"machIQ brings Industry 4.0 to Switzerland"

Eugène Schön

10.11.2016 08:50

A few days ago MassChallenge Switzerland rewarded 6 startups in Renens. One of the two Diamond Level winners is machIQ, an industry 4.0 company. Startupticker.ch had the opportunity to interview Roy Chikballapur, the CEO of the company to learn more about its activities and the relocation to Switzerland.

Can you tell us what your company does?
machIQ is building a comprehensive platform for Industrial Maintenance and After-Sales Services. Our Software as a Service (SaaS) enables machine builders to enhance their customer experience in after sales services - covering activities like spare parts sales, technical support, customer training as well as IoT-driven Industry 4.0 services. On the other side of this platform are their manufacturing customers who benefit from better industrial asset performance at lower costs; improving their spare parts management, equipment maintenance activities and more.

How and when was the idea born?
The cofounders have spent years in the Industrial Automation and the Defense industries where maintenance of assets is critical. With over a decade spent collaborating with manufacturers and machine builders, I recognized the need for an agnostic digital services platform that works with all machine brands to enhance the performance of manufacturing plants everywhere. The only way to build this was as an independent startup dedicated to this mission. That’s why we started machIQ in early 2016. 

What are the benefits of machIQ solution?
For machine builders: To improve customer experience with respect to after sales services. Industry 4.0 will bring massive business model disruptions like Uber has done to the transportation industry. Our platform helps our customers prepare for the future by undertaking this journey more gradually, without risking their existing service business that primarily involve selling spare parts.

For manufacturing plants: Peace of mind at lower costs. Achieve better equipment performance, fewer failures while maintaining a lean inventory for spare parts. Get on-demand access to all the spare parts and expertise that you need to improve cash-flow. 

What are the benefits of MassChallenge for a founder? 

I want to point out three things:

1) The sponsors: Many of them were potential customers of our solution. Machine builders like Bühler and GEA were for us the ideal companies to work with. We got access to these companies at the right level and very quickly. They have been foundational in building our value proposition. We are also in early stages of collaborating with some of the other sponsors.

2) Our mentors were fantastic. We had Peter Stähli (Chairman of Swiss Economic Forum), Bruno Mendler (Chief Strategy Officer at Bühler) & Jamie Mikkelson (SVP Product Engineering at GEA). Bruno and Jamie helped us tune our value proposition and positioning. Peter opened up his network and helped us to meet the right people at many companies that we are in the process of converting into clients and partners.

3) There is no better learning than watching and talking to people that are going through the same pains and experiences as us or have already dealt with these questions. MassChallenge is a microcosm of the startup world unlike other accelerators in Europe. There is a true collaboration spirit among the startups that will survive long after the program is over. I have great respect for startups like Yalty, SimplicityBio, Lendity and Science Matters who taught us a lot by being open and accessible.

Has MassChallenge Switzerland helped you tie useful partnerships for the future?
Yes, with the sponsors including Bühler and GEA. We have also been invited by Nestlé to join a pilot program that they are building that will accelerate their collaboration with startups. I can say it has been much faster since we were part of MassChallenge and were able to access the right people. We are immensely grateful for the doors that MassChallenge has opened.

Can you tell us more about your plans to base machIQ in Switzerland?
We will move the machIQ headquarter to Switzerland. The management of our company will be based here. We are discussing with 3 Cantons in Western Switzerland. I will not comment further because discussions are in progress. We intend to reach an agreement at about the same time that we close our funding round by the end of the year.

Why do you think Switzerland is a good place for your start-ups?
We didn’t know Switzerland very well when we came into MassChallenge. We knew MC from Boston and were also drawn by the sponsors. We experienced Lausanne for the 4 months of the accelerator and the country first hand. What really stands out to me about the people I have met here is their level of professionalism, and can do attitude. I think there is also a high degree of intellectual wealth here. It may be caricaturist but I once remarked to my cofounder that every other person we met was a PhD or was studying to get one. Human capital is clearly important for a startup ecosystem and it is here. Another thing we like as machIQ is the industrial base that is so strong in a small country like Switzerland. For our business, this is indispensable. It also helps that Switzerland is midway between Germany, Italy, Austria and France - these are all countries with very big machine builders in different segments and all part of our focus.

What are the next steps in the development for machIQ ?
As I said, we are raising seed capital right now and intend to close the round by the end of the year. In parallel, and perhaps more importantly, we are advancing in discussions with a few big name clients/partners that will serve as references for us. We hope to make some announcements on them shortly. We believe we have a great product but in the SaaS business, the product’s evolution has to be rapid, continuous and breaking productivity barriers for our users. The race to building a perfect product has no finish-line.

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