The last 12 months, after COVID-19 started spreading around the world, have been challenging for individuals and businesses alike. Worldsensing moved quickly to keep people safe and secure operations through remote working.
On the anniversary of the lockdowns in Spain and many other parts of the world, David Deprez, CFO at Worldsensing and the owner of the company’s funding strategy, talks about what’s happened in practice–and why it isn’t all bad.
Overall, what changes have you seen over the last year?
David Deprez: It goes without saying that we have been deeply saddened by the many organisations and individuals that have been personally affected by the pandemic. Almost no-one has been untouched by COVID-19 and the measures put in place to halt its spread. That said, for the industries we serve there may also have been something of a silver lining. Sectors such as mining and construction have rushed to install remote monitoring systems, and this can only have improved the safety of their workers.
It will also likely have improved the efficiency of many of our customers’ businesses, potentially helping them to emerge more quickly from the financial challenges we have faced and are continuing to face around the world.
What have been the main financial highlights of the last year?
David Deprez: We decided to focus on our core business, the Loadsensing product line and to strengthen our liquidity we successfully divested two other lines of business, Fastprk and OneMind Technologies, that we had created. We ended a challenging 2020 with a great piece of news: we were awarded €10 million in financing from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to support our long term strategy.
This was the culmination of a long-term strategy that we had been working on since well before COVID-19 hit.
What were the details of the EIB announcement from last December?
David Deprez: The €10 million in funding was provided specifically to support research and development related to Loadsensing, the leading industrial monitoring solution that last month earned Worldsensing a Mining Technology Excellence Award. The finance package is supported by the European Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe and envisages the creation of 50 new, highly skilled jobs over the next three years, a 50% increase on our current headcount.
The agreement was announced at Web Summit by EIB Vice President Ricardo Mourinho Félix, who said: “This is a very good example of a project whose impact will improve our day-to-day life, wellbeing and security. Boosting this type of cutting-edge technologies is critical for the competitiveness of the European economy, not only to face the COVID-19 crisis but also to address Europe’s long-term challenges.”
These include using digital technologies and smart infrastructures to improve the sustainability of our society in the future, all areas where Worldsensing has a role to play.
What’s the significance of this announcement?
David Deprez: What isn’t in the announcement is the fact that the EIB doesn’t just hand out these finance packages to anyone. Instead, it carefully selects companies that can make both a long term and a material difference to Europe’s industrial fortunes. In other words, it picks winners who, they believe, have a long term future. In our case, this involved working with the EIB’s investment team to complete a detailed analysis, both around the strength of our business and the technological leadership of our award winning Loadsensing product family.
Loadsensing is such an innovative product that it can be hard for lending organizations to understand. To its credit, the EIB recognized that our platform could play a transformative role in helping to save lives around the world, while at the same time keeping Europe at the forefront of Internet of Things innovation globally.
How does the EIB funding affect Worldsensing’s finances?
David Deprez: For the EIB it’s not enough just to have a great product. We also had to show that Worldsensing is a financially solid organization that is quite capable of standing on its own two feet. On this front, we had no problems. In spite of COVID, our business held up remarkably well in 2020 and we saw double-digit growth in shipments during the second half of the year.
Furthermore, our Fastprk and OneMind divestments have left us with a stronger focus on our core Loadsensing product line. The EIB financing facility will allow us to accelerate our growth in this area.
What is the growth outlook for Worldsensing at the moment?
David Deprez: Even before the EIB agreement, we were seeing tremendous growth in demand for Loadsensing systems around the world. This had led us to strengthen our commercial team with new hires in key markets such as Africa, North America and Brazil. The hiring process helped confirm our leadership position in the IoT monitoring space, since many of the professionals we have taken on in the last year are experts who would not have joined a lesser company.
As more and more companies become aware of Loadsensing’s unique value proposition for IoT monitoring, it is clear we need even greater financial muscle to scale up our operations.
How would you summarize Worldsensing’s outlook in 2021?
The EIB’s finance package will allow us to rapidly scale and continue innovating and developing our products to meet the needs of the market, with a view to bringing safer, more efficient operations to the sectors we service around the world. The EIB financing will also allow us to continue attracting the best people in the business and quickly meet demand in the places that need our equipment the most.
That includes remote tailings dams in countries such as Brazil and state-of-the-art infrastructure projects such as the High Speed 2 rail link in the UK. And, of course, it includes a growing number of projects across Europe. In that respect, the EIB gets a triple return on its finance investment. Worldsensing’s success helps deliver jobs, boost exports and save lives. We’re honored to take on this mission—we have a solid financial platform in place, fully supported by blue chip shareholders (Cisco Systems, Mitsui & Co, McRock Capital and ETF Partners, among others) and are now 100% focused on achieving the results.