Pozyx launches American presence with Upstate officeNovember 29, 2021
Technology company’s Greenville office example of Upstate, Belgian growth strategy
In Belgium and the Upstate, eyes are on the technology scale-up Pozyx, which provides ultra-wide band, real-time location tracking technology systems used in a variety of industries.
The Ghent-based scale-up established an Upstate South Carolina office at the beginning of February 2021, a bold international move in the middle of a pandemic.
“In normal times, we would be just a small Belgian company moving into the U.S. But due to COVID, we have a lot of visibility at all levels in business and politics, since people are actually thinking it is quite a challenge to start up a new U.S. office in full COVID times,” says Yves Ghys, then Pozyx Chief Commercial Officer. He spearheaded the company’s North American venture and served as President of Pozyx Americas through July 2022.
The move was made possible through advanced planning, virtual meetings and support from Belgian organizations like Flanders Investment & Trade, BelCham, Agoria and local partner Gemba Systems.
And, it was the next step for the technology scaleup to grow: the Upstate office marks Pozyx’s first office outside of Belgium, and they work with partners to produce technology that can improve processes and products in the manufacturing and logistics space.
In the 10-county Upstate, the region’s 2,025+ manufacturers and 834 transportation and warehousing companies are continuously exploring ways to optimize their operations, presenting a world of opportunity to companies like Pozyx.
Pozyx Brings Efficiency Opportunities
Pozyx originated as a spinoff from public research university Ghent University in 2015, and it has found success in Europe and Asia.
Partnerships with companies like Upstate South Carolina-based Gemba Systems have boosted Pozyx’s growth, propelling the company to 6,000 customers in 80 countries. How?
Gemba Systems works directly with industrial customers to understand their needs and challenges, while Pozyx develops the technology tailored to those challenges, and then Gemba Systems implements Pozyx’s technology solutions.
Speak with Gemba Systems President & CEO Stijn Van de Velde or with Ghys about applications for Pozyx technology, and you’ll hear about uses from agricultural animal tracking to waste management within industrial bakeries to part and tool tracking and controls within automotive manufacturers.
“What’s amazing for us is that most of those use cases are not things that we thought about up front,” Ghys says. “It’s mostly customers coming to us, defining a problem and saying, ‘I read about your technology, can we have a look at it?’ And typically, we have a look at it and a new use case comes out of it.”
Product and process optimization are increasingly vital for industries to remain competitive, as has been the case in Belgium.
For Pozyx, interactive technology displays at its partner “Innovation Centers” often spur new ideas around the globe, where people leave “with a broader mindset about technology,” Ghys says.
Making an American Market Entry
Even before launching its Upstate South Carolina office, Pozyx drew between 20% and 40% of revenues from the United States. Though, Ghys says the company heard often from clients and prospective technology users that they would prefer to do business with someone who has a domestic presence.
“Like many other companies, we were first looking at New York, Chicago and Detroit,” Ghys says, adding that Stijn Van de Velde encouraged them to consider the Upstate. The West Coast was eliminated early due to the time difference with Europe.
“For us, the main concern was, ‘Do we want to be in the North with the automotive industry, typically, or do we want to be in South?’”
After further evaluation of the landscapes – and access to multiple markets and potential customers – “it was more interesting to be in the South,” Ghys adds.
Tangible Factors: Proximity to Markets & Time Zones
“And Greenville is the perfect gateway to the South. Not only to South Carolina, but in my first month here, I visited with customers in North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. It’s a perfect gateway to do business with the rest of the south and with the rest of America.”
What’s more: the Upstate and surrounding areas are home to a dense array of innovative technology and manufacturing companies, names such as BMW, Boeing, SANY America and Kubota, all accessible during the course of a business day.
“We feel that if we are in the Upstate, we have a lot of potential customers and prospects in a three-hour drive range. More than in the rest of America, for our technology and our use cases.”
Another plus: the Eastern Standard Time Zone is the closest you can get to Europe from the United States.
“Since I’m here in the U.S. right now, I need to do business with the rest of the world,” Ghys says. “Greenville is perfect because in the morning, I start at 7 o’clock and I do business with Europe, and in the afternoon I do business with America.”
A Place to Land and Launch
In economic development terms, we call Pozyx’s market entry a “landing pad” or a “soft landing.”
The company moved into turnkey office space, and Ghys is preparing to relocate to the Upstate with his family to establish the organization as Managing Director U.S. and expand the team through more local hires, including local management roles once the time is right.
“The goal would be that in time, this would become one of our biggest offices, and we would have a local management presence from America,” Ghys says.
Beyond office space, these businesses are looking for quick connections and a warm welcome.
“B2B (business-to-business) is typically a rather slow sales cycle,” Van de Velde adds. “And in order to make the sales cycle shorter, introductions are critical, because doing business requires trust. If you can have people take a chance on you and make some introductions, then you can really shrink that sales cycle dramatically and get a chance to engage with the right people and generate business out of it much more quickly.”
Organizations ranging from City of Greenville, to Greenville Area Development Corporation and industry groups such as SCMEP and SC Aerospace and SC Logistics, in addition to the Upstate SC Alliance, have all welcomed Pozyx and provided additional introductions – and a good pathway to doing business.
“A lot of people have shown genuine interest in our technology,” Ghys says, citing Gemba Systems’ help with office space and initial introductions, which have spurred both support services and interest in Pozyx’s products in the first month alone.
“America, it’s the land of opportunity, but it’s also a very big country, and it’s not always easy to know exactly what you need to do. So getting this kind of help at the start of a new office, that’s a unique value.”
So, about international business risk in the COVID era?
“Yes, everything is a bit different. And yes, everything needs to be COVID-proof. And, yes, we’re in the office with masks, that’s correct,” Ghys says. “But in the end, we are doing business, and a lot of people are looking at that.”
This post was initially published in March 2021, and it was updated in July 2022.