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Contxto – I like a good, richly detailed story; filled with a multitude of characters spread over a vast array of countries. I was lucky to find one such epic in the tale of Safi—a factory analytics startup with a team and history spread across the world, but with its heart and sights set firmly on Latin America.
Indeed, for better or for worse, Safi Analytics landed in Mexico in January of this year right in time for the pandemic. Nevertheless, it has plans for broader regional expansion in the medium term.
Getting factories IoT 101
The concept behind Safi is simple but sweet. Using a combination of hardware and software, the startup hauls small companies into the twenty-first century on the cheap.
Obviously, this last point is crucial for SMEs unable to buy the whosits and whatsits that massive corporations can afford.
The way that Safi does this is by making a sort of all-in-one sensor, connecting the factory to its software and thus allowing the operators to get real-time info, as well as permitting them to check and control some aspects of the manufacturing process remotely and more efficiently.
Although there are plans for it in the future, the startup does not as of yet implement machine learning or Artificial Intelligence. As it stands, the data they get on their machinery is processed by Safi’s software and analyzed “manually” by the factory’s own operators.
But, one can just imagine what a boon to productivity it would be to see AI doing these analyses in real-time…
However, this mentality may be tech evangelizing for evangelizing’s sake. Remember, that an understanding of local understanding and economies should trump any use of gadgets. Why invest massively into new tech when one of the important roles these factories are playing is to provide jobs which may well be replaced by AI if it were to be implemented?
- Related articles: Los Underdogs. Questioning the status quo of innovation in Latin America
But wait, how does a company that plugs small and medium-sized factories into the 4.0 manufacturing economy circumnavigate the world to land in our corner of the world?
All roads lead to Latam
Well, it all started when the company’s co-Founders met at Stanford and set up Safi, incorporating it as a “benefit corporation”.
The idea was that developing industrial SMEs needed not only to catch up technologically with their counterparts in the likes of the US, they needed to do so in the most sustainable way possible.
Luckily, often in manufacturing, becoming increasingly efficient means becoming greener by default. Indeed, the startup promises to “increase productivity by up to 20 percent”.
But, where to launch? Well, here’s where: Jason Dunford—Kenyan Olympic champion, rapper, and as it happens, husband of co-Founder Lauren Dunford—entered the scene.
Mr Dunford suggested they start in East Africa due to local English-language proficiency and well-positioned manufacturing ecosystem.
However, Kenya—though a good place to test their product—did not have the scale needed by Safi to really take off.
So, they looked to Latin America, and to Mexico specifically, as the Goldilocks zone with the most potential to benefit from their technologies but the industrial clout to really boom.
Nowadays, their team—though spread across the world—is increasingly Latin American. With customers and offices in Mexico, to development teams in Argentina, this truly is part of a global Latin American ecosystem.
Safi’s plans for expansion include interested factories in Honduras, although the plan in the short run is to overtake their Kenyan 35-customer-mark and hit their first 100 Mexican clients.
Now that would be the best Mexican-Kenyan collab since… well:
Related articles: Tech and startups from Mexico!