ProGlove is a Munich-based company whose founding members previously worked for BMW and IDEO. They founded their start-up in December 2014 based on the idea to create intelligent gloves for the Industry 4.0. Their gloves help production and logistics employees to perform their usual tasks faster, safer and easier. Today, the 80-member team works with over 250 customers, most of them from the automotive industry, from the logistics sector, or suppliers.
Interview with Thomas Kirchner, founder and CEO of ProGlove
In 2015 you won the award for founders of the ‘Wirtschaftswoche’. What sets your startup apart from others?
We are Paul, Jonas, Alex. I come from the industrial sector and the
others come from innovation consulting. That’s why at ProGlove we work a lot with the Design Thinking Method: A concept for creative problem solving. For example, we test our new prototypes at a very early stage on site with our customers, let their input influence the development until the product meets all customer requirements. This shortens our development times considerably.
Starting a business is always a big step and involves many risks. Have you ever thought about what happens if it doesn’t work?
We worked together on projects early on and brought products to market maturity. But I also founded startups before ProGlove, which were less successful, so I know what it feels like when it doesn’t work.
You have turned an ordinary clothing, a glove, into a technical innovation. How did you come up with this idea?
During his studies, Paul guided groups of visitors through the Munich BMW plant and thus gained an insight into the work processes of the automotive industry. There, he noticed that all workers wear working gloves. At the same time, both workers and managers try to save crucial seconds in the scanning process. With the aim of enabling workers to work efficiently and ergonomically, we developed a prototype for a new generation of the first intelligent glove and presented it at the “Make it Wearable” competition of Intel in Silicon Valley. We were actually able to convince the jury and won thus the seed financing for the creation of ProGlove.
Where is ProGlove being used today and what new applications can you imagine?
Our wearables are primarily used in production and logistics. In the meantime, an 80-person team looks after around 250 customers. Most of our customers come from the automotive industry (BMW, Audi), are suppliers (Mahle) and logistics specialists (Redcoon, Loxxess) but many applications are also suitable for retail and e-commerce, such as Penny and IKEA.
You represent the IoT sector – what role will this sector play in the future and what projects are you interested in?
We believe that people will remain to be one of the most important components of industry. This is why we connect the worker with industrial IoT through our smart wearables. Personally, I have many new devices in my home and I try to connect everything there. There are cool projects on Kickstarter, for example.
You have launched your product only a few years ago, but we would like to take a look into the future with you. Where do you see your company in the long term?
We have just concluded our second round of financing with 5.5 million euros. We want to use the money to further develope our software and to scale our products worldwide. Since January, a part of our team has been based in New York. Of course, we also want to continue to grow in the USA and meanwhile maintain our start-up culture.
As a start-up, you have launched an innovative product. Do you have certain habits in your daily working life that reflect your love of innovation?
If you visit us in our office in Munich, you immediately notice the many mobile walls with the colourful Post-its on them. For us, the Post-its are a good tool for successful teamwork. The self-adhesive papers give every thought sufficient space, but at the same time one is forced to concretise new ideas and to bring them to the point.
During the founding process you could certainly gain some experience. What do you think are the most decisive aspects?
We believe very much in our team. Only with a very good team, your idea becomes a success in the end. So far we have been incredibly lucky to have met fantastic people on our way, who have worked with us on our vision.
We want to thank Thomas Kirchner for the interview and the insights into ProGlove!
Source pictures: ProGlove