Amantys and the spider
Amantys, a Cambridge company formed by former ARM executives in 2010, has closed. Its remit was the application of digital control to medium-to-high voltage electronics for greater flexibility and energy efficiency.
It seemed like a good idea. So why didn’t it work out?
Well, just maybe it was a good company ahead of its time that found itself having to wade through a slower industrial investment cycle post-2008. Ironically it is as the company has closed that we are starting to hear that the German and UK economies are starting to hum along, although other regions in Europe are moving more slowly and others, notably Greece, are still in turmoil.
Certainly the power industry was more conservative and slower to embrace fine-grained digital control than the founders and backers of Amantys thought. It’s also been the case that the much discussed smart-grid revolution has been slow to be implemented. It seems there’s been a paralysis over confusion between top-down supplier-push and bottom-up customer-pull business models. In the end the venture capitalists decided that if Amantys could not persuade a strategic investor of the investment case then it they should not keep on investing.
It is relatively easy to predict the direction of technology development, which I believe Amantys got right, but very difficult to predict the timing of the economic development, which depends on markets created by the opinions, whims and fancies of human beings.
But as 40 or so employees are forced to move on from Amantys we should remember it was the founders that took the risk to create those jobs in the first place and it is through such endeavours that long-term successful companies are born. The folding of Amantys is unfortunate but it is also a sign of an entrepreneurial culture. I am confident that many of those engineers will go on to work in successful startups and some may even become founders themselves and create jobs for others.
Amantys is a positive mark on their CVs.
It is one of those ironies that if some of those laid off were to form an Amantys Redux startup with a view to coming to market in a couple of years time, it would be well-placed for success. Those concerned have market experience, contacts with potential customers and insight into what they are looking for and when they might be ready to buy. And with the global economy look to be set fair for at least a couple of years then smart-grid and energy efficient investments could, at last, start to flow.
There have been occasions in the past when venture capital has been withheld from relatively mature startups, causing them to close, to be given to a smaller younger startup with a similar business plan. In such cases the wisdom is that the money will last longer with the younger startup and the VCs are betting on the when the market will come to fruition. I wonder if any former Amantys employees remember the tale of Scots leader Robert the Bruce and the spider.
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