Five years have passed since then and the Blickfeld team can look back on a long list of milestones that they achieved during this time. Blickfeld sensors have been in use by customers worldwide since 2020, adding value in a wide variety of applications. And new applications are emerging every day – made possible in part by the easy-to-use and versatile Blickfeld Percept software.
How does the founding team look back on the first five years? How did the idea for the MEMS-based Blickfeld technology come about? And what tips would they give to aspiring founders? A conversation with Mathias, Rolf, and Florian.
5 years of Blickfeld – What is your first thought?
Mathias: My first thought is actually, “This has been really fun so far!”
Florian: It has! My first thought is that we have learned a great deal in these five years. It is also still fascinating for us to see how far we have come with Blickfeld. We were – obviously – convinced that LiDAR technology showed a lot of potential, but in the meantime, we see that it is even so much more exciting and fundamental than we initially thought.
Rolf: That’s also what fascinates me the most – the idea that we can improve so many sectors with our technology. What we have achieved in the last five years will be indispensable in many applications in a few years’ time. That is what motivates me and makes me proud! Because Blickfeld will turn this technology from a niche product into an absolute standard element in perception technology.
Mathias: I think it’s great to look back and see how we turned our original idea into a working product. From the first idea to the functional analysis to the first construction tests in the basement to the first working prototype – it was an exciting journey. And today we produce highly professional and largely automated!
Rolf: Absolutely. Seeing Blickfeld grow from an idea to a company that ships large quantities of our sensors around the world on a weekly basis is so much fun. All the projects we’re doing right now were born out of one idea!
How did this idea actually come about?
Florian: We saw that optical detection technology was becoming increasingly relevant, partly due to the rise of autonomous driving. At that time, it was already obvious that LiDAR sensor technology would have to become smaller and more robust, so we asked ourselves: How can we miniaturize the technology? How can we reduce the mechanical complexity?
Rolf: We wanted to understand which factors influenced a LiDAR sensor’s complexity and price and how we could do it better.
Mathias: We quickly identified that the beam deflection unit was the crucial element and that we had to figure out how to move the largest possible mirror as quickly as possible. We came up with the micromechanical approach pretty early.
Rolf: Very early on, we also realized the importance of the information we were capturing. We knew that it was not enough to develop great hardware.
Florian: Exactly, the added value of the technology clearly lies in converting the data produced by the sensor in such a way that it provides actionable information and thus adds value for the end customer.
What were the next steps after you developed your idea?
Mathias: We made the conscious decision not to follow the classic path of a start-up in Germany, i.e. to start with a founder’s grant and smaller funding until we could have collected venture capital financing after a few years. We were aware that the product we wanted to develop was too complex for this procedure and that our plans were too big. Therefore, we skipped the first steps and relied on venture capital right from the seed funding.
Rolf: It certainly helped that Mathias and I had previously founded the start-up fos4X. We set ourselves higher goals right away and that paid off.
The Blickfeld team has grown to about 100 employees to date. What is the essence of the team?
Rolf: Over the last five years, we have brought together so many talented and committed people who all pull together and work jointly on our solutions. In doing so, we embraced certain values early on and we try to live the Blickfeld spirit in the much larger team as well. Because this spirit is an important part of what Blickfeld is all about!
Mathias: I absolutely agree with that. It is an important and not the easiest task to carry on and maintain these values in a rapidly growing team – a task that we and the entire team take very seriously. But a large and diverse team also means that we can learn an incredible amount from each other, and I value that very much.
Florian: I think the essence of our Blickfeld team is the composition of our different skill sets and backgrounds. To bring such an idea, like ours, into a working product consisting of hardware and software, to produce and sell it, you need a strong and versatile qualified team. This is exactly what the Blickfeld team is.
What was your most significant Blickfeld moment?
Mathias: The founding moment. Not when we went to the notary and signed the contract, but when we sat down together and said “Let’s do it!” At that point, we had looked at the market and developed initial ideas, but we didn’t yet know whether they would really be feasible. Nevertheless, we made the decision to go for it. That was my most significant Blickfeld moment.
Florian: I don’t know if there is the ONE moment, but there are enough that really impressed me. For example, watching Mathias and Rolf structure the company from the beginning and build teams. Their experience at fos4X was invaluable and helped Blickfeld a lot.
Rolf: For me, there are so many moments, it’s hard to choose one. Especially in product development, there were many steps: When we produced a point cloud for the first time, or when we first brought the technology into a smaller format and no longer needed the huge sensor case.
Where do you see Blickfeld in 5 years?
Florian: I look forward to seeing how our products create value for more and more customers.
Rolf: Me too. Industries are being transformed by our product, processes are being digitalized, simplified, and made more efficient. This will gain even more momentum in the coming years and it will become increasingly clear what influence LiDAR, and especially the Blickfeld technology, has.
Mathias: In five years, I see us as a global company whose products are the natural choice for environmental detection.
What advice do you give to founders?
Mathias: If you want to found a company, do it with really good friends!
Rolf: Examine the idea on which you want to build your business very carefully. A lot of your energy will go into this idea over the next few years, so it should be a really good one.
Florian: Be confident and brave, believe in yourself and your idea!