The way you do business varies according to where you are. According to Business Insider, you should keep a straight face in Russia, where smiles are taken as a sign that you’re insincere. The book Communication Between Cultures reports that in a Japanese business setting, “silence is linked to credibility.” And according to ABARO’s co-founder Piotr Partyka, in Poland, it’s a cultural business custom there that larger companies don’t tend to work with small, new companies. He claims that there’s a perception that to do so is risky, since larger companies prefer to acquire a finished product and are very reluctant to finance development of an ongoing project.
“THE TECHNOLOGICAL DAVID TO THE INDUSTRY’S GOLIATH”
This made it challenging for ABARO to secure larger customers in Poland just three years ago, when they started off small but potent – the technological David to the industry’s Goliath. The company initially consisted of the four founders, who carved up departments that would usually employ dozens of people between them: Krzysztof Cichomski handled software, Mateusz Gzella tackled hardware, Rafał Szulc took on the machines and Piotr Partyka covered sales and marketing. Together they formed a coherent organism, where all crucial fields where taken care of, supporting each other whenever necessary. But they didn’t have capital yet and no matter how well the system worked, it was still just four people.
They also had one big edge on the competition: while the company was brand new, all four founders were telemetry experts who had 12 years of experience between them in terms of developing some of the largest telemetry systems for district heating and water in Poland. At the beginning of its existence ABARO started to work on its own battery device in GPRS technology but very quickly switched to NB-IoT technology. Their aptitude in dealing with the new technology scored them a place on hubraum Krakow’s NB-IoT program. Here, they started a collaboration with T-Mobile. Eventually, via their collaboration with T-Mobile they secured their most prominent customer yet, VEOLIA POLSKA, one of Poland’s largest heating companies. They’d solved their biggest problem: how small they were.
But how else did their place on the program help them? For one thing, it allowed them to grapple with the finer details of a technology that would prove invaluable for their product.
NB-IOT: A SHORTCUT TO SUCCESS
Which proved to be another way ABARO had an advantage over their competition. As ABARO co-founder Piotr Partyka noted, NB-IoT’s distinctive advantages — very low battery consumption and good ranges — were vital to the success of ABARO’s product. Range is vital because normally, typical cellular technology provides coverage inside and outside of buildings but doesn’t offer coverage underground, like in basements, cellars, underground garages or manholes. Unfortunately, this is exactly where main meters are often based. NB-IoT works in exactly these sort of hard-to-reach places.
The ABARO Team found the NB-IoT program access to testing facilities invaluable to “check our idea’s feasibility and…to check what type of this technology is suitable for our product and what isn’t. After all, there is no universal technology that would be suited to every product in the world.”
Since then, it’s been onwards and upwards for the firm — they count some of Poland’s biggest names amongst their clients, with customers like GEOTERMIA PODHALAŃSKA, who are the largest heating company in the country to provide geothermal heat. Needless to say, business for ABARO is pretty hot right now.
“RESTRICTIONS COME FROM WITHIN US”
So does Piotr have any tips for other entrepreneurs hoping for similar success in their field? He thinks for a second. “Business and technology must go hand in hand — they must work together — it is impossible to effectively develop one without the other, especially in start-ups where investment funds will always run out sooner rather than later.” He explains: “It is naive to make the assumption along the lines of ‘I have such a good product that it will sell itself.’ In our case it was a joint effort where all of the founders were driven to pursue the same goal, doing their best not only to create a good product, but also a commercially successful one.”
But for ABARO, success doesn’t simply revolve around finding the right technology. Entrepreneurial success depends on something much closer to home: it’s also a question of self-belief. Piotr believes that “all restrictions come from within us. It is up to each and every one of us to decide how much space we give these restrictions.”
Are you part of a startup working on an NB-IOT project and you’d like support and a space to trial your product or service? Swing by the Tech Days at hubraum Berlin to get a taste of what we offer.