are concerned, there is a rising tendency.
The KPT Seed Fund
Dominik learned about the Kraków Technology Park (KPT) in the fifth year of studies at the AGH University of Science and Technology. During a lecture he attended, he heard of support tools for young entrepreneurs available at the KPT, the Seed Fund being one of them. Having negotiated all particulars, he signed a contract with the Seed Fund, and that was when the true adventure with business started.
“Working with the fund gives us plenty of freedom, and both parties – plenty of trust. I am glad that we were partnered with experienced people, who realise that the market is changing, and that an early-stage company must change its assumptions and be flexible”, Dominik Nowak remarked on the cooperation.
“We make the conscious decisions about investing, considering all pros and cons. In case of Husarion, an important aspect ensuring success of the company is a team of weathered experts. They are young engineers with a daring vision of business that they tenaciously follow. For us, being an investment fund, cooperation with the company from the robotics sector is a great challenge, yet the combination of our business knowledge with their expertise in robotics lets us sleep peacefully at night”, Marcin Nalepa, CEO of the KPT Seed Fund explained.
“Husarion was a project that offered prosumer electronics for a very attractive, quickly growing market of robotics. The team had very strong technical competences and an interesting business concept. We had a clear strategy of quick validation of business assumptions in a Kickstarter campaign. Even today, a mix of quickly growing market, a strong team, and a credible plan for validation of assumptions are a good reason to invest. Several years ago, such features were a rarity in projects.
“Dominik and Radek were the youngest company founders in the history of our fund. To this day I am impressed by their tenacity and skilful adjustment to the needs of the market.
“’Seed’, that is early-stage, investments are very risky, which is why the idea your business is based on must be properly thought through. The founders of Husarion shocked with their ambitions, and as they worked in the fast-growing segment of the market, their plans were credible”, Marcin Nalepa added.
An investor comes to a start-up and…
“Other companies come and ask for a recipe for success in the start-up world. I know that this is probably not the answer they expect, yet I think that intuition you have about a start-up, that is something you cannot put your finger on precisely, is important in investments and investing. There are certain indicators suggesting that an idea will work, but whether it will is a major question. In most cases, you build a start-up by trial and error. It’s important to make many quick experiments, and verify whether the course you set raises interest of (paying) clients or not. That’s why precise, long-term plans don’t make much sense, because you would need to update them very often. And this takes your time, which is better used for testing and developing products and markets. If I were an investor, I would certainly found my decisions both on business knowledge and on intuition as well”, Dominik Nowak commented.
“I am most proud with the team; we’ve always had the luck to find the right people. If not the most important, it is certainly a colossal value in business. If you have a clever and quickly learning team, you can design, develop, test, and implement new technologies with them quickly and efficiently. It is crucial to have great experts with powerful technical competences. In fact, we have never run traditional recruitment; practically every person in the team has been recommended by another person. That’s the best way!” The CEO explained.
Plans for the future
Husarion has recently spun off a software project, Husarnet. It is a network that allows to connect various devices with each other directly over the Internet, so that the data don’t pass through any central servers, which significantly reduces lags, increases security and privacy, and retains very low costs of infrastructure maintenance.
“Our new project takes out the middleman in data exchange between user devices, and allows peer-to-peer communication.” We promote this area in robotics, a branch we hail from, but also in the fields of Internet of Things, smart city, energy generation, and cybersecurity. We have launched highly prospective partnerships, for example, with an organisation developing a key technology, on which the second generation of Robot Operating System, ROS2, is based.
We want our product to be helpful in network connections in robotics. Husarnet is here to connect one robot with another with very low lags, whether they do it over Wi-Fi, mobile, or Ethernet.
Our sales of robots continues to rise, and the handling of all the requests is now a major challenge. On the one hand we enjoy it greatly, because this shows the scale of development of our company, but on the other it is a great challenge, one that we must cope with perfectly well.”
To learn more about Husarion and its products, visit: https://husarion.com/