“Thanks to the ecosystem of local technology companies, we have an opportunity to meet entrepreneurs who are on the same wavelength, to share experience, and to establish cooperation. At JIC events we’ve met a number of great people who are now working for us today.”
Czechs understood right away what the Internet of Things was all about
Establishing a technology start-up can sometimes begin with discussions about one’s diploma thesis. During such consultations Milan Šimek hit it off with Lubomír Mráz from the Telecommunications Department at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Communication of Brno University of Technology. They shared an enthusiasm for the Internet of Things, a fire first lit during their study visits abroad. In 2014 they got a chance to conduct a comparative study of wireless solutions for the European Space Agency, in the process getting hooked for good on UWB technology, which the company’s present products are based on. They invited in two more colleagues and founded a company.
They then had to wait almost two years before the first comprehensive installation. In the end, they managed to install their wireless sensors in a large German department store to analyse customer movement. “Having a reference from a German company opened doors for us in further negotiations,” says Milan Šimek.
To take full control of their gradual growth, the up-and-coming engineers contacted consultants from the JIC MASTER programme. “They helped direct our technically minded brains towards business thinking, analysing market potential, creating a business model and setting important financial milestones, and getting ready for negotiations with investors,” says the boss of the company which went on to win several awards for best start-up.
Tech companies in Brno’s Medlánky district all interconnect
In the end, the company decided to register its headquarters at the premises of the South Moravian Innovation Centre. One of the first companies that had entered the premises of the brand-new South Moravian Innovation Centre in 2003 was Y Soft. In under fifteen years this bunch of IT guys from a dormitory basement has grown into a global company, investing in others through its venture capital subsidiary. In 2015 it was contacted by Sewio. “Rather than an investor, at that time we wanted a technology partner for our product,” says Milan Šimek. In addition to financial aid, mentoring and promotional support, the investor also gave them access to the production line they still use today.
Sewio technology is useful in many fields. It enables the precise real-time location of items inside buildings, in many cases it monitors forklift trucks or automatic robots, work tools or pallets, i.e. it relies on ‘track and trace’ technologies. Monitoring moving items in intra-logistics helps not only optimise their use, but also helps prevent damage to equipment and, above all, injury to workers. Sensors on a player’s body make it easier for sports teams to watch his or her movement in the field and evaluate team performance. At go-kart races, sensors and analytic equipment located above the go-karts can show the current positions of racers as well as the winner’s racing line. Sensors on a singer’s body make it easier to keep them in the spotlight, no matter where on stage they wander. Sewio sells the technology, while applications are provided to end customers by Sewio’s partner network. The biggest clients include Volkswagen, Toyota Peugeot Citroën Automobile Czech, Pirelli, Prakab and Budějovický Budvar.
Active relationships help business
In 2017, the company not only won the important clients mentioned above, but also reached a significant milestone – an annual turnover of one million euros. The team of twenty was also expanded to bring in a number senior officers who’d experienced rapid company growth with previous employers. “The way the company was growing meant we could afford to approach really experienced people,” says Milan Šimek.
There are no plans to move away from Brno to some other world metropolis. “When I need to get some fresh air in summer, I jump in the car and in fifteen minutes I’m at the reservoir, where I can go for a swim and within an hour I’m back again in the office. Moreover, our partners often visit JIC on various occasions. Being based in Brno means we can keep our relationships with them much more active.”
Sewio also fosters relationships through regular events that the company organises for all the companies based in the same building. So, beside other cooperative ventures, their colleagues have helped Sewio devour several roasted piglets. “We make an effort to be open to the people around us as much as possible, which is what such events are about. If anyone’s interested, we share what we went through and what we’ve learnt,” says Milan Šimek and shows, as an illustration, a text message he’s just received from a friend inviting him out for a beer because he wants some advice on establishing a company. Whenever possible, he also helps his alma mater. The Telecommunications Department at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Communication of the Brno University of Technology gave the founders of Sewio the company’s underpinning idea. And in return, individuals from the company’s management have helped the department get grants. Moreover, Milan and Lubomír come back to the department from time to time to encourage the latest students to run a technology business.
– number of states in which Sewio has sold its wireless technology
– turnover exceeded by the company in 2017
– average payback period for clients using Sewio technology
Sewio Networks (www.sewio.net) is a Brno-based company that supplies the global industrial market with wireless location platforms (RTLS) designed to optimise material flow and intra-logistics. The location platform is based on a special ultra-wideband radio technology (UWB) and is delivered jointly with software for managing and visualising the processes being monitored. At the beginning of 2018, Sewio had 20 employees and clients in 37 countries around the world. Its clients include: Volkswagen, Budějovický Budvar, Pirelli, Matador, Toyota Peugeot Citroën Automobile Czech and ŠKODA AUTO.
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Starting out as a university project, we’ve developed into a company operating on a global scale. Owing to the fact that we’re based at JIC headquarters and have undergone a number of programmes, we’ve always enjoyed quick access to lots of different know-how. We only had to cross the building to get all the answers we needed.