We caught up with Jan Büchsenschütz (right), co-founder and CMO of RIIICO to see how they are doing since co-winning the first cohort.
Jan! Great to see you. Tell us what happened after you were announced as the joint winner of the first Sixth Sense Cohort…
I think two important things happened. We got access to other corporates – which as a young founder, you do not often see because you don’t have a lot of credibility in the market. But someone like Hexagon saying, “Hey, this is someone you can trust and who brings value to the market,” was a stamp of approval that saw customers come to us. Other partners came to us too saying, “Oh you’re working with Hexagon, would you like to do a proof-of-concept with us?” So that was very valuable.
Secondly, we continued to get support from Sixth Sense. I know that often accelerators let you go to begin with the next cohort. But I was very pleased that so many people at Hexagon stayed close to Riiico and have helped us as we continue to scale. We have had great conversations regarding Nexus – the new manufacturing intelligence platform, as well opportunities with Leica Geosystems. Winning Sixth Sense accelerated our conversations.
So what can you tell us about your progress since?
It’s still all a little confidential of course, but I can tell you that we are working closely with Hexagon. The entire Industrial Metaverse, which Riiico’s data and browser-based approach enables, is very valuable for Hexagon and other industrial Metaverse players in the market. I think everyone in the market needs to find the recurring use case and the deep value in the Industrial Metaverse. It’s a little bit like autonomous driving and the beginnings of the internet – it will take time to build this ecosystem around it. That’s something we and Hexagon share a common vision on.
You’re well-placed for when the market matures….
Yes, I agree. One of the good things we have done (and we have made plenty of mistakes) is focus on the technology and on building the software. We have 18 people in the company now and I am the only person with a business degree – everyone else is computer science, engineering, informatics. We can convert data and enrich other people’s software. I think we’re well positioned for what’s going to come.
You’ve just secured a $1.5 million, pre-seed fundraise with Earlybird Venture Capital – how did it come about?
Investment is always on your mind as a founder because you want to build things. One of our founders spent half of his time working on fundraising for probably six months. It was worth it because we are so lucky to have gained Earlybird Ventures as our investment partner. Usually investors are good at finance but not so good at industrial expertise or deep tech but we don’t want an investor sitting on our board that has no understanding or excitement about what we are doing. So in Johannes Triebs from Earlybird is the right person. He has a PhD in engineering, he’s been in leading industrial roles before, and he knows the market very well. He knows that these things take time to build.
Do you think your time at Sixth Sense helped you to secure this partnership?
Yes, absolutely. They taught us a lot about how to tell our story and this is something we used to struggle with a bit. We are very technical people. We focus a lot on the technology – which is not always bad because when we say something works, it works. Riiico is all about building technology that makes an impact on manufacturing planning. But still, in the end, you need to excite people with your story.
I went on the Change Makers podcast with Michael Hayman MBE DL during our Sixth Sense programme and he asked, “why does this matter for society?” I had never really thought about this in a big way. So through the programme we were taught to look above the technology, above the industrial market, into what would excite everyone about what we do.
So what’s next for you guys?
I think there’s a saying in the market: “fundraising is the easiest thing to do in a start-up.” And that’s fairly true. In the end, what we’ve got is a chance. We got great customers to validate our technology with and to continue with building our vision with. We have got to build and we have got to execute on our vision. There are lots of examples in the market where people got great confidence from fundraising and failed in the end because they were not able to build what they envisioned.
What’s your big reflection on Sixth Sense now?
Start-ups need corporates so we can work with the existing players in the market. Meanwhile, corporates need to brace for the disruptive change that’s coming and work better with start-ups. Sixth Sense is the example of how this works in manufacturing at scale. Across the industry, corporates ask me, “how did Hexagon do it? How do they work with start-ups so well?” I think the answer is they really focus on building trust first. It’s impressive what Hexagon has created and I strongly believe in what Sixth Sense is doing. As a startup, I feel I can trust these people. I can grow in the ecosystem and we can build something great together. If that’s not a reason to start, I don’t know what is.