A startup conference, Startup Village 2018, took place in Moscow in early summer. In cool weather the conference visitors warmed themselves up near infrared heaters ThermoUp. Yet, according to Ivan Filonenko, company CEO, ThermoUp is at the moment targeting primarily foreign markets.
ThermoUp is an innovative project by Eco-okna Group and Phototech, both in the market for over 25 years. The two enterprises have got great experience in glass industry and are Russia’s largest aluminium processers. They produce 1,700 PVC windows a day. When the idea of producing infrared heaters emerged, Phototech already possessed technology of producing electrically heated glass, which became the main element of infrared heaters. The available equipment and competences helped launching a project which at the initial stage was pushed forward by a single individual, full of energy.
For half a year the main efforts were focused on the products industrial design, while production was gradually developed. The innovators developed the heating element (electrically heated glass) and estimated heating performance and electronic composition.
Ivan Filonenko admits that five months later, lack of like minded people was evident. Nobody from among the ThermoUp team had worked in the climatic equipment market, so additional staff was hired.
What is ThermoUp’s uniqueness? Heat-strengthened glass gets some coating which is heated by electricity. It starts radiating far infrared waves. Infrared waves heat surfaces in the proximity of a heater (walls, ceiling, floor). Of heater’s 100% power, 80% is radiant heat and further 20% is convection. The heat therefore is not concentrated beneath the ceiling. A comforting temperature is achieved within five minutes which is six times faster than when a traditional oil heater is used. Besides, less oxygen is consumed and air in a room does not become excessively dry. The models produced by the company can heat premises of 12 to 34 square meters. ThermoUp heaters have an impressive look, employing polished transparent boards with lighting in different colors and with various images.
“Our products are different from any other. Our heaters are absolutely transparent and made of glass which in itself looks unusual and innovative”, Ivan Filonenko believes.
He also disproves a common opinion that infrared heaters are inefficient. Such a claim is not true, he says, as glass heaters help saving 50% to 60% of energy as compared to other heating devices.
ThermoUp is mainly targeting B2B market. The startup has already got some corporate clients, mainly abroad. The company plans to export its products to Europe, US and China. Ivan Filonenko sees less prospects in the Russian market. To a great degree that is due to positive results of participating in international technology exhibitions. During Mostra Convegno Expocomfort (MCE) 2018 exhibition in Milan, for example, the company established contacts with corporate representatives of 10 countries.
“We now have a partner in Germany who looks for B2B clients in the German-speaking world, including Switzerland and Austria. Some products are supplied to Latin America, to Chile, to be specific. Our counterparts become our representatives, since by selling our products in their countries they undertake dealership functions”, ThermoUp’s CEO explains.
Success in the international market was preceded by concerted efforts of obtaining patents and certificates since it is impossible to start massive exports without them.
Looking into the future
At the moment, when a heating season is close, ThermoUp is negotiating supplies to such major European and global stores as Leroy Merlin, Wal-Mart, and ÓBI, as well as to online marketplaces such as Amazon and Alibaba. It is hard to foresee demand for infrared glass heaters, Filonenko says, since there are too few products like that in the global market. In Russia, the company has a single competitor. Domestically, ThermoUp plans to have its own retail sales via an online shop and major distributors of consumer electronics. Outside Russia, it intends to operate in the B2B format only without any retail sales.
“We expect that the project can break even in the middle of the second year. Within two years we will have our investments repaid and will start making profit”, Ivan Filonenko explains.
New products are developed as well. ThermoUp bets on a smart interface. The next step will be remote control and connecting to smart house systems, as well as synchronization with Apple HomeKit and Android @ Home.
By Christina Firsova