Originally founded in Beirut, Lebanon and now relocated in Helsinki, Finland, Katana Technologies is developing subscription-based IoT monitoring solutions for various industries. The company chose Finland for its new home base from a group of several viable countries e.g. for its stability, tech talent, and quality of life. Katana is now launching its recruitment and product development activities, with the global market as its target. Helsinki Business Hub was happy to help the company get settled in Finland.
Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, or Poland? Those were the countries that offered Katana Technologies residence permits and promising funding opportunities. Finland granted the Katana team Startup Permits – special residence permits meant for non-EU citizens who are capable of building international business success in Finland.
“There were, however, several other reasons we ended up choosing Finland. First, the economy is quite stable here. The market has growth potential but is not too crowded. Business Finland funding opportunities were also important, as was access to Nordic and European investment capital. Finland, with its many former Nokia engineers, offers lots of tech talent and hardware development expertise. And last but not least, all our team members have families, so we value the safe environment, high quality of life, and excellent educational system,” says co-founder Rabih Maalouf from Katana Technologies.
“As far as Helsinki goes, the metropolitan area provides the best entry point to Finland. Almost everyone speaks English, and the city has a vibrant startup ecosystem. The universities in the region are a good resource pool.“
Business Finland provided Katana Technologies with the initial invitation and assistance, while Helsinki Business Hub and NewCo Helsinki helped the company with practical matters and provided information e.g. on setting up a business as well as on networks, possible clients, R&D organizations and financing.
“Helsinki Business Hub and NewCo Helsinki were very responsive and helpful and offered us valuable advisory services and connections. We actually could not have made it without their advice,” Maalouf says.
Developing industry-specific IoT solutions
Katana Technologies is developing subscription-based IoT monitoring and automation solutions, focusing mainly on farming and agriculture. Its core solution, however, is a modular hardware and software platform that can be used to develop IoT solutions for almost any industry.
“Our beachhead market is precision poultry farming. Our first user case features our Katana-Kana solution, which includes sensors and cameras installed in the farm to collect visual, sound and sensor data. We then use computer vision, sound analytics, AI and proprietary chicken behavior analytics algorithms to analyze the health of the animals and to predict problems before they hurt the farmer. In addition, the solution has a built-in blockchain ledger that stores all the information and ensures food traceability and quality control throughout the production chain,” Maalouf explains.
As far as Helsinki goes, the metropolitan area provides the best entry point to Finland. Almost everyone speaks English, and the city has a vibrant startup ecosystem. The universities in the region are a good resource pool.
Rahib Maalouf, co-founder, Katana Technologies
“Our solution optimizes productivity, quality and energy use on the farm. It differs from conventional farm automation because it uses real-time intelligence as opposed to pre-programmed actions and adapts in order to produce the best results. It’s also web-based and affordable, and it doesn’t require professional installation.”
Katana’s solution can be reconfigured for other types of farming and even other businesses with environmental monitoring, e.g. forestry, cattle farms, viticulture, breweries, aquaculture, and aquaponics. The company’s other user cases include its Katana-Hive solution for remote monitoring of bee hives, Katana Agri-Domes for remote operation of communal geodesic dome farms, and Katana Concierge virtual reception service for Airbnb hosts and commercial real estate services.
“Our solution is like an app store for IoT solutions. For farmers, the subscription starts from 150 euros per farmhouse per month. That includes hardware, software, connectivity and support. Similarly, beekeepers pay five euros per hive, community farm members subscribe to a weekly fresh produce basket and Airbnb hosts pay 20 euros per month for the concierge service,” says Maalouf.
Building a solution for the global market
Founded in Beirut in 2018, Katana Technologies was soon pressed to look for alternative headquarters due to Lebanon’s declining economy, political and business security situation, and the unavailability of R&D investments. The company now has offices in Helsinki and Beirut, as well as in Hong Kong through a hardware accelerator. It currently employs its three co-founders and four part-time engineers.
Katana’s next step is to further develop its product and technology. It has been accepted to the IoT Forge Foundation, which supports startups with the development of IoT solutions.
“We are still prototyping our hardware in order to start manufacturing. The IoT Forge Foundation has a great team that can help us test and optimize our hardware and products. They offer access to their lab and equipment and provide funding for various services and components that we need in order to develop the hardware part of our platform,” says Maalouf.
Katana Technologies is now looking for financing, partnerships and piloting opportunities in Finland and Europe. If everything goes according to plan and the company gets its seed funding, it’s looking to hire around five people in Finland in the next couple of years. Katana’s initial target markets will be Poland, France and other larger European countries.
“We are building a business with a global market. Our app store for IoT solutions will operate worldwide while our operation can still be run from Finland,” Maalouf says.