Fixposition: powering the age of autonomous machines with its precise positioning technology

A story written by Venture Lab under the direction of Morgane Ghilardi

Meet Zhenzhong Su, co-founder and CEO of Fixposition. From driverless shuttles to agricultural and urban robots, autonomous machines are becoming central elements of today's economy. Precisely locating them—whether indoors or outside, in an urban setting or under tree canopies—is an essential aspect of what makes those technologies work. Fixposition ensures just that by enabling extremely precise global positioning with its deep sensor fusion engine and Real Time Kinematic (RTK) algorithms. Zhenzhong and nine other tech innovators have been chosen for the business development and investor roadshow in Silicon Valley this month.

Name: Zhenzhong Su
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Nationality: China
Education: ETH Zurich, Ph.D. in Geomatics Engineer, 2017
Job title: Co-founder & CEO
Number of employees: 23 FTE
Money raised: USD 10 million.

Whom does your product or solution help, and how?Robot/Vehicle OEMs and autonomy solution providers need Fixposition's positioning technology as an important input to their navigation, mapping, and motion plan system. We help our customers in three ways:1. Technically, Fixposition's product offers precise global positioning in areas where it was previously not possible. This means that robot/vehicle OEMs can expand their operation areas and venture into new business cases. For instance, with Fixposition's technology, tractors can now have autonomous driving capabilities in orchard environments, a use case that was not feasible before.2. Economically, Fixposition's product is a cost-effective solution compared to expensive high-end RTK-INS systems or in-house development, which can help customers reduce costs.3. Strategically, we help customers to scale up more quickly and shorten their product-to-market time. Fixposition provides the right products for all stages of their product development, from prototyping to mass production. We take care of their localization needs, allowing them to focus on their core business and accelerate their success.

How did you come up with the idea for your startup? During my Ph.D. research on centimeter-accurate RTK GPS positioning at ETH Zurich, I had the idea to apply it to autonomous drone and vehicle navigation. It won European Space Agency Special Prize in the European Satellite Navigation Competition.

However, the real idea started only after the merger of another ETH Pioneer Fellowship team in which my co-founder Lukas Meier was busy with visual navigation technology. Two teams were originally working independently. After talking with many potential customers, I soon realized that there is real demand from the industries not only for accuracy but for the extended availability of precise positioning in all environments. Merging two teams' know-how on GNSS and computer vision exactly addresses this demand. That's how we started Fixposition.

What market are you addressing and what is the potential of your startup in that market? With the Vision-RTK2 sensor product launched last year, we are focusing on ag, utility and landscaping robot markets. The growing customer pipeline is a good validation of the market demand for our technology.But the demand for our technology is way beyond these niche sectors. Surveying, inspection, mapping, smartphone localization, car navigation, and anything that needs precise positioning will need our technology. Every year there are 1.6 billion units of GNSS devices used for all sorts of applications. Fixposition is addressing the market of next-generation GNSS.

How do you think the Venture Leaders roadshow will help you achieve your vision? The Venture Leaders roadshow provides a unique opportunity to achieve a lot within a week with centralized exposure to VCs. I will chip in more customer meetings in the San Francisco area.

What excites you most about your work right now?Two things: First, after all these years of hard work from our team and iterations with customers, we finally found the product-market fit. Every new customer we get, every existing customer who moves to design-in or production with our positioning technology, excites me the most. Second, the continuous learning and growth of the team excite me a lot. Every stage of a startup has a different priority and a different challenge. As CEO, I have the privilege to lead a group of the greatest people in this area to tackle those challenges and get Fixposition to the best it can be.

How did you go about building your team?Like most startups, we started with ambitious, smart, and hardworking co-founders in the early days and were more product focused. Later we engage talents with more diversified and complementary skills, business development, sales, marketing—whatever is needed when it becomes a priority. We try our best to hire people smarter than we are in the roles we hire them for.

Fixposition team photo 2022

What are your team's key achievements to date? First, the team has built one of the best positioning products, Vision-RTK. Second, its ability to deliver centimeter- to decimeter-accurate global positioning in GNSS disruptive environment is really disrupting this industry. Third, we also prove the market demand for this technological innovation, by all the customers who are paying and using our positioning technology as part of their autonomous driving solution. Last but not least, we have built a nice culture and working approaches to make whatever we do become sustainable and scalable.

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