Learn how a start-up grew into a profitable business, expanded its product portfolio, entered the automotive industry, and was successfully sold to Analog Devices in 2017.
What was the starting point?
Symeo GmbH, a company set up by STA in 2005 with profound expertise in the field of radar-based positioning, distance measurement and imaging radar has become a market and technology leader in the industrial space.
The Symeo success story started with a customer project Siemens acquired from a steel company to track cranes in a steel mill. Providing robust performance and high reliability even under harsh industrial conditions, the Siemens team which later formed Symeo was able to offer an optimal project solution and to lay the foundation for Symeo’s industry business.
Why didn’t Siemens take over when the spin-off decision was made?
Christian Wiesinger, CFO at Siemens Technology Accelerator: "Although Symeo’s radar technology promised to be a popular solution for all kinds of vehicle positioning and tracking, the scale-up opportunities as a business within Siemens were limited. At that time, its focus on industrial markets together with the Siemens sales channels prevented any expansion beyond customers of Siemens. Symeo would have been limited to a niche business. Therefore, integration into the Siemens value chain did not seem to be the best approach for either Siemens or Symeo. However, the aim and potential to capture new markets outside Siemens’ reach convinced Siemens Technology Accelerator (STA) to spin off the company and look for seed capital."
What were the key hurdles in Symeo’s business development?
Christian Wiesinger: "At first, Symeo’s core business focus on industrial markets substantially restricted investment interest of venture capitalists. They viewed such markets as not particularly attractive, as scaling appeared difficult. However, STA convinced a business angel and former founder of an automation company to invest in Symeo and secured the initial financing. Being an expert in Symeo’s business field himself, the business angel not only invested in the company and became a board member, but also offered in-depth know-how and experience in Symeo’s core markets. That was a valuable addition. While Symeo continued to develop its products and markets, the financial crisis in 2009 hit the company at an unfortunate time. An additional financing round was required. Despite heavy losses the team and investors showed full commitment and we continued the project. Eventually reaching break-even point, achieving product maturity, and a competitive cost position, Symeo was able to develop a sustainable product business."
Why and how did Symeo exit in 2017?
Christian Wiesinger: "Looking beyond Symeo’s industry applications, its radar technology appeared to be very valuable in the field of autonomous driving and driver assistance systems. Together with a potential customer, Symeo started a trial for an automotive application and developed an imaging radar solution for the automotive industry. Although the cooperation ended after the pilot stage, the prototype enabled Symeo to offer an attractive new use case. To leverage its full potential in the automotive sector, further significant investments were required, and so we decided to look for a partner and prospective buyer. Together with advisor Argonas, we prepared and initiated the exit process. Thoroughly evaluating different offers together with the Symeo team, we decided to sell to Analog Devices. In the end, everyone benefited: Our team made a successful exit, secured profitable transfer conditions, and enabled Analog Devices to accelerate its automotive business."