In October 2017, the Munich-based Startup, ProGlove, was selected to participate in German Accelerator Tech’s New York program. Munich Startup interviewed the founders to find out how they are preparing for their time in the U.S. and what their goals are for their first three months in the Big Apple.
When was ProGlove founded and what does the company do?
Jonas Girardet: Thomas Kirchner, Alexander Grots, Paul Günther, and I founded ProGlove in 2014, after winning the “Make it Wearable” Challenge in Silicon Valley. Our goal has been to connect the worker with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). By adding a scanner to the back of one’s hand, our wearables enable hands-free scanning and therefore provide for more efficiency, ergonomy, and quality in the field of industrial production. Nearly all European car manufacturers and suppliers are clients of ours including, among others, BMW, Mahle, and Skoda. We also cater to many use cases in the field of retail and e-commerce, for example, the supermarket chain, Penny.
“The Time is Now”
Do you currently have any business outside of Germany?
Jonas Girardet: In October 2016, we launched our smart glove, MARK, all over Europe. In the beginning, we focused on Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. We wanted to test ProGlove in our core region, so that we could be close to our customers and be able to react quickly. By now we have customers all over Europe, and first pilots are in progress in the U.S. and Canada.
How did you decide that now is the time to expand to the U.S.?
Jonas Girardet: Back in 2015, we already started receiving requests from international customers at CES in Las Vegas. So, we’ve been thinking about entering other markets for quite some time. The U.S. market, in particular, has great potential in the field of Industrial Wearables. A large part of our customers are listed in the DAX and doing business internationally. Thus, we can profit from an easier market entry by going through existing clients.
How did you hear about German Accelerator Tech and what made you apply?
Jonas Girardet: A few other founders, who have previously participated in the program and are friends of ours, told us about it. One of our goals is to show that we can scale internationally and establish ourselves in the U.S. market. Since we have already scaled to other European countries quickly, the time has come for the U.S.
Building a Network in the U.S.
What did the application process look like?
Jonas Girardet: We quickly realized what a big opportunity the German Accelerator Tech program represented for us. That’s why I initially registered online. After passing the preselection round, we were interviewed in order to show how serious we were about our U.S. expansion plan. Lastly, we had to convince the selection committee with an in-person pitch.
You are not the first startup from Munich that is participating in German Accelerator Tech. Have you spoken to any alumni companies about their experience and if so, what did they tell you?
Jonas Girardet: Several other startups from Munich have told us about the program and said that it offers a great starting point for U.S. expansion, especially for building a network in the U.S.
How are you preparing for your stay in the U.S.?
Jonas Girardet: I traveled to the U.S. three times within the last quarter to meet with clients on site. In addition, I spoke with other startups to find out about their problems and challenges in the U.S., and to learn how they prepared for their business expansion.
Maintaining the Startup Spirit
What are your goals for your time in the U.S.?
Jonas Girardet: Our main goal is to fuel our growth through existing customers and to acquire new U.S. clients. Furthermore, what matters a lot to me, is to master the challenge of internationalizing our company in a way that ensures our existing ProGlove culture does not suffer.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for ProGlove in the U.S.?
Jonas Girardet: Setting the right priorities within ProGlove for our internalization to be successful, and the internal communication between the two locations.
What do you expect from German Accelerator Tech?
Jonas Girardet: We are hoping for relevant contacts and an external perspective through the mentors of the program.
Where do you see ProGlove in a year from now?
Jonas Girardet: We want to have built an independently functioning office in the U.S. that is well integrated with the German team. And we want to maintain our startup spirit, despite the company’s growth.