Entrepreneur Andreas Kunze

“What they do in Silicon Valley isn’t rocket science either“

At just 23 years of age, TUM Alumni Andreas Kunze created his start-up KONUX, which develops combined systems of sensors and artificial intelligence. The technology is used, among others, by Deutsche Bahn and helps to make train travel more appealing.

Andreas Kunze matches the word high-flier like nobody else. For six years he has been CEO of his own company. Since then, Andreas Kunze is jetting around the world and back and forth between the offices in Munich, San Francisco, Paris and Tokyo. He is meeting important entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, as well as chancellor Angela Merkel and other political heavyweights. As a ‘technology pioneer’ 2018, he was an invited guest at the World Economic Forum in Davos also this year. Here, leading experts get together to discuss current global issues.

One of KONUX biggest clients is Deutsche Bahn. The company uses sensor data to be able to make statements on the condition of facilities in the railway network, such as a switch. This allows for better planning of repairs and their scheduling to times of lower capacity utilisation. This means that in the event of repairs, the entire operation does not have to be shut down. Across Europe, broken switches account for almost 20 percent of all delay minutes.

Big Visions

“We want to play our part in making railway systems worldwide more reliable, so that more people and goods will be transported by this sustainable means of transport,” says Andreas Kunze. “If you look at where the emissions come from today, you quickly realize that with 23 percent, the transport sector is one of the biggest drivers. However, the different modes of transport contribute to it in very different ways. Compared to air travel, railway only causes 7 percent of the emissions. If more people and goods were to travel by rail, this would contribute significantly to reducing emissions worldwide.” The market is very special, however, as there is usually only one major rail operator in each country. But Andreas Kunze and his team are already operating in 9 countries with seven customers in Europe and three in Asia, more precisely in China, Japan and India, where the three largest railway networks on the continent are. “By the end of next year, by the way, we want to be operating in 22 countries. That’s a sporting goal, but we’re doing very well.”

Andreas Kunze has no entrepreneurial background. “My mother was a part-time accountant with a small company in Munich, my father is a civil servant at Bayerische Versorgungskammer and has studied law. They are both not the most risk-taking personalities.” But he was – as he says – very lucky with the people he met during his studies and in the early stages of the company’s creation. These include his personal mentor Andy von Bechtolsheim, one of the first investors in Google, who also studied at TUM for a few semesters. “He knows Silicon Valley extremely well, has set up several companies himself and has experienced first-hand what is important,” says Andreas Kunze.

Meeting Point University

Andreas Kunze also got to know his co-founders Dennis Humhal, Vlad Lata and Maximilian Hasler while studying Information Systems at TUM. In his fourth semester he participated in the Manage&More programme of UnternehmerTUM, the center for innovation and business creation at TUM. “Here students with different technical backgrounds work together, and it was here that I met Dennis, my later co-founder, who studied Mechanical Engineering.” Together with Maximilian and Vlad, he attended courses at the Center for Digital Technology and Management, a joint institution of TUM and LMU that focuses on training highly gifted students and promoting entrepreneurship.

Search for Investors in Silicon Valley

Having completed his bachelor’s degree in Information Systems, Andreas Kunze began his master’s studies at TUM and shortly after, the young men sparked the idea for their company. “So in the second master’s semester I attended the business plan seminars at TUM to bring the whole thing from my head to paper. In the third semester, it would have been time for my master’s thesis and I wanted to write it at Stanford. I had a scholarship for a research fellowship.”

In the USA, however, everything developed somewhat differently than planned. Instead of concentrating on his studies, Andreas Kunze went looking for investors in the US and met many CEOs who had made a name for themselves in Silicon Valley: “Most of them were only around 30 years old and the technologies they had developed were good, but they weren’t rocket science either. So I thought to myself, I can do that, too.”

Ecosystem for Start-ups

Today, Andreas Kunze manages a company with over 90 employees that is represented in 9 countries. As one of the goals for the coming years, the young founders are aiming for an IPO in the US. “At best, we will have several hundred employees by then, who will have shares in our company and will receive a disproportionately high amount of money from the IPO – which they will then either use for a start-up or to invest,” says Andreas Kunze. “And then, at some point, we will have Germany’s largest ecosystem for start-ups in Munich – and not in Berlin.”