It has been three years since DataThings was founded to provide its scientific research-based solution to companies like Paul Wurth. We spoke to Co-Founder Grégory Nain and Sébastien Wiertz of Paul Wurth InCub about the startup’s journey so far.
by: Torge Schwandt
photo: Sébastien Wiertz
featured: DataThings’ team
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Universities around the world are a major breeding ground for new technological solutions that solve real-world problems with innovative approaches. The University of Luxembourg (Uni.lu) is no exception in this regard: An increasing number of startups is getting spun off based on the advanced research conducted at the Grand Duchy’s only public university. What unites their founders is the ambition to build successful businesses by applying their academic findings to potential customers’ needs, the great support provided by the university – and helpful local stakeholders in some cases.
Taking the leap from science to business
DataThings is a great example of this. At the beginning of 2017, Grégory Nain and three of his fellow researchers at Uni.lu’s SnT (Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust) were at the same crossroads other scientists like them had been at before.
“During our PhD studies, we worked with several industrial companies in Luxembourg. They all had the same questions and pain point, demanding a tailored solution to store, analyze, and learn from their operational data to make better informed day-to-day decisions”, Co-Founder Grégory Nain explains.
“The startups are doing all the hard work.” – Sébastien Wiertz
Ultimately, the team made the decision to start their own company based on their extensive research within the scope of predictive analysis and machine learning. Three years later, DataThings has successfully established itself, helping its clients with an innovative software solution for data analytics within the domains of the “Internet of Things” (IoT), industrial sensors, and more.
Bootstrapping and a supportive partner from Day 1
One of the industrial companies the founders talked to early on was Paul Wurth – one of Luxembourg’s largest corporations active in heavy industries and engineering. With the help of its incubator for “Industry 4.0” startups, the Paul Wurth InCub, DataThings had the chance to test and prove its solution with a potential client without having to raise venture capital right from the start.
“The startups are doing all the hard work. All we can do is support them wherever possible, for example by validating their technologies in partnership with us. In the case of DataThings, it was a great match from the beginning as their solution could immediately be applied to some problems our engineers were already looking into”, states Sébastien Wiertz who is General Manager at Paul Wurth InCub.
He adds: “As an incubator, we help to mediate between founders and the different stakeholders interested in their solution. Eventually, Paul Wurth became DataThing’s first major client. Like this, we could help them getting early traction thanks to their own revenues. It is a great example of how a startup and a corporation can work together well for mutual benefit.”
From Luxembourg to France
DataThings’ success in developing intelligent software systems that transform data into actionable and valuable insights has also already gathered some attention abroad. Among others, the startup is participating in European “Horizon 2020” projects like bIoTope in partnership with Lyon Metropole and a public tender awarded by Rennes Metropole.
“Luxembourg is the optimal place for us to further develop and grow.“ – Grégory Nain
Still, the team is appreciative of where it started. “Luxembourg is the optimal place for us to further develop and grow. For example, it would be impossible to get high-level meetings with important local stakeholders and partners elsewhere as quickly as here. It is a great place for startups. Our partnership with Paul Wurth has been invaluable in this regard“, Co-Founder Nain emphasizes.
New clients and partnerships as well as growing the team are up next for DataThings – something all technology ventures usually aim for. However, according to Grégory Nain, startups should always carefully consider their options when working with corporations and larger partners. “The timelines of young companies and corporations are different. Startups are quick and highly flexible in their decisions, they want and can progress faster. But they have a shorter runway than larger companies, which often have a bit of a time delay in their internal processes”, he points out.
After all, DataThings and Paul Wurth made their partnership work out well. A case study other startups can learn from.