Steven Yang and Sonny Vu discuss COVID-19’s impact on tech manufacturing

Like most of the rest of the world, COVID-19 hit the manufacturing sector by surprise. That China — which continues to comprise the vast majority of electronics manufacturing — was the first global epicenter of the virus certainly didn’t help the industry sufficiently brace for the impact of a pandemic on a scale the world has not seen for more than a century.

“Nobody had a great reaction,” Anker founder and CEO Steven Yang concedes during our Disrupt interview. “I think this all caught us by surprise. In our China office, everybody was prepared to go on vacation for the Chinese New Year. I think the first reaction was that vacation was prolonged the first week and then another several days. People were just off work. There wasn’t a determined date for when they could come back to work. That period was the most concerning because we didn’t have an outlook. They had to find certainties. People had to work from home and contact supplies and so forth. That first three to four weeks was the most chaotic.”

The impact of the earliest days of the pandemic continues to have knock-on effects that have sent shockwave throughout the global hardware industry. In early 2020, it was easy enough for many throughout the globe to write off the novel coronavirus as the latest in a string of outbreaks that didn’t move too far beyond select pockets. Ultimately, however, it would bring much of the world to a screeching halt.

Manufacturing, in particular, suffered first from a workplace depletion. Soon,  the hamstringing of its supply was outpaced in lowered demand. Economic recessions and skyrocketing unemployment have — and in many sectors continue to —torpedo consumer demand for a number of electronics. While it’s true that some categories  — like PCs — ultimately benefited for the shift in lifestyles, an overall decreasing in disposal income has had a profound impact on the industry.

On the manufacturing side, COVID-19 has served to propel existing trends. “I feel like it’s accelerated this depolarization to some extent,” Arevo CEO Sonny Vu explains. “We’re seeing across the board soft goods, hardware.” Vu, who spends much of his time in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, notes that the advent of COVID-19 has increased the appeal of manufacturing sites outside of China. Areas like South East Asia and India, which are continuing to increase in popularity as manufacturing hot beds, are becoming increasingly appealing for those looking to diversify sites to help prepare for similar issues in the future.

Robotics and automation is an other key category seeing increased potential acceleration, as manufacturers look toward streamline processes that can’t call in sick or increase transmission of human viruses.

“It’s our firm belief that automation will not only be efficient, but effective. We have invested heavily in robotic automation,” says Yang. “It’s to a certain point — because if you were to take a certain wire and push it through a hole, the cost of a robot that does that is still, I don’t know, 20 years of a single worker’s salary. It’s very challenging to take an entire assembly line and replace it with robots.”

#anker, #arevo, #disrupt-2020, #hardware, #sonny-vu, #steven-yang

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#Interview – “Ein Gründer hat mehr Einfluss, als er tatsächlich glaubt”


Wie starten ganz normale Gründerinnen und Gründer so in einen ganz normalen Startup-Arbeitsalltag? Wie schalten junge Unternehmerinnen und Unternehmer nach der Arbeit mal so richtig ab und was hätten die aufstrebenden Firmenlenker gerne gewusst bevor sie ihr Startup gegründet haben? Wir haben genau diese Sachen abgefragt. Heute antwortet Sonny Vu, Gründer von Arevo, einem E-Bike-Unternehmen aus dem Silicon Valley.

Wie startest du in einen ganz normalen Startup-Arbeitsalltag?
Mit Musikmeditation und Lesen der Bibel bevor ich die News auf meinem Smartphone checke. Danach bereite ich mich auf den Tag vor und mache das Frühstück für meine Familie. Währenddessen höre ich Hörbücher in zwei- bis dreifacher Geschwindigkeit – je nach Buchdichte. Derzeit höre ich „Just Send Me Words“ von Orlando Figes.   

Wie schaltest du nach der Arbeit ab?
Ich schalte gar nicht ab. Meist versuche ich vor dem Schlafengehen meine täglichen Liegestütze und Kniebeugen zu machen und sobald die Arbeit getan ist, schlafe ich einfach ein. Die Leute, die mich kennen, wissen, dass ich schneller einschlafe als jeder andere – das dauert im Normalfall nicht länger als 30 Sekunden.  

Was über das Gründerdasein hättest du gerne vor der Gründung gewusst?
Ich hätte gerne vorher gewusst, dass ein Gründer mehr Einfluss hat, als er tatsächlich glaubt. Denn das wird sehr schnell zur Realität.

Was waren die größten Hürden, die du auf dem Weg zur Gründung überwinden musstet?
Die erste Finanzierungsrunde zu überstehen, war jedes Mal eine große Herausforderung. Da ist es egal, wie viele Exits ich bereits hatte. Denn es gab genug Skeptiker da draußen – sogar die, die mich gut kennen – die an meinen Ideen gezweifelt haben. 

Was waren die größten Fehler, die du bisher gemacht hast – und was hast du aus diesen gelernt?
Ich habe zu schnell Personal eingestellt und zu langsam entlassen. Mit der Zeit habe ich gelernt, dass ich anders herum besser fahre.

Wie findet man die passenden Mitarbeiter für sein Startup?
Ich arbeite gerne mit gescheiterten Unternehmern zusammen. Sie haben am eigenen Leib erfahren müssen, wie schwer es ist, Geld zu verdienen. Sie können außerdem in der Regel gut mit der Ungewissheit und dem dynamischen Wesen von Unternehmensgründungen umgehen. Auch schätze ich die Zusammenarbeit mit Migranten der ersten Generation. Sie hatten es im Leben oft sehr schwer und sind demzufolge ambitioniert und fokussiert, die Dinge wirklich ins Rollen zu bringen. Vor allem setze ich aber auf Menschen, mit denen ich bereits in der Vergangenheit erfolgreich zusammengearbeitet habe, die mit mir durch gute und schlechte Zeiten gegangen sind und die auch meine schlechten Seiten kennen, aber trotzdem noch mit mir arbeiten wollen.

Welchen Tipp hast du für andere Gründer?
Findet Wege, wie ihr schneller und effektiver lernen könnt und hört niemals damit auf! 

Ohne welches externes Tool würde dein Startup quasi nicht mehr existieren?
Google Sheets!

Wie sorgt ihr bei eurem Team für gute Stimmung?
Indem wir unseren Mitarbeiter dabei helfen, zu verstehen, warum das, was wir tun, wichtig ist und warum wir es eben genau so machen. Außerdem schaffen wir einen Raum, in dem alle Team-Mitglieder offen sagen können, wenn sie der Meinung sind, dass falsche Entscheidungen getroffen werden. Alternative Vorschläge bei Herausforderungen sind auch sehr willkommen.  

Was war Dein bisher wildestes Startup-Erlebnis?
Das war ganz klar der Reverse Pitch meiner zweiten Firma – AgaMatrix – am 11. September 2002.  Wir hatten es wirklich schwer, Finanzierungsmittel zu sammeln. Mein Mitgründer und ich haben unsere Ersparnisse aufgebraucht, um zwei Monate lang die Löhne unserer Mitarbeiter zu decken. Am Ende lief die Gehaltsabrechnung sogar für zwei weitere Monate über unsere eigenen Kreditkarten. Und es war immer noch kein Geld in Sicht. Das war der Zeitpunkt, an dem klar war, dass wir zu noch radikaleren Maßnahmen greifen müssen. Also luden wir Investoren zum ersten Jahrestag des 11. Septembers, an dem normalerweise niemand in den USA irgendwohin fliegen würde, zu einem Reverse Pitch ein. Wir haben ihnen ein Term Sheet ausgehändigt und einfach gefragt, wer investieren würde. So konnten wir gerade noch rechtzeitig einen Serie-A-Deal abschließen. 

Tipp: Wie sieht ein Startup-Arbeitsalltag? Noch mehr Interviews gibt es in unserem Themenschwerpunkt Gründeralltag.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Arevo

#aktuell, #arevo, #grunderalltag, #interview, #reloaded

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With former Misfit founder Sonny Vu at the helm, Arevo raises $25 million for its 3D printing tech

Sonny Vu, the former founder and chief executive of the wearable technology company, Misfit, has had a busy summer since he was named the new chief executive of 3D printing technology company, Arevo.

Vu’s new startup brought on a new executive management team, launched a crowdfunding campaign for its 3D printed Superstrata bicycle and is now announcing the close of a $25 million financing round to support the growth of its business.

It’d be a lot for anyone to take on even if it didn’t happen in the middle of global pandemic. But Vu, a serial entrepreneur whose last business went head-to-head with Apple before it was acquired by Fossil for $260 million, doesn’t shy away from challenges.

Vu was first introduced to Arevo in 2019 and was initially going to come on as an advisor to the company. Since the acquisition of Misfit he had been investing from Alabaster, his personal investment vehicle. First introduced by Vinod Khosla, an investor in the business, Vu quickly moved from being an advisor to an executive at the helm of the business and an investor providing bridge financing until the company could close its latest round.

Vu had initially intended to start his own business, but was drawn to Arevo’s potential. “3D printing is about making things slowly and in small quantities. With Arevo’s technology you can make big things quite fast,” Vu said in an interview.

Several companies are attempting to take 3D printing into heavy industry and large scale manufacturing. Relativity raised $140 million in its most recent financing to make rockets using 3D printers, Velo3D is a supplier of 3D printers to SpaceX, and now Arevo has $34 million for its efforts to scale 3d printers. Of course all of these investments pale in comparison to the whopping $438 million that Desktop Metal has raised for its 3D printing tech.

“Arevo is a compelling opportunity for us as it combines our three main investment foci: consumer internet, enterprise, and smart tech. We see fantastic potential in this market, and have backed Sonny before at Misfit,” said Hans Tung, in a statement. “Arevo is led by an experienced team with solid technological foundation and 3D printing manufacturing know-how at scale – to offer breakthrough products at competitive prices.”

Arevo already has a successful proof of concept with its Superstrata bicycle and manufacturing facilities in Vietnam that are intended to prove that the company’s technology will work as expected.

“We’re making this bike to make a point that we can make complex shapes at a pretty large scale,” Vu said. Unlike other companies that sell their printers to manufacturers, Arevo intends to sell parts. That’s because the printers are a pretty hefty ticket for anyone to buy. At $1 million to $1.4 million, it’s a big ask for a company to acquire if it wants to start using 3D printing.

On top of that cost, Vu said candidly that the company’s Achilles heel was the post-manufacturing treatment process required to finish the pieces. And while Arevo already counts automotive and aerospace companies as customers (including Airbus, which previously invested in the business), Vu wants to bring this to consumers. “We’ve had tennis racquet companies, golf clubs, surfboards,” approach Arevo about using the company’s technology, Vu says.

“We can do about two frames per day per machine,” Vu says of the latest production rates. “And coming up with our next gen system we can do about six frames per day.”

The ascension of Vu to the chief executive position and the new capital infusion marks the latest chapter for Arevo which is on its third chief executive since it was founded. Two years ago, Jim Miller, a former Amazon and Google executive, was brought on board to take the reins at the company. Miller’s appointment coincided with a $12.5 million investment round led by Asahi Glass, with Sumitomo Corp., Leslie Ventures and Khosla Ventures participating. Miller was involved with collaborating with Studio West on the design of its Superstrata bike.

Now, Defy Partners and GGV Capital are joining to lead the company’s Series B round with participation from Khosla Ventures, Alabaster and others. Brian Shin, a scout with Defy Ventures is joining the board which now counts Bruce Armstrong, from Khosla Ventures, and Hemant Bheda, Arevo’s co-founder as directors (along with Vu).

“Arevo’s new platform enables fabrication of high strength, low weight carbon fiber parts, currently not possible with today’s standard techniques,” said Trae Vassallo, founding partner at Defy. “We are thrilled to be working with the team to help scale up this incredibly impactful technology.”

#airbus, #amazon, #arevo, #defy-ventures, #desktop-metal, #fossil, #ggv-capital, #google, #hans-tung, #khosla-ventures, #sonny-vu, #spacex, #tc, #trae-vassallo, #velo3d, #vinod-khosla

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