Face-to-Face with our portfolio: Oriient
Founded in Israel in 2016, Oriient is a pioneer in the development of indoor GPS and navigation. Using the sensors found in most smartphones their technology uses the Earth’s magnetic field to enable consumers and customers to easliy navigate large buildings such as supermarkets, airports, warehouses and malls and pinpoint items with precision. We were so impressed with the potential of this technology that in early 2019 we invested in their $4m seed funding round.
We sat down with Mickey Balter, Oriient’s co-founder and CEO, and Mickey Steiner, who heads the Innovation Hub’s activity in Israel and played a key role in this investment, to discuss the investment and what lies ahead for this exciting company.
Pictured above: Mickey Balter with Oriient CTO and fellow co-founder Amiram Frish (right)
Can you start by talking a bit about what your company does and what you are focusing on at the moment?
Mickey Balter: Oriient is a smart technology company providing indoor positioning (Indoor GPS) services. We power location-aware mobile apps that are suitable for any indoor environment, with a scalable solution that doesn’t require additional hardware. Oriient provides users with highly accurate navigation on their own smartphones, and allows facilities to improve their service, space utilization, staff performance and operations.
In place of hardware such as beacons or WiFi routers, our technology uses the Earth’s magnetic field and existing smartphone sensors to give directions to users. Whilst more of our customers have retail-related use cases, we are expanding into real estate and smart buildings. In the past 12 months alone, we have doubled in size to 16 people.
Why did innogy Innovation Hub invest? What did you see in the company in particular and how does it fit in with your strategy?
Mickey Steiner: Oriient has a fantastic team with a great track record of creating disruptive technologies that are scalable – our sweet spot! The uniqueness in Oriient’s solution is the total independence on external support such as beacons or other elements, which is achieved with their technology. In the future, buildings will be autonomous smart organisms that serve human needs – and Oriient is helping make that future a reality, by integrating the humans with the buildings, and improving user experience through indoor navigation.
Why did you choose innogy Innovation Hub as an investor?
Mickey Balter: innogy Innovation Hub has supported us from our first seed round – they believe in our vision and we trust their advice.
The support we get from the Hub goes beyond financial and they have proved an important source of guidance when navigating the tricky growth phase. As well as invaluable advice, the Innovation Hub provides us with tangible new business development opportunities that would not be possible without access to their extensive network.
Can you tell us about your approach to giving growth support to Oriient?
Mickey Steiner: As with all our portfolio companies, we strive to provide strategic industry-specific advice, with a view to creating products that shape the future of energy. Thanks to our extensive network we can connect Oriient to other companies where potential synergies can be capitalised on. This has been the case with Oriient’s link with one of our other portfolio companies, Visualix.
We have an established position in the proptech industry and exposing Oriient to our network via direct connection to some of our strategic partners, as well as supporting them in events like MIPIM and the Real Estate Innovation Network, has been an important part of the company’s growth process. Events such as these not only help Oriient build networks of their own, but also introduce the company to potential new customers.
In addition to introducing Oriient to our proptech innovation ecosystem, we have engaged our VC network to support new financing of the company in further funding rounds.
What makes innogy Innovation Hub different to other investors (VCs or other corporates)?
Mickey Balter: In my view, it’s the willingness and courage to invest in deep-tech and transformative technologies, where the investment horizon is farther. There is an emphasis at the innogy Innovation Hub on value creation and business development, which has been crucial in allowing us the opportunity to develop our products to be the best they can be.
Can you provide some concrete examples of how the innogy Innovation Hub has provided growth support/cooperation?
Mickey Steiner: The Hub’s network has played an instrumental role in helping Oriient develop, network, and ultimately sell its product. For example, we have a partnership with the property developer Skanska, and Oriient is about to embark on a project with them. In addition, we first introduced Oriient to the Real Estate Innovation Network where Oriient made it into their prestigious Top 25 start-ups list.
Mickey Balter: More generally, we benefit on an ongoing basis from exposure to the innovation ecosystem through the Hub’s Portfolio Days, access to their PR programmes and the strategic support we receive from Mickey Steiner, Alina Prawdzik and the Innovation Hub teams in Israel and “Smart & Connected”.
Where do you both want to be in two years from now on in this joint journey?
Mickey Balter: We are excited about the opportunity that partnering with the innogy Innovation Hub brings and the potential it provides to help us reach our goals. Over the next two years, we hope we will see our products deployed in 5,000 buildings and used by millions of people. We would like Indoor GPS to be recognised as a key part of the infrastructure in any new building project and an important update to all existing buildings.
Mickey Steiner: Just as we expect and rely on Google Maps to guide us through the city streets, we hope people come to expect the same facility to be available inside. We hope that Oriient can pioneer this advancement in technology and be the best-known technology leader for indoor positioning within buildings. This technology will serve the people navigating inside buildings, as well as facility owners and managers, to better understand the utilization of the space inside their facilities.