Start-ups are highly sought after in the automotive technology sector, with new ideas, novel approaches and exciting new technology, and dozens of established companies in the supply chain always interested to see more.
The AutoSens vehicle perception conference and exhibition provides special support for start-ups, to nurture the next generation of technologists and ideas into industrial adoption, mass production and
A Belgian company with specialist vehicle perception technology, XenomatiX, exhibited at AutoSens 2016 as a start-up, and has just confirmed it will return as a full scale exhibitor at both of our upcoming events (AutoSens US, Detroit, Michigan from 22-25 May and AutoSens Europe, Brussels, Belgium, from 19-21 September 2017).
Alex Lawrence-Berkeley talked to company CEO Filip Geuens, about the company, its innovations, recent activities, and plans for 2017:
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, and we should start with the most exciting news for us, which is that you’ve just confirmed XenomatiX will be exhibiting at both AutoSens US in Detroit (May 22-25) and AutoSens Europe in Belgium (September 18-21)
We first saw you in Brussels last year, when you took part in our special starting grid feature – just for start-ups. What’s changed since then?
The most relevant change is definitely the completion of the demonstrator of our solid state long range LIDAR, called XenoLidar. People already liked the concept on paper, but being able to present real physical evidence makes it a completely different game. This is an excellent and honest reason for more market interaction. As such, we have been looking for good channels to share our achievements with specialised contacts in our markets. Making a start-up successful is not just a matter of technology. It’s about fitting technology to needs and making sure the correct message reaches the right audience.
And how much of that was due to your attendance at AutoSens?
We were quite impressed with the organization of the 2016 AutoSens event. For a first edition, quite a large number of participants was gathered, many of which were very relevant for our activities. So we collected some very good contacts in Brussels. We also noticed some automotive companies start to find us, giving much more momentum to our market penetration.
You’re a small company, but you’ve developed a number of perception technologies which are ideal for cars – have your products been used anywhere else?
Unlike most start-ups we did not start looking for possible applications in many different markets after we invented a technology. From day one, our mission was to do something meaningful for automotive surround sensing. There are attractive applications for what we have developed in other markets, but we consider it a ‘defocus’ to pursue these roads in the current stage of our evolution. The demanding automotive market deserves our full attention. Focus and dedication are key ingredients for success.
We’ve heard lots of talk about the costs of LIDAR slowing down the journey to autonomous vehicles, how is that changing?
Affordable solid state LIDAR is still a key element. The fact that automotive companies did not move on to an alternative solution confirms the importance of reliable 3D digitization. The application is being further developed based on expensive Lidar implementations that are not suitable for mass production. So the demand for a solid state variant only increases.
What has changed is the awareness that many challenging requirements have to be met all together, requiring a dedicated and reliable concept. As a result, automotive companies do understand they have to work with start-ups such as XenomatiX to find the right solution.
How do you work with your customers?
Two answers: ‘Based on evidence’ and via a push-pull model.
Let me start with the latter: even while we known Tier 1’s will be our customers, we do interact a lot with OEM’s to make sure we fully understand their requirements and needs. By working with both OEM’s and Tier 1’s we try to break the typical chicken and egg problem between these parties.
‘Based on evidence’ means that we don’t make noise until we really have something. Despite the pressure for good solution, we don’t want to burn ourselves out. In a step-by-step way, we can show that our solution is fit for purpose.
What new products is XenomatiX planning and when can we expect to see them?
We will take XenoLidar to the automotive market. Different modules with different fields of view will be created to cover applications such as road scanning, object detection, tracking of traffic participants, driveable area detection, localisation, etc
What advantages do you have based in Leuven, Belgium?
We are located in a region with many companies active in 3D optical technology. This creates a relevant ecosystem and gives us access to specialised partners. Also, support from Flemish government to technology companies is very welcome to bridge the adoption phase for the novel developments XenomatiX is doing.
You are recruiting as well – always a good sign to see growth! What are you looking for in potential new employees? What sort of education, skills and experience?
The most important feature we look for is passion and the desire to contribute to something that changes human mobility. We look for people who want to make a difference and who are flexible enough to grow with the company. Currently the priorities are still mainly on technical profiles but in order to build a balanced team also other profiles are already on the target list.
Lastly, we’ve included an interview and your pitch presentation from AutoSens 2016 below – any updates to make on those?
Absolutely, we are happy to move from the start-up area to become a main presenter, as well as exhibitor, based on customer feedback and appreciation, so this is also what we will be doing at AutoSens. We still have important steps to take but on the main stage we can bring our story to the leading automotive companies who will convert our technology into an automotive mass product.
Filip, thanks for your time, and we look forward to seeing you at AutoSens!