Petr Jahn: We started off with the greatest
Two years ago, the founders of the SprayVision start-up only had a basic prototype athand, with which they went to an international trade fair. Today, some of theworld’s greatest players in the area of paints and lacquering are their customers, and thanks to an investment from J&T Ventures they are preparing a huge expansion to Asia and the USA. Petr Jahn, CEO of SprayVision, describes how it happened.
For a number of years, lacquering has been performed by robots, so one would expect that this is a fully automated area. Where did you find the opportunity?
Automation has progressed in the world of lacquering, but everything still depends on human operation. Parameters are still actually set up by the trial and error method. A certain setup is selected, then the body or another product is left to pass the line, and then the result is assessed. The quality must fit, as well as the paint thickness and a number of other aspects. If not, the entire process is repeated. It is often a process that takes days, and SprayVision reduces it to hours. Based on the evaluation of data, we can not only recommend a suitable setup and achieve the best possible quality with maximum transfer of paint on to the surface, but we can also save paint at the same time.
You supply both software and hardware to companies. What facilities are we talking about, how should we imagine this?
We use special films and bands to be applied to the given part or to be placed in the lacquering cabin. Subsequently, they are inserted into a special unit, which scans the mand evaluates the result. We are able to analyse the process down to the level of individual atomized drops.
Where did the idea of such service come from?
Together with my colleague, Vojta Roul, we have been operating in the area of lacquering for some time, implementing a technology for one Italian company. This concerned projects throughout Europe, starting with car factories and ending with general industry. However, we didn’t like how time-consuming it all was, and we searched for ways to improve the process.
Who are your customers?
They are not just paintshops, but also companies developing applicators directly. Out of six largest global players, we supplied our technology to three of them. When they develop their lacquering machines, they are looking for the best possible design to make sure the paint is transferred onto the surface as well as possible. Another group consists of paint producers; for example, BSF is one of our clients, being one of the greatest companies in the field. They need to tune up the application of their paint to be as even as possible, having good spread and appearance.
How important are these groups of customers from the perspective of your turnover?
Paint shops and end product manufacturers account for about 60%, 30% goes to paint producers, and 10% goes to manufacturers of applicators.
Do you offer them hardware and software as a whole?
It is a combination of both. The company pays for hardware once, and then it pays an annual licence fee for software. Within the framework of the latter, we supply new modules, which we strive to develop continuously, and technical support. The return rate is very fast. We can save 10-15% of paint, let alone the improved quality and lower percentage of waste. Let me give you an example: A small paintshop with one or two robots consumes paint worth, let’s say, a million euro per year. 10% savings therefore amount to 100,000 euro. Our technology costs a little over 20,000 euro, so the return rate amounts to months. In some cases, it can even be weeks.
SprayVision only came into existence two years ago. How did you manage to get major clients so quickly?
In April 2018, we decided to check whether the market is interested in a thing like this. We setup the first prototype, which really couldn’t do anything compared to today’s product, and we had a simple software developed. We didn’t even have our own programmers back then. With this, we went to Germany to one of the largest trade fairs on lacquering. We were surprised in a very positive way, because even large companies approached us, saying they could use a thing like that. This was an impulse for us to start dealing with this full-time. Then, there was a rather long period of time before we could deliver a product in its final version; the first deliveries were realized in the autumn of 2019, but we communicated with the clients continuously. We expected to get into small paintshops first, but it was the other way round. We got in contact with top players, whom we originally thought of possibly acquiring one day in future.
Where is your SprayVision solution used?
We have units operating from America and Europe to Turkey, and we even have offers from China. We always try to deal with headquarters directly, as the decisions are made there.The path through local branches did not prove to be right.
Do you now have your own team for hardware and software?
We set up and calibrate the final hardware ourselves, having it manufactured in sub-units. We found one manufacturer in Germany and one in the Czech Republic. Software is fully developed by our team of programmers. Surprisingly, we’re still few in numbers, six all together, but thanks to the investment, we’re planning to expand the team significantly, because we’re currently on the edge of our capacity.
Did you start the project with your own money or through angel investments?
We invested money from our previous businesses in the company, specifically a few million, and we took on one well-proven partner from Turkey as a co-investor. Due to the fact that we weren’t software-focused, we also searched for someone proficient in this area. Coincidentally, I got in touch with Jaroslav Gergič, who used to beCTO of Good Data, and now he’s the head of development at Cisco. He decided to become a partner, too. And then the first orders came rather soon, allowing us to finance the development as we went.
Were you impacted by the Covid crisis?
Covid-19 put halted us especially due to the fact that 90% of our work lies abroad. Suddenly, our calendar was virtually erased. However, there were no limitations on the side of our key partners. They all kept us in their investment plans, despite the fact that they had to make cancellations. As I said, the return rate is greatin our case, and our solution is included in the transition to Industry 4.0 in the firms.
Why did you choose J&T Ventures as a partner?
In the end, we had three different offers, with one actually having better parameters. However, we decided to go for J&T Ventures based on good experience with cooperation with Martin Kešner, Adam Kočík and Martin Garaj. The human factor decided.
What are your plans for the nearest future?
We are currently stabilizing our position in Europe, but we would very much like to expand to Asia and penetrate the American markets more. For this expansion, we found an advisor who managed one of the global players in the field of lacquering technology for 30 years. He was in charge of getting into the Asian and American markets, where he has wonderful contacts, and we are currently preparing a strategy together with him.