The Venture Leaders Technology expert jury had their work cut out for them this year: They had to look through 180 applications to choose the 10 members of the Swiss National Startup team that will travel to Silicon Valley in April. Before the 10 entrepreneurs meet with international investors and industry leaders to strengthen their business network and advance their globalization, we want to introduce you to each of the 10 Venture Leaders Technology 2022: Meet Tobias Nägeli, the co-founder and CEO of Tinamu Labs.
Tinamu Labs leverages the full potential of drones as a 24/7 flexible sensor network for indoor locations—without a pilot on site. The Zurich-based startup develops a turnkey solution for drone-based inspection automation that includes a web dashboard that visualizes relevant information, analytics software running on a secured cloud, and the drone system connected to a communication network. Real-time insights are directly delivered to the asset owners.
Name: Tobias Nägeli
Graduated from: ETH Zürich, PhD, 2018
Job title: Co-founder and CEO of Tinamu Labs
Number of employees: 9
Money raised: CHF 2.25 million
First touchpoint with Venturelab: In 2018, at the Venture Briefing at ETH
Tobias, can you summarize what Tinamu Labs does?
Sure, let me quickly explain it with an example: Could you tell me the current price of an Apple share? Maybe, but if not, you could get this information within seconds using your smartphone, right? However, in large industries, crucial information such as precise inventory data is often unavailable. Our customers—the worldwide inspection companies—must send thousands of inspectors around the globe to collect this information every day. Tinamu disrupts the industry by offering a drone-based platform for automated monitoring workflows to get remote real-time insights.
How and where did you come up with the idea for your startup?
During my PhD, I developed the technology for precise and repetitive drone flight. As this was a technology push, we had to test many different markets—from filming to sports to industrial inspection. During the coronavirus lockdown, we were forced to be very creative and developed the use case of remote inspection. We conducted over 100 interviews in various industrial verticals to identify the customer pain points and an industrial need.
What do you expect from the Venture Leaders Technology roadshow, and how will it help you achieve your vision?
The Venture Leaders program is an excellent starting point and builds a solid foundation for our international Series A round. Being around the 10 top tech leaders exposes me to another way of thinking and enables me to get to know the Silicon Valley startup dynamic. And most importantly, the network is key! The Venture Leaders program will clearly enlarge our network internationally, which is absolutely key to building a successful company.
What is one thing not many people know about you?
I kind of like to run ultra-trail marathons. Not because I enjoy running them, but I like to challenge myself and learn how to master very difficult tasks. For example, if you aim to run 60 km with a 3,000 m altitude difference, you think you can never do it. But then you divide the run into smaller goals and re-motivate yourself during the race by reaching one after the other until you reach the final goal. With this mindset, you can achieve things that you never thought were possible.
What would be the title of your biography?
Back to the drawing board. I love to find bugs in code, and I actually appreciate it when things go wrong. Only when you find mistakes continuously—already in the early stages—can you improve your work and be sure it will never happen again. Try things fast and learn from it!
What is your favorite book?
Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio inspired me to learn about teams and pivots; Scott Kupor’s Secrets of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It gave me a lot of insights about VC fundraising; and T.C. Boyle’s Water Music was just an extremely funny book to read and relax.
What is always in your fridge?
A good IPA.
What advice would you give your teenage self?
There is really no need to learn seven years of Latin—you will never use it. And there will be a thing called Bitcoin; just make sure to buy some of them.
How did you come up with the name of your startup?
We needed a company name for the Venture Kick competition. As we were extremely busy, we did online voting and brainstorming with friends and family. That’s the official version. The unofficial story is about a bird called Tinamu. Since the tail of a Tinamu is extremely short and therefore cannot be used to steer, these birds cannot always avoid obstacles and frequently crash. As drones are also very “stupid,” we are Tinamu Labs—a lab that improves this challenge and makes drones smarter.
What is your favorite productivity tools?
Trello is an incredibly simple but practical tool to implement different work methods (e.g., Scrum). Without the need for many fancy and expensive tools, it is possible to manage and align large teams. Second is Miro, which is great to have a huge sandbox to collect information and present it to your team or other stakeholders. My third favorite tool is PowerPoint, as it is an incredibly powerful, versatile, and still simple tool.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a founder?
I find it incredibly difficult to make so many decisions without having specific experience on a topic—a founder needs to understand all aspects of the business but can’t be an expert on everything. A great team is a key to decision-making. Constantly reducing uncertainty and discovering more about what you know and what you don’t know is another very challenging aspect of founding a company.
What is something you wish you had known about being a founder?
Business has to be ahead of technology. It is not enough to have great technology. It is very important to understand market needs, industry mechanics, and customer pain points. It is also essential to understand when customers have a real interest and are willing to pay money for a solution because it solves a long-term issue—versus deploying many proofs of concept and not getting them to convert into recurring business.
The Venture Leaders Technology 2022 program is organized by Venturelab and supported by dpd Switzerland, EPF Lausanne, ETH Zurich, Kellerhals Carrard, Rothschild & Co, and the Canton of Vaud.
Tinamu Labs offers an environment-independent, drone-based, end-to-end data acquisition platform. Repetitive, fast and consistent data capturing allows the realization of digital twins. Via cloud conn… Read more