There are around 4,000 companies in Germany within the metalworking industry who manufacture laser and flexible components. Aside from that, there is a huge amount of companies who process these sheet metal parts. However, lengthy developmental and acquisition processes, along with lengthy delivery times, are often a problem. This is where Laserhub comes into play, a start-up from the Stuttgart region that automates these processes whereby they not only become faster, but also a lot cheaper. With Laserhub, customers can upload to the platform their CAD files of all the special parts they need. The company then uses digitized and automated processes to find manufacturers who have the appropriate equipment and available capacity which can produce the required parts. For the customer, Laserhub remains the sole contractual and contact partner, and they take care of distribution, set prices, and also write the invoices.
Christoph Rößner, founder and managing director of Laserhub, in an interview with Innovation Origins:
Who is behind Laserhub? Who are the founders?
The three founders of Laserhub are Adrian Raidt, Christoph Rößner, and Jonas Schweizer. The founding team combines industry know-how with software and digitization expertise. Adrian Raidt spent 9 years at Trumpf, the leading manufacturer of sheet metalworking machinery. Christoph Rößner was part of the management team of a major supplier to the machinery and engineering industry. Jonas Schweizer was a consultant at Diconium, a consultancy for e-commerce and digitization.
How did you come up with the idea of founding the start-up?
The original idea for Laserhub was born during Adrian Raidt’s time at Trumpf. In his daily work, he noticed that inside of the sheet metalworking industry there was a strange imbalance between supply and demand. On one hand, many suppliers have high-performance and quite costly machines, which are often not used to thier full capacity. On the other, numerous customers of these companies complain about long delivery times, complex ordering processes and sometimes high unit costs. After an in-depth analysis of the situation and many discussions with market participants, Adrian Raidt came to the conclusion that the high level of manual and analog processes were the cause of this situation in the industry. His idea was, and still is, to use constant digitalization in the future in order to better match supply and demand, dramatically streamline and accelerate processes, and optimize the use of all available resources.
What makes Laserhub special compared to other companies?
Well, it is, of course, impossible to compare yourself with ‘all’ other companies. But when I think about what is decisive for our success, I can think of three specific reasons. Firstly, we are a start-up company, even though we have all already gained a lot of experience in our respective fields. Technically-experienced contacts and industry experts in particluar appreciate this expertise. Secondly, our entire team has enough courage to adapt to change. We know that we operate in a conservative industry which is characterized by small-scale modernization rather than rapid change. We are fully committed to our approach of constant digitization and all that this entails. Thirdly, needless to say, our proximity to the industry is certainly a major advantage. We founded Laserhub in the Stuttgart region, which is not necessarily known as a start-up hotspot. However, this is the heart of the automotive industry, their suppliers and of mechanical engineering. The geographical proximity to these industries has been of help to us with our personal contacts in quickly learning what our target groups need, especially during the start-up period.
What was the biggest hurdle you have had to overcome?
I would like to compare it with the world of sport: We are not dealing with a high jump, in which you have to jump over 2.40 meters in order to reach the mat, but rather with a 400-meter hurdle race. These hurdles are, for example, the quest for investors, along with the regular coordination with them, widespread skepticism towards digitalization in many conservative industries, the search for suitable employees, permanent innovations in IT and software, the planning for globalization, development of structures in a growing team, and much, much more.
Has there ever been a moment when you wanted to give up?
No, we have never really been at that point. We were very lucky to get feedback practically since day one from the market that we were on the right track with our idea. Looking back, we certainly didn’t always make the most ideal decisions, maybe we took a wrong turn a few times and could have gotten results even faster, but the basic route was and is definitely the right one. Therefore, I have never questioned the company and the business idea behind it to such an extent that giving up would have been an option.
And vice versa: What was the best moment? What makes you particularly proud?
We already had several milestones which were really ‘good’ moments of which I am proud of. These include our high rate of returning customers, which shows that we are providing our customers with a great product that solves problems and creates enthusiasm. In this context, our investors have often said: “When a marketplace seems like a subscription model”.
Invitations to special events show us that we have achieved a certain standing in the industry. Moreover, we are more frequently mentioned in the specialized and business press, which makes me just as proud as our first nominations for renowned awards. Other highlights include the recent conclusion of an important financing round, the move to significantly larger business premises, and our first step into a foreign market.
What can we expect from you in the coming years?
Even though we always prefer to stick to our own Laserhub route, our plans for the coming years are those classic goals of many successful platforms. This means the continual expansion of the services we offer, the rapid growth of the entire ecosystem due to digital scalability, and the gradual globalization of the company. If we look at the overall European market, which we want to address in the immediate future, then we are talking about a amount of almost 80 billion euros per year – so there is still some room for improvement.
What is your vision for Laserhub?
Sheet metalworking is an incredibly diverse industry and our goal is to make this diversity entirely accessible via our digital platform. Accordingly, we plan to reduce the effort and costs for all involved, accelerate processes, and increase the efficiency of an entire industry.
Founders: Adrian Raidt, Christoph Rößner, and Jonas Schweizer
Year of foundation: 2017
Financing: Initially from own funds, for some time now various investors such as Project A Ventures and Point Nine Capital have also been on board.
Number of employees: 20. “With our move to downtown Stuttgart, we will soon have considerably more space and we want to use that. This means that the search for talent is one of our central tasks.”
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