Congratulations to Scandit, Europe’s newest Unicorn!
When we at Atomico first met Samuel, Christian, Christof and the Scandit team back in 2016, computer vision was a promising but underappreciated technology still in relative infancy. B2B was not yet all the rage, as B2C startups like Uber soaked up most of the limelight. Certainly the idea of building a platform to track objects through complex supply chains was neither exciting nor obvious. And yet, the three founders realized that the humble 2D barcode was a great place to start building technology that could provide a step change in productivity vs. legacy object tracking approaches.
They now call this Smart Data Capture, and starting from their enterprise-grade barcode scanning software library (SDK) base product, have expanded into much more complex features such as text and image recognition, for the tracking and alerting of inventory on supermarket shelves, ID scanning for delivery services, matching patients with their medication and more. At the heart of these sit clever, highly optimized computer vision algorithms that can be run on a broad range of smartphones even under the trickiest of lighting conditions. This is a very hard thing to do robustly, as many customers have discovered after experimenting with open source libraries and then giving up in favour of Scandit.
This detail probably doesn’t yet sound exciting to you, but consider this: if you live in Europe or North America, it’s very likely you bought something online in the last month that was delivered to you on time and correctly thanks to these very algorithms by Scandit. When things go right, no matter how complex the software behind it, we don’t notice. Which is, of course, the way things should be.
Scandit is also a great example of a European business that quickly achieved global scale, with an internationally diversified customer base. Their customers are a veritable who’s who of household brands and names, including online and offline retailers (including major supermarkets in nearly every big country), delivery companies such as Fedex, manufacturers, and, increasingly, healthcare providers. For instance, the UK’s National Health Service adopted Scandit to digitalize the management and tracking of Covid-19 tests throughout the pandemic.. Buy something, receive a package or visit a clinic, and there’s a decent chance Scandit is behind the scenes quietly and competently helping those businesses keep track of objects, boxes, patients and more.
Another thing of note is their early decision to keep building in Zurich, Switzerland. Whereas many of their peer startups in the country tended to relocate after deciding it was too expensive to continue scaling there, Samuel and the team figured that the uniquely strong technical talent pool made the tradeoff worthwhile. They were right. Today Scandit stands at over 450 people, with a large majority still based in Zurich. They’ve become a local employer of choice, and an exemplar of the strong hub for innovation built up around ETH (the top tier technical university where each of the three founders did their PhDs).
And yet “unicorn” is just a label, a point-in-time snapshot of a business that continues to grow rapidly and stay at the head of their pack. If the Covid pandemic taught us anything, it’s that in a world rapidly going digital, where on-demand delivery and online retail has become the rule rather than the exception, supply chains need to be more resilient and efficient than ever. Humans may still be central, but by giving them computer vision driven “superpowers” we can help make every business as efficient as Amazon, while treating employees and workers with humanity and respect. Scandit’s technology provides a baseline for much of this automation, and it’s highly encouraging to already see an ecosystem of applications built on their software stack, either by customers internally or by third party vendors.
It’s hugely gratifying to have backed them at series A and to continue to work directly with the founders as they build this next big chapter. This really is one of the best run and well aligned private company boards I've had the privilege of sitting on, thanks to how systematic and well prepared the management team has always been.
To riff on an internal marketing slogan, let’s just say they Built it, Shipped it, Nailed It. Scandit. Congratulations!