Most startup founders can only dream of it: a brief meeting at a conference with a corporate executive becoming a concrete deal for collaboration. For Balazs Szabo, founder of GTEC Lab startup Konetik – an innovative machine-to-machine solution allowing small and medium sized enterprises (SME) to manage fleets of vehicles – that dream has just become reality. This week Konetik publicly announced their strategic partnership with Orange Business Services. We talked to Balazs about what this means for his business.
Tell us about the partnership with Orange Business Services?
Orange Business Services is providing us with a SIM card that provides data connectivity for the Konetik in-car solution. Orange provides the chip sim, which when plugged into our users car will record the data we need through the Orange network using free flat-rate tariffs. This enables the Konetik fleet-management service to run across Europe with maximum reliability and zero hassle for our users.
We bet you’re thrilled. Why is such a partnership important for Konetik at this stage?
Our user experience is based on connectivity. We received really positive and constructive feedback from our first customers. From now on, having Orange provide the technology and connection guarantees fantastic and easy reliability wherever our users drive in Europe.
What’s more, Orange is quite active in fleet management solutions. That means they bring a set of expertise to the table which will help us to provide our end-users with the best customer experience long term.
How did you manage to do the impossible – get your idea in front of the right people at the right time?
Just over three years ago, when we started developing Konetik we realised that we would need a connectivity solution. That’s when we thought about approaching big (and smaller) telco providers.
We were very targeted about which conferences we attended and who we spoke to. That’s how last year I ended up at the Telematics Update Munich talking to the main guy at Orange for machine-to-machine services. We approached them when we started selecting partners in the machine-to-machine, later I went to Brussels to get to know each other plans better and we signed a contract. Just recently, around the time we signed the deal, I crossed over in Brussels with Elon Musk, who Orange have also just signed a (much bigger!) collaboration with!
Were there challenges in negotiating a favourable deal with a giant corporate?
Throughout the negotiation process – which took about five months – I was really positively surprised by Orange’s open and flexible approach to working with us as a small company. In no way were they the big bureaucratic company many corporates are portrayed to be.
Collaborating with a startup can be a risk for a corporate, because the startup might not be able to deliver the forecasted numbers. Some corporates want to reflect that risk in the prices they agree. That just wasn’t the case with Orange. They have been fair from the beginning. What’s also great is how proud they are of the collaboration.
With the deal in hand, what is the focus for Konetik from here?
With the peace of mind that we have a great single service provider within the EU and we don’t have to strike multiple deals, our team can now focus on doing what it does best – streamlining the Konetik product and service to be even better, based on the feedback from our users. After that it’s all about finding distribution channels and scaling it up!
What Orange Business Services had to say:
“Orange Business Services extensive expertise in communications solutions and the connected car industry have enabled Konetik to design an innovative service specifically designed for SMEs. We are proud to be helping a start-up like Konetik rethink the way SMEs can manage their car fleets in a reliable and simplified way,” said Anne-Sophie Lotgering, senior vice president, Europe, Russia and CIS at Orange Business Services.