"We bring the ergonomics that are lost through desk sharing back into the office" that is the idea of Adaption Lab, as co-founder Artjom Sotnkiv sums it up.
The story of the startup began a little more than two years ago. Not in Hamburg, where Adaption Lab was founded one and a half years later, but in Lisbon. In February 2020, Christoph Janyska stood on a stage and pitched his idea of a workplace that automatically adapts itself to its users. Simply enter your personal data in the app, place the smartphone on the table and the whole workplace optimises itself. He was in Lisbon for his Master's degree and had set his mind on founding his own company.
After his short presentation with two PowerPoint slides, audience members came up to him and said how good they thought the idea was. Among them were two co-working space operators from South Africa who spoke directly about a "multimillion dollar idea". At the time, this was still a utopian dream of the future, but it was exactly the motivation Christoph needed to get started
But he couldn't do it alone, so Christoph brought in his friend Bastian as a co-founder. In February, he asked his friend if he would like to start the company with him, and in Juli, Bastian moved to Lisbon. Bastian also brought along some expertise from his degree in mechanical engineering and six years of experience at Volkswagen.
The two of them then started planning the adaptive workplace. The pandemic was more of a help than a problem. "I'm a social being and if it hadn't been for Corona, I probably would have been out and about in Lisbon meeting people." Christoph tells us. So he used the time at home to push the startup forward.
It was more by chance that he ended up in Hamburg. Bastian wanted to return to Germany and Christoph spontaneously moved into a friend's shared flat in Hamburg. He stayed, as he explains, "because Hamburg is simply an awesome city" and the other founders moved with him.
With the Exist funding into existence
While their chair was taking shape, finding investors proved to be a challenge. "With startups, you always read about rapid prototyping. Three changes are proposed, implemented and tested in a week." With hardware, however, it takes a little longer, even if you work with 3D printers like Adaption Lab. "That's enough to scare off 90% of the investors from hardware startups." Explains Christoph. The first prototype of the chair was still far from a finished product that people could sit on. This made the search for backers even more difficult. Even at the beginning of their start-up, the funding EXIST was also an option, but they initially discarded it because of the lengthy application process.
Finding customers for a pre-order was also difficult at that time. On the one hand, the offices were closed anyway because of the pandemic, and on the other hand, potential customers wanted to see not only a proof of concept, but also the design of the finished chair and sit on it.
But that still needed development time and the founders needed money for it. Investors were open to talks, but they wanted Adaption Lab to have its first customers before they got involved. But there were no doubts about the idea, because while the potential investors were cautious, the feedback from potential customers was consistently positive. Only no one wanted to order yet. In this dilemma, the boys came back to the EXIST founder's scholarship. In order to get off to a good start with the funding, the Adaption Lab team needed to be enlarged. What was missing was competence in the software field, especially someone who could develop an app to control the workplace. For this, Christoph contacted Thomas Jagla. The two had graduated from high school together and had already worked together on projects in the past. Thomas didn't need much persuasion either. He joined the team and together the three of them applied for EXIST.
They received the funding in June 2021 and continued their work with the newly acquired financial means. In retrospect, this was the right decision for the founding team. "Without EXIST, we definitely couldn't have done it," Christoph explains.
Expand the team and take off
While Christoph was pitching and starting up in Lisbon, Artjom decided in Hamburg that he wanted to start his own business. The graduated aircraft engineer wanted to implement his own ideas and therefore went back to university two years after his graduation. Not for lectures, however, but for the courses offered by HAW Gründerservice. As an alumnus, Artjom was able to take these courses free of charge and learned everything he needed to set up a business in over 180 hours of courses alongside his work.
Christoph then found this while looking for the fourth and final member for his founding team. The two met, realised they were almost neighbours, talked about the idea and its implementation. After a short time of getting to know each other, Artjom then joined Adaption Lab, bringing with him more knowledge in engineering and as a project manager.
Now the startup really took off. After several prototypes, a fully automatically adapting workstation is ready, the chairs have a final design, the associated app works and some parts are waiting for their patents to be granted. With this, the guys were not only able to convince investors of their merits, but also win a large European aviation company as a customer.
Adaptive workplaces everywhere in the future?
In the future, Adaption Lab wants to optimise its workstations even further. Sensors that automatically react to the user are one idea, but in any case the chairs are to be optimised for series production. The founders would also like to make the leap across the pond and automate offices in America. "More customers in Germany wouldn't be bad either, we're already on the road in Europe," Christoph quips.